Rhoda is one of a burgeoning number of places that give a reason to visit that bit of Sai Ying Pun, just before K-Town, that previously offered little other reason to go there. Now with Test Kitchen having found a permanent home a few doors down and eager restaurateurs eyeing disused industrial spaces, it’s all set to be the island’s next go-to dining destination.
Confusingly, a bunch of sites online and our friends at Google give the address of Rhoda as a swish new building called The Upton on Connaught Road West. But unless you want to bring a packed lunch and sit in the lobby, you’re better off heading to 345 Des Voeux Road.
Rhoda is named after chef Nathan Green’s late grandmother. Good Green genes meant she lived to her mid 90s and the space in her honour is both a fine legacy and a nice touch by the affable Brit. Food fans will know him by reputation as it was always a bugger getting a seat at 22 Ships, while he had serious previous props in London working at the wonderful Arbutus (review coming soon), the brilliant Restaurant Story, Tom Aikens and elsewhere.
Back in HK the room is buzzing and has all the hallmarks of a Yenn Wong space. The welcome is warm and genuine, the room inviting, the design that aged metal industrial look.
If you can, grab a seat at the pass to witness the energy and craft of the kitchen first hand. In a not very big space, they serve up a succession of consistently impressive dishes. The beauty is that Green changes the menu daily, so no meals will ever be alike.
Cracking warm bread ($28) is made with Suntory Dark Ale and a seaweed butter, a loaf made daily from a regular starter that is clearly looked after with serious care.
As Green was a butcher for years, meat is the hero of many plates, but the herbivores get a very fair shake too. That bread makes an immediate return to make the most of the wonderful slick left behind by grilled padron peppers and gremolata ($98), a cocktail of lemon zest, garlic and parsley. The waiter – part of an excellent service team, especially given that service charge is optional – generously warns us that ‘maybe 1 in 15 or 20 is really spicy’. Think of it as a vegetable Russian Roulette, Deer Hunter style.
Another snack plate beings a smooth and deep chicken liver cream with lotus root chips, a delicious steal at $38
A dinky side of sweet and crunchy snap peas, quail egg and pancetta is a mini fry-up meets salad ($68):
For the main events, on the vegetarian side, a ridiculously good asparagus with Australian truffle mashed potato ($188), the heady black tuber liberally shaved in front of us. Talk about comfort food. It’s the sort of plate that even in 95 degree heat outside still warms the soul. Incidentally, it’s impressive and gratifying to see that the PR photo of this dish (used at the start of the review) is not a million miles from what is served, my photo below – unlike an amusing pair of plates at The Pawn which couldn’t have been further removed from one another.
The carnivore main was a Middle White pork loin ($298) marinated in ginger and soy. The British Middle White pig breed has a venerable history, having once been the swine of choice until the country’s insatiable appetite for bacon meant that larger and leaner pigs became more popular. A look online even suggests that it’s such a rare breed that there are more giant pandas around than Middle Whites, not that I’d condone serving up Ling Ling anytime soon.
It was a lovely, sticky-sweet plate, but in truth I wished I’d ordered the sensational looking roast chicken. Green explained that the fresh – not frozen – birds are flown in from New Zealand, having met their fate only a few hours before being packed, then brined in miso, roasted and served with a spring onion and ginger dressing. Here’s hoping he puts them on the menu next time I’m back.
Desserts round off an excellent dinner in style, one shamelessly retro, the other defiantly modern, both brilliantly innovative. ‘Chocolate, mint and marshmallow’ ($98) doesn’t begin to do justice to a crazy bowl of good times. Green starts by blow torching marshmallows to caramelize them, before adding two types of piped chocolate cream, a green pea pureé (that really works) and all manner of crunchy chocolate shards, popping candy and more. It’s the sort of bowl that makes you smile, each spoon a discovery
The final act is ‘Ginger biscuit trifle’, one of the best desserts you can get in Hong Kong for $78. It’s an homage to old school trifle with mandarin segments and jelly, topped with cream and some insanely-good ginger honeycomb brittle action, like Ginger Snaps all grown up.
Rhoda is clearly going to be very successful – a heaving dining room proves as much – and it deserves to be. Green is once again serving up some of the most enticing plates in town – and given that the menu changes daily, there’s every reason to return time and again.