Saturday, July 1, 2017

Dinner at a Speakeasy Bar

A week after attending the pre-opening media preview of the new Employees Only Hong Kong at Lan Kwai Fong, I was given a second opportunity to try more of their food and drink, this time at a sit-down dinner. Monday was probably not the busiest night at Lan Kwai Fong (plus we started a bit early), but it was fairly packed when I walked in to the bar (and soon it was filled to the capacity as the night progressed and by the time we moved to our dinner table)

I asked the bartender for something light and refreshing to start (fully anticipating a whole night of awesome drinks), he fixed me up with their signature gimlet – just a simple drink with “navy strength” gin with lime cordial, shaken and served in an old-fashioned glass with ice. Not sure about the light part, but it’s definitely refreshing.

Soon as everyone in the party arrived, we moved to the dining table at the back. I flipped through the pages of the menu and realized they did have a fairly long food menu, especially in bar standard, separated into small plates, mains and dessert sections. The menu for the evening has been pre-arranged for us and served to share among us all.

I had good experience at the media reception a week ago and also with their pop-up at Landmark Mandarin 2 years ago, so my expectation was high. And I think my dinner delivered largely on par with my expectation. We managed to try a few dishes that I haven’t tried before and I liked them. The seared scallops served with generous portion (with two gigantic ones served along with bone marrow mash and toasted hazelnuts). Apart from the perfectly cooked scallops, I also loved the mash mixed with bone marrow bits giving it a bit of rich flavor. The hand-cut steak tartare was mixed at our table and I loved the chunks of beef mixed with egg yolk and hot sauce and served with toast crisp and salad on the side.

Last time at the pop-up we finished with a lovely bowl of chicken soup as our last course (as per the bar’s tradition), but this time, the soup was a Manhattan clam chowder. I am more a New England clam chowder kind of guy but I did enjoy this version, with an interesting smoky flavor from the touch of paprika, I believe. Three main courses were served – I did like the hot-smoked salmon with potato salad and crème fraiche – the skin of the salmon fillet was perfectly crisped. At first it looked a bit burned but worked well with the pinkish meat inside. One may have mistaken the crispy skin chicken as one more appropriately served in a Chinese restaurant, with teriyaki-like garlic soy sauce and the fearsome Sichuan cucumber salad served on the side – but I thought it was decent too.

A few more drinks came my way as we moved along with more dishes. I enjoyed the drink called Almost There, a Scotch whisky-based cocktail with lime juice, apricot liqueur, mint and a splash of soda served with crushed ice on tall glass. Again, that’s a prefect summer drink I reckon. That was followed by a peachy Bellini.

I was surprised at the number of choices available even for desserts. We tried three and I thought they were all very nice, especially the butterscotch cheesecake and the churros. I thought the cheesecake was going to be New York-style, but instead it’s mild and soft with mascarpone cheese and drizzle of butterscotch on top. The churros was bombed with orange flavor with dark chocolate and hazelnut filling in the middle, and served hot right off the fryer. It was just the right sort of bar dessert, if there's such a thing.

Lan Kwai Fong is having a revival of sorts as of late with a few more-than-decent places not only for drinks, but for food also. And I think Employees Only Hong Kong definitely is a good addition to this mix of new bars and restaurants.

And pardon my pictures - I got to learn to take better snaps inside a bar.

When? June 26 2017
Where? Employees Only Hong Kong, 19 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Seared Scallops with Bone Marrow Mash and Toasted Hazelnuts

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