Back to His Roots

On the eve of the open­ing of Rhoda, his new restau­rant in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Yenn Wong, Nathan Green talks to Wil­son Fok about fam­ily, food and play­ing to his strengths

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life | Food -

hen he thinks back to the food of his child­hood, Nathan Green im­me­di­ately rem­i­nisces about his grand­mother, Rhoda. “She truly em­bod­ied the mean­ing of the word hos­pi­tal­ity,” says the chef, who has helmed the kitchen at Wan Chai restau­rant 22 Ships for the past two years. Rhoda lived in South Lon­don—a lengthy trip from the Mid­lands, where Nathan resided with his mother and fa­ther, so his vis­its were lim­ited.

But when they did get to­gether, the feasts were spec­tac­u­lar. “Lunch would nor­mally start around noon and go un­til mid­night,” Nathan re­calls. “It would be this pro­ces­sion of in­cred­i­ble dishes, which she would send out from her tiny lit­tle galley kitchen.” Rhoda’s sig­na­ture dishes in­cluded poached salmon, beef bour­guignon, pâte, prawn salad and spare ribs—sim­ple food that packed a punch.

This month, Nathan pays the ul­ti­mate ho­mage to Rhoda, who passed away last year aged 94, by open­ing a new eatery named for his grand­mother and in­spired by her sen­sa­tional spreads. The restau­rant, lo­cated in Sai Ying Pun, is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Yenn Wong of Jia Group, with whom he worked dur­ing his ten­ure at 22 Ships.

Rhoda’s fo­cus is fam­ily-style, rus­tic fare— the type of food on which Nathan was raised. “As a child, I was sur­rounded by food,” he re­calls. “At an early age, I helped my mother in the kitchen, rolling out pas­tries. By age five, I had learned how to make the per­fect omelette. One of my favourite fa­ther-son times was han­dling the bar­be­cue with my fa­ther.”

At 18, Nathan fin­ished cook­ing school and was ready to work. Af­ter stints with big-name chefs in­clud­ing Michael Caines, Tom Aikens and Tom Sellers, it was Ja­son Ather­ton who gave his ca­reer the big­gest boost. “Ja­son called. He heard that I was leav­ing [Sellers’ restau­rant] Story and said he would like to of­fer me a work op­por­tu­nity in Hong Kong.” Nathan ba­si­cally hopped on the next plane—and has yet to look back.

Rhoda is set to be a thing of beauty. The in­te­ri­ors have been de­signed by cel­e­brated tastemaker Joyce Wang, whose brass and aged wood will line the 2,000-square-foot space, com­plete with bricks and tiling to bring a homely feel to the es­tab­lish­ment.

Be­yond the look and feel, un­pre­ten­tious down-home flavours are the true fo­cus at Rhoda. Nathan will of­fer a menu that changes daily and fea­tures mar­ket-fresh pro­duce. “Rhoda is go­ing to serve every­thing—dif­fer­ent cuts of meats and of­fal and all,” he ex­plains. “We don’t en­joy the term ‘nose-to-tail’ that much, be­cause we are sim­ply max­imis­ing the po­ten­tial of the re­sources of­fered to us, such as what parts of the an­i­mal are avail­able. It’s es­sen­tially about mak­ing the most out of the an­i­mal and min­imis­ing wastage.”

Nathan will buy his an­i­mals whole and carve them into cuts in the restau­rant’s kitchen. Fish is sourced lo­cally—with help from David Lai, who co-runs Fish School with Yenn—and grilled to per­fec­tion. Sim­i­larly, the roast chicken is de­li­ciously moist and comes sea­soned with thyme and

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