On Wednesday night, you would have found me sharing a veteran leather couch with complete strangers, in the midst of a transcontinental food experience.
I say transcontinental because for one night only Sense 99 in Central hosted a “Pop-Up” food event with upcoming Mexican restaurant: Brick House. I was invited by my friend Coco, who was promoting for the event, to come mingle, drink, taste and blog…
Before I continue, I have to say this was my first food “Pop-Up”, and needed to be explained exactly what it was…
Here’s what I learned: Pop-Ups are when a restaurant or food-seller of some kind take their kitchen to another venue to serve a limited number of people for a limited amount of time.
Some restaurants hold Pop-Ups away from their establishment occasionally whilst others exist solely through Pop-Ups… Wednesday night was the first kind: a new restaurant that, cleverly, made use of the Pop-Up format as a form of marketing.
The entrance to Sense 99 is fairly indescript and run-down chic, it’s the kind of place you’d need to know about through a friend, or most would be wary. It’s not a bar or a club… it’s a space where art, music, and (sometimes) food come together.
As I wobbled up the tiny stairs leading up to the first floor of Sense 99, I feared for the my future cocktail-infused self who would eventually have to navigate back down.
The first floor was packed with an after-work executive meets HK ArtWalk walker crowd. Working relentlessly behind the make-shift bar were bartenders serving up 3 Brick House cocktails to a very thirsty mob of minglers.
Drink 1: Bloody Maria
My first sip packed a punch. Not shy with the booze, this cocktail was vodka-heavy and light on the tomato juice. According to the menu there was also miso paste and chipotle for spice, but there wasn’t enough non-vodka liquids to get the effect and taste. Pepper, lemon and a generous amount of coriander (my favourite herb!) were thrown in for good measure. Personally though, I prefer a thick and complex Bloody Mary.
Drink 2: Cubano
Wow! This drink was very memorable for me, from the frothy top layer to the air-dried pineapples slowly marinating at the bottom of your glass as you drink. Served stylishly with a very large single ice cube, leaf and air-dried pineapple as garnish, the Cubano’s combination of sweet (vanilla liquer, pineapple juice), smoked (tobacco-infused tequila) and sour (lemon) was strong and successful.
Drink 3: Los Cabos Lemonade
Not nearly as flashy as the Cubano, this girly-looking drink’s main flavor was actually red bell pepper – giving an unexpected savory-sweet taste. Refreshing but quite plain and light on the alcohol when compared to the Bloody Maria or the Cubano.
After trying all 3 drinks on offer, I made my way to the second floor (up equally perilous stairs). Darkly lit and scattered with musical instruments, well-used couches and chairs, the second floor served as both kitchen and canteen during the Pop-Up. On the balcony was Chef Austin Fry and his team preparing a set meal of:
– Mexican Street-Style Corn (covered in chili mayonnaise and cheese: sinfully perfect)
– Ceviche (a refreshing, tongue-cleansing combination of citrus fruits and seafood)
– Tostada (the token deep-fried seafood number)
– 2x Tacos (beef and pork with exotic yet familiar flavours. Served in delicious pan-fried corn tacos, almost like prata!)
Chef Fry (a great name for a Chef, don’t you think?) explained, as he served me, that he’d travelled extensively before coming to Hong Kong and had spent time living in Mexico City. This is where his love for Mexican food was born and now, he wants to bring Mexican cuisine to the HK scene.
Never having been to Mexico myself, my idea of Mexican food revolves primarily around the type I can find (and afford): Tex-Mex.
Brick House’s approach, from my impression of the Pop-Up, is to introduce new textures, tastes and combinations as well as present some of the Tex-Mex standards (like the taco) in an urban meets authentic way. Hong Kongers used to Wan Chai’s Coyote or Soho’s El Taco Loco Tex-Mex styles, like myself, now have a new and undeniably more interesting alternative..
[edit: 25th April 2012: p.s. found some pics of me at the event on their official facebook album…]