Food, often, is blueprint for more. Why you enjoy the flavours you enjoy; what constitutes “comfort”; the specific memory of a grandmother’s no-frills spaghetti that you, somehow, cannot recreate — it all comes down to, well, love. Something Alex Malouf has in droves.
Alex Malouf of Catch Concepts, as it turns out, has a lot to love. And a lot to share.
“What sparked my passion for food was growing up in a Middle Eastern household where food was so important to us all,” Malouf remembers. “When I really got to understand how much food impacts people, that really made me enjoy this life.”
“This life” is one that began with elbows sunk deep in sudsy water as a 15-year-old dishwasher. Though, it’s not quite a rags-to-riches story, for Malouf — nephew to Australian celebrity chef Greg Malouf with a restauranteur father and chef mother — has clear lineages into the F&B universe. But that doesn’t mean he’s rested on his laurels.
A Melbourne native, Malouf’s venture into Hong Kong’s dining scene began, first, as a restaurant manager for Dining Concepts and Castelo Concepts in 2010. It wasn’t until four years later did CATCH come bursting — with its Australian seafood serves and delicious weekend brunches — onto (then) Kennedy Town’s rota of go-to eateries. The original KT location has since closed and reopened on this side of the island in Sai Ying Pun, with another eastbound in Quarry Bay.
From there, Mama Malouf — a love letter to his Lebanese upbringing and, of course, his mother Amal Malouf’s recipes — was massaged into existence after a stunning one-off Lebanese cook-out at CATCH. Then, Elementary in Tai Hang came to life still Australian influenced, but less seafood-focused. Chickpea, launched in late 2020 with its takeaway pita pockets and hummus bowls, is Malouf’s newest addition. Yet, despite the myriad names in Catch Concepts’s now-thriving portfolio, there’s always one thing that remains constant: dishes meant to be shared.
“Most of the places we have are all focused heavily on sharing, that’s one of the most important things we care about,” said Malouf. “You can try a good variety of different dishes, rather than eat a dish then leave. You get a better experience that way.”
It’s a communal experience, then, you’re offered when you step foot into an Alex Malouf restaurant. A community forged through a love for CATCH’s perfect Bloody Marys (yes, it exists); for group lunch orders from Chickpea (can personally attest to happening); for double-date brunches in Tai Hang, two-legged and four-legged friends in tow. And as for Malouf’s personal favourite (for sharing, of course)?
“We’ve got so many menus and dishes, but at the moment my favourite in our new restaurant is a whole baked flounder,” said Malouf. “It’s baked and covered in some nice parsley, lemon and garlic sauce, with nice mushrooms sautéed over that. With a lot of butter, a lot of salt. That’s my favourite at the moment. I like to fiddle as well, get my hands dirty.”