A Side / B Side
Date of review: April 28, 2016 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
A Side / B Side is tough to spot during the day. The vintage metal gates and glass sliding doors at the unmarked restaurant can easily be missed. Take a closer look at the top railing though, and you will find “A side” written in white. The restaurant features a bar design, where guests sit on three sides surrounding the open kitchen area, although it’s inside the real kitchen at the back where guests can get a glimpse of the culinary action. The décor is simple, with a muted midnight blue on the walls, a shelf of art-deco books and menu offerings chalked on the wall. The restaurant’s name suggests the owner’s fondness towards old records, and it’s mostly instrumental jazz that’s played during dinner service.
The menu offerings are simple, with a strong emphasis on seasonal produce, particularly local organic vegetables prepared as starters, and a very limited choice of three mains – daily fish, chicken, and steak.
We began our meal with okra with fermented black beans, where the green pods are frizzled and served atop fermented black bean paste – a Chinese touch in a dish that is surprisingly addictive with the okra being crisp on the outside and juicy within.
Florets of cauliflower are pan-fried and seasoned with curry and a generous helping of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, yielding a rich melting texture with just a touch of zing from the curry.
Small wedges of onion have their edges caramelized and are sweet throughout, but seemed to be small-portioned at HK$95 (as the rest of starters are).
The limited choice of mains, coupled with a lack of detailed description, makes it easy to choose with a sense of mysterious anticipation. The chicken comes perfectly crisp and golden brown on the outside and the meat tender, convincing guests that the bird is properly brined with just the right touch of Sichuan peppercorn to give it a slight numbing sensation.
The steak, a New Zealand striploin, was a slight disappointment. The lean piece of meat, though properly charred and medium rare as suggested, was a little tough and the spicy sauce on the side packed too strong of heat that masks the flavour of beef slightly. However, the fingerling potatoes on the side were the right touch.
Do not be fooled by the lack of description in desserts. They require some explaining. We opted for the ice cream, which is homemade with occasional change of flavours. Ours was rosemary citrus ice cream, topped with chunks of fresh orange. The herbaceous ice cream with a touch of citrus zest brings an almost savoury sensation to dessert.
The panna cotta is scooped from a large tray into a serving bowl, topped with fresh fruits. The jelly itself, made with a combination of soy, coconut milk and dairy, yields a velvety smooth jelly that slides down easily. The melange of fruits – macerated strawberries, green apple and oranges – may not be seasonal, but the sweetness and tartness of each complement the rich creamy dessert.
The wine list at A Side / B Side, like its a la carte menu, is short and clipped, with only one red, white, rose, and sparkling by the glass option. There is a particularly interesting orange wine on the menu, which turns out to be an acquired taste. The nose of this Jeanne d’Arc Riesling is aromatic with a black tea aftertaste, slightly more acidic than we anticipated. For the sparkling option we chose the Dilettante Method Traditionelle a 100% sparkling vouvray with a mild sweetness and just zesty and acidic enough to bring lightness to the palate while pairing with the vegetable starters.
Since guests are seated around the kitchen bar, the chefs and manager double as service staff, an advantage as they know the food and wine menu very well, especially when it comes to making suggestions for wine pairing. The downside is that service can be momentarily interrupted by new dishes ready to be served.
Dinner for two complete with one glass of wine each amounts to HK$1,200. As long as the menu changes frequently, we feel that the restaurant deserves return visits in the future.