French

Where:
Cochin Delicatessen (OH GOD HK, Y U NO WEBSITE GOOD?!)
26 Peel Street
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2561 3336

Price:
I got my fuck yeah nom$ invitation on, but estimate a common person would probably get out at HKD550-700 a head (excluding booze), depending on how you order.  I WANNA LIVE LIKE COMMON PEOPLE, I WANT TO DO WHATEVER COMMON PEOPLE DO.

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The deal:
Cochin Delicatessen is on the lower half of Peel Street, where Chicha used to be – you know, the place that used to fleece you HKD240 for three tiny ass Peruvian “inspired” tacos.  I’m a bit surprised they closed because I really thought that overpriced bullshit tiny-ass tacos and miniscule thimbleful servings of ceviche should have been a concept for the ages (lolz).  Cochin Delicatessen is part restaurant, part delicatessen and part bar and has been opened by Chef and Director Renaud Marin after busting out stints at Upper Modern Bistro and St George.

Cochin is straightforward and unpretentious in its decor – all warm tones and blue accents, with wood panelling and Mediterranean patterned tiles on the tables.  Their waiter homies are most definitely on their game too, which is impressive for a new place.  We kick our night off with a bucket of hot baguette slices.  I judge all restaurants by their bread, because fuck, if you can’t be bothered serving fuck yeah bread it’s highly likely that you can’t be bothered with the finer details of anything else.  One bite in and I’m like fuck yeahhhhh, this is most def carb life = best life times and I discuss with Sir Crunch-a-lot whether this is the work of Gregoire Michaud / Bread Elements again.  We admonish ourselves on not being so fucking presumptuous that every time we have fuck yeah bread in HK that we automatically assume that Gregoire fucker is behind it.  So we wave down the waiter to ask whether Cochin make their own bread and then he launches into this speech about how there’s this French guy in HK who does all their bread who supplies a number of restaurants and I bellow at him “IS IT GREGOIRE?!”.  Turns out it is and to make sure that I’ve truly established that the baguette is a fully righteous fuck yeah, we slammed six more buckets of it and took the leftover pieces home for breakfast the next day.  The meek might inherit the earth, but I’m telling you that the greedy fucks shall inherit all the goddamn baguette.

Living up to the delicatessen part of its name, Cochin offers a number of starters ‘From the tin’, including anchovies, caviar and pate.  We get involved with the “Pate Louis Ospital”, opting for the Espelette (180g) which comes with a serve of pickles and some baby gem lettuce halves (HKD180 + 10% service charge).  Chef Renaud lets us know that the mushroom pickle recipe is his grandmother’s which means that his family has had the honour of slamming fuck yeah pickles for at least two generations.  However, this is all just warm up for the beef tartare.  Cochin’s Beef Tartare is described as “Polemard” 150g smoked sardines, pickled avocado and melba toast (HKD210 + 10% service charge) and it’s breathtakingly beautiful as fuck.  It’s the sort of dish that arrives and there’s an awed silence at the table.  Accompanied by two barely there thin slices of bread, the beef tartare is an absolute fuck yeah triumph with a depth of flavour from the mixture of fresh beef and two-week aged beef from Polmard.  To fit in with Chef Renaud’s obsession with the sea and the land, it’s accompanied by small daubs of creamed pickled avocado, pieces of smoked sardines, baby red shiso leaves and watercress.  Every single component on that dish is adding something, rather than just being a useless decorative accent.  It’s complex and a dish of contrasts – the fresh beef vs the aged beef, the slight fragrance and bite of the shiso vs the creaminess of the avocado vs the egg in the tartare and the salty briney sardines with the whisper of smoke vs the raw beef.   More importantly, it’s me vs the tartare and I know that when I close my eyes at night, I dream of love which is patient, forgiving and always eternal and it looks exactly like Cochin’s beef tartare.

