Ok, lets be honest; the title may be a little harsh but I just wanted to take the opportunity for a small tribute to Karl Wallinger (World Party) and his mythical (well at least for me) Ships of Fools song (and album!). Karl; you’re the best! Now; its not a complete ship wreck but like the Titanic; it takes a deep dive at the end of the journey even though you may think it is unsinkable and you do believe this during most of the journey.
Anyway, it’s been a few weeks (months? Kind of loose track of time) I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about 22 ships . The restaurant is located in the middle of Wan Chai (the red light district, not so red any more though) in a street where there are already quite a few restaurants. Each time I read something about this place, it was « the top of the hype »; « the place to be » or even « where everything happens » from local newspapers to Internet bloggers, it was heaven on earth for your palates and the best happening place in the entire universe (and that’s an understatement). Many times I passed by it and could see a line of around 10 people or more waiting to be seated and served in this fantastibulous Tapas bar. So hey, (I thought to myself, yeah crazy people sometimes do this… and well, I do that a lot! I even talk to myself… like here… Hey get out of my head!) am a « hype padawan wannabe, why not learn from a Tapas masters to find the path to the perfect omelette and even maybe fall in the dark side of the Chorizo? ».
So one night the force was strong, my Karma was beefed up, and I could feel I could not resist any more the dark side was pulling me to the death star to meet my destiny…. errr sorry wrong script… Soooo, it was still quite early (left from work at around 6:30, yes I know, don’t tell my boss!), and we decided to try our luck there. I was ready with my new learned tricks (« these are not the customers you’re looking for » to cut the queue was the one I was eager to use) but to my great disappointment, I was not able to use my powers as we arrived before the crowd and ended up seating in a very nice table in front of the street (I did use my powers a little as the waitress wanted initially to put us on a table facing… A wall!). The outside table is probably the best place to sit if you are fine with people walking by and starring at you. But like in a fish bowl, you sometimes wonder (wait its getting philosophical here!) who is the one watching, you or the fish? Here is the same, you watch or they watch, who knows right? Anyway, if you are fine with fishbowls, you should sit there, its lively and the large table makes a good ground to get to know your neighbors!
The inner room is quite small and can probably accommodate around 30 to 40 people (not sure, didn’t check the fire station authorizations here). The idea is that the tapas bar, as in Spain, should be able to expand outside as the crowd gets there, making it look more like a bar than a restaurant. Some tables in the back, a table facing the back wall (not sure how pleasant that must be) and some stools at the bar where you can grab a piece of the action behind the bar. Its all quite trendy, dark colors and low lights but very nice. Not really cosy as you are seating on stools anywhere you sit.
We sat and started by ordering a glass of red wine and some olives. The wine was really good and so were the olives. After drinking part of the wine while enjoying the street scenery (typical Wanchai scenery) we decided after a little bit more than 20 minutes to stay and try the rest of the food as we were not so hungry and tapas was the good option.
Now to call this place a Tapas bar is a little bit misleading if you ask me (you didn’t ask me? Well I want to say it anyway!). Its a bar, with a menu where you have a limited choice of tapas (around 10 different types called the Para Picar on the menu) and some more traditional food (basically all the rest of the menu!) even though the main ingredients used for the food is from Spain. Lets face it, this is not your Spanish classic tapas bar where you will eat an cold omelet and drink wine that tastes like vinegar and enjoy it because you also talk about the latest winner of « El Gordo »! Its more your New York posh bar where you can wine and dine thinking you are in a new world…
First dish was the DIY Tuna. Excellent idea, very well presented (like the way the separate the items you can add with you Tuna, and you get to mix them up, this is a great although very simple idea) but they give you only a few (3 to be precise) slices of bread (when I say slices, I mean real paper thin ones) which is merely enough to cover 50% of the tuna.
Then we ordered some « real » dishes to get an idea of the food. The first to come was the lamb cutlets. These were very well prepared with the mashed potatoes beneath it. Very good dish, good meat and the temperature was excellent even though the serving was small.
We also ordered some side dishes with the cutlets. Very good again but the serving was for my 9 year old daughter (who doesn’t like to eat… well she doesn’t like vegetables to be honest so she wouldn’t have eaten the small portion anyway but I am diverging here!). Very good again, but size was too small.
Desserts where really good. We took two to get a sample of what they could do.
