Tuesday, August 29, 2017

11 Westside [Hong Kong] - NEWS: LA's Taco King Esdras Ochoa opens Mexican in Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

  Chef Esdras Ochoa of the highly regarded Salazar and Mexicali Taco from Los Angeles,  was heard a couple of months ago to be opening up a Mexican joint in Hong Kong,  and naturally this got us all excited since this is long overdue as a missing piece of the jigsaw in our City...   11 Westside is due to open soon during early to mid September in Kennedy Town,  and luckily for me,  some visitors also flying in from LA to visit our city, as well as helping here to do some promotional work and photo shooting enlisted me to join. So I caught a quick preview of what is to follow here and what we could expect from future visits to this highly anticipated opening!

11 Westside,  on the 1st Floor of Kennedy Town Building in Hong Kong -
One of the most highly anticipated Mexican openings from L.A. in 2017,  I am not usually a foodie who tries to cover new openings,  since you have to be fair and give them leeway and time to develop as a proper kitchen team,  another reason simply because as of late I found too many of them priced out of reality's range compared to overseas restaurants but the food can still be ho hum...  yet for this special occasion I did carried for once an elevated interest to tag along with my connected friends,  since I always yearned for the day Hong Kong finally has access to a very decent Mexican joint of our own.   

Paloma Cocktail -
with Tequila, Grapefruit Juice, garnished with Lime and Salt. 
Friend's drink and it looks solid than overly fanciful.  A tick in my book. 

Ceviche of Prawns and Red Snapper cooked in Citrus -
Served with Avocado, Cucumber, Tomato, Olive Oil, Cilantro, and Chips.  When this arrived it looked simple,  but what distinguishes it already from other Mexican places in town lies beneath the surface,  as the treatment of the prawn chunks is almost more Asian technique inspired...  they are chopped as larger blocks and with cut slits to absorb in a well balanced citrusy marinade.  It's not as tangy sharp or citrus 'cooked' as many Latin American or Caribbean ceviches - retaining more raw prawn & fish texture and oceanic taste.

This Prawn and Red Snapper Ceviche is more on the raw side ..
For a City full of Sashimi lovers,  this approach could fare better than an overly cured acidic version

Tommy's Margarita -
With Tequila, Agave and Lime.  Ok this was a well balanced Margarita,  I was happy to begin on this cocktail for the preview night.  It's not zealously pretentious, despite being served slightly more bold yellow than most and in a shorter Tumbler or Old Fashioned glass. 

Pork & Beef Tacos -
Al Pastor Pork with Achiote & Pineapple,  a Central Mexican taco recipe based on Lebanese Shawarma spit roast and kebabs. Well cooked with bitey texture and flavoring,  there is no mistaken identity that this was going to be anything less than authentic Mexican spirit in it's seasoning.   Followed by a Taco of Carne Asada of grilled Prime USDA beef,  served finely chopped in this recipe instead of bladed like the usual steak version,  again it smelled and tasted proper Mexican.  No cloying sweetness or jarring store bought powder pungency,  the meat remain freshly moist from grilled to order service.  All were topped with Salsa Molcajete, Guacamole, Cilantro and Onions served on hand rolled Corn tortillas...

The Story:  Before "11 Westside" arrived...
I read somewhere Chef Esdras might re-invent part of the menu to be more toned down localized, asianized,  to suit locals taste buds.  I felt a chill crawling down my spine from reading that sentence,  because it was precisely what we didn't need anymore of in town - anything 'Confusionized' for customers.  We needed real,  regional Mexican food or at least West Coast style recipes...  Granted a Korean Galbi or a Korrito here and there is still something belonging to West Coast but at least traceable back in history and to its immigrants influence.  But as a foodie, and not necessarily a purist at that and I think I might also represent some of us in town,  there is no need to always create new food to suit locals, especially when we don't even have the original.  HK is one of the biggest International Dining Cities,  and we should be able to absorb in anything scarcer, traditional authentic even if it is an acquired taste to some!  By all means do adapt and change it later on for the larger crowd if that ultimately makes more business sense,  but there's no need to over react at the beginning. 

Echo Park Sweet Corn -
Baby sweet corn poached in Euro butter,  house Mayonessa,  Queso Anejo from Oaxaca, Cilantro, Lime and Tajin.  The recipe sounded like a typical grilled elote,  but using baby corns instead.  Whilst I really loved the smoky corns and the sauce coating,  my small worry is that some visitors to here could potentially view baby corns as a cheaper alternative to proper corn cobs.  At the end of the day it will depend on the selling price point,  which is yet to be finalized,  since this is part of the preview opening tasting menu for $600.

Hermosa Fish -
Red Snapper filet with Ancho Chile Aioli, Radish, Zesty Greens, Charred Lemon and served with Vegetables, Chilies and flour tortillas.  Wow this was gorgeous!!  The chili,  the marinade,  the seasoning were something you hardly experience in Hong Kong,  here you could smell the exotic flaky filet straight away with well penetrated flavors!   So far every dish that was coming out of the kitchen lived up to the promise and more,  and as an added bonus,  they were all cooked properly.  On the odd occasion another shop might finally nail the marination recipe right,  they might still fall short on the rough execution.  Not here,  despite being a newly trained kitchen which isn't even open yet!

Billiard Table room at the back -
I didn't had the opportunity to ask too many questions as we were eating within a squeezed time frame, before hurrying off to a plane,  but apparently there is a play area here, two separate bars,  and also outdoor and indoor dining spaces.  Will have to find out more next time when they finally open their doors to the public..

11 Westside is going to be Hot,  Literally.. 
We hear often far too many stories about promising New Openings,  and then when they finally open,  people fantasize upon the hype and rush in then walk out with their credit card limit 4 figures closer into the red, before they could even re-analyse the meal.  Quite often with hindsight, some meals could turn out as another "Are you even Serious, That was it..?" sort of experience.  And if imported under a chain restaurant group's umbrella,  sometimes we receive a dud or a compromised version of the real thing!  The hype sometimes subsides after a few months and in the height of things, you really wanted to tell your friends or speak out publicly that you actually thought the food was just mediocre anyway,  or when a venue finds another excuse to apportion blame on the high HK rental (then why opened it in the first place?),  therefore prices everything out of logical range for normal eaters to come back regularly and hence the business drops, especially once everyone has already posted that latest trendy dish pic on Instagram 3 months ago.   What we ate at 11 Westside was surprisingly flawless already despite being weeks before it's scheduled full fledged opening,  and we can't wait to return back.  If only we could secure a table when the phone finally welcomes public bookings!   Make a reservation soon people and remember to invite me to come along too..

Price:  TBA.  Above were some Individual Dishes from a Fixed Pre-Opening $600 Tasting Menu.  We had to leave before our Meal finished to catch a flight, unfortunately.
Food: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕  (Pre-Opening)

Address:  1/F The Hudson, 11 Davis St, Kennedy Town

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