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Off the Beaten Track  


There is never trouble locating food through the overlapping networks of streets - the selections of cuisines and repertoires within each of them, dazzle the eyes and delight the appetite for those who love to eat. Yet conventional wisdom reminds us good food requires some searching, and we have just located a few off the beaten tracks, despite being in popular dining districts, many may have trouble finding the exact location, but once you're in, it will be worth all the trouble.

Locating Brickhouse was a problem, even for ones who are familiar with the Central landscape. Through the streets filled with bars and restaurants, it took a keen eye to find the dark alley leading up to the newly opened Mexican restaurant, which is lit up not only by the celebration of Mexican fare, but also by a Tequila Wall on one side with an open kitchen where the staff prepare your food, including house-made flour tortillas for the tacos.

Manning the kitchen is Chef Austin Fry, whose culinary experience extends across the world from the US to opening his own restaurant in Amsterdam. Street Foods are essentially part of the Mexican culture and Chef Fry is bringing the essence of these food items to Hong Kong, and to show that Mexican has more than Tequila and Salsa to offer. Starting with ingredients, limes are one of the staples in creating the taste of Mexican cuisine, as Chef Fry uses only the Mexican variety for a sweeter, more rounded flavor. Tortillas are made in house with corn flour and wheat flour. An extra sprinkling of corn flour on the finished tortillas give the flatbread a more rustic, gritty texture that reminds the chef of Mexico.

Starting with Tacos, there are various selections at Brickhouse from the sauce to the filling. The "Fish Taco" is filled with pieces of deep-fried snapper dipped in a batter made with Carta Blanca, a Mexican beer. The golden brown pieces of fish fill the taco with a handful of cabbage, corn, and grilled jicama for a delightful crunch. With the addition of avocado, salsa fresca, and chipotle aioli, the combination of habanero chilies' fresh hit from the salsa fresca matches well with the smoky depth of the chipotle aioli, without compromising the sweet taste of fish.

Meat lovers should try the "RibEye Taco", in which a rib eye steak is thinly sliced and served on a tortilla with fire-roasted tomato salsa, onions, and Manchego cheese. The fire-roasted tomato salsa accentuates the sweetness which works wonders to this beef-filled taco.

Grilled corn is the epitome of the street food culture of Mexico city. Here at Brickhouse the "Mexican Style Street Corn" are corn chunks roasted until the sugar in the corn kernels caramelizes. The corn chunks are slathered with a chili mayonnaise, house-made tangy Mexican Crema, chopped cilantro and Parmesan cheese. While the addition of Parmesan seemed unorthodox, it works well on the corn especially when the thin flakes of Parmesan melts lightly into the creamy dressings, bringing a savory tickle to the roundness of sweet corn.

Brickhouse serves a twist on the traditional French Fries, as Chef Fry presents "Deep Fried Beetroot Fries". Many discounted their liking to beetroot because of canned beets, but not these, as we find that chunks of beets are coated with flour and cornmeal and deep fried until the coating is crisp and inside is a perfect puce, oozing juices in each bite. The house-made mayonnaise is a good dipping sauce, but we find that the beetroot fries fare just as well without it.

Tucked inside a commercial building is a new Japanese addition, appropriately named "Hidden Kitchen". This Japanese restaurant serves only a small selection of simple homely dishes. Notable dishes include the appetizer "Potato with Anchovy Mayonnaise". Served simply as a potato salad, potato chunks are cooked until they are fork tender and dressed with an anchovy mayonnaise and served cold. The cold potato salad is creamy and soft and yet the anchovy flavor is very mild.

The selection of mains are quite limited at Hidden Kitchen. The "Homemade Cheese Hamburger" consists of a large meat patty topped with cheese and baked until the cheese has melted slightly. The hamburger patty is served with a sweet meaty sauce and a choice of spaghetti or rice on the side. The meat is loosely packed into a patty, and each bite is a burst of meat juices all on its own. The meaty brown sauce is on the sweeter side, yet pairs well with the hamburger.

One of the signatures of Hidden Kitchen, this "Beef Cheek Stew" is a product of slow-cooking over the course of 30 hours. Beef Cheeks are simmered in vegetable-rich sauce until the beef becomes soft and tender that melts right when you bite.

The star of "Hidden Kitchen" is the Omelet with rice (With Tomato sauce, as pictured). The Japanese Omelet rice is a rarity to come by in Hong Kong, and yet here at Hidden Kitchen an Omelet is pan-fried to top the rice. The omelet, uniformly golden and shimmering with soft eggy bits, seems simple to make but in fact, requires dedication and the right timing to cook the omelet until just set on the outside and jiggly and melting on the inside. This one scores high points for being exactly that. We prefer the tomato sauce instead of the demiglaze sauce for the eggs, as the slight tartness of the tomato sauce cuts through the richness of the omelet.

Hidden Kitchen opens every day for lunch and dinner. Reservations are strongly recommended.

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