Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Ultimate BBQ Buffet - Feast Under the Metropolitan Skyline@HABITŪ Ristorante the Garden

I have always been a fan for Cafe Habitu, despite the fact that i still cannot pronounce its name quite well. Should i read it 'ha-bit-too' or 'ha-beet-tu'? Anyway i still love going to the cafe for a cup of nice latte, a plate of just-right egg benedict, or just for the atmosphere. This place weirdly feels like home to me with all the black leather armchairs and stuff. I love the aroma of coffee in the air and somehow this place is nothing like Starbucks nor Pacific Coffee, where things seem to be more commercialized and fake. The coffee at Habitu is always great, and a thick, nicely foamed milk foam with latte arts are always expectable while it is a luxury at other chain coffee shops. And oh their egg benedicts spells L.O.V.E. It still is the best i have tried so far in Hong Kong.
I remember buying a magazine few months ago which had the top 101 restaurants in 2011. My mum was quickly flipping through and she spotted the grilled buffet at Habitu Ristorante. Absorbed, she immediately called to reserve a table...and luckily we could make it to the extra session specially opened due to surging demand for it, possibly because of the AD/prize it received from the magazine. So we waited and waited and waited...until it was 13th May, the day which also celebrated the official end of my exam period, when we could sit back, relax and have some serious good food in a place we generally love so well.

We were there early at 6:45. They were still setting the buffet tables but we could feel good food coming just by looking....or was it pathetic imagination due to empty tummies?

We requested for an indoor seat - who could possibly eat and drink under the burning heat? The interior of the restaurant was dimmly lit - not good for photo taking but great for a cozy dinner.

There were two bars, one inside and one outside.

The buffet commenced at seven sharp but its bar started serving unlimited flow of red wine, white wine and beer. Some white wine for me please!

...and there i got a nice glass of white wine with a fruity taste which i drank throughout the night. It drove me a little tipsy at first but soon i got over it!

My parents both helped themselves with beer and both complimented on it coolness - what's better than drinking chilled beer in a hot summer evening?

Before the buffet started I sneaked out to snap a few photos of the dishes i would be eating soon. They looked delicious even under the plastic wraps. Yumm.

Soon the clock hits seven and - let us pull up a chair, as the dining room proudly presents... your dinner!

Vaguely the buffet spread could be divided into four parts: the antipasti, the cravings, the grill and of course, the desserts.

I ate from the left to the right. The first thing that came to my eye was the spectacular collection of bread in the basket - oh good heavens! Now who said you should never eat bread in buffet meals because they make you feel full? Not the case when the bread are too tasty to be missed!
I sampled with just a few as some looked too chunky to be finished and i did not want to waste. The breadstick was the crispy variety and was a little too dry and tough. The round, doughnut-hole like bread was heavenly soft and sweet. The garlic toasts tasted okay but would be better had they been hot; the thin crisps tasted okay too. My favourite got to be the thinner toast(the little burnt triangle to the right of the basket) which tasted excellent-o with pesto!!!!!!!

Parma ham and cantaloupe. Naturally it became the most popular item on the buffet table. I saw it refilled for, like, five times within 3 hours, and other customers walked past me with plates carrying so many black toothpicks-like stuff they used to hold the ham onto the melon. Scary. I love the stuff too but i could not gorge in, like, five within a meal. But hey it tasted great, just that the parma ham was a bit bland but the melon was sweet.

The DIY salad was great. I mixed the lettuce with rocket leaves, drizzled a little dressing, olive oil, croutons and loads of cheese on top. And ate. Man, it was great. But the croutons were a bit TOO big to be eaten in one bite.

And the ever-so-popular cold cuts and hams.

If you happen to be an antipasto-maddo (like me) you would not be able to stick your ass to your seat but walk again and again to the serving table for something new.
Tired of just Caesar? Add a little smoked salmon and tomato to make it a smoked salmon Caesar salad. I tried that - and it was BRAVO!

There were also other types of antipasti like this deep-fried whatever (i forgot to read its nametag). It tasted excellent with tomato sauce!

Tomato and mozzarella salad, a must-have in any Italian restaurants, was great, although the cheese melt after staying too long under the heat and the scene turned a little ugly.
There was also an assorted cheese platter which i would usually love but not at this place, as the variety was quite narrow and they all tasted almost the same. Not to mention the fact that there was no appropriate utensils to take them without clipping and crushing them to death..and there were no crackers but walnuts to eat with the cheese.

I think i helped myself to more greens than that's what is good and evil about buffets. You lost track of how much you eat soon after you start.

Moving on to the right end of the table was the craving table. Here you could find the suckling pig, grilled vegetables as well as clams and - ohmygod - risotto!

The suckling pig was goddess. I asked for the ribs but the chef told me the piglet had been striped naked of bones, but he would give me the part near the chest all right. He reheated it on the little grill before serving onto the plate so that the pig would be warm and tasted better. And man it was good. The meat was tender, succulent and juicy: it could only come from a piglet, oh so young and innocent. There was quite a lot of fat but luckily they could be easily removed. The skin was CRISPYYYYY and it basically gave a 'zzz' sound as i bit in in my mouth. Gorgeous!

The grilled eggplant and other vegetables tasted marvelous too!

