It’s amazing that it’s already two years ago, but in the early summer of 2014 Tivo was part of the new wave of additions to Kennedy Town’s restaurant scene. For once, it was more NY style bistro with an Italian bias, rather than the usual cuisine française. These days, especially on Forbes St, it’s undeniably more K-Ville than K-Town.
Tivo is at the park end of the Praya. Belcher Park isn’t exactly the most enticing of names, but then again back in 1841 Admiral Sir Edward Belcher was too busy founding Hong Kong at Possession Point to worry about how his name may sound 175 years on. Tivo looks out over it and the tai chi practitioners. It’s a welcoming open space on a corner spot fitted out in the industrial style that remains all the rage.
Lunch took in a few dishes, all of which surprised with an innovation and deftness that had me wondering why I hadn’t headed out this way before. Cauliflower hummus sounds a truly terrible idea on paper, but in practice it was a cracking little bowl, chick peas replaced by cauliflower florets with tahini and cayenne pepper, more bite than the usual but great texture to it. ($78)
While kale salad ($98) has become the must-have dish of the past decade in every self-respecting bistro, when done well it reminds why it got so popular in the first place. At Tivo they toss it in virgin olive oil with some pancetta strips and a dressing made from grilled shallot and roasted sesame, very similar to the liquid gold that is kewpie.
More vegetables followed that would have kept me for hours at the dinner table as a child, namely Brussel Sprouts. Their metamorphosis in recent years has been nothing short of extraordinary. Which just goes to show that they were always just cooked badly. Here they’re roasted – I still haven’t seen a hip menu saying ‘boiled’ – with smashed shards of hazelnut and another vinaigrette, this time with mustard seed.
Baos remain a thing in Hong Kong, and a couple made their way next, one with pork belly, the other soft shell crab, both gone in next to no time. The pickled cucumber and leeks joined the pork party, while the crab came with a little tuft of green mango salad, but both felt they were missing some sort of sauce or dressing to finish them off.
The main of Black Cod fillet ($238) showed again why Nobu was right all those years ago when he foisted his own black cod on an unsuspecting global public. Tivo added a basil crust, not a classic fish herb but verdant enough to lift it, along with beetroot pureé and some crème fraîche with smoked paprika that I buy in vast amounts from Brindisa every time I’m back in the old country. Very well cooked – and with very pretty plating.
Thoroughly defeated, the mango frangipane spring rolls with apricot sorbet ($88) were totally unnecessary but very nicely done. I’ve had some shocking dessert spring rolls in my time, but these were just the right balance of crisp exterior and a creamy almond interior. Even Sir Edward himself would have trouble keeping his paws off them.