It doesn’t seem too long ago when I had my first visit to Brickhouse at the height of their madness when, in the absence of a liquor license, they piled drinks after drinks onto their delighted patrons, yours truly included. Everything took on a rosy, margarita-hazed glow then. Friends couldn’t sing enough praises of Brickhouse, and between you and me, that’s like striking a consolation prize in the local mark-six.
Fast forward a few months later, I returned late at night for a spot of supper with some Singapore visitors. To my dismay: (1) they no longer serve free drinks (yes yes I know that couldn’t last forever); and (2) their kitchen has closed and most of the menu is no longer available. One miserable round of drinks later, we back out on the street and I seriously wondered if my first experience at Brickhouse was a dream.
So when I was invited to return and sample of the latest creations on Chef Austin’s menu, I jumped at the chance.
Rowdy as ever, the crowd at Brickhouse was loud, joyful and hungry. The music was blaring loudly and conversations were more than a bit strained, but hey if you are looking for a quiet place to chill, Brickhouse ain’t the place. It is one of those place where strangers become friends, personal space cease to exist, and you leave your burdens of the day at the door. You couldn’t have asked for a more mixed crowd – the trendy artists mixed comfortably with drunken suits against a background of deafening chatter and an efficient crew of so-cool-it-hurts staff.
Clear winner of the night was – surprise, surprise – not the main, but one of its ceviches. The Agua Chili was a delightful, vibrant mix of shrimp, cucumber water, pickled red onions, and cilantro and chili oil. The differing ingredients promise a ceviches that is packed with texture and flavour, and aqua Chili did not disappoint. Digging up everything with a piece of chips is the recommended way of savouring it.
Also commendable is my all time favourite watermelon salad, a chessboard of vivid-red watermelon cubes srpinkled with lemon cucumber, goat feta cheese, chili syrup, mint and the suprisingly addictive crunchy, candied pepitas.
I couldn’t help but gasp in delight when this dish arrived at the table. The Mexican-style street corn looked like a miniature candy factory promising a mind-boggling combination of chili, mayo, lime and queso. It was a promise well delivered.
I don’t usually like savoury taste with my dessert (or vice-versa – think roast chicken stuffed with apples), so I was a bit apprehensive when we ordered the chili-spiked chocolate cake. All that disappeared as I took my first bite. I swooned at the silky rich soufflé skirts, and before I recovered, the distinctive flavour of chili started to hit – slowly at first, and then became more pronounced as seconds went by. Not overwhelming, mind you, but it was a curious sensation, one that I did enjoy very much.
I know my salad pretty well, but this Casa salad at Brickhouse had me slightly less than warm going. It looked pretty enough from the outside, and certainly it wasn’t difficult considering the amount of ingredients that went into it – carrot, mozzarella, roasted beets, carrot puree, beet vinaigrette, crispy garlic and mixed field greens. But it lacks a punch and the greens were somewhat soggy. Salad is meant to be refreshing, but I somehow find this anything but.
The trendy (and good looking) crew at Brickhouse was and has always been quick and attentive – important when your restaurant is this small and that packed almost every night of the week. Again, one mustn’t look a fine dining experience here, but as rowdy and hip places go, Brickhouse was up to mark in the service area.
My trust in Brickhouse as the purveyor of great Mexican food in the city has returned. If you have always been toeing the line whether to brave the intimidating alley at Lan Kwai Fong and the boisterous crowd waiting for tables, let me tell you now – it is time.
Note: This is an invited tasting session.
G/F D’Aguilar Stret via Brick Lane
Central, Hong Kong