Western District is in the midst of a serious renaissance. An increasing number of high-end boutiques, bars and restaurants are bypassing the Central business area and moving instead into the once-underrated Sheung Wan neighbourhood. One of the latest establishments to debut in this district is Shore, a casual-dining restaurant located right on the cusp of Central and Sheung Wan.
The space is helmed by executive chef Jason Black, who cut his teeth on the Hong Kong dining scene with the once-popular but now-defunct Frog Face Fish and Zest. Returning from a brief break, during which he honed his pastry-making skills, Black’s latest venture is a two-storey venue in newly opened L Place building, with the third floor housing a bar and lounge. Named the “Offshore” zone, the sleek and chic watering hole turns out an impressive line-up of exotic cocktails and wines. More impressively, the space has a stunning, 1,800 sq ft alfresco patio, complete with white lounge chairs and a Zen-like backdrop of lush bamboo greenery.
A winding staircase from the third floor leads up to the “Onshore” main dining room. It’s in these kitchens that Black attempts to revive the back-to-basics food ethos that he hopes will define the restaurant. Envision dishes prepared sans-foam, sans-fuss and sans anything that could detract from the fundamental flavours of the food.
With this philosophy in mind, the restaurant pays close attention to the quality of its ingredients, and Black and his team use organic vegetables and sustainable seafood whenever possible. In a further step of dedication, the kitchen is fitted with its own dry-ageing room, with a lab-like set up of cabinets displaying hunks of beef in varying shades and stages of the ageing process.
After reading through the menu, we decided to start light with an appetiser of grilled Hokkaido scallops ($128). These came five to a plate, accompanied by a thick smear of cauliflower purée. A squeeze of lemon brought out the scallops’ freshness. On the whole, though, the mild-tasting dish was nothing to rave about. Instead, it was the simple mussel soup ($88) that had us singing high praises. The velvety-rich mussel broth tasted like the sea in a spoon, mixed with the complementing zinging flavours of fresh tomatoes and chilli. An elegant swirl of saffron aioli perfumed the whole dish, bringing it to another level.
While seafood dishes dominate the first half of the menu, the mains favour carnivores, with a whole “Meat Bible” menu of dry-aged steaks on top of the regular à la carte selection. We sampled the USDA prime tenderloin ($360/9oz), which was expertly wet-aged to an almost ridiculous tenderness and cut like a block of table butter.
As expected though, the tenderloin proved no match against the intensely-flavoured Scotch Premier New York steak ($380/11oz). Dry-aged for 21 days, this thick slab of meat needed no more than a few flecks of cracked black pepper and sea salt to draw out its natural goodness. The steak was plated and served perfectly medium-rare – soft and juicy with a beautiful, slight smoky charring on the crust. The accompanying bundle of greens and fluffy-centred thick-cut fries rounded off the meal’s unfussy rusticity, leaving us fully sated and satisfied.
While most of the cooked dishes are fuelled by the desire for simplicity, the dessert menu provided a canvas for Black to be more creative. Split into the “choco-block” and “not-so-choco-block”, the menu is a playful nod to childhood favourites, with items such as milk and cookies, and warm butterscotch pudding. The signature textured tart ($95) is a rectangular wedge of rich, Amedei chocolate ice cream encased in Valrhona, topped with a crispy tuile biscuit. It tasted like a grown-up and glorified candy bar, but was perhaps a little too cloying of a dessert, especially after the full-on beef fest. The orange chiffon cake ($75) went down a lot better. The citrus-scented cake was light with a moist crumb. Sandwiched in traditional fashion with a layer of jam – dried plum and cranberry compote, to be precise – and served with a Christmassy mixture of mulled red wine and spiced pain d’epices ice cream to invoke festive thoughts at the end of the meal.
Overall, the restaurant succeeds in its effort to shine the spotlight on simple, well-crafted food and there is little fault to be found in any of the dishes. But in a city too often obsessed with novelty, we hope Shore manages to stand strong by its back-to-basics philosophy while still keeping the menu fresh and interesting.
3/F & 4/F, The L Place, 139 Queen’s Rd Central, Sheung Wan, 2915 1638; www.shore.com.hk. Mon-Fri 11.30am-3pm & 5.30pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 11.30am-4.30pm & 5.30pm-11pm. Meal for two: around $1,100.
3/F & 4/F, The L Place, 139 Queen's Rd Central, Sheung Wan