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Keeping it plain not good enough

ONE of the biggest dilemmas facing expat chefs is when to stick to their guns. There are those who believe that context is everything and adapt their food to local tastes and the availability of ingredients.

Others are happy to shrug their shoulders and serve what they want you to eat, take it or leave it. At Pinnacle Peak last week, a "wild west"-styled bar and restaurant complete with mechanical rodeo bull, I complained that the Buffalo Wings (45 yuan/US$6.6) were too vinegary for my liking, to which chef Eric Brown's reply was "that's the way they're done in the States."

Fair bump, but I wasn't the only person who didn't like them at my table, and, frankly, the almost empty restaurant at 8pm on a Saturday night spoke volumes about what people wanted to eat.

Granted, the American in my party did concede that wings back in the States tended to taste a tad tarter, but she also pointed out that was but one style done in her native land. Why then did he pick a style so polarizing?

If he was doing a fancy dish, like say, warm cheese soup with scallops and beans, then we put faith in his vision, but when it's the ubiquitous buffalo wings, well perhaps trying to be as broad as possible might be better for business.

Ceteris paribus, the rest of the wing was cooked well, but that's as good as saying the Titanic was alright except for its rudder.

There is nothing much to be said about serving a salad (The Wedge/40 yuan) which is literally a head of lettuce chopped in two, with a niggardly sprinkling of bacon bits (although they did bring some more when asked), while the chicken dumpling soup tasted like it was out of a tin.

As for the main event, well, the steak was rather disappointing. The 14-ounce (396 gram) Cowboy Ribeye (268 yuan) was well seared and came out suitably bloody for medium rare, but the lack of seasoning was a let down.

I can't remember if the beef was grain or grass fed but this is moot as the beef just tasted rather plain and I actually got bored halfway through. Sure, with a good piece of meat all you need is some salt and pepper, but I could have done that at home.

A good rub would have given more flavor and brought the best out of the cow.

The same could be said of the half hen (75 yuan) -- a huge portion of boring chicken that was drying out in the middle, with the herbs looking more like garnish than seasoning.

Granted, chicken is one of the plainest things on any menu, but it shouldn't be a punishment for not ordering steak.

Pinnacle Peak, winner of a recent burger crawl, makes a damn good burger (68 yuan) -- the right mix of fat and meat in the patty, good crisp veg and a well-toasted light and fluffy bun.

For a steakhouse, however, the place does a shocking steak sandwich for lunch.

One gets the feeling that the effort behind Pinnacle Peak needs to be greater.

The place had been open for nearly a year before General Manager Steven Smith inherited it, so maybe there aren't anymore funds to pump in.

As it stands, PP is an empty shell that makes overtures to the theme -- the waiters wear cowboy hats, but look as out of place as a cha shao bao in Arizona.

The menu also needs an injection of life as badly as the venue does.

More color on plates and fancy serving ware would complement the beautiful grill in the open kitchen, and at the same time try to develop a kid's menu.

Make the place about fun, and then less people will mind the simplicity of the fare.


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