Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just A(nother Mediocre) Restaurant - JAR

Charcuterie, "all"
Why do people get so lazy about pasta? If Te (the Japanese pasta chain) can do it for $60, why can't JAR do it for $125 (+ 10%)? It's pasta + sauce. Even I, a totally untrained cook, can make a good, tasty, comforting pasta. These two points basically summarise what I felt about JAR (Just-A-Restaurant).

French onion soup
It started well enough. The bread basket/sack was that smart little contraption that Singapore's FiftyThree also uses, a raw linen bag with a compartment for warmed pebbles that kept bread warm. The French onion soup was decent - cheesy, full-flavoured, and the fried camembert was fine, even if the wedges did look dangerously similar to potato gems.

The charcuterie platter was more about variety & quantity than quality. A pretty timber plank isn't enough to justify a restaurant premium for supermarket quality. But I suppose if you wanted good jamon iberico you could easily pay double... (The platter with 'everything' was $360)

Rainbow trout
We had a variety of mains - a lamb rack, a pancetta-wrapped rainbow trout and two pastas. The fish was very nice, especially for $195. I would never be bothered to do this at home, and even if I did, I would probably screw it up - i.e. I feel good about leaving my front door to eat this.

See? Stuffed with ground almonds and wrapped in pancetta, nice and pink inside. Happy as Larry. (Who's Larry, anyway?)

Paccheri with lamb ragout
Now, the pasta. You call this a ragout? It was tomato paste, with sugo (I don't know if I'd even call it that) that had about as much depth as a flattened saucer, plus some mince, probably tossed together in a pan in a matter of minutes. It was like a reduced Dolmio's. I don't know what more to say.

Papparadelle with wild mushrooms 
This pasta was undercooked (and no, it wasn't al dente, it was undercooked - chewy and tough), the ribbons were sticking to each other. There wasn't much sauce (not that there should be) yet when you ate a mushroom it felt heavy.

Earl Grey Pannacotta
The earl grey pannacotta was too jelly-like and tasted pretty artificial (like synthetic vanilla essence vs. vanilla pods).

Look, none of the food was horrible, and it's not like I paid through my nose for it (actually, I didn't pay at all because it was my birthday - now that I'm nearing twenty-something and a half, you can tell how lazy I've been about posting...), but I'm just getting frustrated with these dolled-up restaurants that can't even seem to be bothered to dish up a decent pasta. It doesn't need to be all truffled up, you can use the cheapest cuts of meat to make a good ragout. Show some love, people. Show me you put in more than 2 minutes into that plate. Please.

This is their famous Banoffi pie. (I just realised I failed to mention till this point that JAR is the grown-up sibling of 798 Unit & Co., the mid-priced bistros in Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay - and they too, are 'famous' for the Banoffi - or is it Banoffee?). The cream was a bit bland and the pie crust unsatisfying (too cold? Fridge sogginess?), but the banana on the side was good, and I really shouldn't judge my 'birthday cake'. I should be grateful that the candle didn't sink into the 'cream', or that it didn't come with a red syrup squiggle.

Anyway. As I wrote in my Openrice profile about 5 years ago, we (Hong Kong) can all work harder.

2/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace
+852 2543 8000

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  1. I agree with you on the pasta issue. I also read up on a couple of the local chef's recipes, even the Italian chefs ones, and they are quite simple in design and not exactly rocket science or that costly to make.

    So if I am paying a premium, please at least execute it well, I am not even looking for surprises anymore. And the portioning... its embarrassing. One just don't see such tiny primi's with so aggressive pricing in Italy. I am going to cook pasta at home from now on. :) Happy Birthday to you ~ wish u good Eating as always !!

  2. thanks! it's way past my bday (i was v slow to post!) i'm glad u agree about pasta. it's my biggest peeve. also good point re portions - they only had 1 size and listed it under mains, so this size was pretty disappointing now that you mention it...

  3. Im scared. I just made a reservation for tomorrow for a friend's birthday.

  4. So how was it JJ? For the price it's not horrible, I just felt disappointed because they could do much better.