Hong Kong Food Bloggers Never Write Bad Reviews

That’s one of the first things I was thinking while reading this hilarious takedown by the NY Times of Guy Fieri’s latest restaurant in New York.

Hong Kong food bloggers (at least most of the English language ones) are not visiting restaurants anonymously, as a paying customer might.  They are generally writing their reviews based on invitations from the restaurant or tasting sessions held for the media.  (I’ve heard tell that some of these bloggers actually call restaurants to ask/beg/threaten for a free meal.)  However, real food critics go to restaurants anonymously so that they are treated the same as any other customer, pay for their meal, and often revisit the same spot more than once before finally writing a publishing a review.  Meanwhile, the English language magazines in HK will criticize restaurants to some extent, but a one-star review is extremely rare, since they’re not about to alienate potential (or current) advertisers.  About the only place that consistently published negative reviews was this guy, who stopped just over a year ago.

Anyway, Pete Wells has written this review of Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, located in Times Square.  I don’t think the review will matter to the success of the restaurant.  Guy Fieri is a celebrity chef and the people who go to Times Square will be mostly star-struck tourists who’ve watched him on TV and never look at the New York Times.

Be that as it may, here are some tasty nuggets from the review, which is set as a series of questions to Fieri, starting with wondering if he’s ever actually eaten there:

Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex? When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?

Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are? If you hadn’t come up with the recipe yourself, would you ever guess that the shiny tissue of breading that exudes grease onto the plate contains either pretzels or smoked almonds? Did you discern any buttermilk or brine in the white meat, or did you think it tasted like chewy air?

Why is one of the few things on your menu that can be eaten without fear or regret — a lunch-only sandwich of chopped soy-glazed pork with coleslaw and cucumbers — called a Roasted Pork Bahn Mi, when it resembles that item about as much as you resemble Emily Dickinson?

Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?

Does this make it sound as if everything at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar is inedible? I didn’t say that, did I?

Is the shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it, or don’t eat it, supposed to be a representation in sugar and eggs of the experience of going insane?

Okay, Hong Kong food bloggers, it’s your turn.


How Much Money Do You Need in Hong Kong?

From the SCMP, a survey by Royal Skandia claims that HKers need to earn at least HK$1.5 million (that’s roughly US$195,000) per year (HK$125,000 per month) in order to be happy.  “The survey also showed more than 80 per cent of Hongkongers believed a certain level of income could bring them happiness.”

The SCMP finds a government statistic stating that only 4.2% of people in HK earn over HK$60,000 per month.  No stats provided on how many earn over $125k.  1%? 2%?  The average Hong Kong salary is $12,800 (US$1,664) per month.

And while it’s probably an easy call that more than 4.2% of people in Hong Kong are happy, I kind of know what they mean.

Here’s one way to look at it.  Assume you are going to spend 25% of your monthly income on rent.  That’s roughly HK$3,000 per month for someone with an average salary.  What will that get you?  Looking at GoHome, you can get a 150 square foot flat in Fanling for $2,800 a month.  The same price might bring you 435 square feet in Sheung Shui.  $3,000 a month will get you 250 square feet in Yuen Long or 100 square feet in Fanling.  A monthly car park space in Central can cost more than $3,000 a month.  Go up to $3,900 a month and you can get 120 square feet in Sheung Wan.   The princely sum of $5,000 a month will net you 114 square feet in Tseung Kwan O.

In 1929, Blind Afred Reed wrote a song called How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live.  (I know it via Ry Cooder’s version.)  What was true then is even truer today.