The motto is “Don’t worry, we’ve got a gym upstairs”. And you’ll need it after eating here. This is not the light and healthy set you would expect at a diner attached to a premier gym, nor is it anything like Red IFC. You could order a smoothie and a salad but that would mean missing out on the likes of buttermilk fried chicken.
Pre-launch, the owners ripped up the original menu and flew the chefs to New York for a weekend of eating and research. They reportedly visited the New York staples of Katz’s Delicatessen and Blue Ribbon Brasserie for inspiration. What they came back with was a menu of comfort food suited to New Yorkers and those who love the place.
Forget bagels and pizza, the dish that best represents the Big Apple is a good dog. Hence, the Hebrew National hot dog ($88) on the snack menu. It was pretty much the real deal, although no New Yorker would ever pay this much for a hot dog. The bun was all wrong (though it is impossible to get a good bread supplier in Hong Kong), but the sauerkraut was right on the money. However, it was the double-fried fries that really made this snack worth the money.
The Old Bay crab cake had soft lumps of crab meat with hardly any evidence of bread crumbs or other fillers. Old Bay Seasoning is a familiar item in American kitchens. Developed in the Chesapeake Bay area in the 1940s, it contains celery seed, bay leaf and mustard among other ingredients and it’s what gives the crab cake that taste of America. For $98, this is a winner.
A few years ago, New Yorkers became obsessed with lobster rolls. People stole recipes, restaurant engaged in turf wars and lawsuits were filed over this classic New England sandwich comprising a Pepperidge Farm top-loader bun (lightly toasted with a smear of butter), fresh lobster meat and a special mayo. At Red Soho, the elongated side-cut bun ($238) was grilled with criss-cross markings, non-buttered and loaded with large chunks of perfectly cooked lobster. But it was the special mayo holding the lobster together that made me think the chefs must have visited Pearl Oyster Bar or Mary’s Fish Camp in NYC. The secret ingredient at these rival restaurants (separately owned by former partners) is the addition of finely chopped celery that somehow smartens up the mayo and sweetens the meat. Fantastic.
According to Red Soho staff, Brits favour the spaghetti and meatballs (spag balls) or pig in a blanket (sausage roll); Kiwis and Aussies prefer the steaks and the big breakfast; Chinese request fish and oysters; and Americans like the hot dog, fried chicken and Reuben sandwiches. But across all nationalities, the most popular dish at Red Soho is the truffle mac and cheese ($108). This is not your classic Kraft macaroni and powdered cheese. Large spiralinipasta is baked in cheese, andthen a shaving of black truffles tops the dish. Whatever you do, don’t skip this.
Blue Ribbon Brasserie was apparently the source of inspiration for the buttermilk chicken ($158). There are three things you should know about Blue Ribbon: it is open till 4am; it is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the US; and all the top New York City chefs go there after work. The research has paid off as, minus the collard greens on the plate, this dish was a close replica.
The chicken – bone-in breast and thighs – was coated with spices and cornflakes and fried to make a crispy, tasty treat. The meat was steaming and tender, and a slick of oil remained on the crunchy skin. The accompanying mash and mushroom gravy did not get the recognition it deserved because the chicken stole the show.
The Reuben sandwich ($128), stacked like a skyscraper, would make any New Yorker who has visited Katz’s Delicatessen proud. This is surely one of the causes of America’s expanding waistlines but it is so delicious, it’s worth the extra three hours required in the gym. The brined lean meat was rimmed with fat – don’t lose that, it’s the good stuff – the bread was authentic rye and the Swiss cheese and kraut were perfect. All that was missing was the thousand island sauce. With or without extra dressing, this sarnie is 100 per cent New York.
The grilled fish of the day was a whole six pound (2.7kg) sea bass ($398) that would have fed a family of four easily. The skin was slightly charred and the flesh soft with butter. It was cooked through to the bone while avoiding that potential disaster of being dried out. It came with pomme soldiers and a bulb of roasted garlic. All it needed was a splash of lemon. Well done guys.
Now would be a good time to speak of salt. These dishes are all quite simple, made with good quality ingredients. When you use good produce, you don’t need to do much to it. Many Chinese diners prefer not to taste a lot of salt in their food while westerners tend to reach for the shaker. At Red Soho, they have a heavy hand in the salt pot, so please tell your server which way you like it.
Each of these dishes reminded us why we love New York. And with the number of diners flocking to Red Soho, it seems everyone wants a juicy slice of it.
2/F, Kinwick Centre, 32 Hollywood Rd, Central, 8199 8189. Daily 11.30am-11pm.
Hot dog $88
Crab cake $98
Lobster roll $238
Mac and cheese $ 108
Grilled fish $398
Buttermilk chicken $158
Reuben sandwich $128
Ten per cent service charge $121.60
|Venue name:||Red Soho (Closed)|
2/F, Kinwick Centre, 32 Hollywood Rd, Central