Under soft lights and amid animal motifs aplenty, we sat with a fruity cocktail surveying our surrounds.
We were in what was once the two-story Shore Steak Lounge. Although still owned by the Shore Hospitality Group, it no longer identifies as just another ever-reliable American institution of cooked meat.
In fact, it no longer identifies as just one place. It’s now Hunter & The Chase, not exactly separate establishments, but sorta siblings split between the two floors.
Think of them as two brothers: Hunter and Chase — American lads, they are. Good looking boys.
Whereas their predecessor was an unabashed albeit refined steakhouse, our brothers are aspiring gentleman farmers; urbane in their tweeds, knitwear and suspenders.
While Hunter — the “more refined” sibling — handles the dining upstairs, The Chase, on level 3 of the L-Place in Central, mixes the cocktails n’ serves up food which, as you can see from its menu, leans towards the lighter side of the meal spectrum.
Brother Chase, it also feels worth noting, has a large patio out back, takes pride in his long, well-endowed bar, and has a soft spot for artisanal American cheese, served from a counter dedicated to that most distinguished of dairy products.
Sat with cheese from the counter — known as Ralphie’s Cheese Bar — and a side of confidence, we began our tasting (cheese list HK$78-HK$128)
“You won’t find cheese anywhere like this anywhere else in Hong Kong,” boldly assured marketing manager Yance, who, filling in for the resident fromager, seemed to know his stuff, using words like earthy, balanced, crumbly, creamy, ash and undertones as Coconuts HK struggled to remember which cheeses had which characteristics, what they paired with, and whether we’d turned on the washing machine before leaving the house.
We hadn’t. But, alas, it was time for a drink.
Handed the drinks menu, we selected the Deliciousourus (Applejack / Crème de Peche / Lemon / Orange — HK$118) for no other reason than it appeared to be an earnest dinosaur pun and, in our line of work, you’ve got to encourage wordplay. Verdict? Maybe not dinomite, far from pteroible.
Someone asked which cheese was the best. Answering both diplomatically and somewhat philosophically, Yance raised the concept of subjectivity, bringing to mind that famous line from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: “Relax, all cheese is delicious.”
The cheese board decimated, the house-made condiments smeared around like some sort of grisly crime scene, our party ascended the staircase to meet Hunter and his assortment of off-beat meat, which is kinda his thing, adding to the stock-standard steak house collection a more curious cohort of cooked creatures.
There was the Bison tartare (HK$228), a dish that minced that proud American beast down to size and served him up with crunchy-on-the-outside potatoes, some pickles, pickled shallots, and capers to counter the roaming mammal’s mighty meatiness.
Then, Geoduck (HKS178), a large mud-burrowing saltwater clam found on the west coast of North America which, in its raw form, looks uncomfortably like a tremendous male sex organ.
Geoduck with yuzu and lime.
Here, before us, it was chopped up small, served in a shell with sweet yuzu and zesty lime. Not having held, met or eaten a Geoduck before, pleasantly surprised, we were, with the slight crunch and refreshing taste of our new phallic-looking friend.
A standout, however, was the potted rabbit confit (HK$148) with pickles and duck fat, which is one of Coconuts HK’s pavlovian salivation trigger terms. Creamy and full of flavor, immediately we got it, and we understood why, despite the routine humiliation and regular injuries, Elmer Fudd persists in trying to shoot and kill that wabbit.
Roasted beet salad (HK$118) was soon slipped before us, but with our carnivorous instincts kindled, anything that didn’t previously have a heartbeat felt like a distraction. We couldn’t shake this sentiment despite the dish being delicious — same for the grilled asparagus with egg yolk (HKS108), as well as mushrooms that looked like they were impersonating baguettes.
So, it was with pure predatory pleasure that we sunk our incisors into the next samples: roasted bone marrow, with oxtail and homemade biscuit (HK$158) (oh sweet holycow elixir); bison short ribs (HK$498) (dude, yes) and a half rotisserie chicken (HK$168) (drools on keyboard while remembering*).
And still our adventure through the animal kingdom wasn’t done.
Turning our attention to aquatic offerings, we said “hola” to some chewy-tender Spanish-style octopus served with ancho chili and roasted garlic (HK$218), and a creepy “hey you” to a salt-crusted sea bass with herbs and lemon (HK$198) , which was, perhaps, a little dry.
We’d traversed a significant segment of the menu, though stopped short (at least as far as we can remember) from sampling the pan-roasted quail (HK$138) and half-roasted pig’s head (HK$798).
It was unquestionably a toothsome feast, a spread and decor harking back to Victorian era decadence when serving up several eccentric species in one sitting was the height of food fashion.
Surely the great William Buckland, the 19th century geologist who tried throughout his lifetime to eat one of every creature, would have been comfortable and temporarily sated seated at our table.
He may have been slightly freaked out by the smartphones in everyone’s hands during the meal.
Victorians, as you know, were all about manners.
Hunter, Chase — well done, chaps. Good show.
Hunter & The Chase are on 3/F & 4/F, The L Place, 139 Queen’s Road Central, Central
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11:30am-11pm, Sat & Sun 11am-11pm
Reservations: +852 2915 1638
MTR: Sheung Wan