Thursday, 26 February 2015

Not just a date night place - Upper Modern Bistro

Our recent move to Hong Kong has brought with it one additional bonus - being closer to The Big Boy, who lives in Taiwan.  Only a short plane ride away, The BB came over to see us not long after we arrived in town, and his main request for dinner was to go somewhere French (but not too expensive).  After doing a little research, I decided to book us all in for dinner at Upper Modern Bistro, which has recently been awarded a Michelin star in the 2015 guide, and is rapidly garnering a reputation as a great little bistro. 

Upper Modern Bistro is more of a French/modern Asian fusion, the brainchild of Philippe Orrico, a michelin-starred chef who creates a mouthwatering mix of dishes, based on his classical French training, with influences from his travels throughout Asia.   Located just off Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan in Upper Station Street, it can be found in an area bustling with dining spots, mixed in with the usual Hollywood Road antique shops.

We approached the restaurant from the Sheung Wan MTR station, after hanging out with the BB in Causeway Bay for a little while.  While I had a fair idea of where I was, and how to get to Upper Modern Bistro, Google Maps failed me and sent us off on a little bit of a deviation, well, a deviation from where I would have taken us!  Finally we arrived at Upper Station Street, and found the restaurant starting to get busy.  We were promptly shown to our table, probably the worst one in the whole restaurant though, right near the bar and the toilets!  Fortunately this did not mean we received the worst service - we were quickly offered bread and accompanying butter, which it turned out seemed to be an unending supply, much to FMUS' delight!  Known as being a bit of a butter hog, he was pleasantly surprised when the waiter materialised regularly and offered more of the creamy, slightly salty butter - yes please!

After deliberating over a nice bottle of red for the BB and myself (but not too expensive, which is a difficult combination in Hong Kong), we turned our attention to the menu.  I quickly realised that return visit may be in order, there were a lot of dishes on the menu which looked interesting (63 degree egg, lobster, salad, oysters, sole many choices!)  However, on this night my hankering for a terrine won out, and I ordered the pork terrine with "a l'acienne", which was served with gherkins and brioche toast.   The terrine was nice and light, the pork not that overpowering, however, for my tastes I found the brioche toast to be a little bit too sweet when combined with the sweet pork.  Thankfully there were lots of gherkins to add some needed acidity and bite, and overall I found my entree to be a good way to start the meal.

Pork terrine
Hankering for some meat, the BB went for the beef tartare with avocado, pecan nuts and parmesan foam.  What was served was not really what he was expecting, nor was it a traditional tartare, but with a massive layer of avocado underneath the beef, and a large pile of foam on top, it didn't really inspire confidence.  Even with the strange presentation, and probably a bit too much avocado,  the tartare itself was lovely, and BB wolfed it down with nary a complaint.

Beef tartare, upon a massive bed of avocado with the parmesan foam on top
FMUS decided to try the mushroom soup, with beaufort cheese.  This was presented with a little bit of theatre, with the cheese like an egg within the bowl, over which was poured the soup at the table.  The mushroom soup was velvety and earthy but the best part was the floating bits of cheese that popped up from time to time to add a little extra depth. FMUS was very happy with his starter, declaring the soup to be one of the best mushroom soups he's had!

The mushroom soup was poured at the table
In keeping with the 'bistro' approach, rather than an ultra fine dining establishment, the mains were all presented in a rustic yet very hearty manner.  The BB ordered the French pigeon, served with shiitake, piquillos, carrots and mustard seeds, and after the first few bites declared his love for the dish.  While the plate looked a little beige, the pigeon was expertly cooked and had a deep gamey flavour, the BB quickly set to work cleaning the pigeon bones of all of the succulent meat. 

BB's pigeon
FMUS wanted to try one of the restaurants specialties, the risotto with truffle.  Because of the cost of the ingredient, when ordering a dish with truffle, most of the time you expect to get a few shavings on the top of the dish (or just truffle oil).  Not at Upper Modern Bistro!  This was most definitely a case of a bowl of truffle with a small side of risotto!  When the dish was presented I had a hard time remembering what FMUS had ordered, it looked like just a pile of shaved truffle on the plate!  Initially this appeared to be a winner, with the mounds of truffle, but after a while FMUS found the truffle overpowered the dish.  He did like the risotto underneath, but its a rare day indeed when you hear someone say "you know, I think there is too much truffle on my plate"...

You can see a hint of risotto underneath the very generous serving of truffle
I decided to order the veal shank, with saffron risotto and marsala wine sauce.  I think my plate may have been near the truffle risotto, as I also received a few shavings of truffle - but I wasn't going to complain!  My veal was very succulent,  and the dish as a whole was hearty.  The presentation was what you would probably call 'rustic', and I thought in keeping with a bistro rather than a fine dining establishment.  I did find that my main was too big for this little black duck - although I did give it my best, I still had to leave room for dessert. 

Veal shank with saffron risotto and marsala wine sauce - and a little bit of truffle!
We asked our waiter what he would suggest for dessert, and he suggested the Upper Mojito, one of the restaurant's more popular desserts.  I think FMUS was a little cautious about the alcohol influence (regular readers of this blog will note a distinct lack of alcohol comment on the meals...) so I jumped in and ordered the mojito.  I can say that my dining companions did have a little bit of dessert envy when it was presented!  I thought this was a great light dessert, the compressed cucumber, lemon sorbet and mint jelly providing a refreshing and not overly sweet way to end the meal.  I would recommend this dessert for someone looking for just that little bit more after a large meal.

What I thought to be the pick of the desserts - the Upper Mojito
FMUS decided to order the Le "Mandarin", with mascarpone cream, mandarine textures, tuile, shizo and sorbet.  Another light dish, it was very well presented, a little at odds with the presentation of the mains we had ordered.  The dessert has some punchy flavours, but probably needed a sweet sauce to help pull the dessert together.  There was creamy mandarin flavoured cream, but it didn't do the job.  Nice presentation and good flavours, but just missing something.

Le "Mandarin" - see what he did there??
The BB opted out of something sweet, and chose the cheese option.  Three delicious cheeses were served on a piece of tree trunk (why go for a traditional cheese board when you can serve it on a petrified log). Unfortunately we didn't catch the names and types of the cheeses that were presented, only that there was a blue, a soft sheep's milk and a cheddar.  Not being a fan of the blue I declined the BB's offer of that but did try some of the cheddar - and was very impressed!  I wish I'd managed to get the details of the cheese because it was very delicious, oh well, perhaps that means another visit is in order so I can try the cheese platter!

The cheese platter - shame I didn't catch the cheeses as they were described by the waiter
We expected the restaurant to be a little busier on a Saturday night, but it did start to pick up as the evening wore on.  There were families with children enjoying a meal out, as well as couples having intimate dinners.  However, it seemed to be a popular spot for friends catching up, like us, and everyone appeared to be having a good time.

The service was very good, bordering on amazing, with the wait staff attentive yet not imposing.  Overall I would recommend Upper Modern Bistro for those looking for a good meal but one that's not going to break the bank.  If it wasn't for the fact there are just so many more places to try in Hong Kong, I could see me heading back for those nights where you aren't really sure what you want, but you know you want a good meal.


We ordered a side of potatoes, which were nice but arrived after most of the mains were consumed

Pouring the mushroom soup over the cheese

We initially thought this was a homage to the humble fish, but its actually leaves...

The entrance

The kitchen hard at work - but you get a smile from the chef on the way in and on the way out

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