On the third floor of the IFC in Hong Kong there is a fantastic little place where the wine lovers of the city unite for a truly unique experience. It’s called Amo Eno. On the left, a wine shop with bottles suspended elegantly in beautifully lit cases. On the right, a large communal long-table with stools around it along side a wall lined with a beautiful, sleek vending machine featuring around 80 wines to taste. Stick your store card (it’s like Amo Eno monopoly money!) into the slot, get an O tumbler glass, hold it under the spout of the wine you have selected to taste, choose a size, press the button and try the wine squirted into your glass. The tasting comes in 3 sizes: sip, half glass and full glass. So you can be sure of the wine you’re getting a full glass or bottle of by trying a sip first.
The chef has also come up with a fantastically gourmet menu of simple treats to go with the wine, which is clearly the protagonist at Amo Eno. Despite the matchbox size of the kitchen, the list of numnums offered is considerably long and varied – charcuterie and cheese platters, snacks, soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta…even a rib-eye (which I’ve heard was very good), served with a Montgomery’s Cheddar Mac ‘n’ Cheese (which I’ve tried and found to be packed with flavor, velvety and delicious). The ingredients used are unique and of very good quality and the snacks rotate seasonally. Not your run-of-the-mill “Would you like a cheese or cold cut platter with that Riesling, miss?” wine bar.
This is their Grilled Thai Beef Salad with Fritz Haag Vinaigrette. Juicy thin-cut and grilled beef strips, layered with halved cherry tomatoes, sliced medusa head chiles, fresh lettuce, spring onions, a few cucumber slices, green papaya strips and slippery soft glass noodles. Topped with crispy fried onions and a bit of crushed roasted peanuts. Super colorful and vibrant, with a great complexity of textures and flavors in each bite. Crunch from the lettuce, juicy freshness from the tomatoes, a bit of tongue-tingling heat from the chiles, a crisp tang from the green papaya, a nice fried flavor (but not too oily) from the onion strings, a nutty sweetness from the peanuts, a moist smoothness from the glass noodles and a tender, warm, tooth-hugging chew from the grilled beef. The Fritz Haag vinaigrette was also a nice touch, the slightly distant dry minerality of the Riesling counteracting the savory, salty and almost nutty flavor of the fish sauce also used to dress the salad. Take THAT, Pret a Manger.
At a recent wine tasting, we also ordered a number of things off the snack menu. Here are some of the things I could photograph (sorry about the quality…) before they disappeared.
Thin slices of beefy grilled eggplant wrapped around a bit of deliciously pungent goat cheese and set on a bed of lettuce on dry toast. I liked this one, though it was a bit too dry for me overall – a bit of olive oil drizzled on top would have done wonders. Also, maybe smoking (or charring, at least) the eggplant would have given it an even more complex flavor which could then harmonize even better with the sharpness of the goat cheese.
I’ve been meaning to try this Hong Kong classic, the gai daan jai (eggette); never thought the first one would be at an Italian wine bar. This was a very creative version though. The dough itself was slightly sweet and very heavy on the egg yolk, which made is very rich and taste of egg itself. The things was served with three delicious dips, all three using wine as an ingredient. There was one of champagne mustard, one of muscat bacon and one of sherry cherry chutney. The latter was my favorite, a bit chunky and sweet from the piece of crisp red cherry, smoothed out with the tinge of alcohol from the sherry.
Next came the cajun crusted shrimp poppers. These were heavenly. The shrimp were fried to perfection, plump and juicy but still very delicate as they were either a bit young or of a smaller species. The panco crust was perfectly light and crispy golden crunchy, flavored with a big of cayenne pepper and cajun spices. The poppers were served with a wonderful brandy lime dip which lifted up the flavors a bit and contrasted with the fried crust.
Lastly (well, out of the ones I could capture on camera…) were the Crispy Bangkok Buffalo Wings with Mango Sriracha Relish. The skin on these were unbelievable crispy and very nicely seasoned, although there wasn’t too much meat itself on the bone. The spicy-sweet sriracha and mango relish was very nice, getting rid of any excess oil on the palate and cooling it down a bit. I also like the contrast of the chunky, cold chutney with the crispy, hot chicken. A very nice dish.
I will soon be back for more.