In the dynamic landscape of Hong Kong’s evolving bar culture, Mondrian Hong Kong takes a bold leap forward with the appointment of Joe Villanueva as their Head of Bars.
A seasoned veteran with two decades of experience and multiple awards under his belt, Villanueva brings a renewed sense of creativity to mixology, drawing inspiration from the vibrant local scene.
Avoca: A Culinary and Mixology Odyssey
At the forefront of this mixological revolution is Avoca, the flagship bar nestled on the 38th floor of Mondrian Hong Kong. Villanueva, now the face of Avoca, promises an immersive experience with its dedicated lift from Hart Avenue, treating patrons to panoramic views of Hong Kong Island and Victoria Harbour.
Villanueva’s prowess is evident in the locally-inspired cocktail menu at Avoca, a true masterpiece in the making. While the full menus remain a closely guarded secret until the hotel’s grand launch in December, Villanueva tantalizes cocktail connoisseurs with a sneak peek into his innovative creations.
For instance, the LGM Mary, a unique concoction, marries tequila blanco with black bean chilli oil from Lao Gan Ma, presenting a fusion of local and international flavours.
The Sesame and Peanut Butter Sour pays homage to a beloved street food favourite, transforming it into a delectable whiskey sour. The Clay Pot Negroni, inspired by the classic Clay Pot Rice dish in Hong Kong, adds a local twist to the global cocktail scene.
Innovative Techniques in Mixology
Villanueva’s approach to mixology is marked by innovation, drawing inspiration from culinary techniques. He enthusiastically shares, “I’m very much into the rotary evaporator, the new hot toy for bartenders where you can redistill and flavour the liquor.” This commitment to pushing boundaries highlights his dedication to staying at the forefront of the evolving bar culture.
Joining the Mondrian team, Villanueva is thrilled to be part of the Kowloon renaissance, witnessing a shift in nightlife action from Central. With a focus on a young, passionate team, he aims to instil a deep understanding of cocktails and bar culture.
Villanueva emphasizes, “What we are doing is pushing the envelope. A lot will depend on being able to educate customers with the stories and science behind what we are doing.”
Avoca’s Unique Tasting Experience
Avoca promises more than just a sophisticated vibe; it introduces a groundbreaking approach for patrons to sample before committing to their next cocktail. Villanueva teases, “If you are going to spend serious money on a drink, you want to be sure you understand it and will enjoy it. We have come up with something that’s really novel. I can’t reveal the details yet but stay tuned!”
Avoca goes beyond the glass, presenting a curated menu that harmoniously pairs with Villanueva’s inventive cocktails. Drawing inspiration from Hong Kong favourites with an Asian twist, the menu includes delights like the Cantonese Typhoon Shelter-style Lobster & Crab Roll, the renowned Ciabatta Beef Pastrami Sandwich, and the Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken-inspired Crispy Chicken Waffle.
Villanueva reflects on the cyclical nature of the bar culture, noting the resurgence of hotel bars to the forefront. He states, “There was a time in the 1980s and 1990s in Asia when bars at the hotel were the hot stuff, they were the first to be listed as part of the world’s top 50 bars. Then they started to age and lose their edge, and it was all about stand-alone bars. Today, the bar located in the hotel has become the essence, sharpening the energy and the vibe, and is coming back to the forefront, and we are going to be leading that charge.”
Conclusion: A Toast to Innovation and Tradition
As Mondrian Hong Kong gears up for its grand launch in December, Joe Villanueva’s arrival heralds a new era in mixology, where tradition meets innovation. Avoca, perched high above Kowloon, promises not just cocktails but an immersive experience, a celebration of elevated bar culture, curated food, and vibrant energy.
Villanueva’s journey from a multi-award-winning local legend to the helm of Avoca signifies a commitment to pushing boundaries and redefining the art of mixology in Hong Kong’s ever-evolving bar scene. Stay tuned for a taste of the extraordinary, where each sip tells a story of local inspiration and global influence.