Sunday, 15 March 2015

Tate Dining Room and Bar - a standout in a city with standouts

There is a mind boggling number of restaurants in Hong Kong, in fact, it's pretty hard to get your head around how many there really are.  Practically everywhere you go, every building, has a dining room of some kind.  To put that in context, there are over seven million people and around 6,000 skyscrapers in the greater Hong Kong area.  Open Rice, Hong Kong's main online restaurant guide, lists around 79,000 restaurants, so finding a restaurant is not a problem.  Finding a great restaurant is the challenge.

Walking around, I see lots of restaurants that I'd like to get back to and visit, but with so many around, I often forget which ones I want to get back to.  We were walking up Elgin on Saturday night, just looking around, when we walked past a stylish little dining room that looked the goods.  It helped that there was a cute little horse head that held up a quaint little sign that stated the restaurant open.  Triggering a memory, I checked my list of Michelin Starred restaurants I wanted to visit and sure enough, the little restaurant was on my list!

Tate Dining Room and Bar is the creation of Vicki Lau, a graduate of New York University in Graphic Communication.  With an obvious flare for the creative, Vicki commenced a recreational endeavour at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, one of the worlds most prestigious hospitality education institutions.  It was a decision that would set the course of Vicki's life and out her as one of the Region's most creative and influential chefs.  Combining an appreciation of design with the culinary arts, Tate has won a coveted Michelin Star from 2013 through to 2015, culminating in being named Asia's best female chef.

We'd arranged for a mid week reservation and cruised on up to the restaurant after work and, after being warmly greeted at the door, were shown to our table in the cute little 26 seat dining room.  What I loved immediately about the dining room was the obvious flare and style, with some curious art pieces and the decor that screamed opulence and class.  It didn't hurt that there was a great view to the kitchen and we could see the team, led by Vicki, hard at work.  Being a degustation only menu, we had a choice of two tasting menus, the smaller 'sensualist' and the full 'gastronomy'.  It was an easy choice, we went with the 'gastronomy' menu, which looked incredible.

While we waited for our journey to begin, a quick look over the drinks menu led to one of the best cocktails SC had ever had!  It helped that guava was the key ingredient (along with Vodka, of course), which was one of SC's favourite fruit juices.  We were also presented with a bread plate, filled with a warm brioche roll each and some rye bread, accompanied by a huge tub of butter that would easily go the distance.  Butter in a restaurant is a detail that is often overlooked, but Tate got this perfectly right!  Enough butter, at room temperature.....makes a happy food blogger.

As with all great meals, we commenced ours with a treat from the kitchen.  The amuse bouche for the night was a series of beautiful little bites, 'elements' aligned on a purpose-made plate that really highlighted the skill of the chef.  Included were a quails egg, wrapped eel, spherical coconut water on a leaf (so delicate), a perfectly domed bell pepper puree and mushroom.  Each was incredible in it's own right, but my favourite was the little quails egg, which oozed sweet yolk as I crushed the bite in my mouth.

Our first course was delightfully presented in a little tin, labeled with the restaurant's name.  Called 'Bonito', it was a wonderful blend of Japanese flavours and textures.  The marinated Katsuo (a type of tuna) sat in a dashi jelly with a tiny little roll of daikon and finished with a datterino tomato confit, edible flower and the ubiquitous gold leaf (seriously, it's everywhere in HK).  A lot of work had gone into the presentation, which added a little flair to the dish.  The powerful dashi jelly worked well with the Katsuo, which was extremely fresh.  

A feature of the meal was the high level of detail put into each of the dishes, you could see the effort that had gone into creating and plating, which any diner would recognise and appreciate.  The 'Foie Gras Terrine' was an excellent example of the little details...  Spiced and curried tuile pieces sat atop the creamy duck foie gras, then a blueberry sauce added a shock of colour that contrasted with the cold texture of the pommery mustard ice cream.  There was a lot going on with the plate, a lot that could have gone wrong, but the plate was in perfect harmony. SC particularly loved it, especially combining the punchy mustard with the creamy foie gras.

'The Sea' was our next masterpiece, again beautifully presented, that combined an incredible black truffle scallop mousse with taraba crab meat topped with Ostera Schrencki caviar.  Yuzu jelly and a textured and coloured rice paper finished off the presentation of the dish.  The scallop mousse had the most intense flavour of truffle, but amazingly, the sweetness of the scallop was not lost, and the saltiness of the caviar shone through as an aftertaste that seriously enhanced the umami flavour of the truffle.  I'm sure the idea was to use the rice paper as a scoop to pick up the mousse, but I forgot all about it until there was no mousse left - oops!

