A new Sai Ying Pun gem, brimming with conviviality
District: Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Cuisine: Comforting Tapas-Style Dishes and Natural Wines
How much: Most dishes range from $58 to $118, with meat dishes up to $250
The Best For: Dinner and drinks with friends, solo dining
Must Order: Roquefort Mac and Cheese, Galician Beef Tenderloin
Sassy Tip: Start the night right before you dig into supper with happy hour drinks (20% off) from 5pm to 7pm
The Hong Kong foodie scene is constantly evolving and the number of restaurants in town multiplies quicker than the size of the Kardashian family, so whenever I eat out, the natural tendency is to try a new place. Though if there were ever a place to return to night after night and cement yourself as a regular, Brut! would be a fine choice. The newly opened restaurant blends seamlessly into the laidback and charming quality of the Sai Ying Pun hood, and if I were a resident of the area, its presence would make my complete absence of cooking skills far less of an encumbrance. The restaurant works for just about any occasion: it’s an intimate, lively space with an open layout composing of a bar and two communal high-top tables. The cosiness makes it ideal for catching up with friends, or getting to know a date, while solo diners will have an enjoyable time, too. The flowing atmosphere, coupled with the sharing-style plates encourages mingling and sparking up conversations with fellow diners.
The drink selection is curated with care and marriages quality with the restaurant’s sustainable philosophy. Just about all the wines on offer are natural and sourced from small winemakers around the world– and the ones that we sipped on were lovely. There are also fun cocktails with a twist like a Sichuan Pepper Old Fashioned and the Baby Bucha; a very refreshing choice mixed with in-house made kombucha (cocktails are priced between $90 and $110).
Camille, the passionate co-owner of Brut! and the super welcoming team will make you feel right at home and it’s always a bonus knowing that everything you’re eating is lovingly thought out and executed. Don’t expect anything particularly inventive or out-there. Instead, the menu, which changes according to the seasonality of ingredients, features unfussy dishes that don’t try to dazzle you with anything too ostentatious. The ingredients are the stars of each dish and emphasis is placed on sourcing the best of the best. Brut! understands that top quality Mozzarella di Buffala ($128), for instance, is essentially untouchable and does not need to be embellished much, so it is complimented minimally with confit cherry tomatoes and crispy enoki mushrooms. The creaminess of the mozzarella is rightly the main taste on the tongue, while the other ingredients work with it and not against it. The standout Galician Beef Tenderloin ($268) again highlights Brut!’s restrained excellence. It was cooked to perfection to create melt-in-your-mouth ecstasy with nothing much added except a little salt. Alongside the beef lay a honey-glazed carrot which was no second fiddle. Here, vegetables aren’t given short shrift and the sweet, flavourful carrot was a more than worthy supporting actor.
Vegetables at Brut! are loved as much as the meat dishes, which is really a treat since some restaurants treat greens like the ugly stepsister; introduced because they happen to be there, but without much fanfare or enthusiasm. Brut! ensures that carnivores have no excuses for relegating their vegetarian and vegan friends to the “too hard to dine out with” category, because there will be delicious options for everyone. The vegetables are locally sourced as much as possible and we savoured the Mushroom Medley finished with a red wine sauce ($68). These mushrooms were one of my favourite dishes simply because the mushrooms were so darn good. You could really taste the different flavours among the varieties and they all had a robust, meaty flavour.
The team at Brut! brings their mélange of backgrounds into the food they serve you, which is why you’ll see various influences and cuisines imparted onto the dishes. The dinner we had told a story as each dish was birthed from memories or experiences. The fun Deviled Eggs with beets, artichokes and fermented plum vinegar ($68), for example, were inspired by a night in uni when Camille and her friend had nothing in the fridge except some eggs and a bottle of plum vinegar. Their moment of experimentation and resulting revelation inspired the dish which was a symphony of salty, sweet, sour and umami; the fatty richness of the egg yolk paired with the acid of the vinegar to a tee.
The food was undeniably comforting and perhaps the embodiment of this was served in a sizzling pan of Roquefort Mac and Cheese ($88). If the words Roquefort Mac and Cheese weren’t enough to give you food fantasy induced goose bumps, the dish will when you see it in person. Once the pan hit the table, the smell of the dish threatened to cancel out all table manners and have me voraciously ladling mouthfuls into my feral self. It forgoes the traditional macaroni shaped pasta for larger pasta shells, which ensured that the saucy goodness got trapped inside their vessels. I never even used to have it as a child, but this dish made me feel like a goofy kid.
That’s what the food at Brut! does somehow. Through Camille and chef George Kwok’s memory-centric dishes, they find a connection to you and bring you back to instances you might have forgotten about or yearn for. The Deviled Eggs brought me flashbacks of subsiding largely off hard boiled eggs in my first year of uni (still the only thing I can truly cook), the mozzarella brought me back to my year in Italy and the mac and cheese reminded me of a time I visited one of my best friends in Australia after she had moved away (back then, a friend moving away seems like the end of the world) and she sweetly made me mac and cheese with cut up hot dogs.
Nostalgia and happiness lingered long after dinner…
Brut!, Shop C, G/F, 1 Second Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong, www.brut.com.hk