Delicious bites from Chef Vinny Lauria…
I love the multi-faceted landscape of Hong Kong’s diverse dining scene, from grabbing siu mai street-side in the mornings to indulging in roast goose at the city’s upscale Canto restos, but I have to admit as a Seattle girl born and bred, sometimes I just get an immense craving for some down-home American fare. With all the amazing cuisines available in Hong Kong from Balinese to Indian to Italian, I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to find stick-to-your-ribs good ol’ American comfort food, with quality that goes beyond buffalo wings at your local neighbourhood pub or fast-food fries.
I had high expectations for Stone Nullah after hearing the name constantly pop up in conversations since moving to Hong Kong, but after experiencing Executive Chef Vinny Lauria’s classic American menu for myself the other night, I was blown away by just how good it was and can now say I’ve found a go-to spot for curing the occasional case of foodie nostalgia!
If you’re a pasta lover, you’ve probably already savoured Chef Vinny’s bold flavours and no-frills approach to cooking at the popular Linguini Fini on Elgin Street, and for that same family-style, down-home approach to American fare, Stone Nullah is 100% worth a visit to Wan Chai.
Stone Nullah Tavern does, in fact, remind you of a country tavern with its cosy bar and dining area, dim lighting and wood-paneled walls and flooring. The bar area becomes particularly rowdy between the hours of 5-7pm as one of the city’s craziest happy hours kicks in (a “Beat the Clock” promotion with drinks starting at $1 and doubling every 20 minutes), but the separate dining area is sufficient for a cozy date night or lunch with the little ones in tow.
Stone Nullah offers the largest collection of Bourbons and Whiskeys in Hong Kong, and a visit there wouldn’t be complete without sampling a few of these fine spirits. My dining companion opted for a neat Bourbon while I ordered a classic Whiskey Sour. Both drinks were fantastic, with the strong spirits pairing perfectly with Stone Nullah’s somewhat “macho” menu of items like ribs, wings, sliders and stroganoff.
Our tasting began with two seafood starters – the Buffalo Oysters with Blue Cheese and a Shrimp Cocktail. I’m not usually a huge oyster fan but these were moreish, sheathed in an ultra-light crispy coating with the blue cheese sauce adding a pungent kick to the perfectly plump oyster underneath.
The Shrimp Cocktail was also an eye-popping starter, comprised of three massive shrimp and a fried shrimp head. The tangy homemade cocktail sauce was spot-on, and the little pot of Old Bay seasoning the perfect finishing detail to transport us to a seaside New England coastal town.
After this tantalising seafood teaser, it was time to get down to the “meaty” portion of the meal. Our next dish was one of the stand-out dishes of the night – a heaping platter of tortilla chips slathered in pork cheek chili, cheddar, sour cream, jalapenos and crispy pig’s ears. No matter who you’re dining with – the kids, the mister, or a group of girlfriends – do NOT miss this dish. If you’re on a diet, give yourself a freebie for the night. This was quite possibly the best plate of nachos I’ve ever had (and that’s a big statement), in large part due to the unusual but unimaginably good addition of crispy fried pig’s ears, adding crunch to a flavour-packed pork cheek chilli.
Trying not to polish off the nachos in an attempt to leave room for the rest of the meal was somewhat difficult (#foodieproblems), but luckily the next few dishes were tasty enough to push the nachos out of mind. The Meatloaf Sliders were simple yet spot-on, a satisfying bite of bacon, American cheddar and a juicy meatloaf patty. In a fun twist, these were served with a shot of Bourbon & Pickleback on the side, adding a sharp, acidic mouthful to wash down the fattiness of the sliders.
Next, we were treated to one of the signature pastas – Chef Vinny’s riff on stroganoff made with truffle and organic mushrooms. If you’re not a fan of truffles, steer clear of this dish, but I was in complete pasta heaven with the strong truffle flavour and umami-bomb created by a dried shiitake rub. I really wasn’t surprised at how good the stroganoff was considering Chef Vinny’s creations at Linguini Fini, but it has definitely made the list of my all-time favourites in Hong Kong.
After the stroganoff came the grande finale – Stone Nullah’s Maple BBQ glazed Half Rack of Ribs with Gorgonzola Slaw. It goes without saying that this is a must-order when visiting Stone Nullah, and if you love your meat, don’t be afraid to order one for yourself! These ribs are slow-cooked to perfection, and arrive fall-off-the-bone tender, glazed in a superb sweet and sticky BBQ sauce. My one regret was not saving enough space from the nachos to finish off these finger licking ribs!
To top off the meal, we sampled the “Fat Kid Cake” – an appropriately named multi-layered cake consisting of red velvet, crème brûlée, New York cheesecake and dark chocolate mousse. The sum was definitely greater than the parts, making for a perfect harmony of creamy and crunchy textures, indulgent layers of chocolate and slightly savoury cheesecake adding a complementary tang. I haven’t yet sampled the other desserts on the menu, but I can’t imagine any of them outdoing this one.
All in all, Stone Nullah Tavern was a solid meal without a single miss, and I’ll definitely be back to take advantage of their happy hour deal followed by some more of those unforgettable nachos and ribs the next time I’m craving a taste of home!
Stone Nullah Tavern prices average $80-120 for starters and $150-250 for mains at dinner. Lunch is served from 12-3pm Monday to Friday, for $78 and $128. Kid-friendly dishes include the nachos, mac ‘n’ cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and grilled pizzas.
Stone Nullah, G/F, 69 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 3182 0128, www.stonenullahtavern.com