Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fish School (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

As a long time admirer of local chef David Lai (owner of On Lot 10, Neighourhood and Bistronomique), I was really pumped up about his latest venture - Fish School, a collaboration with Yenn Wong who's the driving force behind culinary gems like 22 Ships, Ham & Sherry, Duddell's and Meen & Rice. Just like the name has already given away, this is going to be a buzzy neighbourhood eatery that focuses mainly on fish and seafood. 

I know the media has always put a lot of emphasis on Chef Lai's time with Spoon and how he honed his skills under the great Alain Ducasse. But for me, I look at him more as a talented chef with a great deal of passion, innovative ideas and someone who respects and appreciates his ingredients. With Fish School, Chef Lai has the chance to showcase his talent by bringing together some of the best locally sourced seafood with his modern cooking techniques.

For someone who's totally unfamiliar with Sai Ying Pun, Fish School is not going to be an easy find. I got off the MTR at the Sai Ying Pun station (Exit B1) and after a comfortable 8-minute walk, I quickly arrived at what Google Map told me was 100 Third Street but where's the restaurant? I ended up walking up and down the street a couple of times before finally spotting the entrance down an alley connecting to the Third Street.


I was told over the phone how Fish School is a place that closely resembles the vibe of 22 Ships, with bar tables hugging the open kitchen and other tables positioning around the corners that offers a bit more privacy. And it was exactly that. The menu, largely seafood oriented, has a little bit of everything from prawns, marinated raw crab (潮州凍蟹?), salted crusted whole fish to wagyu beef bavette and Long Kong chicken (龍崗雞?). There are a number of dishes that are designed to pay special tribune to some of the greatest traditional Cantonese dishes of all time. More on that later.

Two To Mango ($55) - I needed to freshen up a bit and couldn't really think of a better way to start things off than a nice cocktail. Fresh mango, coconut cream, black pepper and a bit of lime zest. Tasted a little like pina colada with a kick of heat (from the pepper).

Monkfish liver and foie gras presse, aged tangerine peel ($175) - one of the restaurant's most popular dishes so far and I could definitely see why. A classic foie gras terrine nicely complemented by a little bit of monk fish liver and a sheet of aged tangerine peel (陳皮) in the middle. 

I've had foie gras terrine with a lot of things before but never with monk fish liver and aged tangerine peel so this was very exciting for me. Just love the fragrance coming from the aged tangerine peel that worked brilliantly with the foie gras and liver. The fruity flavors from the roselle purée and confit roselle provided a nice finishing touch. That was an incredible dish.  

What would a good foie gras terrine be without a nice homemade brioche?

Mantis shrimp popcorn with cured duck yolk ($175) - this is the chef's re-interpretation of the classic Cantonese dish, "golden shrimp"  (黃金蝦) and he has added his own twist by using a mantis shrimp rather than prawns. 

That was again another enjoyable dish. The mantis shrimp was very meaty and each piece was deep fried with something like tapioca to give it a super crunchy texture. Not as blown away as the first dish but nevertheless a very impressive showing from the talented kitchen.

Sea cucumber, oxtail, porcini mijot
é ($250) - I was going to stop after the shrimp popcorn and go straight for dessert but was rather curious about this sea cucumber dish. How would the sea cucumber fair with French style cooking?

Obviously this was much more than just sea cucumber and oxtail. Beef tendon, daikon, mushroom and a bed of silky smooth mashed potatoes were also in play. A very busy dish indeed! This was ohhh soooo good. The braised sea cucumber had a perfectly soft and tender texture and it meshed extremely well with the porcini mijoté and oxtail jus.

I was a bit stuffed at this point so despite all the interesting dessert options, I declined.

All in all, a very satisfying meal without any doubt. I was especially impressed with those traditional Cantonese dishes with the modern twist, the mantis shrimp popcorn being one of them. Too bad I didn't realize everything was half priced during the opening week; otherwise, I would have sampled a few more for sure.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$
Address: 100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Sai Ying Pun
Tel: +852 2361-2966

new exciting seafood restaurant opening David Lai Hong Kong Sai Ying Pun Fish School

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