I’ve always thought that Upper Lascar Row, aka “Cat Street” parallel to Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan, was one of the best preserved streets in Hong Kong. Walking through this pedestrian-only alleyway, lined on both sides with an amazing selection of Chinese Antiques, traditional furnitures, and vintage junks, I really get a sense of Hong Kong’s craft and aesthetic history because it’s all here on display. To me the 100 year old Cat Street really feels untouched, and locals and tourists alike can still come here to find items, decorative and historic, real and replica… to take home that is uniquely of an old Hong Kong style.
On a rainy Wednesday evening, when all stalls were closed, I came in after work to check out for the first time the Man Mo Cafe, the first concept restaurant to open on Cat Street. For better or for worse, once one “destination” restaurant opens, others will follow… however its on this street that founder of Man Mo Cafe, Swiss-born chef Nicolas Elalouf, aimed to not only establish a Chinese-focused restaurant which was rooted within history (possibly an unavoidable decision due to such an iconically historic site), but to formulate a humble Cafe which allows Elalouf to combine his own expertise for what he had learned in the west in order to create something new for Hong Kong.
I doubt that a “Destination” restaurant was Elalouf’s intent with Man Mo Cafe, however, armed with a duo of amazing chefs, one from Robuchon and another an award winning chef from the Original Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Elalouf has made it clear that his fusion dishes are unlike any other. Scores of restaurant reviews from the likes of Hong Kong Tatler and Time Out Hong Kong have been published since they’ve opened earlier in the year, and all have been unanimous… the balance of the eastern tradition of dumpling making, with the western tradition of preparing delicacies, is absolutely achieved in their signature dishes.
Some of my favorites include the Burger Buns (glazed Char Siu Bao) featured above, which come complete with a vial of thousand island dressing that you squeeze into the bun after biting off the top of it.
The Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese Dumpling.
The best… this Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao will melt in your mouth.
This Panfried Shanghainese, Truffle and Brie Dumpling, is another best dish.
We loved this savoury Steamed Ratatouille dumpling, filled with delicious vegetables and a tangy tomato sauce. (I felt like I was eating a Western dish… but I was eating it with chopsticks from a steam basket).
To end the dinner we had a taste of Man Mo’s famous Nutella Ball in Sesame Seed Pastry.
As well as a bit of these delicious HK Egg Lemon Tarts.
I went to try Man Mo Cafe at the invitation of architect, Daphne Mandel, whose works have been on display in the gallery-esque space of the restaurant for the last month, and who did an interview with me here on the blog. Apparently her works have been selling really well. We also met up with a mutual friend who introduced us, designer Thuy-Tien Crampton, of the amazing children’s wear fashion brand, La Petite Caravane.
Daphne’s Hong Kong facade works on display is one of a planned series of rotating exhibitions for this simple yet elegant space.
Daphne’s exhibition is actually going to get extended because works have sold and new works have just been placed up on display this past week to take its place.
Here’s a photo of all of us with Chef Nicolas at the end of the evening.
Word on the street is that there have already been offers to purchase this independent restaurant by a bigger restaurant group. Whatever happens to this place, hope the quality keeps up. The pricepoint is not that bad either, about 800HKD for two people. The service is fantastic and food items get made only when ordered, so dont expect to rush your meal and give it some time.
EAT Man Mo Cafe . 40 Upper Lascar Row (Cat Street), Sheung Wan, Hong Kong . T: +852 26445644 . Tue-Sun 12-3 and 6-Midnight
Last month, Ning Lau, founder of digital style platform, Who-Are-Invited, was able to get together a group of unique and cool individuals in the city to discuss each of their interests in art for an online editorial titled, Discovering Art.
Who-Are-Invited was established by Ning a year ago for the purpose of bringing together “creative talents from all walks of life”, representing the diversity of Hong Kong and China’s vibrant digital community through stories and editorial content. Using this platform, Ning is able to introduce a group of “interesting and exciting individuals” each week including “journalists, fashion designers, bloggers, artists, musicians, and readers/followers”, all showcasing their personalities and work via a series of “strong and impactful fashion visuals”.
Ning reached out to me before to discuss appearing in one of her other projects within the Who-Are-Invited platform, but due to scheduling conflicts and tight deadlines, we were never allowed the opportunity to align. This time around Ning proposed an interview at The Cat Street Gallery, basically an institution on Hollywood Road, whilst a show by Gina Jones, titled Southern Brights, was on display.
