Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wishing it was in my Neighborhood

Daily Meat - Roast Chicken at Neighborhood
Neighborhood is the newish restaurant helmed by chef David Lai of On Lot 10 fame. On Lot 10 closed a few months ago, and just before it did, Neighborhood opened.

As the name suggests, the format is that of a neighbourhood bistro, and is the kind of ideal bistro I wish I had within walking distance of my house. (I'll even excuse the American spelling). Neighborhood can be summed up thus: A menu that changes weekly, ingredients that are sourced thoughtfully, well priced, with small surprises here and there, but mostly it's about well-executed favourites.

Charcuterie platter
The first thing you need to know about Neighborhood is its location. The address says Hollywood Rd, but the entrance is actually in the alley in the rear of the building, ie. parallel to Hollywood Rd. To old timers in HK, you might know the alleyway as where Club 71 is - basically it's the first alley on your left when you turn off Hollywood Rd downhill on Peel St. Google maps says the alleyway has a name, and that it's called Man Hing Lane, but I don't think there's much in the way of signage.

Truffle oil poached artichoke with aioli
The photos here are from separate evenings, and while there is a certain structure to the menu (there are always charcuterie, meat/roast and fish of the week, and the chocolate palette will probably not be taken off the menu ever again, huzzah!), every week the menu is different.

White asparagus with wild garlic leaves, morels and escargots
The food is honest, but never boring. Don't come expecting On Lot 10 version 2 - it's casual without compromising on technique and quality, and thus far, there aren't any of the huge sharing dishes (whole fish and the like) that On Lot 10 was known for.

Quail "escabeche"
The plates are fairly small (I keep hearing "tapas-style" but really, they're just smaller plates meant for sharing. Why can't we say "dim sum-style"? A purely hypothetical/theoretical question, of course...), which is great for trying a bit of this, a bite of that, although if you wanted to do a strict three- or four-course thing, the dishes are well-sized enough too (big eaters should probably aim for 4-5 courses).

Daily fish "Bouillabaisse"
The great thing about a menu that changes is weekly is that it's highly seasonal. You get to eat produce at their peak and cooked in novel ways.

Firefly squid, borlotti beans, squid ink
The firefly squid I had a couple nights ago, for instance, had only just arrived from Toyama - one minute they were gleaming in their briny glory on a platter and the next minute they were in a delicious pool of squid ink and borlotti beans.

Frog's legs fritters
The wine list is interesting too - many will be labels you'll never have heard of, nor ones that you can easily find elsewhere in Hong Kong. Of the ones I've tried, I've found that they tend to be easy-to-drink, daily sort of wines, which fits the restaurant perfectly - I wouldn't say it's a special occasion kind of place.

Chocolate palette
If there's one thing I have to say about Neighborhood though, it's this: chocolate palette. (It's unfair to the rest of the menu, yes, because it's also excellent, but this dessert is beyond words... Just don't miss it). It's hard to categorise what exactly this palette is. It's like a super rich mousse, but served slightly warm (think around body temp) and the flavour of chocolate is so, so, deliciously, luxuriously, rich. It has a slight bitterness, and the fruitiness of good chocolate. And, thanks to the crisp base and the heartbreakingly sensible size, when you reach the end, you'll never feel like you've overdone it. It's magic.

Please Hong Kong, could we have more restaurants like Neighborhood, and more desserts like their chocolate palette?

Neighborhood [map]
61-63 Hollywood Road (entrance on Man Hing Lane, or Pak Tsz Lane Park),
Central,
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2617 0891
Open: 6-10.30pm Mon-Sat

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