Friday, April 5, 2013

Restaurant Review: Brickhouse

Location: Lang Kwai Fong, Central
Type of food: Mexican
Rating: *** (3 out of 5)

Like many other aspects of the Hong Kong culture, our culinary scene is largely driven by fads. Two years ago we experienced a burger craze, followed by a steakhouse obsession. Now that beef patties and porterhouses are no longer in vogue, food lovers flock to taco joints like moths to the flame, whatever the cost. It seems only a matter of time before American fast food chain Taco Bell – and its irritating canine spokesperson – jumps into the fray. Nevertheless, the spectacular failures of Krispy Kreme and Dairy Queen in Hong Kong may be giving Gidget the Chihuahua some pause.

Brickhouse in Lan Kwai Fong

But I digress. Opened last August, Brickhouse is tucked away at the end of a narrow back alley off D’Aguillar Street. With no signage on the main road, the restaurant is impossible to find without asking for directions and looking like a lost tourist. The taqueria is wedged between and under old tenement buildings in the kind of place you expect to be dripping roof juice and infested with local crawlies. Despite its "ghetto" location, the restaurant displays the typical hubris of a new kid on the block. For starters, Brickhouse accepts no reservations and has no phone number for inquiries. It does not serve lunch and puts a one-hour limit on dinner tables, which is their way of saying “eat up, pay up and get out.”

To avoid a long wait, my guest and I showed up at 6:30pm for an early supper. By then, the restaurant was already packed to the rafters. We were seated at the open counter by the entrance, with nowhere to put our jackets and bags. I was literally eating in the alley, inches away from the crowd standing around an oil barrel like union workers at a picket line -- they were poor folks who arrived after 7pm hoping to get in. The people at Brickhouse weren’t kidding when they promised us “street food.” Sitting next to me was a pair of Americans yapping about professional tennis at the top of their lungs. I was relieved when one of them suggested to the other that they “go somewhere else" for drinks.

Visit their friendly website

Brickhouse does not have a big menu, just the usual offering of Mexican finger food. For appetizers, we tried the tuna sashimi tostadas and grilled corn-on-the-cob, sprinkled with grated cheese and coriander. Both were tasty but not fantastic. For entrees, we consulted the off-menu chalkboard and opted for the rib eye tacos stuffed with salsa and manchego cheese. It was a wise choice. We followed that with the grilled “Sunday chicken,” which was tender but didn’t taste very Mexican. I was hoping to wash down my dinner with a mojito – which the restaurant didn’t have – but went with something more adventurous: the diabla, a potent mixture of vodka, raspberries, pomegranate and jalapeño peppers. If I didn’t have to drive home after dinner, I would have gone for a second. And a third. In the end the bill came to $650 for two, which was reasonable by LKF standard.

Brickhouse opens from 6pm till 2am Mondays to Wednesdays, and till 4am Thursdays to Saturdays. It is the perfect place to grab a bite before or after clubbing in the area. The one-hour limit poses no threat to most patrons, who chuck down their tacos and tortillas in minutes and "go somewhere else" more comfortable. While fans call the restaurant hip and happening, I find it unbearably crammed and noisy. Now that I have tried it once, I don’t think I want to walk down that dark alley again.

Literally eating in a back alley

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