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While you’d largely classify Cochin as French, there’s clearly influences from other cuisines.  I’m always a sucker for the Italian dish, vitello tonnato and Cochin’s is accompanied by confit lemon, capers and anchovie boquerones (marinated white anchovies) (HKD170 + 10% service charge).  It’s a very decent sized serve and similar to the beef tartare, everything in this dish has a purpose and it’s delicious as fuck.  We summoned two more buckets of baguette so we could ensure that we had vitello tonnato on bread and any stray bit of the creamy tuna sauce was also mopped up into my face.  If Chef Renaud’s obsession with surf and turf ends up in fuck yeah times like this, then I hope his obsession never ceases

Under “Bigger plates to share” and also under “For one” is the Rabbit and Foie Gras Pie (HKD195 + 10% service charge).  While my pedantic self can’t fully understand why you would place “For one” dishes under a “Bigger plates to share” title, the Rabbit and Foie Gras Pie is pretty fucking rich so I think that you can easily share this between four people so you can all have a little taste.  The Rabbit and Foie Gras pie arrives innocuously enough, a dome of puff pastry about the size of a fist with two baby gem lettuce halves chilling on the side.  But inside is where the fuck yeah magic happens – stuffed with foie gras, pan fried rabbit (both pieces and mince), confit shallots, garlic, parsley, thyme and spinach. It’s a perfect balance of the rich, fatty foie gras against the stronger flavoured rabbit, with the slight acidity of the confit lemon cutting through all of it and balanced out with the parsley and thyme.  But this is something honest and pure, and as saltwater wells in my eyes, all I can think about is that this is emotional, this is true love and I’m a better, more fulfilled person for knowing this pie.

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Under ‘For two or more’ there’s the Fadi organic chicken 81 days, available in a half or whole serving (HKD475 / HKD990 + 10% service charge), accompanied by two sides of your choice.  Clearly a Fadi organic chicken gets to live a pretty pampered life and has probably flown to HK on a premium economy flight at that sort of price.  We opt for the half and this chicken is fucking incredible, perfectly roasted with flavour packed meat that belies its privileged upbringing and 100% organic feeding consisting of corn crumbles, wheat, soya, barley, oats and sunflower seeds that sounds like a fancy health bar you’d buy for HKD78.  But it’s the sauce it comes with which is a major fuck yeah, made from the chicken juices, ginger, honey, lime and lemon.  No shame that after my first taste of this sauce from the gods, I put my cutlery down to throw up some air punches before plotting how I can most politely guzzle whatever sauce is remaining after my homies are done with it.

The Zaragoza suckling pig shoulder (HKD650 + 10% service charge) also comes with two sides and writing about roast pork always puts me in this quandary because I fucking love eating well executed roast pork but it’s so fucking boring to write roast pork wank.  Crispy skin, blah blah, juicy meat, blah blah.  However, don’t let my porcine related lassitude deter you though because Cochin’s suckling pig is a serious and major FUCK YEAH.  It’s everything you could hope and dream about, and doesn’t suffer from that HK bullshit roast pork serving size where you barely get any pork even though you’re laying down cash.  This could easily be shared between four to six of your best homies.

We were lucky enough that when we went to Cochin that Patrice Marchand of the famous Marchand Brothers was serving up his cheese.  We watched him serve his cheese to other patrons and it was fucking glorious to see someone so totally into his craft that his happiness was palpable.  Given the amount we’d eaten, we went for a selection of five cheeses (HKD295 + 10% service charge) and went up to the counter to discuss and hear more about the cheeses.  Patrice Marchand asks us at this point “Are you sure you only want five cheeses?” as he starts to stack our cheese board up with more glorious fuck yeah cheese choices and at this point our only answer is:

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The cheese at Cochin is clearly a major drawcard and if any of you are seriously into your cheese, you MUST get yo asses down to Cochin ASAP.  We ended up opting to skip dessert and there’s no scant cheese servings here (Imma looking at you Epure with your delicious but tiny ass cheese serves).  In fact, at one point we’re even a little bit daunted by how much cheese we’ve been blessed with.  There’s so many special fuck yeah moments happening but the absolute cheese champion for me is the ‘Bleu de brebis ciré’, the result of allowing ewes roam the Pyrenees Mountains while eating wildflowers and fresh grass at altitude before turning their milk into a soft, moist blue cheese which punches you in the face before whispering goodnight to you and kissing you on the neck.

