On the road to greatness
If there was a poster child for rising culinary stars in Hong Kong, it would be Nate Green. Making his name helming the kitchen at 22 Ships, the congenial chef not only upheld the standards set by Jason Atherton at the latter's first Hong Kong outpost, but managed to shine brightly on his own in the very wide shadow cast by the British celebrity chef. Having photogenic sleeve tats and a rockstar beard didn’t hurt either – just sayin'.
New to Sai Ying Pun, Rhoda represents Green's first solo venture. Named after his grandmother (aww!), this is an eatery with a community vibe. And with the backing of hospitality tour de force JIA Group (22 Ships, Ham & Sherry, Fish School and its others), the restaurant is positioned a little off to the side next to the hottest address of the moment, The Upton. The entrance is a huge brass panelling that opens up to the bar and a lofty concrete-walled dining room and, if the brass didn’t give it away, the interiors were designed by none other than Joyce Wang of Mott 32 and Ammo fame.
Don’t be mistaken by the address though. The developers of The Upton had somehow construed the building on 180 Connaught Road, where the even numbers of Connaught Road are in fact an entanglement of freeways and bypasses leading into the Western Harbour Tunnel. If you’re heading to Rhoda, make your way to 345 Des Veoux Road West.
When you manage to arrive at the restaurant, you can’t help but feel relaxed and upbeat as you're greeted with high, breezy ceilings and a feelgood playlist pumping from the speakers. Shared plates are the name of the game here, with a particular focus on the grill items, and we dive into a slow-cooked octopus ($138) and wild Hereford ox heart ($158). It might’ve been because we’d been out in the sticky summer heat searching for this restaurant but we’re immediately floored by the how refreshing the dish is. It's extremely tender with a clean bite, the mix of mint, cucumber and tangy pickled shallots dancing on the palate. It's a stellar way to start our meal. Seared just right on the outside, the organ, meanwhile, is plated while still sweating pink juices and given it’s a less consumed part of the animal, the sight isn’t one for the faint-hearted. At first bite, the mustard sauce isn’t strong enough to cover the livery notes that internal organs tend to have and we’re craving a punchier flavour to lift the dish. It wasn’t until we started combining the meaty morsels with the radish on the side that it started to make sense. The fresh acidic notes of the pickle abates the slight bitterness and the aromas reach a harmony on our palates, which has us thinking that if this ingredient plays such an importance to the experience, maybe it should be served on top, or interspersed between the slices to make sure the diner doesn’t miss the point. Just like the entrance to the restaurant itself, however, this dish is worth the hassle of finally finding your way to the destination.
For something sweet, we select the chocolate mint and marshmallow ($98). The amalgamation of textures – chocolate biscuit, cookie, nuts, sticky toasted marshmallows, mint sauce and pop rocks – is a veritable party in the mouth. Chocolate and mint is always a crowd pleasing combination and reintroducing it with such creative and clever presentation elevates it to something quite special.
If the Western District needed an anchor in the area to solidify its status as a foodie destination, Rhoda is going to be it. Much like what 22 Ships did for the quiet, eponymous Wan Chai street, Green is poised to elevate this sleepy neighbourhood to the next level of hip. Just don’t wander off into the Western Harbour Tunnel.
345 Des Voeux Rd W