South by southeast

Missing your southeast Asian jaunts? Perhaps you may cure the wanderlust with some of its cuisines.

At the newly opened Monsoon at Elements in Tsim Sha Tsui, Balinese head chef Gede Budiana offers an innovative twist to southeast Asian classics.

Kick off your journey with a Monsoon cocktail (HK$78), a Thai chili-infused drink that has a mildly spicy aftertaste.

Or go for the Orient Pearl (HK$78), a mixture of sauvignon blanc, Campari, passionfruit puree, orange marmalade and grapefruit – a refreshing, sweet drink with a tropical vibe.

The crispy soft-shell crab som tum (HK$138) salad is one of the restaurant’s signatures. The salted duck egg enhances its rich flavors, while the soft-shell crab upgrades the overall taste to a whole new level.

Budiana also recommends the ancient royal beef salad (HK$138), made with more than 10 spices to ensure the dish is absolutely flavorful.

His other recommendation is the dengdeng balado (HK$198). “The caramelized beef short rib is a nostalgic dish from Indonesia’s west Sumatran region and is not common in Hong Kong,” he said.

Left to simmer for up to two hours before it is pan-fried and sauteed with pounded chili, kaffir lime, lemon basil and house-blend balado paste, the beef has a lightly crisp outer layer but is fork-tender inside.

Budiana’s favorite dish, though, is the Indonesian wagyu beef rendang (HK$168). The beef short ribs are traditionally slow-braised with spices in coconut milk, but he uses a good cut of Australian wagyu to enhance the dish’s texture and quality.

Another traditional dish is Jungle Fish (HK$168), with banana leaves that give the barramundi a distinctive aroma. Like many grilled dishes in Thailand, it is served with nam pla prik sauce.

Every dessert on offer at Monsoon (HK$78 each) is tempting. One of them is the classic black sticky rice and Thai ice cream campur – an authentic Thai street food gem.

The Indonesian kelapa tart with rum-soaked raisins, young coconut, cinnamon-dusted almonds is served with coconut ice cream, making it a sweet bomb in typical southeast Asian style. Or go for the Vietnamese caramel creme brulee topped with coffee granita and jelly cubes for some texture and sweetness.

If you can’t get enough of Vietnamese cuisine, Xuan at Wan Chai has launched its nine-plate Xuan Family Meal (HK$798), which recreates a typical Vietnamese home-cooked dinner: com gia dinh.

The menu comprises nine comforting staples with a selection of chef-chosen seasonal ingredients, including a broth, a salad, house-fermented pickles, fish and shellfish alongside tender and juicy meat, all of which is served with a claypot of steamed jasmine rice.

Several new dishes are also available as an add-on, such as ban khot (HK$168), crispy and savory mini coconut milk rice pancakes served with uni, quail egg and a drizzle of scallion oil; octopus ceviche (HK$138), a 12-hour slow-braised octopus with crispy sesame crackers; and the Xuan soft-shell crab (HK$148) slathered in lemongrass, chili, grated coconut and turmeric.

And for those missing Indian street food, chef Manav Tuli from Chaat at K11 Musea in Tsim Sha Tsui has recreated some traditional Indian street snacks for three new family-style set menus at the eatery: the vegetarian tasting menu (HK$588), chef’s tasting menu (HK$688) and premium tasting menu (HK$788).

Each 10-dish meal begins with a colorful array of small plates and appetizers, followed by masterfully crafted main courses and comes complete with a choice of seasonal desserts.

The restaurant’s highlight is definitely the premium tasting menu, which begins with an amuse-bouche of mini raj kachori served alongside drinks. Then tuck into appetizers of baked lamb samosas and sarson prawns, a twist on Maharashtra’s traditional tandoori dish.

Other must-tries include the juicy Hyderabadi lamb shank with caramelized onions, cloves and cinnamon and the chicken dum biryani with aged basmati rice, saffron and spice.

The meal concludes with either mango kulfi or the indulgent chocolate fondant with green cardamomi.

(This article was published at The Standard on October 9, 2020: Weekend Glitz: South by southeast )

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