It’s at this point, I’m grateful for the downhill slope down Peel Street because I’ve smashed through an insane amount of fucking delicious food, Old Fashioneds and wine.  But more than anything, it is so often that a new restaurant in HK is based on the idea of what is trendy and mashes together any number of ingredients to form something that they think the punters want.  How else can I explain those HK moments when I’ve looked down at a bowl of corn chips with a side of guacamole topped with sea urchin and salmon roe and thought ‘What in the ever loving fuck in this trendy ass mess?!’. But for all of that, Cochin comes blinking out of that dark, tortured HK trendy bullshit to be a testament to one chef’s vision to show you the food he loves which takes references and inspiration from not only his own experience but also from his family, the ingredients and the countries he’s been to produce something that’s heartfelt and laid bare for all to see. This shit doesn’t happen all that often in HK, but I just can’t think of anything that makes me fucking happier than to eat food where a chef has considered every single element on every plate and in its totality means something more.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHH! As you can imagine, I work my way through an inordinate amount of restaurants and I fucking loved Cochin so much that I went back twice in one week.  I’m gonna put it out there my FYN homies even though we’re only halfway through 2016, Cochin is going to be one of the best fuck yeah new restaurants in 2016.  JUST GO ALREADY, OK?!

Where:
Le Bistro Winebeast (fuck yeahhhh, functional website)
G/F & 1/F Tai Yip Building, 141 Thomson Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  Exit A3 from Wanchai MTR, kinda close to The Hennessey if you’re catching the tram.  But fuck my advice if you’re one of those assholes who just cabs everywhere.

Phone:
+852 2782 6689

Price:
HKD458 for the four course tasting menu, +HKD100 if you want to add the wine pairing.  No service charge, so don’t be an asshole and don’t forget to tip according to the service you receive.

The deal:
Le Bistro Winebeast ran this concept on McGregor Street where there was a small 25-seat bistro attached to its retail wine store, with the fuck yeah catch that you could order wine at the bistro at the same price as the wine shop.  I’d heard many good things about it and even my fussy as fuck French homies told me that they were into it.  However, the only problem was that every fucking single time I tried to call up Le Bistro Winebeast for a booking they were either totally booked out or would offer me the totally unfeasible times of 6pm or 9pm.  I’m fairly sure that if I booked dinner at 9pm I would probably eat my own hands off in desperate hunger, prior to getting to the restaurant.  It was after about three attempts, I gave up ever trying to eat at Le Bistro Winebeast.  However, all of that booking bullshit has changed because Le Bistro Winebeast has recently moved to new, larger premises sprawling over two stories on Thomson Road.  PRAISE BE, when I called up to make a booking there were no issues and on the night, the massive restaurant space was more empty than occupied.

We’re on the receiving end of a super friendly welcome from sommelier and maître d’, Christina Carranco Ducroquet (whose husband, Chef Johan Ducroquet, is in the kitchen slaving away).  We get involved in Le Bistro Winebeast’s fuck yeah homemade bread selection while we check out the extensive and beyond reasonably priced wine list.  As someone who is always so thirsty, I can most def get behind fuck yeah retail wine prices.  We settle on going for the tasting menu because it’s reasonably priced at HKD458 and adding the matched wine is a bargain HKD100.

