Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fa Zu Jie (法租界)

Located in one of the most obscure buildings in one of the busiest places in Central, Fa Zu Jie is a Shanghainese private kitchen that is halfway down the same obscure, dark alleyway where Brickhouse, a hip Mexican restaurant, resides.  When I went to Brickhouse previously, however, I neglected to take note of a sketchy, dimly lit building right before Brickhouse.  The alleyway is practically obscured by a handbag seller and there is nothing on D'Aguilar Street that would indicate an entire building and restaurant is contained within.

It turns out the somewhat dubious trek is worth it, because you emerge in a beautiful, white, candlelit space with a huge open kitchen, a deck space and a room with glass ceilings.

I went to Fa Zu Jie for a work event, as we had some colleagues in town from New York.
We all sat at a very long table and had individual place settings.
I got quite a kick out of the set menu, which read more like snippets from haikus than from a typical restaurant menu.  I quite liked "Shanghai. Coco. Coco. Japan."  and "Soft Pluma. Soft Rice. Fragrance."  It definitely whets your curiosity, if not your appetite, right?
 This, the starter, was my least favorite dish of the night.  I thought the dish had way too many ingredients and as a result seemed distracted and scattered.  It consisted of pickled cabbage and tiny dried shrimp suspended in a savory tofu  pudding with a randomly floating soup dumpling skin. Perhaps that is the point of "Artistic White Space. Flow and Float," but then it also seems I am not very good at flowing and floating.  I prefer my dishes to be tight compositions that are focused and singular.
"Sea Genius. Full Moon. All are Half Drunk" turned out to be scallop and razor clam, marinated in Shaoxing wine, paired with shiso leaf, finished with fresh fig.  It was delicious.  The scallop was sprinkled with fresh ginger.
My favorite caption, "Shanghai. Coco. Coco. Japan" referred to coconut and sea coconut.  Shanghai referred to the two soup dumplings, one filled with chicken liver (which had a very strong flavor) and Japan referred to the very special and interesting mushroom, whose name I have since forgotten.
"Soft Pluma. Soft Rice. Fragrance." was one of the more easily decipherable of the haikus.  The pluma is a type of ham.  The rice had delicate bok choy stir fried into it.  I usually do not really care for rice, but this rice was amazing.  I ate every single grain.  I would gladly eat this rice every day.

"Sticky Prawn" was also exactly as predicted.  This dish was very well done though, the shrimp had a ton of flavor and melded perfectly with the rich tomato sauce.  The sticky rice was the perfect texture and consistency.  It was like a very well executed fusion of an Italian idea and Chinese ingredients.

"Red Dress. White Hat" was a meringue cookie on top of whipped cream and paired with a strawberry.  Honestly, not that exciting.  I did not finish my dessert.  I kept eagerly awaiting the ginger soufflé (I find it very difficult to turn down a soufflé) but alas, we had not opted for the extra dessert option.
Overall a good experience, though I still felt a bit hungry at the end of the meal because the portions were very small.  I am still glad I discovered this enchanting private kitchen, however, in easily the most obscure location in Hong Kong.  

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