Sunday, 12 June 2016

Arcane - not so hidden or mysterious after all

I'm probably biased, but Australian chefs are taking over the world!

It seems that every day, a new Aussie chef is hitting Honkers to open a new restaurant or join part of an established team.

This invasion, of a sort, arguably started when Perth born chef Shane Osborne, moved from the UK to Hong Kong to establish his own take on a simple yet delicious fare.  Having achieved two Michelin Stars at well known London restaurant Pied-a-Terre, Osborne threw it all in to travel for a while, before ending up at HK restaurant St Betties.  Turning the fortunes of the under performing restaurant around, Osborne eventually developed his own restaurant in Central.


"Understood by few" and "mysterious and secret"

An interesting name for a restaurant from a Chef that had run one of the world's top restaurants, perhaps hoping for anonymity in Hong Kong?

We arrived for our 7pm reservation and unsurprisingly, we were the first to arrive, seemingly the only couple in Hong Kong that think dining at this hour is normal.  Located near LKF, we had no trouble finding the restaurant and were so early, LKF was actually really, really quiet!  

Once we entered the dining room, we walked past the open kitchen with plenty of chefs busy at work, and were placed at a table that gave me a great view of the dining room and the kitchen.  The space was quite cosy, but felt a little tired and dated, although I really loved the artwork placed around the walls - the only vibrant and colourful parts to the dining area.  I commented to the girl that I hoped the food wasn't tired and dated either.

I'd been studying the menu online before we'd arrived, so had a pretty good idea of what I wanted for the evening.  All that was thrown into disarray when our waiter explained the specials on offer. He was so passionate about them that he managed to change my mind when I eventually placed my order - talking me out of the pan fried langoustines with roasted broccolini and girolle ragout.

Unusually for a restaurant nowadays, we were not offered an amuse bouche, instead presented with a huge slab of butter and some warm, crusty sourdough.  For some reason, the misshapen shaped butter really appealed, the fact that it was room temperature and spread beautifully on my bread was a bonus.

Starters arrived and no matter how much I tired to get a great photo of the girl's warm green asparagus with truffle potato, english mustard mayonnaise and hazel nut dressing, I failed.  It actually presented nicely on the plate, but more importantly, was quite refreshing and very light. Asparagus can be a little astringent, and this proved to be the case, although the potato brought an earthiness to the dish to balance the flavour.  Shavings of black truffle from Shane's native Western Australia certainly helped too!

Following the recommendation of our waiter paid off, big time.  Keeping the langoustine element to the dish, I'd selected a tagliatelle with a langoustine bisque, finished with broad beans and that shaved black Western Australian truffle.  Interestingly, my first mouthful had me a little nervous, while the pasta was perfection personified, there was a little harsh twang to the bisque. Why so interesting?  Well, there were layers of complexity wiht the bisque that were unlocked the longer it sat in my bowl.  I'm not sure why, but after a few mouthfuls, that slightly bitter taste gave way to a creamy taste, that was simply delicious.  By the time I'd finished, I was rubbing my finger inside the bowl to soak up every last drop of that bisque - just sensational.

My main was also a selection off the specials list, mainly because I'd been struggling to find something that really appealed on the mains menu.  Keeping with my seafood trend, I'd chosen the Tai (a form of Snapper), served with burnt leek and sauce vierge.  It was a very good looking plate, considering how difficult it can be to present fish, I really liked the angular slices of Tai on the plate and the casual care that the sauce vierge had been placed; it was more rustic than fine dining, but I was more than OK with that.  I loved the expertly cooked snapper, which is a firm fish with a stronger flavour and the crisp salty skin.  The sauce, which consisted of olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and green olive was very sharp, but worked nicely with the strong flavoured Tai.

The dish of the evening went to the girl, with her selection of tortellini of braised chicken leg with fresh morels, broad beans and wild garlic, finished with a thyme velouté.  Four large tortellini were presented again in a rustic manner, with a creamy sauce that included the brown chunks of mushroom.  All I can say is that I was thankful there were four pieces!  SC simply couldn't eat the entire dish, no matter how much she wanted to, which left me to eat that last tortellini.  Wow. Yeah, wow!  The chicken was full flavoured and tender, the pasta al dente and slightly sweet, the sauce incredible and earthy with an underlying umami flavour from the morels.  It was close to the perfect pasta dish, with only it's sheer size working against it.

Hehe, well, it did leave a chunk for me to devour, but may have left an incorrect impression that the girl didn't love it, should it have gone uneaten!

We decided to share a dessert, the girl was pretty well done, but I needed something sweet to finish off a superb meal.  Looking for something fresh, I went for the Gariguette strawberries served with fresh mango, lime panna cotta and toasted toasted meringue.  It was served in a clear glass, and looked quite boring as a consequence.  There was little colour, save the yellow of the fresh mango.  What it lacked in presentation, it made up for in taste, the fresh fruit marrying so well with the lime pannacotta and slightly crunch meringue.  I did feel that the balance of the dessert was slightly out, with not enough texture to counter the goopy pannacotta; something that could have been resolved with more of that fresh strawberry.

I love going to a restaurant and letting the wait staff recommend a dish, especially when they get it really, really right.  There is a bit of a risk when you do this, but the reward can be staggering, especially if you get something a little outside your comfort zone.  I lucked out both times, and the look of satisfaction on our waiter's face was priceless.  

Service on the night was great, and we managed to recognise Keith on the staff, a recent addition to the Arcane team, but a top bloke we'd encountered at other restaurants previously (ironically, with another Aussie chef).

In fact, it was a pretty awesome night overall and apart from the interior and decor, which by Hong Kong standards was quite understated, it was one of our top meals of the year so far.  We didn't see Chef Shane Osborne in the kitchen, which is always a little disappointing when visiting a restaurant with open kitchen, but the meal didn't suffer as a consequence.

But maybe, that's what Arcane is all about; the mysterious and secret Shane Osborne was there all along - but just out of sight!

A little less flashy than most HK restaurants - but let's be honest, it's about the food!
It was quite for a Saturday night - perhaps the rain kept people away.  It certainly kept us off what is reported to be one of Hong Kong's best terrace dining areas

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...