Sunday, 10 July 2016

Atelier Vivanda - Akrame's other global restaurant chain

Akrame Benallal seems to be a man on a mission.  Not content with a Two Michelin starred restaurant in his native France, the young gun chef has been looking to expand and create a global culinary empire.

I'd been to his self titled restaurant, Akrame, located in the very hip Ship Street Wanchai, recipient of a Michelin Star in its own right and thought his take on French cuisine was nice (see post here).  So, when we were looking for an alternative to the steak frites dinners that we'd been consuming lately, Akrame's other global outlet sprang to mind.

Atelier Vivanda is located right next door to Akrame, but while Akrame is quite hidden from view, Atelier Vivanda is much more open and easy to find.  A bold and striking brand sits above an open window that brings the vibe of Ship Street right into the dining room, enlivening the feel of the restaurant.

We'd had quite an early reservation for dinner and arrived earlier still, so were the first diners to be seated at our table, in a prime position right in front of the open style kitchen.  The bold styling of the logo translated to a clean and modern fit out inside, with each of the tables created with spots to hold the specially made steak knives that are a feature at Atelier Vivanda.

The menu at chef Akrame's steak restaurant is quite simple and like many steak frites restaurants, is largely fixed.  I say largely, but there were quite a few options and combinations available on the menu, so for a set price, you were able to pick and choose from a wide variety of options.  At the crux of the menu however, you chose an entree and main, then get to select from the unlimited sides selection; which ran to five different styles of potato.

Straight after ordering, we were presented with a brown paper bag with some fresh bread as a kick start to the meal.  It allowed us to sample some of the house made olive oil that was strategically located on the table. Called Caractère, the olive oil was specially created by chef Akrame from olives  from a small area in Ligure, Italy and unspoiled voatsiperify pepper from Madagascar.  It was a beautiful oil that soaked into the fresh bread nicely and helped whet our appetites for the meal to come.

One of the speciality dishes in Atelier Vivanda was the thinly sliced smoky beef that had been matured for 50 days, so we had to order the dish as well, even though it was an extra cost.  The bright red beef was piled high on the plate, which was a wooden bowl and quite a rustic contrast against the bright beef.  Wow, the beef was really smoky, perhaps even a bit over smoked for my personal tastes and with so much on the plate, my palate was a little overwhelmed by the time I'd finished.

Thankfully, I was able to take some of the smoky beef and add to my starter of vegetable carpaccio, which also contained a little of the smoky beef.  Consisting of thinly sliced root vegetables, including different colours and styles of beetroot, there was an overly strong vinaigrette that was incredibly strong, and completely overpowered the beef that was provided with the dish. Luckily, I was able to add a lot of the beef from our separate order, which helped balance the flavours somewhat.

The girl ordered the duck leg terrine with pickled baby onions and a small amount of lettuce on the side.  The terrine had an interesting texture and flavour, with some vinegar used in the creation of the dish, there was an overly acidic flavour that competed with the creamy and gamey flavour of the duck.  It was quite nice, if not a little out of balance, and would have been helped along with some toast to balance out the acidity and give some texture to the quite mushy terrine.

Mains at Atelier Vivanda are interesting, you order a piece of protein that comes alone on a broad white plate, and supplement it with one of the many varieties and styles of cooked potato.

The girl chose the veal rump, which was a spectacularly large piece of young beef cooked a lovely medium rare.  There was nice colouring to the beef, which had a slight caramelised glaze that added some nice flavour to the chunk of meat.  Veal is quite a subtle flavour and could have used a nice jus, but there didn't seem to be such an option on the menu - perhaps something to think about for the menu.

I'd chosen the duck breast and asked for it to be cooked medium rare, which was actually the recommendation from the kitchen too.  My duck was medium rare as promised with skin that had been cooked perfectly, a lovely caramelised skin that was super tasty, as well as fat that had been rendered correctly.  I know that I'd ordered the duck medium rare, but it was just a little tough and I think a better option would have been a nice medium.  Again, there was no sauce on offer, so the flavour of the duck had to stand alone, and it did, but a nice sticky sauce would have elevated the dish somewhat.

While there were no sauces available with the proteins, the whole idea was to have some of the potato dishes to support, which they did superbly.  While we could have ordered one of each type, we limited ourselves to the gratin dauphinois, pommes galette and the mashed potatoes.  We loved the buttery dauphinois, which was presented in a cast iron dish and had come straight out of the oven. The potato was only a little starchy, but the butter and cream wonderful.  My favourite was the Pommes galette though, the deep fried strings of potato were simply delicious, but of course there is nothing quite as nice as deep fried potato!  On the other hand, I didn't love the mashed potatoes, which seemed over worked and a little gluggy to eat - I'd probably skip this next time.

Dessert was part of the set price, and of course we indulged with a sweet end to the meal, but with mixed success.  The girl had ordered the apple confit with vanilla tonka ice-cream, which was essentially baked apple with ice-cream atop.  I think SC was more expecting a tarte tatin than the baked apple, and while it was close, it lacked the puff pastry and caramel that a great tarte tatin has.  The apple was a little burnt and a little too sweet, it really missed some extra texture that pastry would have provided.

I was super happy with my choice of meringue served with basil cream and lemon sorbet, which was perfect for a hot Hong Kong summer's evening.  The sweet basil cream looked a bit washed out, with it's pale green colour, but it did contrast nicely with the lemon sorbet and yellow meringue. On it's own, the lemon sorbet was way too tart, but with the sweet basil cream and even sweeter toasted meringue, was a completely delicious and refreshing dessert.  

There were a few things I loved about our visit to Atelier Vivanda, the concept is quite unusual and as a variant on the traditional steak frites, it works really well.  It's a very comfortable restaurant that is well designed, especially nice with the solid beech tables that have knife slots built into them.  We loved the service, which was friendly and personable and even extended to the kitchen staff who were really close to our table.

I'd read a few reviews of Atelier Vivanda from some other bloggers I trust, and one thing seemed to come through quite clearly, that the food was solid but not spectacular, and that something was missing.  Fair comments with hindsight, and I'd have to agree, the food at Atelier Vivanda is solid, especially at the price point, but lacks that something special.

In my mind, something that could help elevate the dishes to become very memorable would be a number of sauces or jus, to accompany the proteins on the side.  For me, such a simple addition could be transformative.

There are a number of Atelier Vivandas located globally, so chef Akrame seems to be doing something right with his latest concept.  It's a place that I can see myself going back to semi-regularly, mainly because it's quite close to my flat in Wanchai and partially due to the reasonable price point.

I'm hoping that next time I go, there will be some sauce options as well.

The specially made olive oil and knives were a welcome addition - the knives were sharp but their design meant I was kept using the blunt side!
A clean modern feel, the tables and chairs were a lovely beech colour
That branding was quite distinctive!  The bread inside was fresh and soft, great for soaking up the peppery olive oil
Room at the kitchen bar for a busy night - would be good to watch the chefs in action
I loved the lighting and mirror - the decor was very modern and chic
It was very quiet for our visit though.
Some warm madeleines were served as petite four at the end of the meal
The kitchen staff were not shy - posing for a photo at the end of the meal
We were able to watch the team at Atelier Vivanda slice up our smokey beef - you know it's fresh when you see it yourself!

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...