Lemon grass infusion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2012, 12:00am


Sometimes you wonder why restaurateurs don't put as much energy into developing the food and drinks on the menu as they put into developing the menu as a sales tool. Do they think good food won't sell itself?

What is especially annoying is that research now suggests that menus have been developed for decades on an entirely mistaken assumption. The belief was that the eye rested on a 'sweet spot' in the middle of the right-hand page and that's where the expensive dishes were listed, often in a box. Actually, mostly we read a menu as we read books and there is no sweet spot. (There is still a 'sour spot' that the eye barely rests on - this is usually where you'll find the salads.)

One particularly irksome menu phrase is 'pan-Asian' - it's always struck me as marketing-speak for 'chef owns a wok'. A new restaurant in Sheung Wan called Se Sa Me is hoping to prove me wrong.

Predominantly Japanese, the food and drink take their inspiration from all over Asia and techniques from all over the world. An example might be the sweet corn crunch, its version of an Indonesian bakwan jagung corn fritter but cooked in a tempura batter and served with a Vietnamese fish sauce dip. Surprisingly, it works.

Cocktails are made on the same principle. Green yuzu mixes fresh grapes, lemon vodka, shochu and Japanese citrus. Sadly, it conforms to my first rule of cocktails - put too many ingredients in a glass and it's going to end up tasting like bubblegum. The lemon grass infusion is more successful, somehow tasting like a Japanese version of a margarita, despite the absence of tequila. Thais should like this as it's well-balanced in terms of sourness, saltiness and sweetness. Containing two shots of spirits and a double shot of sake, the lemon grass infusion does not let you forget that it's a powerful drink.

This cocktail is the product of the global village and it's entirely possible that imbibing a few will leave you feeling like the global village idiot.

Recipe 50ml sake

25ml shochu

25ml white rum

40ml lemon juice

10ml sugar syrup

1 stalk of lemon grass

1 lemon wedge

Mix ingredients in a highball glass.

Add plenty of ice and garnish with lemon grass and lemon.