The Cantaloupe Chutney, crispy ginger meringue rosemary honey sorbet was delicious. Ok, bear with me, the Cantaloupe Chutney is just melon cut in very thin dices and the rest is what the menu says it is. The mix is excellent and literally melts in your mouth excellent choice of ingredients.
The second desert was the Frozen Black Sesame, Pinaple Carrot Sorbet Coconut Tapioca (Yeah thats the name try and say it 10 times fast!). Again a perfect combination of taste and texture. It was excellent and the Frozen Black Sesame is a very good idea, especially when it ends up melting in your mouth and mixed with the Coconut Tapioca. We ate that in a few bites and really enjoyed each one of those bites.
Now here comes the bill:
- Glasses of wine x2: 200HKD
- Olives: 48HKD
- Tuna Tartare: 88HKD
- Lamb 188HKD
- Beetroot Cheese mousse: 88HKD
- Melon: 78HKD
- Pinnaple / Carrot: 88HKD
That’s a total of 778HKD for 2 people but… This is not including service as service is not included (it says so on the menu duh!)! So you gotta add something on top of this (especially as the service is excellent I have to say, fast and pleasant). HK law is currently 10% (if I’m not mistaken) hence the price is around 900HKD which seems a little bit steep given we were here for tapas, not a high end restaurant.
I tried to get away with one of my Hype Padawan tricks (« my friend Leonardo di Carpaccio is coming to HK in an hour, need to go and pick him up at the airport » but the alcohol or the food had weakened my padawan powers, probably kriptonite related, and the waitress seemed impervious to my powers… dang).
Conclusion and comments:
Now why would I call this a ship of fools and rate it only with 2 baguettes while all the rest is a solid 4? Well, because am a picky Frog and I like when people call a cat a cat, and not a dog a cat or a cat a dog but a dog a dog works also… You still following me here? And qs a pure French guy I also enjoy not agreeing with the others! Face it, I disagree with you, whatever your opinion is, I’ll say I prefer the opposite, am French, am a born whinner!
Ok more seriously, it’s all very good apart from the abusive use of the word « tapas » but there is no legal way you can use this word so I shouldn’t be offended right? Still, I am…
I am because its not a real tapas and it definitely is not the price I would normally pay for tapas from where I come from. This is a fancy bar where they serve conceptual Tapas food based on the idealized idea of what Tapas would be in a world where everybody would be a hyped young 30 year old fashionista (ideally but not limited to Gwai’los) working for a brokerage firm and earning billions and ready to overpay for food (maybe its the case, but am not one of those!). But come on, lets be subliminal, repeat after me: this is not a tapas (have I mentioned that already?) and is nowhere near a Tapas bar appart from the ingredients.
Its a trendy barestaurant (I copyrighted this one, don’t even think about reusing it! ). And a trendy barestaurant is expensive food in small quantities. I love expensive barestaurants because they are usually the place for originality and daring food! If it was called something else than a Tapas, am sure I wouldn’t have made such a fuss about it and it would have been a 4 also on the global rating! But paying that amount of money to be seated on stools and look cool is just not something that I buy (not at that price!). A little bit like the french cuisine where you have so called conceptual dishes that makes you so hungry you end up eating a burger at the Scottish place after your « mousse de caviar sur un lit de whatever a la sauce whocares ».
Of course, its a Michelin starred chef in the kitchen and that deserves clearly a jacked up price and all my respect goes to the chef as the food was absolutely amazing, but despite the food being excellent, it didn’t live up to my expectations.
Maybe people have been overselling it and I shouldn’t have listened to them while they are making it THE place to be in HK if you want to be hype and cool and young and rich (trust me, am not any of those!). Its probably the mismatch between the « am so cool » place, the prices and the food that makes this a disappointment as if I decide to tear those three things apart, I can only say good things about this place, the food is good, the place is nice and the service is excellent but the combination quite doesn’t work. I now, its very weird but hey, wouldn’t you expect a dose of weirdness from a Froggy?
I would still return there to try the food which is really amazing but would lower my expectations in terms of Tapas to a Barestaurant (copyrighted!!!!) and would also have in mind that the cost to pleasure ratio is decent but not in favor of the client.
My tip: Try and get there early, its a no reservation policy so first come first serve. Also if you can, try and get a table at the outside counter do, it is quite fun to see the Wan Chai life go by while you eat your « tapas ».