The highly anticipated opening of this NYC speakeasy and restaurant has finally happened and we at Foodbabyhk had to try it! This late night dining and drinks concept was originally thought up by 5 bartenders who wanted to create a space that catered to the many F & B workers to relax and splash their tips on after work drinks and a good quality dinner.
Hailing from the Big Apple, the space does give you that New York feel. The music is throwback jazz and the low lighting really sets the mood. The bartenders animatedly shake and mix a few cocktails behind the bar, giving the place a great party vibe that is very suitable for LKF, albeit a bit too noisy!
Employees Only serves 138,000 cocktails per year in its home turf and it seems to be heading that way over here. We did whet our whistles with a few of the bar’s cocktails. The overall consensus was that they are certainly not stingy with the alcohol, although some drinks such as Between the sheets were a bit too sweet. The Old Fashioned and Ready Fire Aim with a sweet beginning and smoky Mezcal aftertaste were clear winners.
Please be aware that reservations for more than 6 patrons requires you to complete a credit card guarantee form for a last minute cancellation. 8 of us were seated towards the back on 2 rounded tables, not ideal for dining as we would have liked more space and sturdier chairs.
To get us started, we ordered the Bone Marrow poppers, that we wished had more bone marrow and less pastry. The ratio was way off with this one and the pastry was too dense at the bottom. Such a shame as they looked delectable on the plate.
The Americans at the table expected a New England style clam chowder where you do not have to take out the clams from the shells. The broth was also a bit on the salty side, perhaps a ploy for us to order more cocktails?
The Kale salad however was appetising. The generous amount of grated parmesan, sundried tomatoes and vinegar made a somewhat boring salad into a flavourful one.
The steak tartare was probably the least well received starter as it was too thinly cut with no meaty taste. Overall a bland dish that was left half-finished on our table. Despite not saying a word of this to the wait staff (they could clearly see for themselves), they comped this from our bill with a ‘Did not like’ remark on the receipt, which we were VERY impressed with!
Our mains took quite a bit of time and by this point it was almost 10pm! First to arrive was the smoked lamb ribs. The smoky aroma immediately greeted us when this dish arrived. The lamb had great flavours but I personally found the meat a bit too chewy. The pickle coleslaw underneath was a bit puzzling, not really liked by the two who had this dish and the crème fraiche stuffed jalapeno on the side was also out of place. My chef friend remarked that the ratios of the dishes were a bit off, the protein should be a third of the dish not the majority and there were no carbs. Overall an unbalanced dish.
The homemade Sausage cavetelli on the other hand was delicious, not too spicy and had a generous amount of sausage. This was probably the best main.
Personally, I very much liked the Stone bass that sat on a bed of Lobster mash and wilted spinach. This was more of a balanced dish with some stand out flavours from the mash, however our Foodbaby Vinyee pointed out the Lobster mash was overly salty.
My Artichoke Taglierini was not quite what I was expecting, although tasty, it was overpowered by garlic and again overly salty. Be warned if you are on a date!
Lastly, the Spanakopita filo pastry with spinach and feta was flavourful but our friends were surprised that it contained so many white beans. The Greek dish traditionally does not have any and contains mostly spinach and cheese. It would have been better to have the classic dish.
If you can believe it we also opted for dessert. This also surprisingly took some time and there was a lag between all of the desserts. We were surprised by the sizes of the desserts, you could easily share between 2 or 3 people.
The best of the bunch was the panna cotta although definitely not the classic version. This one contained sweet potato cake in the center and coulis drops around it. The very gelatinous taste and no vanilla flavouring suggested more Asian flavours than Western.
The lemon meringue tart was the second best, although overly sweet when a bit more tart could have balanced it out. Unfortunately the crust was very hard, suggesting it was not fresh.
I was excited about the salted caramel cheesecake, although after tasting it I would struggle to call it a cheesecake. There was no distinct cream cheese flavour although this one was made from mascarpone, it was too gelatinous and had no flavour whatsoever. The caramel smothered over it was overly sweet and was the only thing contributing to the flavour, there was also for once no salt as promised from the title. A very generous helping but thoroughly disappointing.
Verdict: A good effort but on the whole, the majority of the dishes we were served fell flat. The meal was certainly not worth 600 HKD each, although we were impressed with them comping the tartare, I would only come back to Employees Only for their critically acclaimed cocktails and party vibe. A joke amongst our group after our dinner was that you would like the food so late at night after one too many cocktails.
G/F 19 Lan Kwai Fong, Central
Ph: 852 2468 2755