Sunday, 8 November 2015

EPURE - superb French fine dining, but wheres the Michelin Star?

This was the week the Hong Kong & Macau Michelin Guide was updated.  Now, this post is not about the guide itself, but did stem from some of the articles I'd read, most of which really questioned the relevance of the guide after some shock omissions and demotions.  One of the best meals I'd had in Hong Kong was from NUR (see post here), which was one of the unlucky restaurants to be demoted.  I'd also read that a little French fine diner called EPURE was widely regarded as extremely unlucky to have missed out.  

I didn't really need more of a reason to check it out.  I wanted to see for myself if EPURE was indeed Michelin Star worthy.

EPURE is located in Tsim Sha Tsui, or TST, and is one of the many restaurants in the very popular Ocean Centre at Harbour City.  This is where the massive ocean liners dock while in Hong Kong and is probably the biggest indoor shopping centre I've ever seen, you can get lost there for hours!  We had a pretty good idea of how to find EPURE, but we arrived early anyway, so we could have a wander around the shops and have a pre-dinner drink.

Without doubt, my favourite style of cuisine is French fine dining, so I was super keen to learn that Executive Chef Nicolas Boutin was at the helm of EPURE.  Having worked at Michelin three-starred Troisgros as well as a handful of two-starred restaurants around Europe, I was expecting French cuisine of the highest order.  With a philosophy of delivering a glamorous and chic dining experience  and inspired by French royalty, the layout of the EPURE dining room was certainly very plush and luxurious.

Luxurious is a word that we'd use throughout our dining experience at EPURE, which started as soon as we were given the extensive wine list (more like a phone book) and gilded menu that held a range of exquisite looking dining options.  While the a la carte options looked appetising, we couldn't go past the tasting menu, which was a little different from your traditional tasting menu, in that we had a number of options to choose from for 'entres' and 'plats' including several signature dishes.  Best of all, we were able to customise our tasting menu to our personal desires.

Just after we placed our orders, one of the most knowledgable sommilliers we've ever encountered came over to help the girl with her wine selections.  With an understanding the food selections, he was able to precisely help with the right selection and at the same time, educate us about the region and details of the winery for each options.  I don't drink wine, but even I was super impressed!

A couple of things happened in quick time.  We were given a bread platter that had a range of bread choices that ranged from a mini baguette to sour dough to olive encrusted rolls.  Practically every conceivable bread choice was available and served with room temperature unsalted butter, as well as a light chilli butter.

Then we were given a little trio of h'orderves consisting of a truffle potato ball and a cauliflower puree tart (I didn't catch the third).  Presented on a pretty little plate, each of the horderves were quickly devoured with my favourite bing the truffle potato ball, manly due to its wonderful truffle flavour that sat on my palate for some time.

No sooner had we finished our h'orderves than an amuse bouche of artichoke puree with lobster foam and toasted nuts was presented.  The texture of the puree and lobster foam were lovely with the sweetness of the artichoke contrasting nicely with the slightly bitter foam bisque.  Texture came from the nuts, but they didn't really have any flavour, which was just fine by me!  I wanted to savour that lovely foam for as long as possible.

My first dish from the tasting menu was one of EPURE's many signature dishes, the champignon de Paris; white button mushroom soup with baby spinach gnocchi.  My plate was presented with some dainty little green gnocchi pieces, along with some spinach puree, before the creamy white mushroom sauce was poured over at the table.  Our waiter gave a complete description of the meal, along with tips on the best way to enjoy the meal.  Following his instructions, I tried some of the powerfully flavoured mushroom soup before next bite combining the soup with the gnocchi. The flavour from the soup was intense, very concentrated and delightfully luxurious but I found the gnocchi a bit too subtle to compete with strong mushroom flavour.  

The girl had deviated with her first course, instead choosing the boudeuses by David Herve; French oysters, one with a watermelon horseradish and the other calamansi lemon 'Huilerie Beaujolaise' - which is a cider vinegar.  Both oysters were super sized and delicious - one hot and one served cold - with intensely fresh flavour of the sea prevalent.

We'd both been unable to pass on the next course, which was another of the EPURE signature dishes and perhaps the most enjoyable of the evening.  Truffle blanche du Piemont; aged risotto with tuberous chervil and Alba white truffle was magnificent.  We had bowls of slightly runny risotto that emitted an aroma that had me wanting to dive straight in, but couldn't because we were being teased by the EPRUE manager telling us the story of the white truffle.  We were first given a viewing of the truffle, before being allowed to sniff the aroma from it's glass casing.   Next was the story of the unique identifying number, which were we to check online, would find out the exact location and date of the truffles' existence.  Lastly, the white truffle was shaved over the top of the risotto, ready for us to devour.

