I’m back in Singapore for 24 hours. This morning, S and I jet off to a fabulous resort in Krabi, Thailand, to attend the wedding of two good friends.
During my last day and a half in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of enjoying 3 excellent meals. The first meal was at a new restaurant on Elgin Street called Tribute. The second was at Hutong, the super-sexy Northern Chinese sister of (my favorite Hong Kong restaurant) Shui Hu Ju, in Kowloon. The third meal was a real treat. The chef at the amazingly popular Opia in the JIA hotel had called me a few days earlier and had invited me to drop by for a tasting. More specifically, he wanted me to taste some dishes that would be on the menu at Graze, a new sister restaurant in Singapore opening next month.
I had wanted to try Tribute ever since the owner of the JIA hotel had mentioned it over dinner a couple of weeks ago. A few days later I read a review of it in the Hong Kong Standard and promised myself that when I was in town, I’d definitely drop in. Tribute is a small, narrow restaurant in Hong Kong’s trendy SoHo (South of Hollywood Road) area. It’s owned by an architect whose aunt was a famous exponent of Chinese food in California. The food is a subtle marriage of local ingredients and New American cuisine. I had lunch with a friend, a journalist and book editor. At lunch, there is only one menu available. Priced at HK$128, you get a choice of starter, main and dessert. The day I dined, there were two starters to choose from, a pear & watercress salad (frisee, roasted walnuts, goat cheese in a walnut vinaigrette) or a cauliflower & fennel soup (with grilled prawn, burnt butter and grilled bread). I had the soup, which sadly was disappointing. Firstly, it was served hot; I’m a firm believer that cauliflower soup should always be served cold in order for the flavors to really come through properly. Secondly, it was too thick, more akin to the texture of porridge than soup. Thirdly, the soup was simply too bland. For mains, we had many choices: the Tribute gumbo, Portuguese pork & clams, oven grilled frittata, linguine with tomato sauce, fish of the day, the Tribute hamburger, or the New Tribute Hamburger. I had the fish of the day, which was a roasted sea bass stuffed with apple and fennel and served with roasted vegetables (pictured at the top). It was wonderful. The fish was cooked perfectly, i.e. nice and tender and not one bit overcooked. The flavors were fantastic. This dish more than made up for the lackluster soup. For dessert, we had a choice of chocolate brownie or banana cake. Our waiter recommended the banana cake and I’m very glad I listened to him. It was delicious–moist and packed with taste. Friends tell me that the dinner menu at Tribute is excellent, with a much wider range of choices than offered at lunch. I’ll definitely check it out again on my next trip, and this time in the evening.
Tribute, G/F, 13 Elgin Street, Central. Tel: 2135 6645
Located on the 28th floor of One Peking, an incredibly tall office building in Kowloon, Hutong offers diners a super sexy and panaromic view of Hong Kong island. The restaurant’s interiors are equally chic. In fact, the combination of the view and the design might make this one of Hong Kong’s sexiest restaurants (rivalled only by upstairs sister restaurant Aqua). And, of course, the food is simply sensational. This is Northern Chinese food at its best. My two friends and I had a veritable feast. We started the meal with baby geoduck served over a bed of mung bean tagliatelle. This was followed by baby yabbies fried with chili and garlic. Then we had a lovely fried fish in black bean sauce and my personal favorite, crispy mutton served with a light but spicy dipping sauce. We ended the meal with some string beans fried with minced pork and chili and a bowl of prawn paste and chicken fried rice. It goes without saying that everything was perfect.
Hutong, 28/F, One Peking Road, Tel: 3428 8342
Graze / Opia
Just a few hours before I flew off, I was lucky enough to get a sample of some dishes that will be on the menu of Graze, opening here in Singapore, in Rochester Park, in April. Chef Dane Clouston let me taste (and actually asked for my feedback on) 4 new dishes. The first was a trio of prawns served with coconut ice cream. One prawn is battered and fried (tempura style), another has been marinated in olive oil and several herbs and sauteed, and the third is poached. As a hot and cold combination, the dish worked surprisingly well. All the prawns were delicious and the ice cream was sinfully good. Especially nice was the contrast of hot and cold, soft and crispy, and sweet and savory when eating the tempura prawn and the ice cream together. This is a really nice starter, especially in our tropical climate. The second dish was also a hot and cold combination, marinated beef served with a spicy cucumber sorbet and onion rings. The marinade tastes somewhat Thai but is neither too sour, spicy or overpowering. The thin slices of beef paired with the slightly fiery sorbet and the very crispy onion rings worked in the mouth much better than I had originally thought they would. This is a nice refreshing dish and a great alternative to a more traditional Thai beef salad. The next dish was a chicken leg, stuffed with breast meat, that has been roasted and then coated with a thin caramel glaze, served over a crisp of chicken skin (yum!) and a salad of peanuts, vegetables, salmon skin, prawns, and a number of other yummy things. The sauce is also very Thai (something I realized the chef is quite keen on). Slightly tangy and spicy, it was good but for my tastes could have been a tad sweeter. The last dish was a real winner and unfortunately, I was too stuffed to eat all of it. It was a wagyu ox cheek served over a som tum salad and coconut rice. The ox cheek was braised until soft and then coated with ground roasted rice and then fried quickly until crispy on the outside. This was a glorious dish. I loved the contrast of crispy and soft and the flavors of the ox cheek married with the very Thai salad and the sweet, rich coconut rice were divine. I can’t wait for this to be on the menu at Graze. I can see myself ordering it over and over again. In fact, I can’t wait for Graze to open. Chef Dane tells me it will soft-open soon with an official launch in mid-to-end April. You can bet I’ll be there as soon as it opens its doors.