Moxie is the third restaurant in Michelin-starred chef Shane Osborn’s sustainability-minded The Arcane Collective, joining fine-dining Arcane and neighbourhood bistro Cornerstone, both also located in Central. In many ways, Moxie is the ideal bridge between the two, more “smart” than “casual” but with a laid-back vibe, located smack-bang in bustling Alexandra House at the LANDMARK complex.
The open kitchen is the focal point of the modern, minimalistic restaurant, where 10 diners sit at the marble counter facing the action (these counter seats are always available to walk-ins). The sit-down seating area is separated from the counter area by a public corridor. There’s a wooden, fin-shaped wraparound enclosure that cocoons these sit-down diners from the corridor’s foot traffic; it feels intimate and private, yet the space is also great if people-watching is your thing.
Chef Osborn is the driving force behind Moxie, but affable and approachable Head Chef Michael Smith – formerly Chef de Cuisine at Arcane – is the motor that keeps it running. Moxie’s menu is Chef Smith’s baby, featuring a seasonal collection of mostly plant-based dishes (about 70%) where the ingredients are the bedrock. There is no meat used at all, and the seafood that is featured is sustainable and traceable. The dishes themselves are globally influenced, with local produce used whenever possible; currently, the locally farmed fruit and veg showcased include fig and jicama (who knew these two are grown in the 852?).
Moxie is open all day, with soon-to-launch breakfast and set lunch menus and the option to drop by in between mealtimes for a bite or a bevvy. We were there to try the à-la-carte menu, showcasing a handful each of starters and mains, which change regularly according to what’s fresh and in season.
We began our meal with a salad of water bamboo ($128), which is sourced from Taiwan. Water bamboo is probably not a familiar vegetable to those of us who live outside Taiwan, where it’s prized for its woody stems. In this dish, thinly sliced water bamboo, with its very crunchy texture, is complemented by a tahini dressing and a scattering of pumpkin seeds, which both serve to amplify the high-fibre veg’s subtly nutty flavour. The sautéed radicchio nestled beneath adds a pleasant bitterness.
Up next, a starter of roasted Jerusalem artichokes ($148) with green beans, endive and hazelnut bagna cauda – an inventive combination of ingredients that sings. There’s also watermelon and radish thrown into the very pretty mix. Quite a funky vegetable, Jerusalem artichoke resembles ginger when raw, but the magic happens when it’s cooked, as it is in this dish; it takes on the texture of potato but has a nutty, slightly sweet flavour that nicely soaks up the flavours of the other ingredients with which it’s combined.
The nettle spanakopita ($208) was the first main out on the counter for us. Spanakopita is a traditional Greek spinach pie, but Chef Smith’s version has been given a modern makeover with the use of an even richer, earthier green: nettle. The golden puff pastry is perfectly crispy, enclosing a dense, well-seasoned nettle stuffing. We mopped up the cashew and roasted garlic hummus on the side and just wished there had been more of it to slather over the sesame-seed-studded pastry. This is a lovely riff on a classic Greek dish.
The star main of the meal was this seared Fremantle octopus ($288) with broccolini, burrata and salsa verde. Never would we have thought to combine octopus and burrata, but this meeting of mollusc and cheese is sensational. The globe of burrata on our plate was creamy and oozing, a worthy foil to the stronger flavours of the octopus and broccolini. The octopus itself was utterly tender, displaying a natural sweetness.
Being big fans of Sichuan cuisine, one of our all-time favourite dishes is mapo tofu. The three-grain mapo tofu ($198) is one of those plant-based dishes where you don’t even wonder what it would be like with meat included; this is an iconic Sichuan dish reimagined, mimicking the flavours and textures of a traditional mapo tofu through the chef’s creative variations. Chef Smith replaces white rice with three lighter grains – barley, buckwheat and spelt – and adds pickled yellow carrot (genius), kombu and, instead of Sichuan peppercorn, as is typical for the dish, the kinome leaf from the Sichuan peppercorn plant. Chef Osborn told us that Chef Smith first cooked this dish for a staff meal at Arcane, and it was such a hit that it was a natural to be included on Moxie’s menu (and we’re so thankful it is!).
For dessert at Moxie, we recommend two contrasting dishes, depending on your mood and the sweet flavours you’re craving. The warm chocolate tart ($108) is heavenly, featuring a textbook-perfect pastry shell and a rich, melting chocolate interior. The richness is levelled up with a crown of espresso Chantilly cream; the marriage of chocolate and coffee is always a winning pairing for us.
At the opposite end of the dessert spectrum, we have this drooping, sexy pavlova ($128), where the seasonal fruits take centre stage – in this case, peach from Provence (possibly the sweetest, juiciest peach we’ve ever had the pleasure of eating) and Taiwanese passion fruit. Pavlova can often be too sweet for us, but we adored Chef Smith’s summery version – the essence of the season on a plate. The airy, vanilla-flavoured cream is the cherry on top.
Moxie’s name is fitting; you’ve definitely got to have moxie – determination and nerve – to open a plant-based restaurant during a pandemic. But this restaurant is just what Hong Kong (and the world) needs right now, sustainable dining that focuses on both the well-being of the population and the planet on which they live. It’s even better that the innovative, meat-free dishes that Chef Smith serves up are as delicious as they are environmentally laudable.
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