I really like the work of New Zealand based Jones, who actually trained and practices as an Architect, but now uses what she knows in relation to composition, material, and form making, to introduce new kinds of works that are focused on pop-color and formal play on a 2D plane.
The shoot included a dear friend, former Vogue China’s Editor and Stylist, Grace Lam, who believes every kind of Art, whether it be fashion, painting, or music, can have elements which can bring happiness to others, which is the most important thing. She herself appreciates Modern abstract art the most, especially if the work references fashion, like the art of British practitioner, Martin Gaye “Spartacus” Chetwynd.
Also in the shoot is Creative director, Kenji Wong, founder of Growth Ring, who works on all creative aspects from fashion to interior design in relation to his customer’s needs. On weekdays he explores different galleries in the city to find some inspiration for his work. Although technically not an artist, Kenji is inspired by the way Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, plays with light and space.
I discussed my thoughts on how and what I look at when I view and assess art, as well as my forever obsession with the works of Richard Diebenkorn and Mark Rothko, who pretty much inspired my earlier architectural representational sketches.
Hong Kong Tatler’s fashion editor, Justine Lee, was also part of the shoot. While Shoes and accessories for the shoot were provided by Hogan Shoes from their Spring-Summer 2014 collection. Photography for the campaign was taken by the ever cool, Calvin Sit.
Thanks Ning for the “invite”!
TOP, Ease (2012). MIDDLE, Murmur (2014) ABOVE, Antony Gormley with his self-portrait, Form (2013).
In the month prior to Art Basel, the Hong Kong branch of White Cube is playing host to a new show by the world-renown sculptor, Sir Antony Gormley, titled States and Conditions, Hong Kong. Usually Art Basel month is a great way to present the heavy hitter artists, however the choice to exhibit a Gormley show prior to the annual art fair may have something to do with A) the gallery wanting an introspective Gormley show to shine bright above the hustle and bustle of fair traffic and/or B) a Gormley show is just plain difficult to literally sell an Art Basel crowd.
The “difficulty” is partly due to the site specificity of the Gormley show. That said, it’s a very good exhibition and one that needs to be seen before May 3rd. If you miss it, you’ll be missing out on an opportunity of a moment. Based on Gormley’s own project drawings available via the exhibition’s catalogue, the works created for White Cube Hong Kong are meant to be experienced at that site. Taking one piece away from this context would be like breaking up a family. According to the artist at his talk, the “sequence of architectural volumes (of the gallery space, is) an opportunity to create a connected narrative.”
And all parts of the show are connected. Every work is a qualifier of the previous work, according to Gormley, and what is presented here is thought forming, process, and various manipulation of volume, emphasizing that the interconnected acts is a full spectrum of creation (with every chapter readily available for sale, of course).
In his talk at the gallery two weeks ago, Gormley states that White Cube Hong Kong is a “privatized gallery”, a prime example of the “architecture of capitalism”. However he takes this opportunity to present new works as an act of subversion.
White Cube Hong Kong has only been operating for about three years, yet no one has proposed work, quite like Gormley, which speaks directly to the gallery as a manifested product of its physical site and as an art market destination in Hong Kong.
Small Prop 111 (2013)
It’s within these found conditions, all defined literally by a logical series of White Cube-like rooms, Gormley responds by imposing 90-degree surfaces to a sculptural self portrait; a lone work on the 2nd level of the gallery titled, Form (2013), which pretty much evolves to become the behemoth piece that is Murmur (2014), located on the street level space right underneath it.
Gormley responds to the gallery’s starkly geometric and commercial existence with a counter proposal of space, one that is derived from the evolution of his own proportions.
Strain II (2011)
Murmur (2014), as with all other works in this show, celebrates the opportunity to formulate a discussion between our raw animal natures, our bodies, and our conscious choice to confine / and define ourselves via cubic spaces, something that is not of our natural world and can potentially be a segregative experience in the process.
And outside these cubic spaces? Back to classic “Gormley” studies in Reserve (2013) where the object’s human proportions is itself the one true shelter in unison with the wild.
