Sunday, June 15, 2014

Restaurant Review: Aberdeen Street Social

Location: PMQ, SoHo
Type of food: English
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Eager to replicate their successes with 22 Ships and Ham and Sherry, English celebrity chef Jason Atherton and Singaporean entrepreneur Yenn Wong have teamed up again, but this time for a project of a much higher profile. Aberdeen Street Social – whose name came from Atherton’s own Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social in London – is the only restaurant at the PMQ, the highly anticipated and recently revitalized creative hub converted from a defunct police dormitory.

Aberdeen Street Social at the PMQ

Opened just three weeks ago, the restaurant with an unfortunate acronym, is the latest “it” place in Hong Kong. Getting a table, even on a weeknight, requires a bit of planning, a bit of groveling and a bit of kicking and screaming. Part of the reason is its limited dining space. Even though the restaurant takes up two levels in a duplex, the first floor is wasted on a bar-slash-waiting room that only serves finger food and is almost always empty. That leaves only the second floor for dinner guests and the space upstairs is barely big enough for a dozen tables and a VIP room.

Once you manage to get in, however, it is all good. Designed by Shanghai architecture firm Neri&Hu, the artsy dining room, with a clever use of materials like cast iron and brass, transports you to an industrial loft somewhere in London or New York City. The service is also impeccable. The well-trained servers – and there are many of them running around – know the menu and seem happy to be there. That’s more than you can ask for these days, considering the shortage of qualified personnel in the city’s service industry.

The roasted quail is finger lickin' good

But it is the food that will win your heart. Among the half-dozen or so appetizers, the clear winner is the quail. Roasted to a beautiful pink on the inside, the poultry is juicy and well-balanced by the peach chutney – so good that I almost lick the plate. In comparison, the black pudding (a traditional English dish made with oatmeal and pork blood) with pig's ear is a bit of a disappointment. The black pudding itself is starchy and the pig’s ear is so deep-fried it is devoid of both texture and taste. For mains, the lamb rump and the ox cheek tie for first place. In both dishes, the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender and complemented perfectly by the accompanying garden vegetables, whether it is the pea puree, sautéed fennel or poached baby carrots.

You may want to skip dessert, not only because you will be quite full by then, but also because the restaurant will offer you a complimentary green apple and celery sorbet and a generous petit four. Dinner with a glass of wine (and without dessert) will set you back around $700 per head. With great vibes and delicious food, Aberdeen Street Social should be on your to-visit list, if not now then in a few weeks when the insane queue subsides.

He really gets Hong Kong

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