Hong Kong is abuzz with talk of Nate Green's new venture, a community-focused restaurant in the cool cat district of Sai Wan, featuring a daily changing menu chock full of local ingredients. Rhoda opens this month and is a creation between the minds of award-winning restaurateur Yenn Wong (Chachawan, 22 Ships, 208 Duecento) and Nate Green and is designed by renowned international designer Joyce Wang (Mott 32, AMMO).
Focusing on grilled meats and seafood, diners can expect simple, delicious dishes cooked over the charcoal grill with signature dishes like shellfish stew and chicken roasted over coals.
We found out the skinny on this exciting new concept from chef Nate Green:
We heard Rhoda is an ode to your grandmother, can you tell us about her?
Yes, Rhoda is named after my Grandma. She was always an inspiration to me as a cook and she was always so proud of the fact that I took up cooking and became a chef. She loved travelling so cooked all sorts of amazing foods, she was also very adventurous and on holidays would ensure she included a trip to a local market. She loved having her family around her and eating as a family is something that meant a lot to her; everyone was welcome at her table. I think she embodied the definition of hospitality.
You’re also working with family on this endeavour, is that something you’ve done in the past already?
Yeah I’ll be teaming up with my big brother Adam - he's going to be curating Rhoda’s wine list. It's something we have always talked about, if I was to open my own place. He has an excellent palette and is very business-oriented. He's my best friend and has always been hugely supportive of me throughout my career. I think he's the only person to see first hand what I’ve been through to get to where I am today. He listened to me after the terrible days at work when I wanted to quit and he put a roof over my head in my late 20’s. We are chalk and cheese - he is the brains and I’m the brawn, but it works for us and at the end of the day with Rhoda and Bottle shock, it's business and that’s how we view it. I love the way he works and what he has to offer - he’s getting hold of some very unique wines that will only be available at Rhoda, but the best bit is that I’ll be able to offer it to our guests at an accessible price.
Tell us about your team:
My kitchen team are the best, most of them have been with me since I took over 22 Ships. At the end of the day, you are only as good as your team. We have a good work structure where we only hire junior chefs straight from college and we train them up – in my view it’s the best way to get the staff to work our way. My ultimate aim is to give them their own chance to have a restaurant of their own one day, giving them the same opportunity that I have to be a shareholder in something. I hate this notion that a local, Nepalese, Thai, Filipino can’t have their own restaurant and create their own food. Unfortunately, there is a notion that there needs to be a western face or someone who has been trained, or was educated abroad. I think that this is pretty sad - we should be supporting local chefs. They deserve the same opportunity to prove themselves as chefs and to provide for their family as I have to provide for mine.
Roast chicken, spring onion and ginger
Tell us about your inspirations for keeping a daily changing menu, and will you keep some signature faves or is it a complete overhaul each and every day?
The idea is to ensure the menu keeps progressing and to waste nothing. I don’t like the idea of signature dishes as it can stagnate your menu and stop it developing and growing, although I do understand the importance of them, so we will have 3-4 dishes I can see staying on, but at some point they may change or evolve. I like the challenge of making new dishes; it keeps the staff engaged and on their toes and it keeps regulars coming back to try new things. Daily menus allow us to only serve what is at its best and at its peak.
Exciting to hear Yenn is working with you and Joyce Wang is working on the design, how did these partnerships come about?
With Yenn I feel it was a natural progression. I love the way Yenn likes to look for new talent and give people their shot. That’s rare in this day and age - unless you’ve won Michelin stars or have worked in 'world's 50 best places', most investors won’t even look at you and I think that’s why so many talented chefs are dropping out of our industry. I love that Yenn is so approachable and always offers honest feedback and advice.
I met Joyce when she designed Mott 32. I really like challenging amazing artists, and I know that when you get known for one style its what everyone expects all the time, so I asked Joyce to create something raw and more urban to represent me whilst still showcasing her signature style and design. I love what she has come up with.
Do you feel there are many F&B spots in Hong Kong that already incorporate community well into their concepts?
Community is so important. As much as we want people traveling to come dine with us, the restaurant has to be accessible on a daily basis, hence why we have a great drinks program for those who just want to pop in for a beer, glass of wine or some sake. The idea of Rhoda is that guests can come in on their own or as a table of 16. They can spend $400 per head or $3,000 per head - it's totally up to the guest. We also want to give back, as Hong Kong has given me so much. I know a lot of people don’t really see the underprivileged side of HK but we intend for Rhoda to be committed to being involved in local charity work, as well for it to be involved in growing a new generation of F&B employee – both things are close to mine and Yenn’s hearts. There are quite a few guys supporting the community [within the F&B industry]. Taking on locals and training them, buying ingredients from local producers and from the wet markets are all examples of supporting the community.
What are a few things you feel you will be taking away from your time at 22 Ships and with Jason Atherton?
I learnt so much from Jason - he's the person who taught me if you focus on cooking good, simple food, the guests will always come back. He also taught me the importance of talking to your guests and building a good relationship with them; he showed me how to evolve from just being a head chef to being a restaurateur.
What are a few of your great overall hopes for Rhoda?
We’ve tried to structure Rhoda so that it grows naturally. We have a plan for the next few years already in place. This will include growing the wine list, little improvements to the kitchen and the introduction of more table service, among many other things. My biggest goal for the restaurant is that it stays busy - I would like Rhoda to be a restaurant that you must dine at when you come to Hong Kong. Of course I would love it to win awards, but that isn’t in my hands, all we can do is show up at the restaurant and get better and better each day and most importantly make sure our guests leave having had an awesome time.
The Upton, Sai Wan, 1A Ground Floor, Upton, 180 Connaught Road West, 2177 5050