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It was a stormy night when we visited, and we were in dire need of a pick-me-up. The first thing that happened on entering Lung Fu Pao – the supplied hand sanitiser becoming enthusiastically unclogged, all over us – was extremely on brand for a “dutty dining” themed restaurant, and we felt appropriately initiated.
Lung Fu Pao is intimidating. It’s bold and unafraid to offend. It’s named after a local porn magazine, after all (not linking – Google it!), and pages of the magazine are on the ceiling of the bar and also in the toilets. Most of the images are suitably redacted, but there are no guarantees.
Lung Fu Pao is disorientating too. The placemats and plates are made to look slightly out of focus, and the tabletops add to the effect, the spinning arcs reflecting different colours at different angles. It feels like every photo is out of focus. There are pink bananas hanging from the entrance, and the whole effect is unsettling but not uncomfortable.
It’s not all dirty double talk though. Lung Fu Pao (龍虎豹) also means “dragon, tiger, panther”. One of the founders is a tattoo artist, and there is some of his G-rated artwork on the walls. His work is also on the staff shirts, some of which are available for purchase (we just know they will be popular owing to their striking, irezumi design).
The playlist is genuinely awesome, even if you don’t know all the beats (you can find it as Sushi & Sounds on Spotify). The staff – even the cool, tattooed sushi chefs – are friendly, attentive and not at all scary. But don’t bring your kids – this spot is only for grown-ups.
Rahul was looking after us, and after asking for his highball advice, we started eagerly with a Danball ($110). This is made with a white long-grain rice spirit called Danryu awamori – awamori being an appellation reserved for spirits made in Okinawa. It comes out like a lime soda, demure but deceptive, and tastes a bit like a smooth margarita.
Rahul’s suggestions were on point, and at his direction, we later enjoyed a Dutty Marge ($120), which includes Hong Kong’s own Flagrant Hot Sauce as one of its ingredients, rimmed with yuzu salt that is made in-house. This is a citrusy, tequila-based cocktail, and it packs a spicy punch to start with but mellows into an easy-drinking tipple.
When ordering, it’s worth checking whether you are ordering a sweet cocktail. We didn’t know, but Kanjuku is a very sweet Japanese soda, and as a result, the Pinball ($120) from the highball menu was too sweet for our tastes. All the staff, not just our friend Rahul, were very helpful with all our questions, so we should have asked.
A tasty snack to enjoy with drinks is the dried codfish with jalapeño mayo ($48). What looks like a plate of bland biscuits is actually dried codfish ground with flour and fried into something like a melt-in-the-mouth cracker bursting with fishy pride. There is plenty of jalapeño mayo to go around, and we found ourselves wanting a few extra pieces of codfish crackers to get to it all.
The snapper carpaccio ($148) arrived ready for its close-up. It was the prettiest and most delicate of the dishes we tried, and we feel the menu description does not do it justice. It rests gently in shiro (white soy sauce) and is topped with tiny chives, sesame seeds and chilli slices – which we felt might be a little too spicy for the delicate flavours, but the dish still remained one of our favourites of the evening.
We sampled the scallop sashimi ($148/3) and the tuna sashimi ($88/3), as well as the salmon sushi ($48/2), snapper sushi ($58/2) and nori-bound shiitake sushi ($38/2). The sushi is generous with its toppings, with only small portions of sweetened rice underneath. Of the items we tried, we were particularly fond of the fresh and lightly citrusy scallop sashimi and the pieces of juicy shiitake.
We tried two different maki, and the must-try dish of the night was the chicken avocado maki ($128). It comes with no description on the menu, so here is the low-down: the rice embraces fried chicken that remains crunchy throughout, a layering of avocado atop, a generous drizzle of chipotle mayonnaise and a sprinkling of shichimi. Holding the middle ground is a bundle of dried chilli strands (not saffron, although that’s what it looks like) that are mild and delicious (we think they should be served with everything.)
It was hard not to have high expectations for the dragon roll ($178) – it’s the most recognisable part of the Lung Fu Pao name – and the impressive ingredients are tempura prawn, spicy tuna, snow crab, avocado and flying fish roe. The snow crab and prawn portions are generous, but the spicy tuna and overall flavour were a touch mild for us.
We finished with a selection of six kushiyaki, from 21 skewer choices.
Pictured are the shiso pepper ($38), eggplant ($28), ox tongue ($58), chicken wing ($38), chicken thigh with ginger onion ($48) and pork belly ($58) skewers. The ox tongue was a mixture of slightly chewy on the outside with a good bite, but once penetrated, the inside was tender and moreish. Another winner was the ginger onion topping served on the chicken thigh, changing up the flavours, especially with a squeeze of lemon.
We’re on the fence about the pork belly skewer. On the one hand, it was quite salty. On the other, we literally cannot stop thinking about it. It was tender yet had some bite, and the fat was rendered and melting. It paired beautifully with the Dutty Marge... Yeah, who are we kidding? We are totally ordering this one again!
Contrary to our concerns, Lung Fu Pao was not a particularly extreme push past our comfort zone. The premise of the restaurant is supposed to be confronting, but at the heart of the menu are some obscure, Japanese-sourced ingredients that show the team are serious about their food and drink.
The restaurant is a child-free zone, of course, and you probably wouldn’t want to take your parents either (or a business colleague you just met or your church pals). But it is a great spot to catch up with a friend or a group of friends with great music, great drinks and great food options – and it gives you lots to talk about.
We would order again: Dutty Marge, snapper carpaccio, shiitake sushi, chicken avocado maki, ox tongue skewer, chicken thigh with ginger onion skewer, pork belly skewer
We will try next time: fried chicken ($98), eel sushi ($58/2), sea urchin gunkan ($138/2), white eel kushiyaki ($88) and something from their sake-by-the-bottle menu!
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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