Friday, July 01, 2011

Would Your Grandmother Approve? - Ugly American

Having made a place with virtually no kitchen in North Point my home for the past year, I ate out in the area a lot. Don't get me wrong, the area has plenty of good Chinese food, but I have to say I got pretty excited when I heard a grill opened.

Ugly American is helmed by a chef who (as the magazines say) has headed kitchens in such places as Dan Ryan's (awesome!) and Fat Angelo's (not so awesome).

The intro on their Facebook page says:
This is not a restaurant made to impress snobbish critics or high society, but rather one where chefs go to eat.

Ok, cool, so I'm not a snobbish critic (what about critics who aren't snobbish? But in any case I am not a critic...), nor hi-so, nor a chef. So am I welcome? The food told me I was not.

On their website intro, the chef says:
We measure ourselves by Asking: "would our grandmother approve?"
My grandmother would not, but hey, my grandmother is not a chef. She was a bloody good cook back when she remembered things though.

Confusing manifesto aside, the restaurant's door are open to the general public, so as a member of the general public I went in.

The steak above was $299. As a member of the general public I felt that was actually pretty pricey for a neighbourhood restaurant. In the same month (June) I also went to the News Room in Quarry Bay - Press Room's new venture, still sort of my neighbourhood - and had a much more satisfying hangar steak for around the same price ($268 for 12 oz, if gran's Alzheimers hasn't quite gotten to me). The fibres seemed to have loosened up - a benefit that aging should have brought (21-day Donald Russell Dry Aged, the menu says - DR is a British brand), but the meat itself was stringy and coarse and not exactly juicy. I'm not a filet mignon kind of person - I'm not looking for the finest, silky smoothness in my beef - I want to do a little bit of chewing, to feel the meat, but eventually I want to be able to swallow it without having to gulp down rather large, dry stringy chunks of residue, thanks.

Bread to start
In Hong Kong, room temp butter actually melts. I don't know about you, but I don't find semi-melted butter particularly appetising. The bread, well, what can I say. Pretty much crust-less, a bit dry but moistened again by Hong Kong humidity. Taste? What taste?

Caesar Salad
The salad leaves were LIMP. You know what, California Pizza Kitchen does better, simply because of super fast turnover. (And yeah I go to CPK, their salad leaves are crunchy and fresh 85% of the time - just tell them not to go crazy on the sauce and you're good). For a classic salad like this, all you really need is crisp/fresh vegetables. Logistically a bit difficult maybe? There must be a way right? How does, say, McDonald's keep their lettuce crisp? Well, I don't know, I'm not a chef now, am I.

Ugly American
Shop 14, Victor Court
18 Wang On Road
Fortress Hill
Hong Kong
+852 2887 0832

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  1. Wow, that looks awesome - awesomely bad, that is.

    The less said about the bread, the better, In fact, the less said about Hong Kong bread in general, the better. Two things I've given up complaining over in this town are breads and any dish that involves melting cheese. Life it too short.

    The salad, judging by the photo is something I would not touch. Bacon bits and croutons out of a jar, sad looking lettuce and the parmesan crisp thing, which is a outdated cliche that deserves ridicule.

    As for the steak, well it looks like what they serve at Dan Ryans and similar establishments...

  2. Fernando - I actually like Dan Ryans' ribs and onion rings - haven't been brave enough to try a steak though :P

    Bread and coffee. Those are 2 things that HK can never seem to do right, and really, I should stop complaining about them too - but the bread I had here was genuinely awful. I would rather go and have a soft sweet roll at Tai Ping Koon than this!

  3. I might have missed it form your article but what was the veggie / green that came as a side with the big slab of meat (not sure I call that a steak sorry haha)? Am I correct to assume ... it was what I think it was ... OMG!

  4. Jason - yes it is gai laan! Actually, that was probably the best part of that dish. It was actually crunchy (but cooked through) and the veg itself was quite young so no stringy fibrous bits (unlike the steak).