Where to eat Hong Kong: Saam
One of Greedy Girl’s earliest exposures to ‘world cuisine’ came about in bustling Hong Kong. It seemed a safe bet; Chinese food is as much a staple in Australia as a meat pie.
But this extraordinary city is full of extraordinary sights – and taste sensations. A first visit to Hong Kong is sensory overload – the lights, the heat, the humidity, the smells and … the food. It’s not surprising that many of the world’s top chefs have opened venues here – the extraordinary Amber helmed by Richard Ekkebus, the avant garde talents of Pierre Gagnaire, the mastery of Joel Robuchon, the wizardry of Alvin Leung Jr at Bo Innovation – just to name a few. It’s hardly surprising that their success has facilitated the next generation of chefs, many of them home grown, who are now serving up gastronomic delights. One such experience, not to be missed, is Saam.
This is the brainchild of Hong Kong-born, Australian raised owner/chef Patrick Dang. Delightfully he came out to visit us at the end of an absolutely stellar meal and his command of the Australian vernacular was another delight! It was almost like being home … almost!
Hong Kong Island boasts some rather hilly terrain. Visiting our dear friend FullAsAGoog, now living in the city, we convened a meeting of the Clean Plate Club after scaling the very steep streets in the Soho area of Central (not far from the bustle of the Lan Kwai Fong bar district). Arriving at the door of a small, moodily lit establishment in Graham Street we were met with a cheery welcome and a dramatic dining room, relieved by brightly coloured pop art on the walls and an open kitchen at the far end. We took up a very comfortable spot next to the front window, ordered drinks and perused the menu.
The chef has cooked all over the world and his menu showcases his many influences. Having eaten a power of food on this trip, we opted not to take the tasting menu, but instead chose a variety of dishes we each could sample. There’s clearly a lot of care taken in the presentation of the dishes and our affable waiter’s descriptions were very detailed. Enthusiasm abounds here and we heartily tucked in.
First up for Greedy Girl was described on the menu as ‘diver scallop’. Indeed, there are some perfectly-cooked scallops nestled in this dish but it’s fairly dominated by slabs of very soft iberico pork belly. Sitting on a bed of crushed peas and dressed with both sunchokes and artichokes it was a delight – but the economy of the initial description gives one a different expectation of what’s about to arrive.
FullAsAGoog took the milk-fed veal tataki. This was an incredibly pretty plate of food, topped by crispy potato straws and little dots of various emulsions. The potato gave the dish some texture and FullAsAGoog commented everything went well together. Greedy Girl often wonders why eating veal is considered so contentious by many diners, given that lamb doesn’t attract the same qualms. Ne’er mind.
Gluttonous husband chose the Tasmanian salmon, pictured at the top of this post. This was a wonderfully light and fresh tasting dish where the lightly smoked salmon was dressed with oyster cream, capers and cucumber juice, as well as an array of very appetising-looking edible flowers. Delish!
And so to main courses. FullAsAGoog chose one of the house specialties, provencal pigeon. The presence of pigeon on the tasting menu was one of the reasons Greedy Girl steered towards making a la carte selections because she’s not a fan of pigeon. Everywhere else she’s tried it – from Bordeaux to San Francisco – the flavours have been too strong, too gamey for her liking. However, this dish gave her cause to reflect. Dressed with corella pear, cabbage, hazelnuts and a foie gras sauce, the meat was soft perfection. Wow! What a clever chef. Greedy Girl thoroughly enjoyed her taste and FullAsAGoog was well pleased with the dish.
Gluttonous husband was in a fishy mood. He took the Atlantic turbot. Again, very prettily presented, the turbot was combined with langoustines, a white bean veloute, sancho pepper and a zucchini ragout. A great medley of flavours that all worked brilliantly and the fish was cooked to perfection.
Greedy Girl was in the mood for steak. She took the Blackmore wagyu with a parmesan potato fry, vegetables and umami gravy. The meat was tender, the wedge of potato very tasty and the dish very, very accomplished.
Time for dessert. Both FullAsAGoog and Greedy Girl took the chocolate (no surprises there). This was a pretty assortment of textures and flavours, with the odd pop from a raspberry and crunch from caramel toffee.
Gluttonous husband took a strawberry and meringue confection. Again, nice flavours and textures but a tad sweet for his liking.
And we were done. We paid up and prepared to head into the Hong Kong night for a couple of drinks. The chef came out to have a quick chat with us and FullAsAGoog told him she’d be encouraging more visitors to make the climb. We all felt as though we’d unearthed a real treasure.
Apparently Saam is the Afrikaans word for ‘together’. The team here definitely has its act together – food of extraordinary quality and finesse, engaging and warm service in a fun and vibrant space.
51 Graham Street Central