When opening Second Draft in Tai Hang, it would have been easy enough for chef May Chow to simply reproduce the bao and snacks menu that made her first restaurant, Little Bao in SoHo, such a success. She didn’t take the easy way, of course, and Second Draft, where the beer is just as important as the food, serves a small menu of interesting dishes.
The menu is divided into sections that include bar snacks (although all the dishes are meant to pair with beer), small plates, greens and grains, and fish and meat. When I booked, I had pre-ordered three dishes, the mapo burrata (which strangely, was listed under greens and grains), flower crab pasta and Hong Kong French toast. Because I don’t drink beer, I brought along two friends who do.
First up, the mapo burrata (HK$138). This is a brilliant dish – so simple, inspired and delicious that it’s surprising nobody thought of it before. The small ball of burrata wasn’t the ooziest we’ve had, but its mild flavour went beautifully with the slightly spicy pork sauce served with raw baby spinach leaves.
We also liked the non-traditional reuben sandwich (HK$128), which featured tender, flavourful smoked pastrami, Swiss cheese and pickled cabbage with a hint of pickled young ginger.
The flower crab pasta (HK$198) is a dish that’s best shared – it’s good, but very filling and rich. The crab was mixed with thick Shanghainese noodles and topped with a whole egg yolk that we mixed in to make the butter sauce even creamier. It was served with much-needed dark vinegar to add acidity.
The fried chicken (HK$108) smelled strongly of cumin, although the spice didn’t overwhelm, and the meat was moist with a crunchy coating, but it needed more salt. The nam yu and roasted garlic dip was too sweet.
The hanger steak (HK$188) was also under-seasoned, which is a shame because the meat was tender with a strong beefy flavour. The menu states the steak “always comes rare”, which is fine with us. It came with what was described as black pepper oil, although we thought we detected something fermented (black beans or black garlic).
The waitress asked us if she could serve the Hong Kong French toast (HK$68) at the end of the meal. It works as a sort of sweet-savoury dessert because a slab of foie gras is substituted for the thick pat of butter normally used, before being drizzled with Taikoo brand syrup. It sounds strange, but we liked it.
For the most part, service was attentive. I was recognised by May Chow about halfway through the meal.
Second Draft, 98 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang, tel: 2656 0232. About HK$300 without drinks or the service charge