The other day I had a great lunch at 798 Unit & Co. Bistro, a modest little neighborhood joint in the heart of TST. The restaurant is dressed up to look a bit like a Greenwich Village brasserie and its menu boasts a diverse range of traditional European classics with a twist. The bread rolls are served warm in a cotton bread sack, giving the meal a homey feeling from the very beginning. Soups are served in grandma-style porcelain bowls with grandma-style (though wax paper in this case) doilies underneath but plates are printed with the company’s circular logo, giving it an elegant twist. Nothing super fancy on the menu – fish and chips, roast chicken, a nice selection of pastas. Sides include creamed spinach, corn on the cob, grilled asparagus and truffled (!) mash potatoes. Desserts, apparently, are their specialty – banoffi pie, bread & butter pudding, cookies n mint cream. Simple, Western comfort food well done. Hard to find in Hong Kong.
The first thing I tried was the homemade pumpkin and ginger soup – creamy, warm, thick and s(o)uper comforting, not overly cinnamon-ed, clove-d, nutmeg-ed, all-spiced as this autumnal favorite too often is but very subtle in its toasty, sweater-season references. The ginger grated in was a wonderful touch, lifting up the flavors of the sweet pumpkin and adding a nice complexity to the dish. A beautifully healthy orange color made even prettier by the dried herbs sprinkled on and the bowl it was served in. A great dish I would definitely go back for.
French onion. Didn’t try this one but it looked great, with plenty of beautiful swiss cheese melted and crisped over the top. As it is a regular item on their menu, I will definitely have it at JAR, the “unit” of the company and sister restaurant to Bistro closer to my office.
Simple, good looking salad which, unfortunately, I also didn’t try. Fresh green baby spinach, bits of chopped cucumber, corn kernels and quinoa running through it. Minimal dressing.
And finally, their signature – an incredibly juicy, tender (and HUGE!) thick-cut pork loin chop marinated and thrown on the grill, seasoned minimally with only the smoky char of the grill-lines, salt and pepper. No heavy sauces poured on to weigh it down and overburden the beautiful pink piggy flesh. I imagine evenly cooking a piece of meat this thick is difficult, yet not a single part of it was either undercooked or dry. A generous cap of fat was left on while grilling, to add moisture as well as a buttery flavor to the flesh. Sufficient to cut it off right before eating the thing. I quite appreciated the sides as well. A thick, golden-brown honey mustard sauce, not too sweet but with just the right balance between sweet, smokey and tangy, a great companion to the very subtly sweet but otherwise not too flavorful (more blessed in texture) pork. A roasted pineapple wedge on the side added a bit off freshness and, although I am generally not too great a fan of the pork-pineapple combo (a loathe the cheap, false vibe of hot pink plastic lei – pink flamingo tropical vacation which pineapples seem to always bring to a dish), in this case, with the savory tang of the honey mustard by its side, it was perfectly ok. I only wish it was grilled a tad longer and that the sugars on the surface of the fruit caramelized into golden brown lines. On the bottom of the fat little chop was a bright “salad” of thinly sliced potato and apple in a light citrus-mayonnaise. I thought this was a BIT much with the pineapple (either/or would’ve been preferable) as it pulled the pork in yet another direction, making the dish a little bit confusing. On its own the salad was nice, though, the potato firm and not overcooked, the apple slices crisp and refreshing. The pork only needs one tangy accessory besides the honey mustard, however, and I would’ve picked the roasted pineapple to be the one.