As you’ve just seen from my earlier post about Libertine, French bistros are popping up every five minutes in Hong Kong. The difference with brand new Societi in Sheung Wan is that it does not try to be a French bistro; it calls itself a ‘bistro’ but really it just serves all sorts of comfort food that Angela Leung, the brains behind this small restaurant, knows people want to eat.
The space is very small and intimate, seating a maximum of around 24 diners. The décor is minimalistic with hanging blackboards, a rustic mirror and a long leather bench. There is nothing unbearably stereotypical or fancy schmancy about this place; it’s just a casual, down to earth eatery in a very cool area of our beautiful island.
Societi is still in the soft-opening phase, but we were invited in for a sneak peek to see what it’s all about. As I mentioned, the food is all of the comfort variety, so portions are hearty without being overly heavy…although add them all together and you will walk out a stone heavier than when you entered! Our feast started with the Societi charcuterie platter, which included delicious Parma ham and even more delicious fried chorizo. Accompanying this was a Spanish omelette – just the right level of gooeyness in the centre and bursting with juicy chunks of red pepper.
The gorgeous little grilled sardines that followed went down a treat all around the table, with some people even gobbling the head! The lightly seasoned fish was wonderfully flaky and meaty. Had I not known there were a million dishes still to come, I might have stolen a second little fish.
In any tapas restaurant, one thing I can never fail to order is gambas al ajillo. Societi is not a tapas restaurant, yet their version of sautéed prawns with garlic flakes is delicious. The prawns were perfectly fresh, without a hint of chewiness, topped with crunchy almonds to give it a little something extra.
Societi’s take on a classic Caesar salad involves thin slices of kurobuta pork belly (a.k.a. fancy bacon). I’m not big on salads in general, but I did enjoy the welcome additions of the pork belly and the crispy bacon bits. The other salad, a spinach salad with Brie, was very fresh and light, though it was the cheese that really stuck out for me. I would gladly have done without the leaves and combined the bacon bits from the first salad with the Brie from the second. Seriously why am I not obese?!
The mussels, I’m afraid to say, were a real let down. They looked beautiful and enormous, served in two ways: in a light curry sauce and in a herb and white wine sauce. However, perhaps it was because it was mid-week and the delivery had come in at the start of the week, but the mussels just did not taste fresh at all. The sauces were tasty enough (although a little heavy on the chicken stock?) and served as a yummy dip for the crispy French fries, but they still did not mask the unpleasant flavour of the mussels.
To follow came individual portions of Grilled salmon in Pommery mustard vinaigrette. Although there was nothing particularly special about the sauce, the salmon was perfectly cooked, topped with deliciously crispy skin that was universally considered the best part of the dish.
The Societi roasted chicken was tender and juicy, marinated in a very tasty yet simple sauce.
Initially excited by the sound of Linguini with braised beef cheek, I actually found the beef seriously lacking in flavour. The texture was spot on, melting instantly in the mouth, but there was simply no flavour to it whatsoever. Thankfully I enjoyed the linguini, which was perfectly al dente and buttery.
To finish after our absolute feast of a meal, we had Crêpes Suzette. Save for the fact that it wasn’t served flambé, this dish was just right – sweet with that sharp orange zing, the crêpe wonderfully thin and light; a tasty end to a somewhat mixed meal.
Societi has all the right ideas to be a real success, but still needs to work on a few things before it can achieve this. Having said this, we went on the second night of the soft opening so it would be a little unreasonable to expect it to be perfect from the off. I would recommend giving it a little teething time and then trying it as I’m sure in time it will be, if not perfect, then almost perfect.
G/F, 87-89 Jervois Street
Tel: +852 2815 9000
Date visited: Wednesday 11th April 2012
Have a read of my mini-review of Societi on Localiiz too – you may even find some other exciting restaurants on there to try!