Back to school
District: Tai Hang, Hong Kong
Cuisine: Contemporary Western
How much: Dishes range between $88 and $188, with the Beef Short Rib priced at $318
The Best For: Casual dinner with friends
Must Order: Ice Cream Sandwiches and Fancy Poutine
Sassy Tip: Elementary currently doesn’t have a liquor licence, so remember to BYOB! The brunch here is also not to be missed.
Tucked into a quiet corner of Tai Hang, Elementary has the neighbourhood abuzz, and is slated to be the latest dining hot spot in this trendy area. Situated on School Street (see what they did there?), the restaurant serves up laid-back Aussie style fare, perfect for sharing. The menu is simply split into three sections: Light, Medium and Heavy – so it’s easy to navigate and find exactly what you’re after. The chef here is actually one of the brains behind Bread & Beast in Wan Chai, and has also previously worked at Blue Butcher and one of Gordon Ramsey’s venues in L.A., so the contemporary twists on classic flavour combinations found at Elementary shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
We started our evening with a selection of light and fresh small plates, including the Tomatoes, with lemon yoghurt, balsamic caviar, Thai basil and confit leeks ($88) and the Scallops, with rose apple, wasabi ginger, pecans and nori spice ($128). The pops of balsamic and the lemon yoghurt dressing kept the tomatoes interesting, and the scallops were full of fresh flavour, not overpowered by the light accompaniments.
A dish I was excited to try was the EFC (Elementary fried cauliflower), with almonds and ranch sauce ($88), and it did not disappoint. Crispy and well-seasoned, the coating worked perfectly with the al dente cauliflower and cool ranch dressing. I would go back for these in a heartbeat. Another stand out dish for me was the Fancy poutine – consisting of fries, oxtail gravy, blue cheese and a runny egg ($148). The price may seem a little steep for a bowl of chips, but the portion size is generous, with plenty of meaty oxtail pieces in the gravy, just enough blue cheese to give some sharpness, but not overpower, and the runny egg tops it off, because #eggporn is real. The ultimate indulgence, as a sharing plate this is one best enjoyed with close friends, who won’t judge you for going back for more than your fair share (or for dripping egg yolk and gravy down your shirt).
From the more “main style” dishes, we also sampled the Whole roasted snapper, with tamarind and squid ink aioli, edamame, mint and fennel ($188), as well as the Weekly steak, served with burnt cherry tomato chermoula and bonito (prices dependant on cut). The snapper was artistically presented, with splashes of the tamarind and squid ink aioli finishing the presentation beautifully. The taste was subtle and fresh, allowing the well-cooked fish to speak for itself – just be a little wary of the bones here! As for our steak, the weekly offering when we visited was a huge rib eye. Ideally suited to bigger groups (we were four, and struggled to eat it all), this is one to try for meat lovers, as the beef here is not overshadowed by accompaniments or sauces, and is a perfect rare cook, with a charred and smoky crust. If you’re looking to share many plates with a group, I have also heard that the oysters here are some of the best in the city, and the pasta of the day is not to be missed, along with the Bone marrow, with anchovy and parsley coating and mushroom mayo, served with sourdough ($128).
No matter how full you are after your feast at Elementary, make sure to save room for the desserts. With just three on the menu as a sweet toothed soul, I say order them all for a group. Though if you have to choose just one, make it the ice cream sandwich. Made with a soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie that encases house made ice cream (we sampled the burrata ice cream, along with the earl grey milk tea ice cream), this is a big kid’s dream. Both flavours were creamy, and subtly sweet, and unlike many ice cream sandwiches, the cookie wasn’t rock hard, so your teeth can stay intact (win!). I personally loved the burrata flavour, which was a surprise, but the earl grey is also sure to be a hit with tea lovers.
The vibe at Elementary is casual and relaxed, perfect for a chilled dinner with friends. The shared style plates, BYOB and friendly service enhance the unpretentious vibe, and helps to seal the deal for this new Tai Hang resto.
Elementary, 15-16 School Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong, www.elementary.hk
Featured image courtesy of Elementary. All further images courtesy of Beatrice Hug.