Thursday, November 19, 2009

El Greco

When it comes to alfresco dining, there are only a handful of such restaurants in Hong Kong. It might have to do with the humidity and heat during the summer time or perhaps pollution or lack of financially feasible real estate. I was introduced to this restaurant on my friend's birthday lunch during one Sunday afternoon few weeks ago when the temperature started to drop below 30C. The place is not the easiest to find because it is tugged somewhere in Ap Lei Chau . For me it was a definite occasion to make it all the way to there.

It was alfresco alright but not exactly I imagined it. The outdoor dining area was basically in the middle of a pathway between the Hung Shing Rest Garden. So we were facing facing the park. The indoor section was nicely decorated with some Mediterranean touches. There aren't many authentic Mediterranean cuisine in Hong Kong and I was kind of excited when scanning over the menu, hoping to feel satisfied at the end of the meal. While waiting for all my friends to arrive, I ordered the Kronenbourg 1664 to chill myself down from the walk / exercises I did in search for this place only minutes ago.

(1) Mezze Platter (Humus, meltzanosalata, with tabouleh, tarama and pita bread)
Humus dips! Yum!! It was a great way to start the meal. Among the various sauces / dips and bite size items, I like the tarama dip which was made of carp roe. Together with the pita bread ... hummm ... wonderful!

(2) Keftedes (Minced lamb meat balls in herb tomato sauce and cumin topped with yogurt)
The herb flavors were very strong and complex but the texture of the meat balls were not bad, slightly chewy as well.

(3) Bakaliaro Keftedes (Cod Croquettes on cream garlic sauce with lemon)
A very creamy garlic sauce indeed with a rather strong flavors to it. The cod croquettes were filled with mashed potatoes as they should but there were only traces of cod and its flavor in there unfortunately.

(4) Oxtapodaki (Grilled Octopus salad with steamed potato topped with olive oil)
Octopus was freshly grilled but overly chewy! Not much of a salad if you ask me; a little more generous would not hurt in my opinion.

(5) Lambraki (grilled whole seabass with steam lemon potatoes and thyme)
The savory smell can be detected meters away with the fish on the sizzling hot plate. flavor wise it was good but the meat was a bit too dry to my liking. I like my grilled fish the way it was served, with the lemon juice. For some reasons, I enjoy de-boning fish, it is fun!

(6) Sardelles Sth Skara (Grilled sardines in vine leaves marinated with lemon and fresh oregano)
The grilled sardines were more moist than the seabass, perhaps because it was wrapped in a sense. I still preferred the seabass because it was more meaty and seemed to have a strong fish flavors compared to this one.

(7) Pork Souvlaki
Too chewy and just a few tiny pieces of them!? Not suited for sharing. Flavors were alright but meat was just too chewy! It took quite a long time before it was served as well!

(8) Pasxhati (Leg of lamb slow roasted and grilled with bulgur)
A delightful surprise indeed. Not only was it rich and deep flavor, the texture was just right, tenderly chewy! We ordered two dishes at the end.

(9) Bifteki sth skara (grilled Merguez Burger with pita bread, cucumber, red onion and sour cream)
Interesting looking burger but rather hard to share. The meat patty was surprising tender and rich in flavors, lamb to be exact. Merguez can be made with lamb, beef or mixture of both according to wiki and the one we had was made with lamb. I think it was the sour cream that I really liked and it was a great match in terms of the marriage of flavors.

(10) Kotopoulo Pastitsatha apo tin kerkyra (clay pot chicken roasted in fragrant tomato sauce)
This dish can served up to two people as suggested or in our case, over 10 people! The clay pot was huge and contained a whole chicken. The chicken was heavily seasoned but slightly too dry. The rice was alright but not enough flavors, quite a bit of contrast compared with the chicken itself.

  • Alfresco (sort of)
  • Pasxhati- wonderfully flavored and the texture was just right, not overly chewy with slight tenderness.
  • Although alfresco, every now and then you will see a lady with a garbage trolley pass by the tables + location location location!
  • Lambraki - a bit too dry
  • Kotopoulo Pastitsatha apo tin kerkyra - chicken a bit too dry but very rich in flavors
Avg Spending: HKD 200 - 300 per person

El Greco
G/F, 5 Wai Fung Street,
Ap Lei Chau Main Street, Ap Lei Chau
Tel: 852 2328 2138

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KK said...

Nice post!

I love how you can find virtually almost any kind of ethnic and international cuisine in Hong Kong. This wasn't the case back in the 1980s. Although I wonder if there's any authentic Mexican food in HK?

Unknown said...

it's been a while since my last venture to ap lei chau...

those Bakaliaro Keftedes (Cod Croquettes on cream garlic sauce with lemon) are calling my name...

Jason said...

@KK: Thanks! That's the beauty of Hong Kong, you name it you got it! The authenticity is questionable but at least something close! As for Mexican food, I usually go for Cafe Iguana but it is a rather contemporary Mexican joint, I heart Mexican food so I am in search of some a more authentic outlet as well and hope I can find one soon ... there are actually quite a few in Hong Kong, I guess it is time for me to give them all a try!

Jason said...

@Rita: with its location, it is a venture indeed! Are they calling your name? How come I am hearing my name being called instead? HAHA ... Yum Yum!

sophia said...

I came upon El Greco because I occasionally shop at the fish market. I told myself how appropiate it is that Ap Lei Chau was a fishing village and there it is - a small Greek bistro. I had visions that a Greek chef came upon the fishing village and single-handedly started the restaurant. While the pricing was a bit steep, I rationalized that it is good to support small start-ups. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that it is run by the group that owns Cococabana in DWB. This is the same ultra savvy group who excels in extracting maximum income by operating restuarants in low-rent locations but charge a high-street price. Its food is not bad (far better than Cococabana) but I felt betrayed. It is naive of me to consider cooking as an art form and chefs as artists. Restaurant operators are businessmen afterall.

Jason said...

@Sophia: My anticipation turned to slight disappointment after the meal. Your vision that a Greek chef came upon the fishing village and single-handedly started the restaurant remains as a vision unfortunately. One thing I did not mention was that over the 3.5 hours lunch we had on that Sunday afternoon, we were basically the only table there with a single couple dropping by for a quick lunch in between.

It amazes me how they can survive with such low business volume on a Sunday afternoon, perhaps balancing revenue off from Cococabana? I am yet to try Cococabana but should I?

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