August 1, 2010

Update from the Lab Cafeteria

I know, I know. I'm falling behind on my Lab reports.

Look, there's a lot of work involved relocating a cutting-edge research facility. Plus I'm in a new sphere of influence and much in demand. If it's not this panel, it's that presentation.

But I'm aware of what my priorities should be and I'll soon have myriad reports to deliver.

In the meanwhile, I've been busy looking for a chef for the Lab's cafeteria. As you can imagine, this is an important detail in the Lab's operations. It's not just anyone who can whip up a paring menu for orange wines after all.

So I've been roaming the back streets and alleys of Hong Kong, looking for someone with the right skill set and disposition. My search carried me to ABC Kitchen, which isn't so much a restaurant as it's a food stall. On the uppermost floor of the Queen Street Cooked Food Market in Sheung Wan.

Whatever end of the grocery shopping spectrum Whole Foods is on, Cooked Food and Wet Markets are at the other end. The U.V. to the Whole Food's Infra-red. The ground floor is typically populated by half naked men who are cutting the heads off chickens or bashing huge fish into bloody pulp and slightly resentful looking women sitting next to fresh produce that might have been grown on Mars (dragon fruit?). If there is a second floor, it's usually a mixed bag of service-oriented stalls (shoe repair, dry cleaning) and small stores. The top floor is where the Cooked Food section always is. It often looks like a backwater Bingo Parlor sponsored by Marlboro.

So my expectations were low.

But the ABC Kitchen was sensational. They have a wine list that would be unexceptional except for the fact that finding a wine list at a Cooked Food Market is enormously exceptional. They pour a House Red and a House White that changes with supply, and I thought that a charming detail.

Joe the Owner was trained at M on the Fringe, which managed for 20 years to be Hong Kong's hippest restaurant. Joe loves having his own gig. And he seems to really enjoy cooking for the grandmothers who hang out at the Cooked Food Market.

So I am not confident I will be able to lure him away.

But I'll need to come back several times to try.

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