Black ink pad Thai with free range egg
It can be pretty hard to differentiate between the restaurants on the fourth floor terrace of the IFC. There are a handful of identical dining hubs here which share a similar appearance – all being completely made of glass, with each one offering the same stunning view of the harbour. So, to stand out from the crowd, Glasshouse has opted for a fresh approach to its interior in order to create a more homely ambience than its neighbours. Pinewood counters frame an open kitchen and the array of potted plants which line the ceiling conjures up more of a homely, country feel than the usual chic-modern surrounds in IFC’s restaurants. And another major difference – instead of serving swanky high-end European fare, the venue offers Asian fusion dishes, which are a more substantial option compared to the meals served up by the restobars on the same floor.
Glasshouse is Gaia Group’s latest undertaking, adding to a portfolio which already boasts IFC ventures like Isola, Isobar and Costa. It’s a little different to the group’s other restaurants with its eclectic menu of innovative Asian fusion creations like crab cakes with edamame ($78) and potato croquettes with seaweed ($58). We’re impressed with the menu so we dive head-first into the food.
We start with the wild ocean oysters with smoky chipotle chilli and ponzu tapioca caviar ($108) and we’re immediately struck by how tiny the bivalves are. But good seafood – more often than not – comes in small packages. And these oysters turn out to be juicy, sweet and top quality imports. However, sadly, the chipotle and ponzu sauce just don’t mix together, upsetting the balance of the dish. The smokiness of the chipotle offsets the tangy ponzu and neither adds value to the oysters. The little floury balls of tapioca caviar sport an odd texture and taste, neither looking good on the plate nor tasting good on the palate.
Serrano ham with peanut butter toast and melon
Luckily, however, the other two appetisers we order fare much better. Serrano ham with melon is nothing new – but this is the first time we’ve come across it in combination with peanut butter toast ($238). It’s an effective combo. The melon and thinly sliced ham bring out the full flavour of the peanuts – and it all goes well with good ol’ toast. The lime tempura smelt fish with kimchi mayonnaise ($58) arrives golden crisp with a tantalising aroma. These salty chip-sized fish are the perfect companions for the punchy sauce.
It’s a bit hit and miss when it comes to the mains, as well. To freshen our palates, we order the seared pepper crusted ahi tuna with calamansi dressing and stir-fried vegetables ($158). Again, the quality of the seafood is top-notch – but Thai coriander is added to the calamansi dressing, giving the whole dish an overpowering floral effect. Only by combining each bite with starchy vegetables like carrots does the potpourri onslaught subside, which is a shame. The black ink pad Thai with a free-range hen egg (see above) ($118), on the other hand, arrives with the egg half-cooked in a mini crockpot, to be mixed into the noodles to add a thicker, saucy texture. It’s a good pad Thai, with lots of meat and veggies, seasoned well alongside the chewy noodles – although, we just don’t taste the black ink in the noodles. It’s a superfluous choice that it could
Moscovado sugar banana crème brûlée
A meal always ends well if dessert is a cracker – and in this case the moscovado sugar banana crème brûlée ($78) is a sure winner, helping you forget the earlier upsets. The dark sugar thickly encrusts the layered banana, which sits on top of the thin egg custard. Where banana and egg meet, the smooth fruit blends seamlessly with the custard, adding a true Southeast Asian element to this classic dessert.
Sometimes, it takes a bit of heart and soul to stand out rather than just being different for different sake. You can certainly take a load off at the Glasshouse, with its high ceilings, stunning views and jovial atmosphere. But we can’t shake the feeling that the restaurant is trying too hard to be unique. Certain elements in the dishes are just too gimmicky and don’t add substance to the food. If the chefs can successfully tweak their recipes in the coming weeks then the new eatery should boast some truly outstanding fusion dishes. If they work on these small changes, we’ll be back like a shot. Lisa Cam
Glasshouse Shop 4009, 4/F, IFC mall, 8 Finance St, Central, 2383 4008; glasshousehongkong.com.
Shop 4009, 4/F, IFC mall, 8 Finance St, Central