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Just opened last month, Holy Gaw first hit our radar when its colourful dishes started popping up on Instagram. Although Hong Kong has a large Filipino community, Filipino restaurants are few and far between. Most are hidden gems or dive bars known predominately within the Filipino community, serving up plenty of fried foods. Holy Gaw is distinctly unique, with an interior that resembles a cosy café with its crisp white walls, gold accents and fresh flowers. Helmed by Chef Marvin Gaw, who worked previously at Chino and Carbone, Holy Gaw is a celebration of the chef’s Filipino heritage with a nod to his experiences with fusion and Italian cuisines.
The tiny restaurant in Wanchai, which sits where Manson’s Lot used to (they’ve now moved to a larger location close by), can sit little more than 20 people. However, we were impressed at how spacious the restaurant felt owing to the natural night and comfortable seating.
Upon viewing the menu, we were taken aback by the prices of the mains. While not exorbitant, we definitely expected there to be more dishes under the $150 mark considering the casual setting. However, the starters, cocktails and dessert are very reasonably priced at under $70 each. Unfortunately, all the dishes we were served were part of a photo shoot and, as a result, were cold by the time we were able to eat them. Hopefully, this is not usually the case.
We started off with the cheesy meatballs ($68), which is sort of an open meatball sub served on homemade Filipino pandesal bread. We loved the combination of the juicy meatballas together with the melted cheese and sweet, fluffy pandesal.
Just one bite of the moo salpicao ($258) is enough to ward off vampires for life. Served with carb-free cauliflower rice and flavoured with plenty of garlic, the US tenderloin was succulent and cooked to perfection. The cauliflower rice tasted mostly of garlic, which luckily we’re big fans of, but this dish would be a nightmare for the garlic averse.
The crusty gambas ($218) were juicy, yet there was an almost artificial-tasting tomato sauce that slightly overpowered the dish. Again, we felt that the cauliflower rice added little to the dish besides acting as a vehicle to soak up some of the sauce.
The birdie chicken inasal ($188) was slightly spicy thanks to the addition of nutty and peppery annatto seeds. So far, all the dishes we sampled would make for a rather healthy, well-rounded lunch.
Possibly our favourite dish, the piggy crispy pork sauté ($188) is topped with a perfectly fried egg and loaded with chunks of flavourful pork neck, crispy crackling and pork paté. We could not get enough of the juicy and crunchy pork bits.
Another standout dish with similar flavours is Gaw’s carbonara ($188). A quirky take on the classic Italian pasta, this dish manages to be rich without being too heavy. The fettuccine was perfectly al dente and beautifully soaked up the delicious egg and paté sauce. We recommend fishing out the crispy bits first as they get slightly soggy when soaked in the sauce.
We will absolutely be returning for the ice-cream sandwich ($58). There are two options: avocado ice cream on a classic pandesal bun or ube ice cream on a pandan pandesal. The avocado ice cream is less sweet but is still decadent and incredibly creamy. The ube was our favourite; the pleasantly bitter flavour of the ube coupled with the sweetness of the pandan bread is a glorious combination.
With a couple of hits and misses, Holy Gaw has a few things to fine-tune. This is Chef Gaw’s first restaurant, and of course, that is no easy feat, particularly with a small team and during these challenging pandemic times. We certainly wish we could have tasted the food warm and fresh, however, the flavours were definitely there. With an Instagrammable menu of both healthy and indulgent options, we’re sure this spot will find its feet and a loyal following soon.
15 Swatow Street, Wanchai, 5182 4804
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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