Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Harlan Version 5.0

Since the beginning of summer, it's hard to miss the giant hoarding on Lyndhurst Terrace with the larger-than-life face of Chef Harlan showing prominently outside the street level storefront. With a slew of press material beginning to fly into my email inbox a couple of weeks ago, now we knew he has re-established the latest iteration of his restaurant concepts on this site with a few openings in a rather short span, all in drastically different themes located on different levels of the building.

I had the opportunity to check out Ee-da-le, the first to open at the end of July, marketed as a "casual Italian eatery" (name of the restaurant is the phonetic spelling of Italy in Mandarin Chinese), taking up the space on the second floor. Other than the funky lampshades and a random collection of background music from Kanye West to slow jazz, the place resembles a slightly hippier version of a typical Italian-American diner, with the dark decor, open kitchen on the side and a trendy, well-stocked bar on the far-end, all added to the laid-back atmosphere.

Well, no one's going to say no when Chef Harlan himself dropped by our table and suggested he took care of the order for us, and soon, a few appetizer dishes arrived, just as we started sipping on our cocktails. (the negroni was spot-on, by the way).

Among those dishes we started with, I thought the Crudo di Mare was the best, with rich flavors from the fennel, anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes and the sea urchin on top of the lightly-cured sliced sea scallops with citrus juice. The warm and fluffy focaccia with sun-dried tomatoes was nice too, served with green olives and the salsa verde dipping sauce which Chef Harlan dubbed as "the secret sauce based on a secret recipe". I thought the bread was fine just on its own.

A couple of other appetizers were served with shaved black truffles - including the white asparagus with soft-poached eggs dish which was not on the menu. Both were alright, except I wish the truffles were more aromatic. They were probably stuck around for too long losing out some of the fragrance - either that or my nose was off that night - well I tend to think it's the former.

The pasta was served in generous portion - good for sharing for 4 people for tasting. So that somewhat justified the price they are charging for a bowl of Carabineros linguine. That aside, I thought the taste was fine with bottarga roes and baby shrimps mixed into the pasta and two giant red prawns served on top.

We shared two entrees among the four of us, and the bistecca was the one I preferred. The piece of 12oz prime ribeye steak was seared and served tagliata style in thick slices, with a simple salad underneath and a salsa sauce on the side. It has a good charred crust and inside was cooked to perfect medium-rare done-ness. The chicken was served in pretty decent size with juicy meat, but I thought it could do with a bit more seasoning or more brining before it's cooked.

Two of the three desserts served came with the pouring of liquid nitrogen for the theatrical effect of "smoking". They reminded me of those served in his Comfort restaurant once upon a time, but these were definitely an improved version. But I thought both the affogato and tiramisu were a bit too similar in taste, and even came in similar "deconstructed" presentation - a little cliche I would say. They tasted fine though with rich coffee flavor.

I thought most of the dishes we tried on the night of our visit were right on point, while some might need a bit more tuning. Simple, no-nonsense dishes are what Chef Harlan is good at and I think he delivered largely as expected at this rustic restaurant serving classic Italian-American cuisine. If that's the yardstick of what were to come under the same roof, I am optimistic and will be curious to try the other ones when they are in full operation. Fifth time's a charm perhaps?

(Dinner was by invitation)

When? August 15 2016
Where? Ee-da-le, Level 2, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Bistecca (12oz) Tagliata style, Prime Rib Eye Steak, Salsa Rossa, Arugula and Balsamic
Drinks? 2014 Beni di Batasiolo Gavi di Gavi Granee DOCG
Web: www.eedale.hk

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