I've had truffle risotto a few times in Hong Kong, On Dining (see post here) and Upper Modern Bistro (see post here) to name a few.  Each time, the balance between the risotto and the truffle had been severely out, leaving both dishes overly dry.  It was far from the case at EPURE, with the perfect balance of creamy risotto and white truffle.  The earthy umami flavour of the truffle was absolutely stunning, made all the better by a risotto that was just right.  Yeah, it was a special dish.

We were again on parity with next course of coquilles St Jacques; seared St Malo scallops presented on strips of salsify and covered with shavings of organic lemon and bottarga then finished off with a parsley sauce (again poured at the table).  I thought the scallops were ever so slightly under cooked and could have used a little extra caramelisation to add to the flavour.  The scallops worked nicely with the parsley sauce, but I didn't quite get the relevance of the salsify, which was a little bland for me.

It was time for our mains, and we'd again deviated in our choices, SC opting for the le faisan de sologne; pheasant supreme and crepinnete with Correze cep mushroom and a blueberry vinegar. I didn't really like the plating of the dish, nor did I like that the pheasant had been skinned, it really lacked some colour and the pheasant looked a little blonde.  The pheasant was well cooked and seasoned, as was the huge mushroom that dominated the plate.  There was also a lot of spinach puree, which was a little sweet and maybe a little too dominant for the subtle pheasant flavour (I think it would have been stronger with a lovely caramelised and crispy skin)

I'd decided to pay an extra supplement of HK$300 for the le wagyu du pays au soleil levant; beef striploin Gifu prefecture A5 with quince, Autumn mushroom, puff potato chips and a caramel jus. Again, I didn't love the presentation of the dish, it looked a little disconnected on the plate, which was partially resolved once the jus was poured at the table.  My wagyu came perfectly medium rare and was lovely, however, I found that the quince puree that accompanied the dish to be completely overpowering, so much so that if any was added to the beef, the beef was lost completely.  I also found the beef to be a little on the small side, especially given the additional supplement paid.  It was a good meal, but the quince was really out of place, and would have worked better with a gamey panfried duck breast.

We were feeling very full by this time, so had to decline the offer of the cheese cart, which was wheeled by our table by the EPURE manager.  He seemed bitterly disappointed that we'd decided not to partake!

Pre dessert was cueillies dans les ronces; blackberries with spun sugar and farm yoghurt sorbet. It was a pretty looking little dessert, which wasn't surprising given that Head Pastry Chef Matthieu Godard had worked at world ranked Amber at one point! Fresh blackberries sat aside a foam that was decorated with razor thin spun sugar and a perfect quenelle of creamy yoghurt sorbet.  The dessert was designed as a refreshing bridge between our rich mains and our final desserts and it performed the task admirably.  It was light and very tasty.

For final dessert, the girl chose the le chocolat Venezuelien; a 72% Araguani chocolate tart with citrus, confit and sorbet.  The dessert looked very chocolaty with a base of crumble, topped with dollops of soft dark chocolate then covered with a super thin slice of tempered chocolate.  It must have been great, I can't tell you for sure because the girl polished it off so quickly that she didn't even offer me a small mouthful!  By all accounts the dark chocolate was bitter sweet and married wonderfully with the citrus sorbet.

I'd again chosen one of the EPURE signature dishes, le soufflé au Grand Marnier; Grand Marnier liquor soufflé with a mandarin sorbet.  As I the soufflé was delivered from the kitchen, I could see from some distance that it had risen perfectly.  As it got closer to our table, it was clear that I'd picked a winner and why this was the only signature dessert.  The soufflé was perfectly prepared, incredibly light and with a strong hint of the orange flavour from the Grand Marnier.  It was very sweet though, and I needed the slightly bitter mandarin sorbet to help ratchet down the sweetness.  It was very, very good!

In the true tradition of French fine dining, the tasting menu took us around three hours to get through, which felt just about right.  There was a mix of French and locals working as wait staff and the Manager was as French as they come, we just love that accent.  Service was superb, with each course introduced in intricate detail and diners treated with respect and difference.  It was just like the service I'd experienced in the very best of UK Michelin restaurants, especially the sommelier!

The food was lovely too and while I had a few niggles about some of the courses, in particular my main course with too much quince and the lack of the skin on the pheasant, it was incredibly tasty.  It wasn't cheap though!  EPURE is noted as one of the Top 100 Tables in Hong Kong, but it's charging more like a three Michelin-starred restaurant.

I can see why many thought that EPURE was unlucky to miss out on achieving a Michelin Star this year, it's better than a number of other Michelin-starred restaurants I've been to.  But, I did have a little buyer's remorse at the end of the meal, it was probably just a little too pricey for a non Michelin restaurant.

A lovely tray of petite four - I ate most of them because SC was too full - score!
Like a lot of fine dining places, we had a place setting that was removed once we sat down
Our still water was quite fancy - it was presented and poured like it was a fine wine
Quite plush interior and it was fully booked - there was a happening vibe
EPURE is one of the Top 100 restaurants in HK - a fine accolade but not a Michelin Star!
Next time we come, we will need to try the cheese cart!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...