We are all aware of how good IHM (the group behind Posto Pubblico, Pizzeria Pubblico and Linguini Fini) is at making Italian food, successfully sending me home with a pasta/pizza-fuelled smile every time I visit. However, their new venture Stone Nullah Tavern is completely different. This time, instead of a New York-Italian menu, chef Vinny Lauria is serving up ‘New American’ cuisine.
What exactly is New American cuisine, you ask? Vinny describes it as something unrestrictive, where the fresh high-quality ingredients dictate the menu and influences are taken from all over the world. We have learnt from IHM’s other restaurants that they use nothing but the best, mostly locally sourced, ingredients, and we can expect nothing less from Stone Nullah Tavern. Vinny visits the farmers himself to see what is in season and from this, creates his menu; if it is not in season, he won’t make it, so expect the menu to change fairly frequently. Plus, unlike the gigantic portions stereotypically associated with American cuisine, SNT also serves small sharing-sized dishes – perfect for keeping our foe, Food Envy, at bay!
The space is also unique, with open French windows overlooking the historic Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai. Wooden panelling, pressed tin ceiling tiles, handcrafted furniture, and old photographs and maps give it a cosy, vintage feel that makes you want to linger over a lengthy dinner with plenty of good wine.
Start the night with a cocktail at the bar, choosing from a wide range of boutique branded liquors. The Southsider is an exciting take on a classic G&T, consisting of Farmer’s Organic Gin, lemon juice and mint, which went down far too easily for a ‘school night’! Needless to say we of course had to chase this with some excellent wine, once seated – in this case, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Francis Ford Coppola’s (yes, the director of The Godfather) winery, Inglenook.
Despite it being nearly the end of the season for heirloom tomatoes, the tomatoes with vinegar, mint and chilli were wonderfully refreshing and bursting with flavour, and made for a great start to the feast… as did the butter lettuce salad, loaded with hickory-smoked bacon, Stilton and deliciously creamy ranch dressing. Perhaps not the healthiest choice of salad, but who’s judging?!
Despite not normally being a big fan of chicken wings, there’s something dangerously moreish about SNT’s wings, generously marinated in a spicy honey sauce and served with more of that creamy ranch dressing – quite literally finger licking good! The grilled prawns with bottarga and black aioli were also perfectly fresh and bouncy, the black aioli delicately bringing out the prawns’ deeper flavours.
Do not go to SNT without trying the crispy pig’s head with lobster salad; even if you usually wimp out at the thought of eating any animal’s head, this is incredible. The pork is brined for six days and then braised for six hours to create a succulently tender terrine, which is then breaded and deep-fried, almost like a Milanese. Although it sounds outrageously heavy, the chunky lobster salad somehow managed to make it less decadent yet even more delicious.
Don’t be fooled by the sound of the “chicken fried” tenderloin – this dish has never even seen a chicken! So called due to its likeness to the classic southern American fried chicken, beneath the crispy layer of batter lies wonderfully tender (true to its name) rare beef, all doused in a rich peppery sausage sauce.
It seems that foie gras burgers are the ‘in’ thing at the moment (as seen at 22 Ships!) and SNT’s version does not fall short of the mark. The blend of OBE beef melted in the mouth, whilst the caramelised onion marmalade cut through the richness of the foie gras. The cherry on top was the Chinese-style milk bun, a childhood comfort that completed this scrumptious burger.
Also delicious are the clams, surprisingly served with crispy tripe ‘fries’ that act as the perfect dipping tools for the delicious white wine, tomato and chilli sauce. Pair all of the above with some homemade Boston baked beans and mac n’ cheese, made here with pasta shells and egg yolk a la carbonara, and you’re in heaven.
There is always room for dessert, yet there is definitely not room for all five desserts at SNT – I speak from experience! But you should definitely save space for two: the ‘Fat Kid Cake’ and the Ovaltine ice cream. The appropriately named Fat Kid Cake contains layers of red velvet cake, NY cheesecake, crème brulee and dark chocolate mousse; a heart attack waiting to happen, yes, but a worthwhile heart attack! Each slice is served with a candle, making every day your birthday!
If it’s possible to trump that, then the Ovaltine ice cream succeeds. Not only was the ice cream deliciously silky smooth, but it comes served on a bed of molten chocolate, alongside caramelised mini bananas and incredible chunks of peanut butter fudge. Need I say more?
Service at SNT is excellent; the staff are very knowledgeable about each and every dish and more than willing to give their personal recommendations. Prices range from $70 to $170 per dish; not expensive per se, but if (like me!) you cannot hold yourself back from trying almost the entire menu, then you might be in trouble. Once again, IHM have succeeded in putting a food-induced smile on my face… as well as perhaps a few extra pounds!
Stone NullahTavern G/F, 69 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai
3182 0182 www.facebook.com/StoneNullahTavern
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!