Table Talk: Review of Cirqle, Ovolo Southside
We were recently invited to Wong Chuk Hang to try the dinner menu at one of the area’s newest openings, Cirqle. Located in Hong Kong’s first warehouse conversion hotel, Ovolo Southside, the large restaurant with semi open-plan kitchen is a well designed blend of industrial chic and contemporary design.
With high ceilings, polished concrete floors and clever lighting the space is relaxed and welcoming. Alongside the restaurant is a large outdoor terrace, perfect for sun-downers with views over Aberdeen and Ocean Park, and the rooftop bar offers more great views from both inside and out.
On first glance, the menu looked interesting, but it was a little hard to know from the range of dishes on offer what the cuisine or concept was. The use of sumac and zatar clearly showed a Middle Eastern influence, but this was alongside other dishes that could have been found on the menu of an Italian or Asian Fusion restaurant.
First up we decided to try the Lebanese Goat Cheese and Fig Salad (HK$98), which was ample for two to share. The roasted fig (yes singular) was delicious, but the rest of the salad was overwhelmed by far too many hazelnuts and very sweet chopped apricots. The creamy goats cheese and light dressing were just not quite enough to balance the dish, however with some tweaking, this could be a very good salad.
Next up, we tried the zesty crab cakes with cabbage slaw, pomelo and sesame seeds (HK$120). The portion was a little on the small size considering the price tag, but the crab cakes were very fresh, packed with flavour and definitely hand made. The sharp slaw acted as sharp and tangy accompaniment and sesame seeds provided a welcome texture.
Our final starter was stuffed piquillo peppers with lemon couscous, molasses, anchovies and olive salsa (HK$80). A definite highlight, the flavourful couscous and lightly charred peppers were a great combination, but the inclusion of a few anchovies on the side added nothing to the dish.
The options for main courses included a wide selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. We were spoilt for choice, but with some guidance from the server, settled on the soy marinaded, seared salt bush lamb, served with orza tzatziki and shallot salsa (HK$345); the pan roast Scottish salmon with spiced kale, whipped parsnip, sweet corn and pumpkin (HK$230) and finally the 120z grain fed Ceder River Sirloin with fumé fries and Sichuan barbecue sauce (HK$355).
The flavourful lamb was absolutely delicious and cooked perfectly. The orzo tzatziki and shallot salsa provided contrasting texture, and sharpness to the lamb resulting in an accomplished dish.
Following the lamb, the Scottish salmon was beautifully moist with the perfect amount of crispness to the skin and the execution showed skilful cooking. However the inclusion of parsnip puree, kale, sweetcorn and pumpkin added unnecessary complexity to the dish. The kale alone would have been an ideal accompaniment, perhaps with some potatoes.
The Cedar River sirloin arrived at the table looking like it had come straight from the pan without resting time. We left it for 15 minutes before cutting in and fortunately were rewarded with a tender, juicy and flavourful cut of meat, and the fries were good. The tomato and parmesan salad that we ordered to accompany the meat was unfortunately overly sweetened from the addition of so much sumac that it detracted from the otherwise zingy tomatoes and rich parmesan.
Time for dessert! We sampled the key lime pie with mascarpone and raspberries (HK$53) and the passion fruit mousse with chocolate tuile, mojito sauce and hazelnuts (HK$62). Unfortunately, the key lime pie was really disappointing and the filling was overshadowed by very thick pastry, which was not particularly well cooked.
The zingy passion fruit mousse was delicious and beautifully presented, but as with some of the earlier dishes, there were just too many ingredients. The hazelnuts added nothing to the dish and we left them on the side.
The modern, industrial chic restaurant setting is a welcome change from the standard scene of SoHo, and with some work, the food has great potential. Some of the dishes were very good value for money (most notably the lamb and roasted peppers), while others need some work to refine both the ingredients and execution. The service was very attentive and helpful throughout, indicative of the restaurant’s hotel setting. The rooftop bar is a lovely spot for an aperitif to soak up the views over Ocean Park and we’ll definitely be back to sample the free-flow sangria barbecue Sunday brunch offering soon.
Cirqle, 4/F Ovolo Southside, 64 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Aberdeen, Hong Kong