Changing waters: When one door closes, another opens. We lamented the closure of well-loved French restaurant Lot 10, and we welcomed the return of Chef David Lai in his newest project, Fish School. A collaboration between him and restaurateur Yenn Wong, Fish School centers around locally sustainable, seasonal seafood. Most of the fish are line caught and same day catches, sourced from family-owned fishing boats dotted around Hong Kong’s coastline. With much anticipation, we made a recent visit to the 50-seater restaurant.
Plenty of fish: Seated at the bar facing the open kitchen, we started the evening with intoxicating glasses of negroni ($120), made right in front of us by a very affable mixologist. As samplers, the house suggestions pointed to the charcoal grilled market fish sampler ($140) and the marinated raw crab and sea urchin rice ($185). We added on the mantis shrimp popcorn ($175) for good measure. The market fish sampler arrived in the form of five tiny slivers of fish, ranging from pomfret, mullet, sea bream, snapper to pompano. A tart and slightly spicy dipping sauce accompanied the tiny fillets, although it wasn’t able to salvage the lacklustre dish. The slices were so small that it was nearly impossible to get a bite of each between our party of two. Perhaps because of this, each slice was rather rubbery and overcooked.
Feeling disappointed yet still optimistic, we moved on to the marinated raw crab with sea urchin. This dish, using flower crab, reminded me of something similar at Ronin, although the latter uses fully cooked crab. Fish School’s rendition at first evoked comparisons to Korea’s renowned raw crabs, but the flavours mirrored those of Southeast Asia. However, the delicate sweetness of the crab and sea urchin were overpowered by the immense saltiness of fish sauce, with the only other pronounced accent being chilli peppers. We were told to mix together the crab, sea urchin and rice, but even the rice could not dampen the intense saltiness, and we had to gulp copious glasses of water to wash it down.
The mantis shrimp popcorn came coated in thick layers of crunchy batter, but the promised cured duck yolk failed to add any umami accents to the batter.
Disappointed yet still undeterred, we eagerly awaited the main course, a salt-crusted red bream ($600) served with roasted potato and eggplant sides. Alas, the pricey baked fish did not live up to expectations, and was rather flavourless. It could also have benefited from a few minutes less on the heat.
Our rather disconcerting meal concluded with pumpkin ice cream dotted with persimmon and pickled melon ($75), which was the saving grace of the evening. The creamy pumpkin and tart pickled melon complemented the toasted pumpkin seeds wonderfully.
Verdict: At more than $1,600 for two after tips, this was a hefty price tag to pay for a mediocre meal. Despite attentive and personable service, Fish School fizzled like a highly anticipated first date that went south. By the end of the night, I was already deleting its number from my phone.
100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2361 2966