Given its surfeit of tycoons, yuppies and the conspicuously wealthy, it’s unsurprising that Hong Kong is a breeding ground for steakhouses. In a city where denizens dine out roughly four times a week, red meat is king; and there’s no more established name when it comes to premium proteins than Blue. The jewel in Maximal Concepts’ crown, it has occupied the same spot on Hollywood Road since 2012; a stone’s throw from the cosmopolitan enclaves of Soho & Poho. Notwithstanding a superficial rebranding (i.e. dropping the “butcher” from its signage), it’s business as usual, with the Blue team focusing on what it has always done best – various pricey cuts (occasionally miscalculated) supported by hearty sides.
Neon signage on the ground floor – open from 6pm for a cheeky aperitivo – beckons upward. In transit, the DIY dry-ageing chamber is a novel distraction: peeking inside I clocked an assortment of trendy cuts (think Tasmanian M6 Wagyu and Irish “John Stone” t-bones) buttressed by dozens of Himalayan salt bricks. At Blue, expertise in all things carnivorous is taken to its logical conclusion. 90 percent of meat-based produce is aged in-house and cut to order. Curiosity sated, I alight the top of the staircase to survey a dining room that shouts kitsch – all neon, sinewy metalwork and clay coloured banquette seating. The Blue interior reportedly reflects the polished grit of New York’s Meatpacking district. The final result feels like the realisation of a teenage girl’s “Manhattan” themed Etsy moodboard. Amateurish design observations aside, I’m happy to report that dining at Blue – barring two missteps – proved to be a solid experience.
We diners arrived hungry, palettes primed for some of Blue’s signature starters: the Foie Gras Parfait and Grass Fed Steak Tartare. The latter centres on robust beef tenderloin – balancing fattiness and sinew in equal measure – paired with the customary egg yolk. At Blue, the tartare is influenced by Catalonian cuisine; referenced in the accompanying trimmings of Iberico ham, tomatoes and charred sourdough. The resulting dish satisfied the fundamentals of a good canape: simple; refreshing in flavour, instantly moreish. Unfortunately, this refinement didn’t extend to the foie gras parfait. Upon presentation, it resembled a bowl of liquified Skippy covered in weevils (i.e. “toasted granola”). Foie gras can innately prove overwhelming – our palettes were not helped by the addition of duck fat caramel – and this particular parfait possessed a thin watery consistency akin to syrup. The savoury granola topping, intended to add textural interest to each mouthful, proved unequal to the task. Slightly wary, we sipped Rheingau Riesling (Schloss Johannisberg Gelblack Riesling Feinherb 2015) waiting for gargantuan portions of red meat to save the day.
At Blue, the signature offering is Rubia Gallega – a Spanish cattle breed left to roam for 12 to 18 years before being slaughtered. Steaks cut from these Galician bovines are renowned for their relatively gamey texture and flavour concentration. In order to maximise its inherent beefiness, the rubia gallega served at Blue is dry aged for up to 45 days in-house. It is a pedigree that sounds impressive without necessarily translating into a culinary KO. Our rubia tenderloin (18 ounces) arrived coated in a vibrant yellow fat cap; reminiscent in colour to the baahk chit gai you will find in Hong Kong’s trademark Cantonese barbeque stalls. The flesh is dark and crimson, almost entirely undisturbed by marbling, yielding flavours that are nothing if not unexpected. Wood smoke, shitake and blue cheese permeate the palette but are offset by the gristly sinew of the meat. While rubia may be well suited to fervent carnivores looking for a complex flavour profile, it proved challenging for my octogenarian palette.
The somewhat elastic cut was made palatable by a powerfully delineated Rhône (Jean-Louis Chave Selection Crozes-Hermitage Silene 2015) from Blue’s exhaustive wine cellar. While the rubia proved polarising, the M5 Wagyu Sirloin (12 ounces), evenly caramelised and with just enough intramuscular fat to guarantee juiciness, was a runaway hit. Whereas the parfait starter suffered from an excessive sickly sweetness, the same indulgent approach worked wonders for our side dishes. The Duck Confit Mac ‘n’ Cheese was especially mentionable, guaranteeing multiple organ failure with its delicious trifecta of cheese macaroni, soft boiled egg and shredded duck confit.
Steakhouses are often criticised for offering derivative fare but one could argue their populist role is to satiate the desire for familiar and hearty comfort food. In this, Blue has succeeded for many years – evident from the unending stream of diners at the weekend (NOTE: Sunday brunch is especially popular here). Indeed, the two courses we enjoyed the least were heavy on concept whilst being under-executed. Blue is saved by its classic offerings: order a boneless ribeye, a bottle from the extensive cellar and you won’t go wrong.
Images courtesy of Maximal Concepts
TVG would like to acknowledge @nomnomfoodiehk for their assistance in writing this review.
Check out Randy’s other Hong Kong highlights here.