Just a stone’s throw away from popular Middle Eastern tapas bar FRANCIS is the restaurant team’s second venture, Mr Brown. Mr. Brown is, first and foremost, a grill house, as demonstrated by the robust, 2.1-metre-long Argentinian grill that dominates the open kitchen. Within this kitchen, various cuts of fresh fish, meat and vegetables are roasted, smoked and grilled, inspired by the flavours of the world.
Chef Asher Goldstein draws from the rich flavour profiles of his home town of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean region, as well as the influences of American and Australian barbecue traditions. The 55-seat restaurant also houses a separate bar area where diners can sip and wait for their tables to be prepared. There are over 50 small-label wines on the list, selected expertly by sommelier Simone Sammuri, as well as five international craft beers and a bevy of enticing cocktails.
We started our meal with a tall glass of Just Brew It ($100), a refreshing blend of gin, osmanthus tea, cucumber and mint.
Our first dish was the raw hamachi with avocado, leek ash and fennel ($150). This dish was light and refreshing, perfect for the Hong Kong heat. We liked the overall taste of the dish, although we couldn’t detect much of the leek ash or fennel flavours. The black leek ash did add visual interest.
Crab toast with sweet potato and lime ($90), blanketed under lard, was moreish and not too heavy on the palate.
We were expecting baked muffins, but we were pleasantly surprised by the burger-like look of the Ibérico pork muffin with cabbage, aioli and mustard ($70 each). This was buttery, melt-in-the-mouth pork cut with sharp mustard and tart cabbage between two pillowy buns – pure heaven!
Another dish that we surprisingly loved beyond our initial expectations was the kohlrabi sprinkled with hazelnut, Pecorino and chilli ($80). The ribbons of kohlrabi retained enough crunch to contrast with the nutty hazelnuts and were packed full of flavour. The addition of spicy red chilli livened up this highly addictive dish. We could have ordered just this and not missed having any meat!
One of the restaurant’s signatures, the 14-hour smoked brisket ($100), reminded us of all the good times we’ve spent in classic American barbecue joints. The beef was fork-tender and so flavourful that we didn’t need the accompanying sauce.
Usually served as half a duck, we asked the restaurant to give us a taster portion since we were running out of room on our belt buckles, but we still wanted to try the signatures. The half-smoked duck with pomegranate, fennel and barbecue sauce ($240 for ½ duck) arrived with glossy, beautifully caramelised skin, but it lacked the promised smokiness. The meat was also rather tough and could have been juicier. This was the least-liked dish of the evening.
Wrapping up with a sweet finish, the caramel slice with malt and hazelnut crumble and burnt meringue ($70) reminded us of the texture of a semifreddo, slightly cold yet yielding to the fork without the frostiness of ice cream.
An interesting little restaurant that marches to the beat of its own drum without pigeonholing itself into any regional cuisine category. There were some hits and some misses, but it’s still early days, and we’re sure Mr Brown will be just as popular as its sibling, FRANCIS. In fact, there was already a good-sized queue outside when we left at 8:30pm, And unlike FRANCIS, which takes no reservations, you can always book a seat at Mr Brown.
9 Ship Street, Wanchai, 3101 1081
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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