By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

The last time I had been to BlackSalt aka BS was at lunchtime on New Year’s Day, and the small restaurant at the end of a tiny lane in the Sai Ying Poon area of Hong Kong was overflowing with family, friends and dogs belonging to family and friends.

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One never ever feels that this is a restaurant because though we all can’t stop enjoying the various dishes that are served, everything is so casual. You feel you’re at a friend’s home. And in many ways you are. It’s all about the atmosphere, something many restaurateurs often forget when opening their businesses. No atmosphere, don’t bother- not for repeat customers.

There have been the times when I have wondered whether Chef and Founder Taran Chadha, below, who runs the eatery even cares about making money with this business venture, or if he’s doing this purely out of passion and as an outlet for his creativity. Bruce Springsteen might have been born to run, and Taran Chadha was born to cook. After years of working for others, he’s now his own man and in total control of his BS.

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My friend Kat and I visited the restaurant earlier this week after a fabulous lunch buffet at the Blue Bar of the Four Seasons. We were going from five star everything including the Lamborghinis and Ferraris always parked outside the hotel to a young couple- Taran and his Nepalese wife Sheela- working darn hard for the money. Why do they bother?

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As mentioned earlier, passion, and add to that, a genuine love to have their work- the dishes created- appreciated. There were two sittings this evening. With room for only twenty people, there’s a need for what could be termed “laid back haste”. But around over two hours for each sitting is more than enough time to appreciate Taran’s culinary creations- Asian dishes from mainly the sub-continent and made with a variety of spices that recall some of the dishes from where I was born: Sri Lanka.

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Having said this, don’t expect to find patties, string hoppers, pol sambal, or a traditional Sri Lankan Crab Curry. Nor should you expect to find a selection of Indian curries, samosas and biryani. For the latter, Hong Kong has plenty of authentic Indian restaurants.

With a background in French cuisine, what Taran Chadha creates are dishes that are light, subtly spicy and with a certain Anglo Indian flavour.

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This evening, with Taran stressing over the bread and rushing from here to there and then back to his work station- a open kitchen where one can watch him conjure up his unique magic- his elder brother Manpreet and longtime family friends were there to help with introducing and recommending the dishes and with an extremely good knowledge of what is what.

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To my friend Kat, who has an aversion to anything too spicy, all this was “awesome” information as she interviewed everyone for a foodie vlog with her GoPro. Me, I was sipping a glass of champagne, and leaving everything up to my friends. And Kat Power.

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Despite the filling lunch, it was a minor miracle that we ate as much as we did with Kat going into Awesomeness Overdrive when the Lamb Symphony was served. The dish disappeared rather quickly. Kat has a voracious appetite.

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By now, it was around 8.30, the lane and its couple of neighbouring bars and restaurants were filling up and those who had booked for the second sitting at BlackSalt were waiting for their tables. We moved inside the restaurant to finish our drinks before having to move outside because this area, too, was filling up before suffering the effects of a long day, and knowing it was time to leave. And not before Kat took the dessert served home.

Sitting outdoors and dining and noticing a community feeling down this tiny lane where everyone is ready to help out however they can, is proof that Hong Kong still has a soul.

It’s not all about keeping up with the wannabes who are nobodies and being in awe of gaudiness and crassness and being impressed with those flaunting their wealth.

Here, we’re back to ground zero, where no one’s better than the other, and where a simple home cooked meal and pleasant conversation with real friends while the music from another era sung by Sinatra, Ray Charles and even Chuck Berry plays in the background makes one refocus on the priorities of life. And that’s no bs, but that is what BS- BlackSalt- is all about.

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