Afterthoughts – Tapas, American style, at Stone Nullah
On Mondays, I go through the ritual of planning my restaurant list for the upcoming weekend (yes, I am very “forward thinking”), and on such a Monday not so long ago, I happened upon the newest baby of IHM Group. Stone Nullah, appropriated named after Stone Nullah Lane which the restaurant is situated on, is the newest venture by the organic-focused group that brought us such popular spots like Linguini Fini, Posto Publico and the home delivery service Homegrown Food.
When we arrived at the venue, it was so new that they didn’t even have a restaurant sign posted outside, so it was a scavenger hunt trying to find the place on Google map. Finally, after being seated at the back of the restaurant beside the glass panelled kitchen, we were introduced to the “tapa-style” format of this all American menu.
The unique menu is divided into rather clinical food groups such as “swine”, “bovine” and “crustaceans”. Our server was very charming, and very excited about explaining the concept behind the dishes. All dishes are meant to be shared, and come in tapa-sized portions. The concept definitely made choosing a lot easier, since we wanted to try almost the entire menu!
While waiting for our first order to arrive, I sneaked around to the kitchen and snapped a few shots of the delicious organic goodies in preparation.
We decided to go light and healthy at first, and build up to a crescendo of gluttony. So, first up, we ordered the rather unimaginative butter lettuce with homemade bacon, potatoes, Stilton, chives, dressed in a ranch sauce. The dish was rather bland and I wished we’d picked something with more star quality.
A bit of a redeemer on the vegetable front – asparagus alla piancha, seated in dollops of “crustacean butter”. This was good, but then again, grilled asparagus is always delicious. The crustacean butter added some umami flavours.
Smoked squid salad with pickled sea beans (what?), citronette, sundried tomatoes and fresh herbs. The squid was sweet and tender, and the array of pickled vegetables added texture and sharpness.
(The dining area was very dark, and I was only equipped with my iPhone, so some of the shots are a bit muddled)
I am a sucker for fat and carbs, so the mac n’ cheese with sharp cheddar had me weak at the knees. The gooey pasta arrived at the table crowned with an egg yolk, which was quickly tossed into the pasta. The pasta was rich and flavourful – the only indiscrepancy was that the pasta was really shell pasta rather than macaroni. But really, this was a minor detail.
This dish strongly resonates of the American South, and I almost asked for grits to go with this, “uh-huh”. Chicken fried tenderloin with sausage gravy – I was glad this came in tapas-size, or else I would have been in trouble.
Sometimes, a good menu item is in it’s name, and the crispy pig’s head definitely turns a few heads. Despite the name, this is actually quite a tame dish made terrine-style from the meat on a swine’s head, then fried on both sides for that crispy golden goodness. The dish was deliciously flavourful, and complimented well with the accompanying creamy lobster salad.
Gluttony at its finest – foie gras burgers with sweet caramelized onion marmalade. Fat and starch, enough said. I could have had these two little sliders all to myself, but had to be “social” and share.
Like 50 Cents once rapped “I love you like a fat kid loves cake”, the Fat Kid Cake at Stone Nullah sure awakened the fat kid in all of us. It came to the table like a slice of birthday cake, complete with glowing candle. Layers of decadent cheesecake, creme brûlée, red velvet and chocolate mousse makes up this cake, with a surprise childhood favourite added in for that extra special kick. I’m talking Pop Rocks! Alchemy at its best – that pleasant firework of crack, sizzle and pop brings me back to my playground days, when I almost cried when trying my first Pop Rocks because I thought it would literally explode in my mouth!
Verdict: Fabulous venue, very casual yet with an undertone of sophistication. The menu was fun and whimsical, and I will definitely be back for more. But perhaps during a lunch time setting. The music, plus the crowd, were unbearably loud during dinner hour that I felt as if I was in a club – I only needed a drink spilled on me to complete the “clubbing” experience. It was so loud that our dinner group had to shout at the top of our lungs to hear each other, which was a major minus to an overall pleasant experience. So perhaps treat this place like you’re going to the F1 and bring some earplugs? My ears are ringing just thinking about that experience.
G/F, 69 Stone Nullah Lane
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel: 3182 0128