Saturday, 30 July 2016

Spoon by Alain Ducasse - classic and beautiful French flavours

I'm not really sure why it took over eighteen months to finally get around to visiting legendary chef Alain Ducasse's Hong Kong restaurant.  It ticks pretty much every box that I ever look for in a restaurant, French, modern, Michelin Starred and as a bonus, a restaurant from one of the top chefs in the world.

Perplexing really.

Anyway, I finally managed to get along to Hong Kong's Intercontinental Hotel, the home of Spoon by Alain Ducasse.  I've dined at the Intercontinental before, for another legendary chef's HK outlet; Nobu, which I found to be quite outstanding (see post here); so I had an inkling of the amazing view that awaited us when we were shown to our window seat.

Hong Kong undoubtably has the world's most spectacular skyline, and the view from Spoon gave us unfettered access to the Island's many skyscrapers.  We were seated just before the sun set and were able to watch the skyline come alive as we consumed our meal.

The incredible service that you'd expect from a Michelin starred restaurant in a five star hotel commenced from the moment we were greeted by the front staff, who took us to our table and introduced us to our two waiters who would pamper us for the entire evening.  We were the first to arrive in the restaurant, ensuring that for the first part of our meal we were the complete focus of our team.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Le Reve - Japanese ingredients and French fusion cooking

Fusion is a term that's going out of fashion if you listen to some chefs, it's a term that's reluctantly used to describe the blending of cuisines. Others wear the term with pride, looking to purposefully blend cultures, cuisines and ingredients, constantly challenging themselves to come up with something new, something indescribable, something totally delicious.

You might not hear rising Japanese chef Ryogo Ozawa specifically use the term fusion anywhere, but the technically brilliant chef has perfected the art of blending traditional Japanese ingredients with innovative French cooking, a blending that he calls French cuisine, new style.  Having worked at three Michelin starred L'Assiette Champenoise in Reims, Chef Ozawa has created a menu that is both technically brilliant, visually stunning and most importantly, wonderful to consume.

Le Reve has only been open for a few months, but the contemporary French restaurant is the culmination of five friends' vision and dreams.  The five friends were all students in the UK, traveling the continent and consuming all of the delights that Europe has to offer, when the idea of one day opening their own restaurant.

Oh how those boys must feel now that Le Reve is open.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Yum Cha - the most Instagram ready food in Hong Kong

I love that Hong Kong is a central hub for many flights coming from Europe to Australia (or vice versa). It means that we often have friends stopping by, sometimes for a few days and other times for just 24 hours.  One of the girl's great friends and her family were coming back from a family holiday and managed to spend a fun filled day in our new city.

We're no strangers to having meals with Fi and Kev, with the girl and Fi having regular get togethers in the Indian restaurants of Brisbane.  I'd even bumped into Kev in the UK one time and we shared an interesting dinner at Two Michelin starred Hibiscus (see post here).  For this short trip, we'd arranged two dining extravaganzas, the first of which was at one of Hong Kong's most interesting and fun Chinese restaurants, Yum Cha.

Now, yum cha is both the name of a restaurant and also a style of cuisine, which roughly translates to  'drink tea' and/or 'going for dim sum' - small, bite sized portions of Cantonese cuisine.  What makes Yum Cha the restaurant so incredible is the fun and unique manner in which they present their dim sum.  In fact, some of the dim sum is so interesting to look at, it's almost a shame to eat!

Covering a massive 6,000 square feet on the fringes of Central, Yum Cha distinguishes itself with it's high ceilings that are reminiscent of a New York style loft.  With it's high ceilings and large windows, there is a bright and airy feel to the dining area.  What I loved as I wandered up the escalators to the entrance of Yum Cha was the full scale truck that dominated the entrance and was used for displaying the restaurant's opening times (of course, seems legit!)

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.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Rhoda - Nose to Tail cooking with bags of flavour

You can tell a lot about a chef by the way he sets up his kitchen.  Walking into Rhoda for the first time, I could tell that head chef and culinary director Nate Green was a confident man.  

The internationally renowned Joyce Wang designed restaurant has the kitchen as the centrepiece of the restaurant, with the highlight being an open fire grill.  My eye was drawn to the back of the room, where Chef Nate was overseeing the open flame and charcoal grill that was slowly cooking one the restaurant's signature dishes.

You might recognise the name Nate Green, having worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsey and Jason Atherton, Nate was most recently in charge of Wanchai's 22 Ships as well as Ham & Sherry.  Nate was also recently on local TV for the locally produced Hungry Foodies lifestyle program, a shared experience with Nate appearing on episode three, while I was a little later on episode eight.

The concept behind Rhoda is very much nose to tail dining, with very little of the 'beast' going to waste.  With a menu that changes daily, depending on which beast Nate can secure, the best local ingredients are used to create simple but delicious modern comfort food.  Comfort food is the heart of Nate's current style, drawing on memories of great conversations over a good meal.  Taking the vision one step further, there is a large communal table at the centre of the restaurant, aiming to mimic that homely feel.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Caprice - The return visit was perfection

My best mate had not been to visit for over eighteen months, so when he set out the criteria for our reunion dinner, there were two considerations.  It had to be French fine dining and there had to be a memorable fromage.

There are many high quality French fine diners here in Hong Kong, but there is only one with a cheese platter that can only be carried to your table by two wait staff.  It ended up being an easy choice, so we booked into Caprice, located at the Four Seasons.

My first and last visit to Caprice had been memorable, enjoyable, but not spectacular, so we were taking a bit of a risk by recommending it to the Big Boy.  If it didn't live up to expectations, we'd be hearing about it for many years to come.

With Two Michelin stars, Caprice is one of the best restaurants in our adopted city, and even though it lost a Michelin star in 2014, chef Fabrice Vulin has maintained an incredible standard of dining.  (For more information on Fabrice Vulin, check out my previous post).

Access to Caprice is through the beautiful Four Seasons hotel, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd entered ancient Greece with all of the marble leading up to the front of the restaurant.  An interesting dichotomy, there is just a simple plaque leading up to the doors that open automatically before you're granted access to a decadent and plushly decorated dining room and a magnificent and massive open style kitchen.  

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Le Garcon Saigon - a taste of Southern Vietnam in Hong Kong

There is a long history of French domination in Vietnam, including a more than passing influence in the cuisine from the Indochina region. You might not know, but France conquered Vietnam's largest city in 1859 and held sway there until 1945 - where there was quite a bit of global realignment of nation states.

Everything from language to architecture and food were influenced by the French invasion of Vietnam and as a consequence, some incredible food was created by the melding of two nations palates.  Traditional Vietnamese food was most certainly influenced by the French (but then again, this could be said of most countries cuisines) and le Garçon Saigon in Wanchai perhaps epitomises this best.

Le Garçon Saigon is a collaboration between Vietnamese-Australian Chef of Bao La and the boys from Black Sheep Restaurant.  Keeping up their affinity for Australian chefs, le Garçon Saigon has helped deepen the options available to all that live in arguably Hong Kong's fastest growing foodie district.

We'd booked for an early dinner and were surprised that le Garçon Saigon was already half filled by the time we arrived for our 6:30pm reservation, and even more surprised that by 7pm, the place was completely packed.  Hong Kong is a place where dining is done later in the evening, so it was a testament to the concept that it was still drawing so many people many months after opening.


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