Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mott 32 - Not Just a Pretty Face

"Pata negra" pork, dried chilli, peanut
Maximal Concepts has been on a bit of a roll. In the past few months, they've opened Fish & Meat, Stockton and Mott 32 - the latter is the group's first foray into Chinese food. Situated deep down in the basement of the Standard Chartered Bank Building in Central, I was hoping the location's previous incarnation would have been something super sexy like a bank vault, alas, it just used to be another (less interesting) Chinese restaurant. The decor is pretty sexy though - 50s industrial meets old Shanghai, with a bit of prohibition moodiness, realised by Joyce Wang. It makes for a great cocktail bar in addition to being a serious restaurant.

Barbecue prime Iberico pork with honey (char siu)
I spent some time describing the decor because it's not usually expected of Chinese restaurants. Or, if a place is pretty, there'll be too many posers in the crowd and the food is often crap - the kind of place foodies love to hate. But it's hard to hate Mott 32, because while the first two points are true, the food was seriously good.

The name doesn't immediately inspire much confidence - Mott Street in New York is synonymous with Chinatown, and Chinatown food is a different game altogether. But while I'd say Mott 32 is definitely going for the western/westernised crowd, the food that comes out is indeed made in a traditional manner.

Chinese lettuce with fermented soy beans in a claypot
For that, they have Chef Fung, previously at the highly-regarded Dynasty restaurant, to thank. While Dynasty is primarily a Cantonese restaurant, the approach to Mott 32's menu is more "China's best hits" - among the signatures are Cantonese barbecue and dim sum, Zhejiang/Shanghainese hongshao pork belly and Peking duck. Sichuan shuizhu and dried chilli dishes also feature. We skewed slightly towards the Sichuan, possibly because we were getting a little tipsy on the cocktails. The pork with chilli and peanut was one of my favourites, even when it was cold (I had been there about a week before this dinner for a story and ate it after a photoshoot. I should note that this dinner I'm describing was not an invited tasting but a personal dinner, as is usual for this blog, although the PR was aware that I had made a booking). The fattiness of the pork had dissolved in the cooking process, leaving it juicy but "layered" - by that I mean I could almost sense the layers of the meat's fibres as I was biting into it. It wasn't the least bit greasy, and the peanut added a lovely earthy crunch and a certain heartiness to the dish, lightened by the twang of the chillis.

Shuizhu fish (fish fillets poached in Sichuan chilli pepper broth)
The char siu was sublime. We basically inhaled it, and if it were not so prohibitively priced (HK$295 a plate), we could easily have had 2 more plates (we were 3 girls).

When we ordered the shuizhu the server warned us that it would be very spicy, but we were game (perhaps it was the alcohol talking). He wasn't lying. It wasn't the spiciest thing ever, and not exactly explosive, but it was indeed very hot. Maybe 7-8 on a scale of 10. (10 being you regret it when on the toilet the next day). What's worth noting, however, is that good Sichuan food isn't just about the heat. There were obvious layers of acidity and savouriness that really helped make the dish complete and we were even tempted to take a couple of sips of the poaching liquid.

L-R: Old Harbour, Hong Kong Iced Tea, Hanami
We had arrived early and our table wasn't ready yet, so - disclaimer - we got our drinks on the house. I can't get past an Old Fashioned, so I chose their version, the Old Harbour. The ice ball frozen with goji berries and chrysanthemum was a cute addition, but in reality, didn't add to the flavour of the cocktail (didn't melt in time), and the cocktail on the whole didn't have the bold, sweet, fragrant whisky/bourbon flavours I usually expect of an OF. The Hong Kong Iced Tea is served in a tongue-in-cheek plastic cup and straw, and was refreshing and well balanced. Dangerously I could taste none of the resposado in it. The Hanami is an Asian girl's dream - shiso, yuzu, umeshu, ginger beer and a dash of gin and whisky - the liquors ere hardly noticeable. Needless to say we all liked that one.

Siu mai with quail's egg and caviar
This dim sum wasn't part of this dinner - I tasted it during the photoshoot & interview session I mentioned earlier - but this is one of the things I think I'll come back for. The quail's egg is tucked inside the siu mai, and is perfectly soft-boiled. Talk about precision.

Mott 32 [map]
B/F Standard Chartered Bank Building
4-4A Des Voeux Rd
Hong Kong
+852 2885 8688
Lunch, dinner, drinks daily

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:24 pm

    Had lunch here last weekend and absolutely loved it! Will be going back to try the char siu and the sui mai with quail egg. I absolutely loved the fish fillets in sichuan chilli sauce. And we gave in to the temptation of sipping the liquid like soup. Tempted to do my own review of it soon :-)