Let us celebrate. With a glass of perfectly chilled wine after sunset, no less. Dinner is back on again. Now that capricious dining restrictions finally loosened up, stockpiled lists of places to go, dishes to try are ticking off with ardent rigour. Your choice of celebration may be a comforting plate of pasta, a hearty hummus dip or a well-seared slab of steak. Whatever it may be, this week’s New Eats column will be helpful in choosing the right places to go should you be looking for lighter, brighter flavours that adhere to the oncoming season of spring
Some spots are faithful favourites for a reason. They’re comforting, uncomplicated and just… good. The places you’d recommend to visiting friends. Or the ones reserved for a laidback Sunday afternoon. Bedu’s Middle Eastern fare is something of the sort. With six new plates and seven new cocktails on the menu, the Gough Street post is looking to become a Central gem. Synonymous with the arrival of spring, the menu additions are lighter, more simplified editions of hearty Middle Eastern fare. There’s the savory labneh (yoghurt dip), remade with pistachio and garlic (HK$55), flavoured with cumin, coriander and white sesame, and the ox heart tomato salad (HK$120), a twist on the classic Lebanese cucumber salad made with ox heart tomatoes, evidently, and dressed with sambuca anise and cardamom. It’s a welcomed burst of sweetness and tanginess, and a great starter to whet appetites and make way for the harissa glazed chicken skewers (HK$140), dipped in the Tunisian hot chilli pepper paste and finished on a scorching hot grill for a fragrant fiery smokiness (the good kind!) that’ll leave you wanting more.
Bedu, 40 Gough Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2320 4450
Mere whispers of ‘something new’ — a venue, a chef, a menu — will guarantee crowds, no, flocks, to any location. Flock over then to neighbourhood spot Lucale, with the unveiling of a brand new Italian menu beginning from 4 March. Hearty plates and a cosy interior remain but the dishes are expertly tweaked by chef Alessandro Angelini to highlight Italy’s finest. Burrata con Gamberi, a testament to the restaurant’s own creamy creation, is topped with a colourful combination of diced red Sicilian prawns, melons, avocados and green apple — a bite and a crunch away from textural ecstasy. There’s also the Raviolo Gigante con Ricotta, an extra large raviolo, emphasis on extra large, stuffed with ricotta, mascarpone and egg-yolk and laid in a bed of black truffle and green pea cream sauce. But it’s the Strudel Destrutturato we’re most drawn to. It’s a deconstructed strudel topped with homemade grappa ice cream. Doesn’t it just sound heavenly?
Lucale, Shop A, 100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong +852 3611 1842
Some may travel over for Xuan’s infamous beef pho, stewed in a 24-hour beef broth. But now, there’s more to head towards the modern Vietnamese eatery for, as chef John Nguyen introduces a new selection of Vietnam’s tried-and-true favourites. There’s Bun Bo Hue (HK$148), a fragrant 48-hour bone braised noodle broth, topped with beef shin, pork belly, homemade meatballs and Vietnamese sausages; Thit Heo Quay, tender Hungarian Mangalica pork garnished with black garlic and pork jus and served with charred gai lan and fermented pickles; and Bun Cha Ca (HK$148), a light fish noodle broth, flavoured with pungent fish sauce and topped with seared cod and, inexplicably, pineapple that offers a refreshing zing. The most interesting? The Uni Bun (HK$198), where the traditional rice noodles are coated in rich, umami layers of sea urchin and golden-yolk runny egg, and served in a seafood and tomato soup base. Most certainly one for the indulgent.
Xuan, G/F 12-24 Lun Fat Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2891 1177
Francis’ spring hampers
If you have ever left Francis longing for more of its delicious Middle Eastern mezzes, then the latest release of its specially curated hampers ($400) is a dream utterly fulfilled. The hampers are what chef Asher describes as “absolute pantry essentials in any Middle Eastern kitchen,” and include house-made spice blends and flavour-packed sauce and spreads, among rare ingredients that make up the core building blocks of Francis’ signature plates (A selection of chef Asher’s classic recipes are also included!). Inside the hamper’s spring edition: za’atar, zhoug — a fiery blend of chilli, cumin, cardamom and pepper, sumac, baharat — a Lebanese seven spice blend, spiced honey, pomegranate molasses, harissa — a Tunisian chilli paste, and labneh — strained yoghurt rolled and preserved in olive oil. Should you, or a friend, have considered whipping up a traditional Middle Eastern meal in at-home kitchens, these would be wonderful condiments to have.
Details: The spring hampers can be ordered here.
Francis, 4 & 6 St. Francis Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 3101 9521
Kiki Tea x L’Oreal floral teas
Certain things are so attuned to certain seasons. Shaved ice in summer, for one; Irish coffee in winter, for another. Floral-infused teas, then, are something so befitting during the season of spring where lighter palates are desired. Popular Taiwanese bubble-tea bar Kiki Tea joins beauty maven L’Oreal Paris for the creation of two new beverages in photogenic jewel-toned saturations — a match to L’Oréal’s vibrant bottles of Elseve extraordinary hair oil that will received upon purchase of the new teas. Speaking of, A hibiscus rose tea topped with rose cream mousse (HK$45) served with Kiki Tea’s handmade aiyu jelly (a clear jelly made from the seeds of creeping fig); and an iced jasmine orange green tea (HK$45), which combines cold-pressed fresh orange juice and green apple extract with garnishing of calamansi lime, lemon leaf and fresh rosemary.
Header image courtesy of Xuan