VISIT Antony Gormley: States and Conditions, Hong Kong . White Cube Hong Kong . Until 3 May 2014 . 50 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong . T: +852-25292000
#theWanderlist. Revisiting Favorites, Discovering New Ones at Fish & Meat, Beef & Liberty, and La Cantoche
A few days ago, I wrote part one of a post of dinners I had the pleasure of partaking during my birthday’s week this month. Birthday dinners in Hong Kong are great because there’s always plenty of choices and offers in this city in relation to cuisines and concepts. And because this is Hong Kong, every year there’s a selection of new trendy “IT” places all the time, making it hard to keep up if you don’t go out all the time.
My plan was, instead of having a big party I would have a dream week of food tastings from four fresh dining hotspots i’ve never been to and two I wanted to revisit. In the previous post, I wrote about the delicious entrecote from La Vache, the humble yet delectable offerings of ABC Kitchen, and the wonderful pairings found at Ham & Sherry.
In this post we end with the last three… a fun yet underwhelming revisit to La Cantoche, an amazing re-experience at Fish & Meat / Stockton, and a new burger discovery with Beef & Liberty.
+ “Fun French… I Used To Love It, Now I Just Like It”
The last time I was at La Cantoche, was for a media tasting with about 12-14 of us, and the plates from the entrees to mains were generally flawless in presentation to delivery. Some dishes, like the Rice Krispies in Lettuce Wrap were infectious while the Roasted Camembert Cheese with Potato Balls and the Reblochon Cheese Chicken Cordon Bleu were divisive. This time the Camembert and the Cordon bleu were the star attractions of the dinner, but that’s because everything else (even the Rice Krispies) were generally dry (as in not moist) and underwhelming. The birthday chocolate cake was 1-note sweet, flat, and dry. At the media tasting, the Camembert and Chicken Cordon bleu probably tasted the same as at my birthday, but because every other dish tasted so delicious, juicy, and fresh, we couldn’t help but compare.
Conceptually it’s a fun restaurant from a French-Viet guy (present almost every night) who wanted to take basic home cooked French fare, but mix it with a bit of the Asian twist he grew up with. Unfortunately, when we started putting photos on Instagram and Twitter, another “La Cantoche” from Paris tweeted back saying this:
— la cantoche paname (@cantochepaname)March 14, 2014
I checked out the website of the Parisian La Cantoche, and sure enough, it’s also youthful twist at French fare, with their logo’s font being similar to the one being used in Hong Kong.
Do we have a Chinafied version on Hollywood road perhaps?
In the end of the day none of this would have mattered if the food stayed the same quality as the Media Tasting… but that’s the media tasting. I love the ambiance and vibe here in general, but I from the last time I was here, to now… it was a bit disappointing and not really consistent. That said my birthday table had about twenty of us, and there was another birthday table of about 20 people as well. We RSVP’d over a month in advance, so I’m sure they were more than ready.
For the best casual French restaurant in town, try Metropolitain in Sai Ying Pun. It’s consistently a winner amongst my French friends.
Thanks to these guys for showing up and celebrating with me!
Also thanks to the Lovely Louise for planning it, making it happen, and putting it all together!
EAT La Cantoche . GF, 227 Hollywood Road on 5 Wa Lane, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong . T: +852-24260880 . Walk Ins Welcome
+ “Fish, Meat, and Drinks To Die For”
Okay let me tell you about Fish & Meat. This place is crazy excellent. I’ve only been to this place once with friends (NOT a media tasting) and I can tell you 100%, Fish & Meat is the best new place for… well… fish and meat. From the pre-drinks, to the entrees, to the mains, to dessert, then post-drinks after at Stockton below, it’s by far an excellent and hearty meal that takes you somewhere else… like a European Seaside community or something to that effect. I’m not so sure about the back story, but the “on point” theatrical yet restrained ambiance of the restaurant’s decor is by designer du jour Ben McCarthy of Charlie & Rose, whom I interviewed recently for INDESIGNLIVE Magazine.
Everything on the menu is everything you could possibly want in a menu from a Western seafood restaurant. The offerings are straightforward, with the key element being that is focus on classic simplicity with a big dose of heritage touches.
For my dinner we had the fish, a Whole Roasted Italian Sea Bass with Fennel and a tasty Romesco Sauce, and meat, a 32 Oz Prime Beef Rib from Kobe with a house Bearnaise and Salsa Verde. The menu says they’re for two people, but we were more than stuffed with the four of us. When ordering don’t miss out on my favorites, the Sweet Corn Polenta, and the Grilled Fennel with Celeriac, Saffron, and Verjus. For Starters a selection of from Roasted Bone Marrow, to Fresh Baby Spanish Octopus, and Soft Duck Egg Raviolos are available. Don’t skip the Sicilian Lemon Tart with Country Clotted Cream at the end.