Any finally - the BBQ grill which this very buffet is named after. Here you could find grilled corn, pineapple, king prawns, lamp chops and steak. Not too many choices but they were definitely worth the $!

Sometimes the crowd in front of the BBQ grill grew so big that it became meaningless standing there to wait. The reason for waiting? Cause most of the grilled items were only grilled till pipping hot upon orders! in that way everything were made fresh - no wonder they tasted so great!

DID YOU SEE THAT?! The prawns are of the length of a palm - and man they tasted good too!

The shells were charcoal-grilled to the extent that they became so light and crispy and could be eaten with the flesh if you like. The flesh was spongy, juicy and surely fresh - yum! I would have eaten more than one had my stomach been bottomless!

My dad had this 'surf and turf' thingy and man, the steak was huge. He could not finish one whole piece by himself so we shared it among us three.

It was medium-rare! Just exactly as we would have wanted it to be! And I had not expected it to be that tender. The exterior carried the distinctive small from the charcoal-grill, and the experience under the high heat had locked the juice in the meat itself. It was very, very moist with juice but it was a pity that the flavour of the meat itself was a little bland.

Next i tried the lamp chop. It was also medium-rare and tender, but like the steak it somehow lacked the flavour of the meat itself. It was also quite fat and i had to cut away a whole stripe of white fat before it was edible. Still it tasted good with mint sauce.
I also tried the grilled pineapple which was HEAVENLY. they must have sprinkled it with a little cinnemon before grilling it as it tasted not just SWEET but something else-something spicy and different was hiding in the juicy piece of fruit. I would try putting slices of pineapples into the grill at my home to see if i could reciprocate this heavenly slice of love.
The grilled corn was also marvelous despite being a little too filling - but if you love chewing on the cob dont miss it!

*silent scream* MUSHROOM RISOTTO!!!!

Man, i should not be that surprised to see the simmering pot of Italian rice as this place IS an italian restaurant. Theres no way an italian restaurant would not supply risotto. I tooked a little of the rice and it was quite wet. I guess it was because of the amount of stock they used, as the rice did not taste creamy but wet and mushy. The chunks of mushrooms in the rice were succulent and very aromatic. VERY NICE!
And oh yes there was also a big pot of clams, presumed to be cooked with white wine, next to the risotto. It was okay but not very impressive.

...I think i lost track again on what and how much i have eaten...

It was around 8:30 when i used up my quota for savory food and my appetite for desserts started growing. Upon inquiries we learnt that dessert would started to be served at nine. The very helpful waiter asked if we needed a plate of everything in case we had to leave before nine. I said no not because of lack of interest in the desserts - but that i wanted to go out and pick what I want on myself! :P
So there they were, appearing slightly before nine. The first being a plate of jellies - something i am never interested in eating ever since i was small.

And some very sweet bread puddings...

Double chocolate brownie tartlets..

Tiramisu, this comes without a question...

And lemon and lime cheesecake.
As usual I tried my very best to taste a little of everything. :P

The lemon and lime cheesecake hit me unexpectedly as a surprise as it was oh-so-good!!!I think they used cream cheese but added in something so that the cake was thick and texture but refreshing on taste. Was it lime and lemon? Anyway, the slice of cake was small so that i could easily finish it within forkfuls. The digestive biscuit was also buttery, appropriately moist and VERY TASTY!!!!

The tart pastry of the chocolate brownie tartlet was a little moist and the chocolate filling tasted more like chocolate mousse than brownies. Still it tasted great - you could hardly go wrong with chocolates!
The bread pudding which i did not take a picture of looked ugly like s**t on the plate. It was sticky, mushy and pretty sweet, but i like the nuts and seeds on the top which enriched the texture of it.

And last was the tiramisu! This was a good one - the mascarpone cheese was soft and smooth in texture; it was not too sweet and tasted extremely well when eaten with the generously sprinkled cocoa powder on top of the dessert. I was not sure if it was spongecake or ladyfinger between the layers of the cream but whatever that be, they had surely absorbed a great deal of coffee so that the taste was so distinctive - and man i LOVE coffee! too bad they did not use liqueur here and alcohol DOES make a difference between the GOOD and the AVERAGE tiramisu. And one thing to note was the few rice crispies in the tiramisu - they had enhanced the texture of the dessert, but still it would be better had there been more!

Fresh fruit platter - a wide choice of fruit were available and all were VERY fresh - a perfect end to my delicious BBQ dinner tonight.

We asked for the bill and were surprised by the fact that we were charged $130 for the water - we already asked for the still water but still....perhaps we should have focused on the alcohol instead of asking for water. Ew.

Still the meal was a great one, delicious and definitely worth the $ and the advance bookings - at $388 (+10%) what more could you possibly ask for? I am sure the place would become more popular and well-known among people who wish to sneak away from their much-troubled life just for a night, help themselves to unlimited flow of alcohol, grilled meat, desserts, and more desserts, please! The outdoor setting is great for group chats and chills but not in the summer!
And oh yes - the service was GREAT as the waiters were extremely helpful and efficient in changing plates and stuff. Nice job guys! :)

HABITŪ Ristorante the Garden
Shop 308, 3/F, Phase 2, Lee Garden, 2-38 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay
(Dinner BBQ buffet only on the 3rd Friday night of each month - advanced bookings a must!)

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