Tuesday, November 10, 2009

SML @ Times Square

There have been much hype about this place recently and I can finally give this a try. First thing first, when I called in to book for a table, I was repeatedly being reminded within that 30 seconds conversation that I only have 1.5 hours to dine and must leave before a certain time! (of course unless I book like 8:30pm or 9:00pm then I MIGHT be able to sit longer!) What is wrong with restaurants nowadays? There are actually a few I can name on top of my head that impose a time limit for diners! I am not eating wonton noodles at some hawkers center for cry out loud, I am paying good money for a decent meal and I expect to enjoy them as long as I want! Anyhow, enough blah-ing from me at the moment and let's get on to the venue and food.

In addition to the interesting figure at the entrance, the main dining area was large and filled with three long wooden table like those school canteen bench. It somehow reminded me of the movie Harry Potter and the long dining table. And yes, due to the setup of the tables and seats, you will be sitting shoulder to shoulder with a stranger. (I think this setup created a certain confusion for wait staff when it comes to serving the right parties, a dedicated server must be assigned to minimize confusion)

While ordering, I noticed something that ... captured my attention. It was not the fact that the place offers Small, Medium and Large dishes for all items as its name SML suggested, it was the menu itself. The menu was bilingual, English and Chinese, but in Simplified Chinese ! I guess the Press Room Group which operates this restaurant has bigger plans ahead of them. Anyhow, the idea of offering small, medium and large dishes was not a new idea, some Chinese restaurants like Lei Garden has some offerings with such options. Nonetheless it was a good idea because there are people who like to try little of many things!

(1) French Fries (M)

I was actually expecting Press Room quality fries but it wasn't. Rather disappointed.

(2) Salon tartare (M)
Nicely presented indeed! Also, we can pick and choose the different garnishes to go with the salmon. The liquid was a lime juice which was actually a good mix. Of course I preferred the quail eggs!

(3) Caesar Salad (L)
Not surprises here as well but it was a refreshing salad to start with. A bit more dressing would be nice.

(4) Crispy Pork Belly + Red Cabbage-apple Coleslaw (M)
It was too fatty. The fatty layers occupied over 50% of the piece of meat! The flavor was a bit too strong and too salty as well. We finished the whole dish by separating the fat from the meat of course! One more thing, it was not served at optimal temperature in my opinion, a thumbs down. (I tried the item as soon as it was served already) Many items must have been semi prepared in one way or the other but they should try to maintain the food temperature as well.

(5) Spicy Lamb Kebab + Mint Yoghurt + Onion Salad (M)
A decent surprise indeed. Rich in flavor and meat was tender. However, it was the food temperature that bothered me. Not of optimal temperature for sure! I think it was the fact that most dishes we ordered were served all at once within minutes of each other! (More on this topic below) Anyhow, I love lamb so I can eat as it without the mint yoghurt, give both ways a try.

(6) Grilled US Hanger Steak + Chips (M)
The steak was pre-cut !!!?? I want my steak as a whole piece and I like to cut it myself! There were too much sauce all over the steak and it was at room temperature! (I tried the steak after the crispy pork belly as soon as both items were served) The sauce was very strong that it overtook the beef flavor. Although the beef was tender, the overall impression was disappointing indeed.

(added 12 Nov 2009: thanks to Babedoplhin, now I learn that Hanger Steak is usually served pre-sliced, am learning new things everyday, yeah! Much remain to be learned! )

(7) Seared Seabass (M)
Maybe it was difficult to pre-cooked fish so it was rather delightful and served at optimal temperature. Very flaky and tender, a well prepared dish. The sauce was light, just enough bring out the fish taste of the seabass. Also, the skin was very crispy as well!

(8) Pot of Chocolate + Chocolate mousse + Fudge (M)
Interesting presentation with chewy fudge cubes on top and chocolate mousse at the bottom. It was rather sweet even with the cream but a very nice dessert to end the meal if you are a chocolate lover like I am.

(9) Caramel Profiteroles + butterscotch sauce (M)

I did not try any but it reminded me of Beard Papa's cream puffs. It looked sweet and according to my friends, it was very sweet indeed with the butter scotch sauce.

One other thing I like to mention ONCE AGAIN was that the food/dishes came almost all at once! The problem? Food temperature! Some items were already served way under the optimal temperature and leaving all the food on the table just worsen the problem. Plus it made me feel like we were being rushed! If you are to come and give it a try, order the items one after another for optimal temperature. It was interesting to find the following words on the menu as well which acted as a disclaimer for my above mentioned compliant: "each dish is served when ready." So ... the serving order of dishes can be quite random since each dish is to be served when ready. Interesting isn't it!

