A Preview of American Trash
We had heard that Maximal Concepts, the group behind the uber-successful Brickhouse and Blue Butcher, were opening a new American restaurant later this summer. We sit down with directors Malcolm Wood and Matt Reid to find out more.
HongKongTatler: So we hear Maximal Concepts is doing a new American restaurant, focussing on fried chicken.
Matt Reid: American Trash is our move into real home-style American food. The idea behind the concept is that we think American food the world over has been commoditised and kind of destroyed. Take for example fried chicken or burgers, all these things have lost their soul and become these cookie-cutter franchises and they’re considered unhealthy, made with the worst of new technologies. So American Trash is us coming to the support of American food, and taking it on, saying it’s not trash. And as part of that, we’re really focused on the chicken. We’ve tried twenty different sorts of chickens, all sorts of different farms, doing what we did at Blue Butcher, in terms of really going into the detail of who we work with in the supply perspective, and then applying all sorts of cooking techniques like sous-vide and using all parts of the chicken.
Malcolm: We’ve literally done the Heston Blumenthal thing of trying to find the perfect fried chicken. I’ve put on ten pounds in the past month. If I told you we tried a hundred different brines, I wouldn't be lying.
HKT: And have you settled on your perfect fried chicken recipe?
Malcolm: We’re close, it’s almost there. It’s very very good fried chicken at this stage, but we just want to keep improving it. We’re testing everything down to how long you let it rest for, under what sort of heat lamp, all that.
Matt: And actually we know that in this day and age, you have got to be focussing on health as well, and so the majority of the menu is actually healthy. There is a focus on salads, amazing Cobb salad, and then other ways of cooking the chicken that aren’t fried. And of course using organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, quality ingredients.
HKT: And where is the chicken from, the one you have decided on?
Malcolm: There’s one from North Carolina. We haven’t actually settled on the chicken yet. There are three finalists that are up there. We’re also going to have Texan marinated chickens that are barbecued. We’ve got our own take on the chicken nugget.
Matt: Which are awesome. You’ll be addicted. We’re also making all our own sauces. We think we’ve got the ultimate barbecue sauce, we’ve got bacon marmalade, we’ve made this amazing blue cheese sauce, honey molasses, we’re even making our own smoked ketchup.
Malcolm: We have this thousand island dressing that we put on a Key West reuben. We’re picking out all the best family recipes between myself, Matt and Danny (chef Danny Chaney of Blue Butcher). We are doing a take on Danny’s mother’s fried chicken recipe, which she used to make when he was a kid.
HKT: But neither you nor Matt are American?
Matt: True, but we grew up all over the place.
Malcolm: I lived in Los Angeles, and Vancouver for quite a while.
Matt: I grew up in Barbados, although there is no jerk chicken at American Trash. But there is a big American diaspora.
Malcolm: He’s trying to convince me to open a jerk chicken restaurant here.
Matt: In my mind, that is something in the pipeline, yes.
HKT: And what about drinks?
Matt: We’re making our own sodas like our own root beer. If there was a popular soda in the 60s, then we want to make an alcoholic version of it, like an alcoholic cherry coke, and then some really interesting milkshakes.
HKT: Are you going to have those malted milkshakes with the raw eggs in them?
Matt: We should do some research into that.
Malcolm: Ok, done. That’s on the menu.
HKT: Have you chosen a venue?
Matt: Yes, construction starts next week.
Malcolm: So we’ll probably be opening in about two and a half months. It’s in Sheung Wan, in between 208 and Tai Ping Shan. A little place there on the corner. It’s going to be a nice neighbourhood restaurant, about 45 seats. It’s roughly the same size as Brickhouse, without the outside seats.
Matt: The design style is that when you get there, it should look like it’s been there forever. We want to create that sense of nostalgia so it’s not all crisp and brand-new. It kind of feels, not like exactly a dive bar, but like you’re in a garage in Louisiana.
Malcolm: In terms of influence, we don’t want it to be too gimmicky, it has to have soul. Did you mention the beer?
Matt: No. We have, wait is it six or eight?
Malcolm: We have eight taps, custom-made cooling system, serving proper American craft beers. It’s similar to what we’re doing at Blue Butcher, but on a much grander scale. All our venues are both drink and food-focussed, we put a lot of effort in our cocktails, so we’re doing the same here.
We will also be disclosing more details about Angry Child, Maximal Concepts’ second new restaurant soon, so stay tuned.