At some point in the not too distant past young people gave up fingering for finger food. Somewhere between Amy Winehouse’s untimely passing and the inextricable rise of Ed Sheeran, the youth gave up casual sex, recreational drug use and aimless acts of rebellion.
Well, this is the only conclusion I come to when passing a lengthy queue of exuberantly happy young twenty-something’s, waiting patiently to get their fill of the latest Korean inspired small plates.
Why are they not at the bar next door necking cheap pints? Why are clutching DLSRs rather than a Big Mac? Why are they making it so bloody difficult to get a reservation at any half decent new restaurant?
There’s always the risk of descending into resentful clichés when pondering the habits of the next generation, but curious young connoisseurs are causing fundamental shifts in the design of restaurant dining. These shifts overstate the importance of food and under-estimate the importance of experience. Fundamentals in service design and delivery are too often overlooked in search of originality. The net results are establishments that look, taste and act right, but feel somehow disjointed and unsatisfying.
This isn’t a problem if you are seeking a new and interesting spot for midweek novelty. It’s more of a problem if you are looking to chat, interact and generally have a nice time.
So, as I consider where to book for my impending thirty-first, I do so in the knowledge that my good friends and fellow diners share my distain for the wholesome and the faddy, seeking instead somewhere to overindulge in fine booze and bloody good food.
Despite being a stone’s throw from HKU, I opt for Rhoda. Rhoda is a restaurant for grown-ups. Not the sort of grown-ups who either live with their parents or a litany of offspring, but the sort of grown-ups who will scribble a penis rather than a signature on the bill (very sorry about that).
The interior of Rhoda is absolutely inspired in concept and conception. Every contemporary detail is well considered, without being conspicuous (unlike the Iron Fairy’s of this world). The open kitchen at the rear and industrial bar at the front encircle, a buzzy environment of engaging wait staff and happy patrons.
Above the hum of jovial conversation the music matched the demographic – at one point one of the more rapturous Smashing Pumpkins anthems blared out epigrams for a (now grown-up) disenfranchised youth.
I foolishly volunteered to pick up the booze bill and thus the waitress was charged with keeping full carafes (a rarity in Hong Kong) of excellent draught red and white wines. Free bottles of still and sparkling water were also reliably delivered.
The menu is split into snacks, hot, cold, large dishes and sides. We ordered pretty much everything so what follows is a summary of the noteworthy dishes.
We started with complementary dark ale sourdough. I very much like beer and I very much like bread, but I’m not convinced that the matrimony of the two is a joyful one. Padron peppers and lotus root chips were a little more satisfying and kept us going until the mains started rolling in.
A bowl of charred corn, clams, slow cooked egg and katsuobushi provided a faultless introduction to an evening of perfectly balanced flavour and texture. A plate of beef tartare, although lacking a little seasoning, was incredibly moreish.
But the tomato! I have never heard grown men exalt the merits of a vegetable (for the sake of arguments lets call it a vegetable) before. It arrived at the table naked as the day it was plucked, save for a drizzle of olive oil. Some people questioned where the mozzarella was, others dismissed it without a second thought. Those who didn’t were treated to complex combination of tropical sweet and sour flavours that left a sense of puzzlement and pleasure.
It takes real bravery to serve such a simple plate and that bravery continued into the large plates. There is also nowhere to hide with cottage pie. Yet, it still managed to extract soft groans of pleasure from one friend as she ate the cottage pie directly from the still sizzling dish.
When making the booking it was suggested we order four whole chickens. This turned out to be a bit of an error. Although moist and juicy, the ginger dressing which liberally coated each bird was a little too sweet and sickly. However, the flame grilled short rib was expertly paired with a simple vinaigrette that cut through the richness of the meet.
I think we had desert but my memory gets a bit fuzzy around that time.
Rhoda isn’t perfect, but by God it is fucking close. Everything hangs together brilliantly, under promising and over delivering in almost every aspect.
How much? About $500 a head. The Alcohol bill was a lot more
Where? 345 Des Voeux Rd W, Shek Tong Tsui
Who goes? Content thirty-something’s