I was surprised to recently discover that Gaia Group (which I thought owned only Italian restaurants such as Gaia and Isola) is also behind Greyhound Café and a chain of Shanghainese restaurants. The group has surprised me yet again with the recent opening of its newest, completely different addition, Glasshouse, on the roof of IFC.
Glasshouse owes its inception predominantly to the success of casual Thai restaurant Greyhound, which now has five outlets across Hong Kong and two in China. The group wanted another casual restaurant, but a slightly more upscale one, and therefore decided to take inspiration from each of its existing venues and create Glasshouse. Without wanting to use the word ‘fusion’, Glasshouse focuses on Asian cuisine with a Western touch.
Italian Head Chef Paolo Monti has worked with Gaia Group since the beginning and been in Hong Kong even longer, so he has collected influences from a wide range of cuisines. Although the initial concept of Glasshouse’s menu may seem a little frightening, the team, led by Paolo, perfected the recipes over six months to get them as tasty as they are now.
Glasshouse is inspired by potting sheds in old country houses. There is therefore a mish-mash of wooden garden furniture, rustic tablecloths and a comforting lived-in vibe. This continues outside, where a gorgeous colourful garden has been set up to be able to enjoy this finer weather. Fresh herbs grow here, which are of course used in the kitchen and bar.
Speaking of the bar, Glasshouse prides itself on its impressive drinks list, prepared by award-winning mixologist Jimmy Yeung. If the mocktails I tried (it was only lunchtime!) were anything to go on, then I am certain the cocktails are also fantastic. I loved the refreshing ‘Herbs Garden’, made with fresh mint, lime and Thai basil, topped with the restaurant’s signature Butterfly Rainbow Iced Tea.
The all-day food menu – split into small bites, bigger bites and main bites – is designed for sharing, as is customary these days. We started with the seared pepper-crusted Ahi tuna steak, with calamansi dressing and stir-fried vegetables. I loved the texture of the fish, with its fresh pink centre, which worked perfectly with the crunchy Asian veggies. There was definitely some Sichuan pepper somewhere on the crust, which added a subtle unexpected yet welcome numbing effect.
The lemongrass chicken skewer, cooked on a charcoal robata grill was beautifully succulent and offered a generous portion of chicken for a ‘small bite’. The lemongrass flavour was notable but could have been a little more pronounced.
I have never been overly fussed about oysters; I appreciate them, but they aren’t something I look out for on a menu. I did, however, enjoy Glasshouse’s version of wild ocean oysters, served with a dash of smoky chipotle chilli and ponzo tapioca caviar, adding a lovely interesting texture to the mollusc.
The stand out dish for me was by far the grilled lamb chops. These were served with a generous dollop of warming coriander and ginger pesto that enhanced the natural flavour of the lamb, without masking it. The mashed potato was creamy and satisfying although I can’t say I noticed the wasabi that supposedly ran through it.
Last of the main bites was the Wagyu rump steak with truffle fried rice, the scent of which immediately wafted over to us as it was served. The beef had a lovely flavour, particularly smeared with a little mustard, but was just a little on the chewy side. The truffle fried rice was certainly strongly flavoured, but in a good way, and I could actually have eaten this without its meaty accompaniment.
Glasshouse’s take on a traditional sago and vanilla soup came beautifully presented with a scoop of mango ice cream encased in toasted coconut flakes and macadamia nuts – divine.
The banana crème brûlée, topped with muscovado sugar was even better. The little Thai bananas added their own sweet flavour, whilst the cream beneath was beautifully silky and made up for the fact that the top layer was missing that necessary crunch of caramelised sugar.
Prices vary from $48 to $238 per dish, depending on the size category and ingredients, but you’re unlikely to pay anything near what you’d pay at some of the group’s higher-end Italian venues. Glasshouse is a lovely little place that I can see becoming the go-to spot for Happy Hour drinks (which, by the way, come with a complimentary snack!) or to simply while way hours in a beautiful setting enjoying food and drinks that you won’t find on your average menu.
Shop 4009, 4/F, IFC Mall
1 Harbour View Street
Tel: +852 2383 4008