Review: Elementary Ticks All The Right Boxes, But There Is One Thing Missing
Having quietly opened its doors early February, Elementary has escaped widespread attention until recently. The restaurant itself, however, is hard to miss if you’re a regular in the Tai Hang neighbourhood, thanks to its handsome corner shop space featuring large signage stretching along the length of the building. Opened and operated by Alex and Danielle Malouf, the husband and wife team behind such concepts as Mama Malouf and The Catch in Kennedy Town, this is the couple’s first concept in Tai Hang—an Australian eatery that is as casual and fun as its sister restaurants.
The façade is rendered in dual tones of cream and blue, while the interior is simple, but stylishly so with pale teal and grey tiling matched with contemporary wooden furniture. In the day, the restaurant enjoys an abundance of natural light from the open windows, while in the evening the lighting is dim and the ambiance turns more intimate.
Elementary offers a fresh approach to Australian cuisine. The menu is divided into three sections: light, medium, and heavy, all meant to be dishes for sharing. We began our meal with tomatoes with lemon yoghurt, balsamic caviar, Thai basil and confit leeks. Colorful heirloom tomatoes are sliced thin and laid on a plate with dollops of yoghurt and balsamic caviar. The citrusy Thai basil lends a fresher take on the Italian Caprese salad.
Burrata with stone fruit capaccio is impressive. The creamy cheese dresses the thinly sliced white peach, while bee pollen enhances the sweetness and crunchy texture of the starter. The EFC, or Elementary fried cauliflower with almonds and ranch sauce, is a bestseller and playful attempt to prepare the vegetable. The thinly battered florets deep-fried until golden-brown with a scatter of crisp almond flakes are great on their own, although the punchy garlic in the housemade ranch dressing makes this an even more fun and enjoyable treat.
We had trouble choosing our mains, as roasted half-chicken, roasted bone marrow and veggie burger all called to us. We eventually decided on a braised beef short rib with honey kimchi relish to share. The short rib, served on the bone, is prepared with beef from New Zealand, braised for four hours until tender and served alongside a zesty kimchi relish and puffed rice, which soaks up some of the braising jus. The beef remained juicy throughout. The fancy poutine takes the Canadian staple of French fries with gravy and cheese curds for an upgrade, where crumbs of blue cheese top thick-cut fries with ox-tail gravy. Stirring a runny egg into the hot fries makes it an even better side dish, best shared.
Even though the selection of dessert is small,, Elementary’s simple approach is demonstrated in its sweets as well. The humble ice cream sandwich is elevated with homemade ice cream, a choice of three flavours, from Earl Grey to vanilla, but our pink peppercorn ice cream has a savoury touch that works perfectly sandwiched between two crunchy almond cookies. The peach panna cotta gives a refreshing end to a meal with a handful of raspberries and homemade honeycomb mixed in as well.
Despite our raves for their food offerings, Elementary has just one flaw—there is no wine list, at least for the time being. Since its opening in February, the restaurant is still waiting for its liquor license and so the wine selection is still up in the air. Guests are encouraged to bring their own wines on their visits, and there is no corkage fee. The beverage selection, however, covers a range of teas and coffees and a handful of surprisingly good homemade lemonades, available in both flat and sparkling versions. The zesty original lemonade is gleefully tart throughout and served very good, while the sparkling peach and basil is a tad sweet, but just the right hint of herb in the drink.
Service is casual but good throughout. The service team is very friendly and keen to share their suggestions on ordering and sharing dishes while demonstrating sound knowledge in the restaurant’s concept and approach to Australian cuisine. Elementary gets all the basics right, by offering an enjoyable dining experience with the fine quality of food and service, and has the potential to grow from a neighborhood favourite to one of the city’s hottest tables.
A meal for two with one beverage and service: around HK$1,000
How we rate
Each of our reviewers score restaurants based on four main criteria: setting, food, service, and drinks, taking into account more than 35 different points of reference including manners of staff, usefulness of the wine list, and whether or not the restaurant makes an effort to be environmentally aware. 5/5 indicates an exceptional experience; 4-4.5/5 is excellent; 3-3.5/5 is good to very good; and 2.5/5 or lower is average to below average. Before visiting a restaurant, the reviewers will book using a pseudonym and do not make themselves known to restaurant staff, in order to experience the venue as a regular guest—if this is not possible, or if we are recognised, we will indicate this in the review.