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1/F Wo On Building, 8-13 Wo On Lane, Central

Common Room, Prive Group’s new gastropub venture, does exactly what it says on the tin:  ‘classic, contemporary and molecular cocktails’, paired with ‘world-inspired’ tapas.  I suppose with such a glorified menu of generalities, it’s not hard for whatever they produce to fit their rather abstract incarnation of a culinary bill.  Although the notion of ‘global cuisine’, ‘global food’, or ‘world-inspired’ might seem anathema to foodie purists or, on the flip side, like a backpedaling restaurant strategy to cop-out from any serious food philosophy, at the end of the day I don’t believe Common Room really cares, and I guess neither do I.  It is the Common Room of Lan Kwai Fong; anything goes after hours.

From my experience on a Friday night: drinks come first, food second, and when you’re situated smack bang just off the strait and narrow of Lan Kwai Fong – next to good ol’ grimey Baby Buddha, Oysters Bar with cheap, full-of-regret Long Island Ice Teas, and the amphitheater with artsy, hemp-hooved hippies who’d rather sit in the humidity drinking their Sols at whatever pace they please thank you very much – well, you’d be stupid not to.  And the food that was served complimented our libations particularly well, in that drunken “damn, this is good munch, and shit! Is that truffle?” kind of way.

In all, Common Room is just far too casual, far too fun and far too well priced for a Central joint, to pass any damning judgement.  I know: shock, horror! A chic new gastropub in Central that actually takes reservations, makes you full, and doesn’t turn your wallet skinny?!  Hong Kong, I think I heard the food cherubs singing hallelujah! OK, fine – I would have, if Common Room hadn’t killed my earbuds with the incessant, loud, drunken chatter and that sick Funktion One soundsystem.

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G/F, 3 Thomson Road, Wanchai

This Japanese crab restaurant, situated on a quiet corner on Thomson Road, offers something few restaurants in Hong Kong can; a gustatory journey singling out three exceptionally sweet crab species flown in fresh from Japan, without letting you leave until you realise absolutely the true meaning of gastronomic hedonism.  Ceasing our hunger may have been a priority at the start of that night – a state that must first and foremost be satisfied, I do not argue there.  However, after a course of sweet and succulent grilled King Taraba crab legs with Kani-su, or crab vinegar, and a third course of crispy tempura claws and a Matcha (green tea) salt, and a shabu shabu set featuring various joints of the crab to be plunged into a hot ponzu-like bath, finally to end the crab “nose-to-tail” eating with a fifth course of crab roe rice.. well, the state of being full was almost a non sequitur.  The biological urge to nourish ourselves was quickly passed over and replaced, almost just as naturally, by a decadently bent motivation to pleasure our palates with crab, crab and more crab.

Kanizen keeps one eye on the traditional, and the other eye on the future – but both are on the culinary ball.  A first impression of the front exterior – defined, clean lines, dark woods and elegant block signage with no windows – admittedly, all seems rather solemn.  And then, one press of a button outside slides the large wooden panel back, revealing a foyer featuring a concrete pool of fresh Japanese crab varieties – Matsuba, Taraba, Kegari; what was once solemn now becomes decor meticulousness exuding sexiness via seafood.  Another automated wooden panel opens to the main dining section, with a U-shaped bar for crepuscular foodies like Andrew and I to sit and be allured by all manners of crustacean temptations.  We went for Mr. Big: the King crab, or Taraba (鱈場蟹).

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