BIZOU American Brasserie in Pacific Place finally put Grappa’s out of its misery after 27 years and comes with pedigree in the form of chef Magnus Hansson. Whether he’s ‘world-renowned’ as the PR tells me is debatable, but he has a Michelin star, from back in 1990 when he was working in his hometown of Gothenburg.
He’s also a baker of serious repute, shown by an excellent table offering in a natty brown paper bag, in case you don’t finish it but want to take it home. Still the best bread I’ve had was at Hedone in London, but I would hardly be the first to say that. Mind you, the chef there was also Swedish. Maybe it’s in the genes.
We ate in the natty bar section but I passed on J Boroski’s (him again) cocktails as I was on a tedious dry month. Grilled octopus came with excellent crispy spuds, but it was the marriage of mint hummus and sumac which took it somewhere special. It wasn’t the prettiest plate I’ve ever seen but all was forgiven in that happy riot of flavours, lemon bursting through against the sticky char of the tentacles. ($158) (Incidentally, allow me a shout out to late night specialists Beyrouth Cafe on Lyndhurst Terrace. About 10 years ago I couldn’t find sumac anywhere in Hong Kong and went in to ask them where they got theirs. They smiled and gave me a plastic tub of it to take home, free of charge. Good on ’em.)
Shaved Brussels sprouts and white cabbage salad was way better than its ingredients would suggest,
Casarecci alla amatriciana is named after the Italian town of Amatrice, severely damaged in last year’s earthquake. It’s a great sauce for the quirky casarecci thanks to the main ingredient of guanciale, or cured pork cheek. Throw on some toasted breadcrumbs from that earlier bread for crunch and counterpoint to the classic tomato ragu. ($178) Crispy sage made an appearance, too, as it did weirdly in one of the desserts.
But we didn’t order that one (their chocolate cake) and instead had our arms twisted for a very nice slab of lemon bundt cake, with a dollop of Greek yoghurt, syrupy lemon sauce and honeycomb gravel. ($78)
The menu is eclectic and global in reach, not unlike the chef behind it, but all the plates hit the right notes and even manage to feel vaguely healthy. With the variety of dishes on offer, I imagine it won’t be long before Bizou is packing them in, Grappa’s style.