By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

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While the latest Harlan Goldstein soap opera and fatuous business buffet plays out in public with talk of this polarising figure in Hong Kong’s cluttered and rumour-riddled restaurant business, where many talk about $20 million payouts to walk while others forward private messages to show who’s zooming who, many of those running the show tend to forget about the most important ingredient to the success of their business: Customers. To be more precise, spending more time understanding the wants and needs of customers- Hong Kong customers and those still discovering the city- and reading the mood of the city.

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More and more, Big no longer means good. Not even the towering figure of Harlan Goldstein, pictured below, who’s made more comebacks than the Grim Reaper and is said to be threatening one more after the collapse of his latest venture. Dear gawd, no.

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Can 2016 please continue without the same old names way past their Use By Date and still living off a pocketful of mumbles that are sometimes promises tagging onto its coat tails?

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Showboating, serial cheats, those who knowingly back the wrong horses when they have been warned about strangers bearing gifts made of fluff and wonder why they’re left holding the bag with lawsuits stuffed inside, have not only become boring, it’s become irrelevant to those who don’t buy into quasi celebrity chefs, Hong Kong style and everything they represent- usually, hot air.

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Customers today, those who are down to earth and without huge expense accounts, couldn’t care less about Gold or Fools Gold, or Sevva and C’est la vie. They’re not conned by pretentiousness and phonies. They only want somewhere that serves them a new dining experience and not another expensive bowl of Déjà-vu Spaghetti In Borsch with some pretentious tai tai blowing them air kisses. This is where Blacksalt comes in.

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The very new restaurant is difficult to find if asking someone directions. At least to us, the most simple way to find Blacksalt is to get to Potatohead or the former True Light School in Pokfulam by taxi, cross the road and walk up to the end of the small lane. Either that or visit www.BlackSalt.com.hk

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What we found appealing about Blacksalt is that it serves unique dishes with various spices in a homely setting. It’s like enjoying a meal in a small bungalow in Kandy in Sri Lanka with a few friends and where time has stood still- not in some old fashioned way, but in a way where we’ve thankfully returned to old fashioned values like the art of conversation and with the dishes served sparking off all types of memories and interesting and meaningful thoughts.

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Blacksalt is not another restaurant serving curries and other dishes from the sub-continent that, though tasty at the time, can leave one feeling leaden and lethargic and uncomfortable when trying to sleep and waking up to the same feeling of elephantine internal decay.

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Big Harlan Goldstein might have two Michelin Stars, but the owner-chef of Blacksalt- Taran Chadha, below, is not only creative, he’s young and experienced enough to know the customers he wishes to attract- and what will attract them. And keep them returning.

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What we had when visiting his restaurant this week was very much a taste sensation-different dishes with different tastes that took us on a journey through the Spice Islands.

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The dishes were light, they were fresh, they were tasty and everything made for a refreshingly different night out in Hong Kong- a Hong Kong that’s desperately looking at ways to change what it is, but through fear of change, almost always ends up with the usual suspects regurgitating everything that’s come before or else tired over-priced shee shee products that have outstayed their welcome.

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Blacksalt is not only a culinary journey where variety is the spice of life, it’s also about switching off those iPhones. Instead of sending Instagrams of one’s food while taking selfies, it’s about actually ENJOYING the food, and with a genuine interest- and respect- in what has gone into making every dish special- extra special.

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This leads into freewheeling conversations that take one from the fabulous Burgher dish called lumpries, and what makes a Sri Lankan Chicken Curry different to any other curry to what can be made with jackfruit, all the different street foods one has tasted, and how all of the above become the influences and inspiration behind the creativity of all things Blacksalt.

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