Chef Nate Green’s newest Hong Kong project brings a sense of vitality to a long-forgotten Hong Kong neighbourhood, discovers Nick Walton.
Standing outside Rhoda, chef Nate Green’s beautiful new restaurant in western Hong Kong Island, it’s as if someone has switched on a street lamp. The neighbourhood – they call it Sai Ying Pun but its more Shek Tong Tsui, a suitably obscure locale on the road to trendier Kennedy Town – was always rather dark and dingy the three years I called it home. But the bronze and copper façade of Rhoda, Green’s venture with serial restauranteur Yenn Wong, is as much a breath of fresh air for Shek Tong Tsui as its menu of blissfully unpretentious comfort food is for the city’s culinary scene.
I kick off at the standalone bar, where I quickly make life-long bourbon brothers with the bar team as they coddle together the ingredients of a brilliant Old Fashioned. It’s a great spot from which to admire interiors by Joyce Wang, which include bare concrete, charred cedar, and naked ironwork. The dining room’s got a masculine vibe, accentuated by an open kitchen concept front and centre, yet retains its intimacy with double-height ceilings and deep-set booths to each side.
The open kitchen is appropriate for this chef-driven restaurant; named for the former Ham & Sherry and 22 Ships chef’s grandmother, Rhoda showcases highquality locally-sourced ingredients as well as the best meat and seafood from abroad. There’s a focus on charcoal grilled dishes, but there’s enough diversity on the menu to appeal to all diners and enough intricacy to show this isn’t your average neighbourhood bistro.
Settled into one of the booths with a great view of the kitchen action we order the chicken wings glazed with Xeres vinegar; it’s a rather addictive snack if you’re popping in for a drink, but when matched with silky Aji mackerel tartare with caviar and uni; or the zesty cured New Zealand salmon with heritage beets and rhubarb, the wings make for a medley of quality flavours and textures that sums up Rhoda to a tee.
From these inspiring small plates it’s an easy step to the grill dishes, which include salted king prawns with smoked eggplant; and clams with katsuobushi, sweet corn and egg. The slow-cooked octopus with cucumber, mint and pickled shallot, like the cold dishes, is perfectly balanced and very seasonally appropriate, while the Mangalica pork chop marinated in soy and garlic takes the simple chop to heavenly heights. Green has an intimate knowledge of where every ingredient, every cut of meat comes from – he chats about farm-to-table suppliers and new finds as he patrols the packed dining room, sleeves rolled up to display his inked forearms.
There’s only room left for a shared main, the Brink’s farm free range chicken with spring onion, an all-year favourite that’s matched with a great New Zealand Riesling from Rhoda’s boutique and vintage-heavy list, curated by Nate’s brother Adam of Bottle Shock. It’s a palate-pleasing, soul-soothing finish to the heavenly meal I never expected to enjoy on the mean streets of Shek Tong Tsui.
G/F, Upton, 345 Des Voeux Rd West, Hong Kong; Tel: +852 2177 5050; http://rhoda.hk/