COCONUTS HOT SPOT – After reading the gushing five-star review in Time Out in which new Sheung Wan hipster restaurant Mrs Pound was touted as “one of the city’s most forward thinking and, frankly, best eateries”, I had to find out if this new sensation on Coconuts HK HQ’s doorstep is really worth the hype.
While the Asian street food concept still gets tongues wagging despite the fact it’s nothing new, I was convinced it was the fake frontage – whereby the restaurant appears from the outside exactly like a traditional Chinese chop shop – would be the main reason for such excitement.
I’d long since heard of a similar concept in New York – an uber trendy “speakeasy” that can only be reached by dialling a certain number from a certain unassuming call box, after which something magical happens – a door at the back slides open to reveal the bar behind.
Although undeniably gimmicky, the stateside effort is, indeed, very creative, and I do remember being somewhat awed when I first heard about it from a friend who had been. In turn, however, this prior knowledge of what is being described as unique and innovative in Hong Kong left me less excited than my dining partners about the act of nudging a secret chop to gain entry into Mrs Pound.
Smug feelings of know-it-all nonchalance aside, I told myself it was the food, not the abstraction, I was there to review. The former, I had to admit, started very well with the Razor Clam Mirepoix (HKD168).
Although only getting two pieces for the dish categorised as “Bigger” on the menu, the earthy but rich flavour combination of the steamed clams, Chinese sausage, butter and finely chopped vegetables instantly let me know that Mrs Pound takes substance as seriously as style. For me, this dish was only missing an extra kick of spice.
The skewers (from HKD38) – of which we were persuaded to try one of each by one of those almost jarringly relaxed waiters you just daren’t say no to – were also well received. The Garlic King Prawn was almost as impressive in taste and texture as it was in size; the Bulgogi Pork Belly was smooth, gooey and sweet; and the Xinjiang Spiced Lamb was just on the chewy side for me, although seemingly not for anyone else.
The irresistibly-named Double-Fried Sichuan Peppercorn “Ma La” Chicken Wings (HKD75) did, however, get my full support with their completely non-greasy and almost dusty, thick, crunchy and darkly spiced batter.
We rounded the small plate feast out with Beef Rendang Poutine (HKD108), which I’m convinced would be the best hangover food in the city (watch this space), and Lemon Grass “Cage” Meatballs – satisfying and soft in their undercooked patty texture, but not very elegant to eat. This was an area in which I would have welcomed a little more direction from that waiter!
As a group we debated back and forth about our favourites of the night. There were just so many contenders. Then we realised with horror and disbelief that we had somehow forgotten to factor in the Sriracha Mayo Street Corn (HKD58).
Having fallen in love with a similar dish at Mexican joint Brickhouse after first arriving in Hong Kong, I knew this was going to be good. It was, however, far better than good, with the super soft kernels hardly even needing chewing as they melted in the mouth with the zingy coating of buttery hot mayo goodness and part-powdered Pecorino cheese.
Now we would never decide.
As much as I wanted to diss this place on the grounds of my firm belief that no person is a 10 out of 10 (attractiveness-wise), and therefore no restaurant should be a five out of five (food-wise or otherwise), there was most definitely little to quibble with Mrs Pound about.
She may be overly conscious of looking fly in the eyes of the trendsetters, but she’s way more than just a new and unusual hip chick in the cool crowd.
Mrs Pound, 6 Pound Lann, Sheung Wan, (+852) 3426-3949, firstname.lastname@example.org.