The fast-moving pace and transience of restaurants is a regrettable snag in the foodie way of life, and something that Hong Kong diners are all too familiar with. Oftentimes, establishments come and go so fast and so quietly that you hardly even notice the change. This seems to be the case here; without a lot of fanfare, Chef Kaleb Davis and his small team smoothly took over the Graham Street nook left by Chef Patrick Dang and introduces DUB, a new concept by SAAM. Serving unpretentious contemporary bistro fare with a tendency to toe the line between rustic and upscale, the spotlight here is focused on reliable favourites and classic flavours.
But the neighbourhood has noticed, perhaps due to the gritty mural work gracing the shopfront of DUB, courtesy of New Zealand artist Joel Arnold. "We've had tons of inquiries for bookings while we were still setting up shop," sous chef Alex Gardner informs me. Melding Western street art graphics with classic chrome and wood interiors, DUB aims to create an urban hangout within the bustling dining hub of Soho.
Pork cheek quail scotch eggs with horseradish mayo and micro greens
Crispy curried cauliflower with raisins, pine nuts, and yoghurt
On the day of my tasting, I'm treated to a) complete privacy, which I prefer when stuffing my face, because conversation with bulging cheeks is a no-go, and b) a stunning assortment of 13 courses in all its full-portioned glory (why would you do this to my waistline, Chef Kaleb?). The pork cheek quail scotch eggs ($138) were served atop a bed of homemade horseradish mayo with a side of tufty micro greens. Mildly spicy and hearty, the pork cheek soaked up the velvety yolk. I would have preferred for the bread crumb shell to be a bit crispier, but this proved to be a heavy and moreish finger food nonetheless. DUB's crispy curried cauliflower ($88) comes in the form of a slow-cooked, thick-cut cauliflower slab, drizzled in runny curry sauce, littered with raisins and pine nuts, and dotted with yoghurt. A solid forkful of all of the above created a tangy and delightful taste, with crunchy cauliflower and pine nuts and soft raisins coming together to create an engaging mouthfeel.
Charred steak tartare served with sourdough crisps
Sautéed squid with capers, lemon, chilli butter, and parsley
The next two dishes started the extensive list of clear favourites for the night. As pretty as the steak tartare ($148) looked, it tasted even better. I piled it high on my thin sourdough crisps to the point of where my scooping vessels were about to snap in half, but it was worth the risk; the hand-chopped eye fillet flaked apart in in my mouth and the taste enveloped my tongue, cementing this dish in its worthy spot on the "must-order" list. The sautéed squid ($88), cooked to a firm bounce, sat in a bath of lemon and chilli butter juices, and was an addictive and flavourful treat.
Caesar with anchovy dressing and candied bacon
Smoked eggplant and buffalo mozzarella salad
Slight reprieve came in the form of two salads, though "light" would not be the ideal term to describe either of them, and that's A-OK with me. Rustic in its preparation and generous in its portions, the caesar with anchovy dressing and candied bacon ($118) and eggplant and buffalo mozzarella salad ($128) were both solid executions of a classic dishes, and wholly satisfying. And when I say generous portions, I mean it; I could have easily eaten just the caesar salad and walked out sporting a laboured wheeze and cradling a fresh food baby. Get your money's worth, yo.
Mac n' cheese balls with candied bacon
Blistered French beans with parsley and lemon butter
Another two to add to the "must-order" list. DUB's mac n' cheese balls ($68) were crisp on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside, slathered in two types of cheddar and Parmesan; a delicious guilty pleasure dish I'd recommend for sharing. Sautéed to the perfect crunch, the juicy blistered French beans ($58) were buttery and zesty with the right amount of char.
Charred spring chicken in tom yum marinade
Lamb t-bone with red wine-infused honey reduction and roasted potatoes
Having eaten my way through half of the small bites menu at this point, this was where the big boys came into play. Served on a banana leaf, the charred spring chicken ($228) is packed with the aromas of tom yum marinade and kaffir lime, and the meat was prepared soft and tender with pink bones. The succulent and minty grilled lamb t-bone ($298) was only mildly gamey and sat saturated and plump with the juices of the red wine-infused honey reduction, which was perfection in itself, and I mopped up the sweet sauce with the roasted potato wedges. In fact, I advocate for the addition of a side dish of a pile of potato wedges drenched in honey reduction, if I may.
Pecan pie with bourbon vanilla ice cream
Mango vanilla crème brûlée with assorted berries
And what would a homely meal be without rich and hearty desserts? Chef Kaleb finished the tasting with two offerings, the pecan pie with bourbon vanilla ice cream ($88) and the mango vanilla crème brûlée with lime zest and ginger morsels ($88). It was love at first bite; I adored the fruity twist on the crème brûlée and it was well-balanced in its sweetness. Though the bourbon vanilla ice cream was a little too boozy for my taste, the pecan pie was warm and fluffy with an appropriately crumbly crust.
The verdict? Solid culinary creations with an innovative and playful flair here and there to spice things up. I had an enjoyable experience dining here, and the team is engaging and proficient, as well as refreshingly humble. DUB is a prime example of the fact that you don't have to shout the loudest to be heard, and that you can make your mark softly and delicately, one scrumptious dish at a time.
51 Graham St, Central
Tel: 2645 9828