Red Cliff BBQ
43 Gough Street, Central
Tel: 2581 3303
Open: noon-2.45pm, 6pm-11.45pm
Cuisine: Hong Kong-style skewers and seafood
Price: about HK$230 without drinks and the service charge.
Ambience: Red Cliff BBQ's interior is fashioned like a tea house from China's Three Kingdoms era. It features unpolished hardwood tables and chairs, and bamboo scrolls for menus. Waiting staff wear Han-period-style robes and beer is drunk out of earthen bowls. The 50-seat restaurant was quite empty on our Tuesday night visit, with just two other tables of diners.
Pros: the restaurant gets points for its creative spin on kushiyaki (Japanese grilled skewers) by adding fusion elements - such as Sichuan, Korean, Thai and Western seasonings - to certain items. There is a featured selection of Sichuan peppercorn-fried shellfish, and the seafood was fresh.
Cons: unfortunately, the execution of the more traditional grilled skewers was half-hearted. We tried the black pork belly (HK$58 for two skewers), chicken cartilage (HK$38 for two skewers), zucchini (HK$18 each) and eggplant (HK$38 for a whole one). They were poorly seasoned versions of the kind you'd be served at a Japanese kushiyaki place. The vegetables were soft and watery and the chicken gristle had none of the crunchiness you should expect.
Recommended dishes: we enjoyed the fan scallop (HK$98 for two) and jumbo sea clam (HK$68 for two) grilled on the half shell and served with a choice of garlic, kimchi, shrimp roe, black truffle, cheese or butter toppings. The dollop of mild black truffle paste gave something extra to the sweet scallop meat without overpowering the natural juices of the mollusc. The highlight of the meal was a steaming clay pot of sea whelks (HK$158) cooked with Sichuan peppercorns. The heady aroma was followed by soft, moist morsels, humming with a peppery coating. We would have benefited from clamps to hold the shells steady while digging for the tender snail meat. But the slippery process was well worth it.
What else? The upstairs loft area is available for private parties of up to 26.