Mr Brown: Casual smoking and grilling action (7.9)

Mr Brown is a lively restaurant run by the founders behind Francis and continues the concept of a sleek menu with only a handful of dishes to ensure quality and maximum economies of scale. Brown refers to browning from grilling, and as you may have correctly guessed from the title, Mr Brown specializes in just that.

In fact, the lunch/ brunch menu is so short that they may as well not give you an option (four starters and seven mains). And you can’t opt out of dessert, even if you don’t eat dessert at all. So diners with strong (dietary) preferences should beware of that. And while portion sizes are not large, dishes are for the most part so generously salted and oiled that you would definitely walk out satiated, if not for the afternoon then for the entire day.

The kitchen is entirely open and you can see four staff members hard at work, repeating the cycle of taking out marinated meat, popping it in one of the ovens or smokers and then taking them out for slicing. They are extremely fast, their every movement so accurate and detached that the operation resembles a miniscule factory.

My feelings are ambivalent so far. I thought the hosts were pretty friendly and professional, but I didn’t think that the quality of the dishes we were served justified such a compact menu that severely restricted choice. But I can imagine that this is a much nicer place for a full evening of good company, drinks and a wider range of foods to pick from, especially given the gorgeously furnished interior, the bustling vibes and an accommodating team. Since lunch is such a bargain at barely 200 per head, I gave the place a 7.9 overall. If I do return, though, it will not be during the day.

Food Rundown

Starter – Whipped mackerel, ikura, celery
Pairing celery with a fishy duo of mackerel and salmon roe was a winner. The white stuff is blended cream with mackerel, and this seemed like more of a dip for bread than an appetizer per se, and I have trouble fathoming the idea of consuming a plate of cream just like that.

Starter – Pastrami muffin with cucumber and mustard, +$28
Pastrami was excellent—tender, juicy and nicely spiced. I liked it very much. The rest was standard and went well together.

Mains – Smoked chicken with paprika, carrot and dill cream
Good. Loved the smoky flavor. A bit like a chicken tandoori.

Mains – Picanha steak with broccoli and chimichurri, +$48
This was, frankly, anticlimactic. The smoky aroma and the flavors of the meat were all top notch, but the meat itself was barely chewable. It took some work to finish less than half of the dish. We had picanha a couple times just in the past few weeks and it was never so tough.

Dessert – Burnt cheesecake, +$38
True to its namesake restaurant, this cheesecake is browned. It’s the cakey kind of cheesecake that’s flour- and egg-heavy and baked under high heat, a variation of a Basque cheesecake. Very good, or so I heard.

Dessert – Cookie with coconut cream and black sesame
Not your ordinary “cookie”–you get a frozen layer of cream with fruit dices sandwiched between two airy cookies plus some sweet sesame crumbles. Good, if you like sweet things.

Mr Brown
G/F, 9 Ship Street, Wan Chai
$$, Western