Mr Brown | Hearty, meaty comfort food at this cozy grill / smokehouse in Ship Street, Wan Chai
There aren’t many places in Hong Kong that specialize in grilled / smoked meats (RIP Rhoda and Stone Nullah Tavern) so I was very much looking forward to checking out Mr Brown. It’s put on by the same people behind Francis, my favourite higher-end Middle Eastern spot, home to excellent, interesting, and rich flavours. Located on Ship Street, Mr Brown is tucked beside some great neighbours such as 22 Ships, Ham and Sherry, and Bo Innovation. Could it hold its own?
The inside of the restaurant is quite slick. There’s a large open kitchen and guests can sit right up at the counter and watch all the action. We had a group of eight though, so we sat along the wall in the middle section of the restaurant. While the interior design may not be ground breaking, I can’t think of another restaurant in town that looks similar. So even before we ordered, I could see why Mr Brown was garnering positive reviews all over town. It definitely seemed to be filling a gap in our dining scene, as saturated as it is.
As for the food, I think we ordered half the menu! Everything is to be shared and the portions are reasonable (neither large nor too small); I think we each got to try a few bites of everything we ordered.
We started with the Iberico Pork Muffins ($70 each). Our server suggested half a muffin each but we were greedy and doubled that. This was pretty good, a fluffy muffin and thinly-sliced pork with an addictively tangy coleslaw-like sauce.
The corn and buttermilk fritters were OK. Little bites of fried dough with some fermented chili and Mahon cheese. I would have preferred denser balls with fresh corn.
It was my first time having Kohlrabi ($80), which is also known as a German turnip. The veg was thinly sliced, like a thick ribbon of pasta. This was crunchy and tasted quite spicy, tangy, and cheese-y, with the hazelnuts adding a new dimension of flavour. It was done well though flavour-wise isn’t a dish I’d reorder.
But oh my, did I love the Chicken Liver Pate with blood orange marmalade ($80). It had that rich, earthy flavour but one that was very fresh and brightened further by the citrus jam. Next time I’m going to order a whole plate to myself.
When the Sea Bass ($200) came out, I think I picked up the plate to sniff it… haha. It smelled fantastic. At the time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on the taste but it turns out that the bright, bitter flavour was from fenugreek leaves, a superfood also known as Greek hay, plus freshly squeezed lemon. This was great in all ways: crispy, charred, and nicely spiced.
The Pork Ribs ($140) were also a hit for me. The meat was juicy without being overly fatty, and were coated with a sweet, sticky black garlic sauce with apple.
While the 12-hour Smoked Brisket ($210) was tender, the overall flavour of the meat was a bit bland.
Oddly, our vegetables arrived quite a bit after our meats did… so we ended up eating them on their own. The Grilled Cabbage ($80) was nice and also had quite a bit of tang thanks to the horseradish, in addition to sesame and parmesan. And the Smoked Sweet Potato ($90) came with a creamy, spicy BBQ-like sauce.
At the end of all this, we still had some room and ordered two servings of the BBQ Quail with chili and polenta ($180 each). This ended up being one of our favourite dishes of the night, with the meat being very tender and the sauce being finger-licking good. Unfortunately, one of us found a hard piece of plastic inside the polenta…
To finish our meal, we ordered one of each of the three desserts: Smoked Apple Cigars with bourbon and vanilla cream ($80), Cheesecake with Persian lime and cherry sorbet ($90), and Caramel slice with malt and hazelnut crumble and burnt meringue ($80). All were fine though they felt a bit too heavy to me, after our large meal. It would be nice to see some refreshing dessert options added to the menu.
I always like blogging because it gives me a second chance to appreciate a meal. Reading over this post, it turns out there was quite a lot I did like about the meal. There were many interesting ingredients and flavour combinations, and a couple of the dishes (chicken liver pate and sea bass) were definitely crave-worthy. But to be honest, I left the restaurant on the day thinking the whole meal and experience was just so-so; mostly a lot of OK dishes resulting in an OK experience, and an unfortunate plastic in the polenta situation that was handled lukewarmly. Maybe I’ll have to give this one another chance.
G/F, 9 Ship St, Wan Chai, 3101 1081