June 29, 2016

All about the view and hardware

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It's one of the hot openings in town in the last few months.  Seafood Room boasts panoramic views of Victoria Harbour high above Causeway Bay.  I was fortunate enough to have been invited to its opening party, although I got distracted enough on the day that I actually forgot to attend the happening event.  Not that I really cared to rub shoulders with Adrian Brody, but I didn't really understand his connection with the restaurant...

So when No Fish suggested that we check out this place, I didn't have any objections.  There's been so much hype about this place that I figured it was worth checking out... especially if it wasn't on my dime!  Many thanks to my friendly neighborhood prime broker for the treat...

First thing I noticed when I really the elevator lobby was the presence of a tall, svelte Caucasian door bitch hostess with long, flowing hair... standing next to the key pad for the elevators.  It seems that is all she was required to do... punch in the floor numbers and directing them to the right elevators.

Once I got out of the elevator, I came face to face with another tall, beautiful Caucasian hostess.  And a tall, well-dressed Caucasian man who seemed to play the part of manager.  I was led to our table by the window.  Nice view, indeed.

The menu was kinda interesting, being divided up into different sections along the cooking/serving methods, such as "sashimi", "ceviche", "hot dishes", "Cantonese style", "tartare", "new style sashimi"... etc.  Speaking of "new style sashimi", maybe I am too stupid to know what it is... because I was never enamored with Nobu.  The last time I heard the term was from the mouth of an idiotic Indian manager during a disastrous dinner at a now-defunct restaurant in Dubai.  And that was 9 years ago...

Anyway.  We ordered a few dishes that interested us... a whole fish, a burger, 2 "new style sashimi", a tartare... and asked our waiter if that was enough food.  He suggested that we order more.  So we took an extra dish and added a ceviche.

A waiter came over to pour the olive oil onto our bread plates, then proceeded to use specialized scissors (with four rows of blades) to snip some herbs onto the olive oil.  A little gimmicky?  Perhaps.  But at least we know the herbs are fresh.

Langoustine tartare, avocado, truffle, caviar - a very familiar look, since many restaurants nowadays have something like this: a stacked column consisting of diced cubes of avocado/tomato/seafood.  I have to admit that this particular version tasted pretty good.  Heck, you've got fresh langoustine, creamy avocado, then add a little caviar, some chopped chives, a few slices of black truffles (which, by the way, are not fresh shavings of tuber melanosporum but appear to be preserved), drizzle some truffle oil for the fragrance and that familiar flavor on the tongue... and dab some gold foil for decoration.  Looks pretty, and tastes pretty good.  What's not to like?!

The only problem, at least for a pain-in-the-ass diner like me, is that I've seen it many times before.  It's contrived.  Formulaic.  The chef has decided to slap a few ingredients and dress it up to make it look and feel luxe, but there's no soul here.  And they want HKD 290 for this.

Sea bass ceviche, mango, lime, plantain crisps - I was somewhat surprised by the sweetness of the mango and lime sauce here, although I'm sure there was still enough acidity here to cure the sea bass.

Sea urchin new style sashimi, ponzu, shiso leaf - I wasn't the least bit surprised when No Fish turned into her alter ego Mo' Unni and demanded that we order the sea urchin.  Well, she is picking up the bill, after all... so of course I was only too happy to oblige.

But to be honest, I wasn't happy with this dish.  It seemed simple enough, but why was the sea urchin drenched in so much ponzu (ポン酢)?  The acidity and salinity of the sauce simply overpowered the natural sweetness and creaminess of the sea urchin.  And although I am normally pretty attuned to the taste of perilla leaves, for some reason those flavors didn't register with my taste buds.  And no, I don't need those raw quail eggs provided on the side, but maybe I should have just added them into the mix to cut down the ponzu.  Then again, I wasn't exactly expecting sea urchin shooters, you know...

Sea bream, lemon, lime, Moroccan spices - that's a pretty big fish for the two of us, and you know what the most surprising thing was?  No Fish ordered a whole fish!  You don't see that happening everyday...

Alas, this dish was underwhelming.  I didn't mind that it was grilled slightly on the dry side, but the main problem here was that it was completely under-seasoned.  Bland.  Yes, there were some "Moroccan spices" here... which I deducted to be not much more than some mint leaves and some red pepper flakes.  Had we not squeezed some lime juice on top, the fish would probably have no seasoning whatsoever.  Not enjoyable at all.

Shrimp and lobster burger, chunky chips - in comparison to the fish, this burger was heavenly... although the flavors were probably still slightly timid if taken on its own.

The shrimp and lobster filling was soft and creamy.  Definitely satisfying after that very unsatisfying fish we just had.

To be honest, there was simply too much food for the two of us. We had no idea why our waiter suggested that we add one extra dish when we had already ordered a whole fish and the burger.  Perhaps as a result, the bill seemed a little steep given the quality of the food we had.  HKD 2,000 after factoring service charge, with no drinks other than bottled water.  There are plenty of choices around town where I could dine for less and be far happier.

No Fish and I got talking, and realized that we were not the restaurant's target demographic.  There were clearly quite a few couples here on dates, sitting by window-side tables with good views, but that wouldn't be us.  Neither of us were impressed by the artwork being displayed in the restaurant, and I really couldn't care less if any of it came from Adrian Brody.  We appreciated the section of "Cantonese style" seafood on the menu, which offers local classics for those of us familiar with them, but we would balk at paying a premium over what we could get at local joints.  Then again, maybe we're just a couple of cheapskates.

I know they've got great views.  I know they spent buckets of money decorating this place.  I know they're aiming for a lively vibe, and have a great terrace and roof for drinks.  And they're paying for pretty hostesses to be eye candy.  All of this costs money and is gonna be reflected in the prices.  But I really only care about the food, and when a restaurant comes up short on this - arguably its raison d'être - then there's little point for me to even think about it.

1 comment:

Michael L said...

I had the same when I went to Mott 32 a few months back. They had these tall Caucasian (heard they were Ukrainian) models in tight leather dresses as waitresses at entrance. I thought I went to a night club when I walked in.


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