2019-11-01 300 瀏覽
Summary: Inventive and unexpected without ever losing its focus on flavor and eat-ability; Happy Paradise is the best type of modern/fusion cuisine, and does more than enough to justify its above-average price-tag. Some of the most delicious and interesting dishes I've had in HK, and a must-try for everyone who appreciates food that challenges and (mostly) surpasses your expectationsSet just up Aberdeen from Stazione Novella on Staunton, Happy Paradise is a vividly decorated restaurant that stri
Set just up Aberdeen from Stazione Novella on Staunton, Happy Paradise is a vividly decorated restaurant that strikes an 80's vibe between the Purple Rain lighting and classic soda pop counter that serves as a bar. It had just 4 tables seated on Halloween night, but it's been here for years, so assume it's usually more crowded.
The menu is focused on small plates, with just 4 main plates, but the variety is extreme:
The wine list is extensive, and they offer a full range of cocktails and beers as well. Prices for drinks are Soho-standard at 120 for a house cocktail and 80+ for a beer. The service is impressive - beyond friendly and attentive, they all know the menu inside-out; whichever server we spoke to was able and happy to detail the ingredients as well as the techniques used for each dish.
Here's what we had:
Sourdough Egg Waffles (bottarga whip, onion, chives)
Okay it looks like the classic HK egg waffle snack, but that's where the similarities end. Made with sourdough and grilled absolutely to perfection, they are an absolute joy to eat, even without the dip. Each ball has that picturesque initial crunch, but the insides are moist and soft without being under-cooked and doughy. Would have enjoyed a plate of these without any dip...
That dip though! Okay so according to them, it's actually liquefied bao (aka the Chinese white bun) - soaked in water for six hours, blended up, and served with some olive oil and bottarga. I actually asked two different servers because i didn't believe it. Consistency wise, it's completely emulsified and creamy, and it tastes like a smooth hummus, or taramasalata - there's no way that's a blended bun. Anyway, it's delicious, and the savory creaminess is a phenomenal dip for the mildly tart crunchy/soft egg waffles - we finished every crumb and smear of this. Simply genius, and i'm struggling to think of another dish I've had which experiments so dramatically with something so common and succeeds so completely.
Scallop Noodles (raw scallop, black garlic puree, white fungus, mung bean noodles)
The one dish that didn't work - the server specifically instructed us not to mix the noodles as the garlic puree would overpower the other ingredients. However, the noodles didn't seem to be drained properly, so everything became a bit watered down and nothing, not even the garlic, stood out. I did enjoy the variety in texture between the crunchy fungus, bouncy scallop and chewy noodles, but I'm not sure how the flavors were supposed to come together.
IMPOSSIBLE XINJIANG HOT POCKET (patty, cumin, Chinese mustard green)
Forced my friend to try a Impossible dish. of which Happy Paradise offers two quite interesting ones (the other is a Mapo Tofu Dip!). Impossible is reliably tasty and creepily meat-colored, but the cumin and Xinjiang flavoring really makes this dish pop. The cumin alone makes the Impossible compound taste like the lamb it's emulating, and the bun is grilled to an excellent crunch. It's more of a snack and is not a must-order, but the fact that this was so readily eaten by my avowedly carnivorous friend shows what alt-meat has become capable of
SZECHUAN FRIED CHICKEN, pickled daikon (1/2 chicken)
It tastes like it looks - super juicy (even the breast meat), crunchy and a bit mala spicy. The breading is tastefully thin, and while the whole affair is quite oily, it will not affect your enjoyment. A solid value for 158 (it's a lot of chicken), and a no-brainer if you like fried chicken and don't mind some heat.
WHOLE TEA SMOKED PIGEON, 5 spice salt
My friend and i were split on this dish - we were warned ahead of time that it would be medium-rare, not something you see often with smoked pigeon. The wings and thighs are cooked through and absorb the full brunt of the smoking; these are incredibly savory and flavorful, perhaps too much so for some people. However, when you get to the breast and thighs, you can see how pink the meat is - it's not bloody, but it's definitely medium-rare and chewy. While there is a smokey overtone from the tea, these inside pieces are far gamier than the wings. The medium-rareness intentionally magnifies this. I loved this entire dish - the chewiness gives you a chance to breakdown the interplay of tea-smoke with pigeon (which isn't that gamey by itself) with each bite, while the wings are just continual shots of flavor. However, it was all too much for my friend - the heavy taste of the appendages and the rawness of the breast meat. Your mileage may vary on this one, but if you like tea-smoke or the taste of duck/pigeon/quail, you'll enjoy this.
SAUTEED PRAWNS, pan roasted pumpkin, supreme stock reduction, dried shrimp roe and prawn oil
Don't know about you, but i thought this was beautiful - way beyond the presentation you'd expect for a local Soho eatery. Sauteed shrimp resting on a thick slice of pumpkin covered in a black sesame foam, and surrounded by a superior stock made from prawn heads. Wow, what a dish! we found the shrimp chunks slightly overcooked and tough, but when you combine them with the dense, slightly sweet pumpkin, all the rich saltiness of the sesame and shrimp sauce, the combination is just wow. its component parts are a smidge overpowering, but somehow combined, they just work. It's like nothing I'd ever tried before, and well worth an order.
MOCHI APPLE PIE, cilantro cream, apple ash
I don't eat dessert usually, but this take on a McDonald's apple pie is delicious - imagine apple pie filling with cooked, melty mochi, surrounded in a thin fried (not oily) shell, bathing in a cilantro-vanilla cream sauce. Don't worry if you hate cilantro, it's barely noticeable apart from the beautiful emerald drops in the cream. A terrific end to the meal.
Overall, we loved Happy Paradise. My regret is we didn't try their famous Yellow Wine Chicken, which I've heard is phenomenal. Every dish but the mung bean noodles was excellent and many revelatory. It's one of the few times I can recall a restaurant this experimental hitting the mark on (almost) every dish it attempts. It's not cheap per se - the two of us paid 1,040 without drinks and were quite full, but expect about 700 pp if you're having alcohol. Between the remarkable food, the kitschy-cool vibe and excellent service though, Happy Paradise is worth every penny.