Lan Kwai Fong isn’t exactly a quintessential date night destination for most couples in Hong Kong. As much as we can appreciate a good night out, the street scene doesn’t exactly scream romance. However, Townhouse, sister restaurant to ifc’s Glasshouse and the latest incarnation from Gaia Group, is a little oasis in the wild bustle of LKF. And, as we’ve come to expect from one of Hong Kong’s favourite restaurant groups, it’s quite a happy find.
Right out the elevator doors, we had to stop and gawk at the view. The restaurant sits in a magical 23/F perch that doesn’t feel cramped (no up-close views into a miserable grey office across the street). Windows, windows, and more windows meant downtown twinkles lit the entire restaurant.
Townhouse boasts a killer bar area, with an extensive cocktail list featuring cheeky names such as Mr. Charming and The Floating Heart. I sipped on Welcome to Town—chamomile infused gin, Aperol, Triple Sec, lemon juice, vanilla syrup and grapefruit juice. With an ingredient list that long, I expected big flavours but was a tad disappointed. There was just too much going on, and somehow it also tasted weak.
Hidden Sin, the signature cocktail with bacon-infused bourbon, lemon juice, honey water and a slice of bacon up top, was a fantastic idea, but again, tasted a bit watered down. The bartender, however, was fun-loving and friendly, and his blond mohawk? Inspirational and gutsy!
Knowing the neighbourhood well, the chef’s punchy menu boasts a lot of small plates and nibbles that will hit the spot after a tour de LKF. French oysters with tom yum vinaigrette and guava were spectacular (I woke up thinking about all the garlic and chillies in the tom yum riff the next morning – no kidding). The hamachi sashimi with green apple wasabi ice and yuzu was also excellent – as much bright, sweet-sour-smoky flavour as one could pack into a single bite.
The big surprise of the evening were the robata-grilled mushrooms with kimchi cheese. Now, I’m open to a lot of things when it comes to cheese. And kimchi. And mushrooms. But never in a million years did I think that mushrooms with kimchi cheese (all in one dish!) would be my hands-down favourite dish at Townhouse. But the hot, gooey, umami-packed spice pops were the real deal. So very tasty. (Side note: The robata items are listed in a confusing way, so the list price is actually half the true price. Buyer beware.)
Up next: The teriyaki chicken wings with shrimp sambal sauce were nicely grilled but could have used more of that knockout sauce basted on top. Plus, it’s awkward to dip a wing in a narrow bowl. But we loved the sauce, kind of like a BBQ version of the tom yum vinaigrette from the oysters (any excuse to bring back the tom yum vinaigrette, basically).
Amazing duck noodles in sizzling hot spicy broth had an impressive presentation but weren’t actually hot (by way of temperature or spice). Tasty comfort food? Yes. Amazing? That’s a strong word. The sauce needs more punch, and I remember wishing I had some of the chicken wing sauce to drizzle on top of the not-hot-enough noodles. More chillies, please!
For our final savoury dish, we enjoyed the spaghetti volcano, meaning it was piping hot with plenty of buffalo mozzarella. The Thai basil was an interesting touch, and it was generally just a nice bowl of pasta. I imagine it’s a good option for the picky eaters in a group who can’t get on board with the rare or raw options.
Dessert was a banana boat, with homemade palm sugar ice-cream and coconut jelly, which frankly I wanted to take home by the kilo. A fine selection of cheeses also came with honey and ground coffee for dipping, which seemed a fun and funky final touch to the meal.
On our recent visit, things were still coming together in terms of decor and furnishings. The chairs were being replaced with seating less Marriott and more urban chic, and a large-screen T.V. would be added to the focal wall. But the open format kitchen – a Gaia group signature – was as beautiful as can be, and stunning glass and ceramic dish-ware along the bar added an unexpected pop.
Staff at Townhouse were attentive and gracious, and prices are reasonable. In the future, I’d say this is an ideal destination for a group – order lots of the snacky plates, and classic cocktails (just ask for them strong). Really fun place to land after a night out when you need a nibble. Or anytime you and the better half want to escape the realities of Hong Kong and sass it up in style!
Townhouse, 23/F, California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2344 2366; www.gaiagroup.com.hk/townhouse