  • Salon tartare - the do-it-yourself (DIY) elements of the garnishes
  • Seared Seabass - finally something of optimal temperature! flaky and tender
  • Spicy Lam Kebab - tender and rich in flavors (but not at optimal temperature when served)
  • Grilled US Hanger Steak - too much sauce, sauce too strong and was served @ room temperature + PRE-SLICED!(thanks to Babedoplhin, now I learn that Hanger Steak is usually served pre-sliced, learning new things everyday, yeah!)
  • Crispy Pork Belly - too fatty with too many fatty layers
  • the school canteen seating arrangement might not be for everyone
Avg Spending: HKD 200 - 300 per person

Shop 1105, 11/F, Times Square,
1 Matheson Street, CWB
Tel: 852 2577 3444

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Jin said...

hey harry potter, those profiteroles look sickeningly sweet. i think i will get diabetes just looking at them! that lamb kebab looks delicious though...

Jason said...

@Jin: I got sugar high from the profiteroles! ... abracadabra ... abracadabra ... abracadabra

Lucine said...

i came across a relevant article about sml in 'timeout hk' just yesterday :D

FriendzCentury said...

It is so frustrating when one is told by a restaurant to dine within a restricted time. They should get their act together, as it's so off putting.

KennyT said...

Hey mate, I'm sorry to hear that the service is not up to par, it sounds kinda pushy to me as well.

I learn from the top right hand corner of your blog that you're gonna blog about 1/5 nuevo, I'm so looking forward to it!!! ;) ~wink~ ~wink~

Jason said...

@lucine: thanks for dropping by! Yeah, S|M|L has been under the spotlight recently but only if it can keep on improving the various aspects of its services and overall food quality that it will last in my opinion.

Jason said...

@FriendzCentury: Thanks for dropping by my blog! Not only was it frustrating, a so-called friendly reminder of a time limit together with all food items being severed all at once really ... annoyed me.

I heard from my friend in London that NOBU @ London gives out 2 hours max! (to be confirmed of course) ... sigh

Jason said...

@KennyT: yes, the serving sequence .. o wait, no such sequence at all because all dishes were served all at once! sigh ...

... HAHA ... I will work on the 1/5 nuevo very soon!

Greentea00 said...

oh u finally tried..well i agreed with u about the temperature of the food..it seems crazy to me that i had to try so hard and fast to finish everything at once in order to clear out the space for more dishes to come..so...
i think i like the restaurant in general..but not the dessert.
harry potter setting..haha..yes ..somehow most of the new restaurant these days like to have these classroom setting...trying to be the napa-italian style..let's see how long the trend will last in hk here..

Jason said...

@Greentea00: you know, the rushing makes sense or at least matches the classroom + canteen theme I guess haha ...

Jodi said...

This restaurant seems to deserve a very low grade! The simplified Chinese charcter is a bad idea indeed. Is this some kind of a trendy thing? I don't know. I think traditional Chinese character is a beauty in itself and I also do not want to be remined too much of Motherland....

The limited eating hours is really crazy. Seems like restaurant nowadays is operating to their convenience only. Is Nobu at London also doing this? I went there some years back and cannot remember such rules. Anyway, food was really mediocre that I would never want to visit Nobu at anywhere on earth anymore.

Jason said...

@Jodi: The use of Simplified Chinese on the menu can be a sign that the group is planning a move into the Mainland. Perhaps a way to educate diners about simplified Chinese? o well ...

Babedolphin said...

I also agree the Food quality here as well as serving temp begs for improvement. I can still remember my 'lacking foie-gras' taste chicken confit thingy..... or the overly Fatty pork as you've described. I reckon lean vs fat of 70:30 ratio is max. Unfortunately some people love them mostly fat in China or HK haha! :P

With Hanger Steak - its normally served pre-cut because its served along the grain, as opposed to prime cuts like Rib-eye or Sirloin. It works both ways! Some shops THINK they're doing u a service by pre-cutting it. I personally don't like it either its turns real cold!

I don't normally mind if some shops impose a 90 minute limit to be honest, but at this particular style of shop and using Simplified Chinese characters? They could go f themselves keke. Rather go to Press Room or Cheese Room lol! :P

Jason said...

@Babedolphin: Thanks for the new information about Hanger Steak, I should have done more research before each post! I am learning new things everyday. Thanks indeed :)

Yeah, The Press Room is much better!

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