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The wide entrance of Commissary is open and inviting. The self-service al fresco dining area where guests need to pick up their own cutlery and napkins seats 30, and is rather casual. The main dining area is separated into two small atriums, divided by the well-stocked bar. The interior is reminiscent of 60s and 70s American design, while lighting is mild and soft, with warm earthy tones and large colourful paintings on the walls, accented with pots of greenery spread across floor-to-ceiling shelves near the kitchen.
Yenn Wong’s homage to Southern Californian cuisine is a light and refreshing concept for Pacific Place, joining the likes of Apinara and Operetta. The simple, one-page menu features familiar comfort food such as burgers and steaks.
We began with the clam chowder, which was a bit thin for our taste but the clams were tender and cubed potatoes retained a starchy bite.
The fish tacos here are arguably the best in town, where soft flour tortillas are laid flat, holding crispy, thinly-battered fish and a pile of coleslaw, adding texture in every bite while the fish remains crisp on the outside and creamy within.
The fried chicken sandwich is top-notch with both sides of the sesame bun toasted. The chicken is seasoned well and juicy within. The double cheeseburger would have been better if the patties were medium-rare instead of almost well-done.
Shrimp and grits is certainly the highlight of the meal. The rich seafood broth, with its rusty shade, is rich and paired with soft, creamy grits. A slow-cooked egg with a molten yolk melts into the grits and coats each shrimp. The skirt steak is tender and caramelised on the outside but the dish itself lacks the same surprise factor as the grits.
Desserts can be a hit-or-miss at Commissary. The signature red velvet cake was nowhere near the original. For starters it contains no cocoa, whereas the original does. Generously stacked and iced, this four-layer cake was disappointingly doughy with a dense texture, although the cream cheese frosting had just the right hint of sweetness.
Our first serving of apple fried pies arrived light beige on the outside with a fridge-cold filling. When staff returned with a freshly made batch, the half-moon shaped pastry crescents are flaky and short on the crust, while the filling was packed with cubed apples that yield to the bite.
As casual as Commissary is, the wines by-the-glass menu is good with plenty of options that are versatile enough to match with most of the menu offerings. Cocktails are designed by the group’s celebrated mixologist James Barker. The Downtown Derby is all sunshine, comprising of grapefruit bitters, honey, and bourbon whisky. The addition of blood orange adds a delightful red hue and notes of sweet berry to the drink. The Bloody Californian is one of three variations of the Bloody Mary at the restaurant—the spicy Tequila adds extra kick to the rich cocktail without being overly boozy, and is a great match with the establishment’s bestsellers such as tacos and grilled steak.
The service staff at Commissary is keen and friendly, from quick confirmation of our bookings to hellos and goodbyes. Portion control suggestions are sound and useful for first-time guests. We find, however, that a better understanding of food and beverage offerings is needed, although the staff is keen to suggest the restaurant's bestsellers and signature items.
A dinner for two including one cocktail each amounts to HK$950. Commissary’s food and drink selection brings a breath of fresh air to the fine dining-oriented Pacific Place, and merits return visits for casual meetups over light bites and after work drinks.