#HKMeatUp event review: Hong Kong's battle of the chefs
When I first heard about the Hong Kong Meat Up (official hashtag #HKMeatUp), I was super intrigued. I know I should be eating more vegetables for both health and environmental reasons, but a good piece of pork belly, brisket, chicken thigh...has me drooling even as I write this sentence. Anyway, it turns out the Meat Up isn’t a social event per se. It’s kind of like a battle of the chefs. Two chefs, each from a different restaurant in Hong Kong, are assigned a cut of meat. They’re then put into pairs, and their created dishes are served as specials on Lily and Bloom’s menu for two weeks at a time. If that sounds a bit confusing, I wouldn’t worry about the details. The main point is that there’ll be ten new meat dishes for guests to try from now until March 26th.
So who was up first? Chef Son Pham of Co Thanh’s beef cheek ($315) went up against Chef Jose Antonio Navarro Cotes of La Paloma’s tenderloin ($375). Their dishes will be on the menu from 9 to 23 January. (I think it would have been interesting if they’d assigned the same cut of meat for both chefs, but I suppose diners want variety.)
In the lush, dim surroundings of Lily and Bloom’s dining room, our table dug into some worth-the-calories grub. Take the beef cheek. I’m a big fan of Co Thanh. The food is affordable, and super fresh and flavourful. But doing this meat up allowed Chef Son to work with higher quality ingredients (the price tag shows it), and it was delicious to experience flavours I associate with cheap Vietnamese street eats in something more luxurious. Fennel, basil, lime juice, ground peanuts and puffed rice complimented a 12 hour slow braised beef cheek really well. Now I’m picky about my beef in that I’m not a massive fan unless it’s really raw or really fatty. The beef cheek was definitely the latter, evenly fatty and sticky throughout.
When Chef Jose’s tenderloin came out, obviously it looked like a winner. But again, since I’m not the world’s biggest fan of beef I was feeling a bit neutral about this dish...until they cut it open. I actually grabbed my friend’s arm and yelled stop so I could take this picture. How gorgeous is this tenderloin. It cut like butter and had quite a bit of flavour. What I loved most about this dish though is that there was so much going on, yet the flavours - saltiness of the gravy, fragrance of betel leaf, spicy kick of the ginger sauce - didn’t overly compete with one another.
While I really enjoyed both dishes, I have to say the tenderloin was the winner for me. Also, I like that the pricing for the #HKMeatUp dishes are on par with similar dishes on Lily & Bloom’s main menu; there’s no ridiculous meat up mark up. Get either dish while you can.
LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St, Central, 2810 6166