No day-trip to Stanley Beach is 100% complete without a nice glass of wine and some fresh seafood. The place to get it? Rocksalt restaurant, located on the Stanley Promenade at the mouth of the bustling Stanley Street Market. With its characteristically high ceilings and windows, Rocksalt truly reflects the natural beauty of the waterfront facing it. The cuisine offered is predominantly made up of fresh Australian seafood, including their famous Coffin Bay Oysters, with a few surprises on the menu as well, such as the kangaroo steak drizzled with red wine and caramelized bacon jus. What sets Rocksalt apart from other seafood restaurants in Stanley, however, is the signature salt used in their dishes; instead of ordinary table salt, the food is flavored or garnished with rock salts from different regions of the world, in order to better bring out the flavors of each dish.
I met with Ryan N Dela Pena, Manager of Rocksalt, to find out more about the cuisine and the matching wine program at the restaurant. He spoke to me about the structure of the clientele, and shared some of the trends that he has noticed in how they order wine. We discussed why Pinot Noir seems to be most popular in large groups of guests and he explained why he prefers pairing Pinot Grigio with oysters rather than the more traditional Sauvignon Blanc. When asked to suggest a signature dish, he chose the chilled seafood platter and recommended pairing it with champagne.
Our interview follows:
Hi, I’m Ryan N Dela Pena and I am the acting restaurant manager here at Rocksalt.
Please tell me a bit about the concept behind the menu at Rocksalt. What kind of cuisine do you offer?
The concept behind Rocksalt lies in the name itself – rock salt. Nothing can bring out the flavor of our food like rock salt itself. We use it as an ingredient instead of regular table salt and we have rock salts from different regions of the world, such as Australia and the U.S. Most of the cuisine we offer here is Australian seafood but we also incorporate some steaks, pastas and sandwiches.
And a bit about the décor. Obviously you have a beautiful location here on the Stanley Promenade but how does the interior here echo the concept behind the restaurant?
We are set in one of the best locations in Stanley. We have the Stanley Market on the side of the restaurant, the Stanley Waterfront right in front of us. We want to preserve the feeling of the place itself, so we have high ceilings and very large windows to let in an abundance of light. This building used to be occupied by Bayside Brasserie, and after renovation, the management decided to keep it simple and preserve the natural beauty of the place. The décor also changes throughout the day. At lunchtime it is more casual, but during dinnertime it morphs into something more fine-dining, with white tablecloths and candles.
And please tell me a bit about the wine list here at Rocksalt. Is it made up mostly of New or Old World wines and is any particular region given preference?
The wine list is made up of predominantly New World wines and we have more white varieties, because our cuisine is mostly seafood. We have wines from all over the world – France, New Zealand, Australia, California Chile, Argentina. The wine list is put together by our Operations Manager who is a wine master. He worked as a sommelier before running the program here. I talked to him a few days ago about the concept behind the wine list at Rocksalt. Of course, when you are putting together the wine list for a restaurant, you have to consider the cuisine, which he did as well here. The wine list is simple, with notes and a short description of each wine, easy to understand. Sometimes looking through a wine list can be daunting, especially when it’s a hotel restaurant, but we decided to make it simpler. We include the name, the varietal, and a simple description about the color, aroma and flavor of each wine to help the customer find what he or she wants.
Above all Rocksalt is famous for its oysters. Please tell me a bit about pairing oysters with wine.
During this time of the year, and even sometimes in the winter, we serve mostly Coffin Bay Oysters from Australia, with which I personally like Pinot Grigio, a soft one. Oysters are usually recommended with Sauvignon Blanc, because this varietal seems to replace the lemon almost, balancing out the minerality of the oyster. But Pinot Grigio has become very popular lately, even in Australia, and most of our guests ask for it with oysters. So far, it has done very well. One of my favorites to recommend is the Mastri Vernacoli Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC 2011.
And does Pinot Grigio go with most kinds of oysters?
Yes, most. The stigma is that you’re supposed to drink Sauvignon Blanc with oysters but more people are ordering Pinot Grigio nowadays.
How is the wine list physically arranged, varietal or region?
By region – name, vintage and description of the wine.
And a bit about your clientele, are they mostly local, Mainland Chinese, expats or tourists?
It’s a mix. Because we are so near Stanley Market and it is a tourist spot, we get mostly Westerners from Monday to Friday, and then during the weekend it’s 50-50, because it’s during the weekends that locals working in the city can come to Stanley. Most of the tourists that we get are here on day trips and they stop by for a glass of wine and some food.
Have you noticed any regions that restaurant clients seem to order from the most?
On Saturdays and Sundays we have people come in larger groups, tables of 6 or 8 or 10. These groups want the wine to be flexible, so they order dinner with Pinot Noir or Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Usually Marlborough wines are popular, especially for groups. Pinot Noir is popular because it is very flexible and it goes with many different dishes. It is actually our best selling wine, the Oyster Bay Pinot Noir.
I saw as I was walking in that you have a poster advertising a kangaroo dish. Do you serve kangaroo here?
Yes, we serve kangaroo. It is a lighter, leaner meat than beef. It is a bit gamier as well. It is served with a red wine and caramelized bacon jus.
What wine would you pair with that?
My last question would be, if you could pick one pairing of a dish with a wine, which would best represent Rocksalt, which would it be?
I think I would choose the seafood platter. We are known for our fresh seafood and we have a chilled platter, in which we steam the seafood first – lobsters, prawns, mussels, clams, scallops – and serve it on crushed ice with fruits. We also have a hot seafood platter with grilled salmon and barramundi which is native to Australia and very traditional, along with clams, mussels and prawns. I would pair the seafood platter with champagne, Chandon. It’s not every day that you come to a restaurant with a nice view of the ocean and eat such fresh seafood so I would have to suggest only the best wine to go with it.
Sounds wonderful. Thank you.
Address: 25 Stanley Market Road, Stanley, Hong Kong
Phone: (+852) 2899 – 0818
Monday to Friday: 12pm – 10:30pm
Weekends & Public Holidays: 11am – 11pm