Overall everything in the meal was finely cooked, at the right temperature, with the right zesty flavours, leaving every one just right and more than satisfied. The restaurant is on the pricier side, but I really feel that i’m actually getting European flavours, and not just an imitation.
After Dinner, make sure to remind your hostess to allow you entrance at the “super secret, speakeasy” bar downstairs called, Stockton. Also designed by Charlie & Rose. Stockton has some of the finest fancy “mixology”-esque cocktails in the city. It’s adventurous while being not to feminine or trendy. I love whisky and this place has amazing whisky based cocktails. Try my two favorites, the Athole Brose featuring a Blended Whiskey with Wild Heather Honey, Oatmeal, Drambuie, Luxardo Amaretto di Sachira, and topped with Double Cream or the Brass Monkey, an HM King with Compressed Citrus, Maca, Lucuma, Vanilla Gum, and Chuncho Bitters.
When i’m around the Central area, Stockton is the new “local” for me there. I’m not a Lan Kwai Fong (Hong Kong bar street) type of person so this place is a good go-to, always punctuating a night’s out after dinner.
The decor is lovely, and the space is filled with found antiques from Thailand and Paris… making it feel like an authentic pub, rather than a theatrical reproduction.
+ “New Burger Joint I Really Like, Plus the Korean Fried Chicken…”
My sister and I ended my #JJsBirthdayWeekofEats, with a Sunday brunch at Beef & Liberty, a new beautiful burger joint on Level 3 of that three-story modern commercial building on the corner of Wing Fung Street and Star Street. I didn’t know much about Beef & Liberty before I got here, but I was just a fan of the branding work by WHITESPACE HK and the wall mural by Los Angeles based artist, CYRCLE, that you can see from the street. (Even though I’m obviously a foodie, i’m a design tourist first.)
According to their website, Beef & Liberty is a “modern homage to the original beefsteak clubs… originating in eighteenth century London.” Guys, it’s a burger shop. And a pretty good one at that. The meat is hormone-free grass fed beef from Hereford and Angus cattle, naturally raised by small-scale farmers in Tasmania.
My sister and I shared one burger (it was the 6th of 6 major meals straight) and one appetiser. We started with the Crispy Chicken Wings, which are basically Korean Fried Chicken. The wings are huge and the skin is cooked crisp. While it is saucy, it doesn’t take away from the crispiness of the dish nor is it too oily either. It’s a perfect wing and Korean chicken served just right. For the burger we didn’t order the Classic (I rarely do for fancy burger joints like this), but instead ordered the Green Chili Burger… a burger with green chili slices, jalapeno relish, cheddar cheese, butter lettuce, and mayonnaise. The burger was big enough to share for two, but not too big to sink your teeth into without ingredients slopped around because of it. The bread here is perfectly pan fried, and absorbs the oil well… meaning it doesn’t fall apart. The beef was cooked rare (how I like it), with the jalapeno relish and green chili giving an interesting southwestern tex-mex twist to the flavour.
We ended the meal with dessert (who doesn’t)… a Warm Skillet Cookie & Cream, which is exactly what it says it is. The chocolate chip cookie is freshly baked and the clotted cream is homemade, balancing the overly sweet cookie. I’d definitely come back here again.
EAT Beef & Liberty . Star St. Precinct, 2F, 23 Wing Fung St., Wanchai, Hong Kong . T: +852 28113009 . Reservations Recommended
Overall the dinners were great, but most important was that I was with friends and family members which made the experience very memorable.
I also just wanted to quickly show off some of the great presents I got this year; like this hilariously amazing sweatshirt with a “United States of James Franco” print on it from RAD in Paris.
Other cool gifts; check out these travel bags from my friends Eddy and Jason. Eddy makes these amazing camo totes from his label, Compound By 3 Spirit and Jason just launched a menswear leather accessories label called Hammer & Needle. (The travel books are via my other pals Katrina, Jason, and David from Louis Vuitton.)
Now that my amazing “Jesus Year” 33 is over… I can’t wait to continue to work that much harder creatively moving forward into the coming year based on the cool stuff that has happened within the last twelve months.
And of course, much Gratitude to the everyday. I don’t forget this.