I loved the simple presentation of 'Wreath', particularly the bowl the dish was presented in.  A little extra theatre was the Chinese liquorice root oxtail consomm√© being poured from a clear glass teapot. The consomm√© was poured over a lightly poached oyster that was wrapped in a braised wagyu beef tongue slice.  Once the broth was poured, I also noticed a kimchi pickled daikon and little kernels of sweet corn.  The intense flavours of the consomm√© again were in perfect balance but the highlight was the sweet oyster wrapped in the beef tongue, the ultimate fine dining version of surf and turf!

Our next course included one of the worlds most luxurious ingredients, Maine Lobster!  Simply called 'Lobster', the dish included chunks of expertly cooked sweet lobster, sitting atop a barley risotto and accompanied by a rich lobster sauce poured over the lobster and a slice of baby fennel.  A sweet corn puree finished off the plate, which added colour and extra sweetness....  A little too much sweetness for my palate.  While I enjoyed the dish immensely, and would have preferred slightly less of the sweetcorn puree, SC thought it was just right.

While each of the courses from the tasting menu we'd consumed so far were wonderful, the real highlights of the meal were still ahead of us.  In fact, the two main meat courses were both stunning and I found it hard to pick a favourite!

One of the best looking plates of food I've eaten in a long time was next.  The 'Iberico Pork Pluma' was a juicy and perfectly cooked roll of Iberico pork (the best kind of pork) sitting atop a zen-garden-like red date port wine puree.  Finishing off the dish was a chicken jus with toasted rice and some Japanese broccoli.  The sweetness of the pork was indescribable, suffice to say it was sweet and meaty at the same time, but had an underlying flavour that sat lightly on the palate long after the meal was consumed.  I'd have been happy if the broccoli had been left off the plate, I'm not sure they added anything but a contrast to the plate, but boy, I will remember that Iberico pork for some time!

Our last savoury dish was the 'Kagoshima Beef Striploin', a supremely tender piece of meat, cooked to such perfection that it was hard to remember any previously eaten piece of beef.  The beef jus that covered the Kagoshima was intensely rich but not overpoweringly so.  Green asparagus added colour and balance to that wonderful beef and a fiddlehead fern provided just a little extra contrast.  There was no doubt though, that Kagoshima beef was the star of the dish, and while it wasn't as pretty as some of the other dishes, it was supremely tasty.

It was time for dessert and it was hard to imagine what could come that would top the culinary journey of French Asian fusion that had already been consumed.  The simply named 'Exotic' managed the task perfectly!  A mango mousse wrapped in passionfruit jelly sat atop a banana bread pudding, finished of with shiso coconut sorbet.  It looked beautiful and managed to blend lightness and sweetness impeccably, so much so that the mango mousse just danced on the tongue before being replaced by the equally delishous coconut sorbet.  

It was a wonderful finish to a tasting menu that had managed to test the mind as well as the palate.  Each dish seemed to roll into the next superbly, in a well thought out and expertly executed meal.  The visual feast was not quite finished, a little sugar zen garden came out with some petit fours, resplendent with little rake to help shape the sweet garden.  Beautiful and ingenious.

It's fair to say that we simply loved the 'gastronomy' tasting menu from the kitchen of Vicki Lau. The team in the kitchen had been hard at work all night, matched by the front of house team, who were equally up to the task.  Service was superb and not intrusive, with the team clearly enjoying working in the restaurant.  We also noted that like all great restauranteurs and chefs, Vicki was working the dining room, talking to regulars and being really engaging.

The Michelin Star for Tate Dining Room is well deserved and to be honest, maybe shy of where the meal on the night of our visit took us.  I've been to a few Two Michelin Starred restaurants that would have been envious of the meal at Tate....  

Our menu on the night was the Winter menu, and it did hint of the slightly heavier ingredients that come with winter menus.  There is little doubt that I'm going to have to go back and check out the Summer menu, I'm completely intrigued with what Vicki will produce.

With all of the restaurants in Hong Kong, Tate is one that I will forever remember.

Those beautiful little amuse bouche
Pretty as a picture
Beautiful colours
Vicki hard at work in the kitchen
We loved this little duck!
Birds everywhere!  Looking after these toothpicks...


  1. Wow, this looks amazing. I've only just recently stumbled across your article and its amazing!!!

    1. Yeah, this is one of the best restaurants in Hong Kong!!

  2. Sounds good, I want to go there too, it is not far from me.

    1. Sweet, I'm looking to go back again myself soon, it's really good!

  3. I would love to visit there.Thanks for sharing.


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