While not listed on the menu, we’re given two complimentary amuse bouches.  One of them is the awfully named “Frapas” – geddit?  It’s a French Tapas.  After extricating my eyes from the back of my head, I get involved with an oyster which is topped with confit shallots and red wine vinegar granita.  I fucking love oysters and I get what the fancy-ass accoutrements were meant to be doing, the subtle onion flavour of the shallot and the cold sharp red wine vinegar granita against the creamy oyster, but this is down to my own personal preference – if the oyster’s good enough, I’ll always prefer my oysters straight up with some lemon.

The first course is a Foie Gras Terrine which is served in three cubes, topped with a thin layer of green apple jelly and wine coulis, with a side of finely cubed green apple on the side.  It’s a common reaction to be all fuck yeahhhhh foie gras and the sharp acidity of the apple, cuts through the fat to provide some fuck yeah times.  Except when I realise that the bread it’s been served with is my nemesis, TOASTED BRIOCHE.  UGH, TOASTED BRIOCHE Y U A THING?  Who in their right mind ever toasts a piece of brioche and thinks “Mmmm, this dried out loofah-like sweet bread will most definitely impress my customers as they attempt to choke it back with this delicious dish I have prepared”.  I don’t fucking know except that I work through my brioche related meltdown by asking for another serve of Le Bistro Winebeast’s normal fuck yeah bread, smearing my fuck yeah foie gras terrine all over it and enjoying a sweet half-glass of Audrey et Christian Binner, Hinterberg, Pinot Gris 2008.

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The second course is a ravioli of sea bream, which looked more like a wonton dumpling.  It’s served with a confit lemon, coriander, anise flavoured bouillabaisse jus and topped with shredded strips of nori seaweed.  The wine pairing was the Savennieres, Dom Nicolas Joly “Les Vieux Clos” 2012 and it’s masterful, with its fresh pear and golden raisin notes elevating what I thought was an ok, slightly fishy dish which was trying hard to be interesting but wasn’t necessarily that successful in its flavours.  The rest of our table was even less impressed and 50% of our table grimaced halfway through, as they choked back some fuck no bones in their seabream raviolis.

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Our final savoury course is the Confit Beef Paleron (chuck steak) and it’s the best dish of the night.   Through slowly cooking the beef in fat, the beef is super fucking tender but charred evenly on the outside to caramelise the shit out of it.  Served with a reduction of Malbec wine jus and some vegetables, it’s well executed and most definitely bringing the Autumnal feels.  In a move that would make it hard to upset any decent human being, the beef paleron is served with a poshed up mac n cheese, made from ham, Comte cheese and freshly shaved black truffle. It’s predictably delicious as fuck but it’d be worrying if someone managed to get a fuck no out of jamming some carbs with fuck yeah ingredients like that.

I’m pretty pumped for dessert at this stage because it sounds fucking incredible, billed as a chocolate dome served with a cardamon emulsion, orange crumble and vanilla flavoured milk.  Shit gets taken up another theatrical notch when we are all presented with a chocolate globe and the the chef appears to pour warm vanilla milk over it, causing the chocolate shell to disintegrate.  I’m taken in by the show and I’m enjoying my dessert until it starts to cool down slightly and Mrs Ain’t No Mountain High Enough makes the off-hand remark that it feels a bit like eating lukewarm mushy cereal and once she says this, I can’t shake this feeling as I take a bite of some tepid mealy milk with some soggy orange crumble bits in it.

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To finish our meal, Le Bistro Winebeast generously provide us with a complimentary dessert, a Grand Marnier souffle which is dramatically set on fire at our table.  With the flambe action going on, it’s hard to deny that it’s cool as fuck, as blue flames snake their way upwards from the souffle.  In the dimly lit dining room, I have a traumatic flashback to my last souffle experience at Beefbar.  While Beefbar’s souffle might have been full of sheer unadulterated horror which continues to haunt the dark corridors of my nightmares, Le Bistro Winebeast’s is a fuck yeahhh, going someway in ameliorating my apprehension regarding souffles.  Delicately flavoured with orange, perfect in texture and not too eggy, it’s a well executed note to end this meal on.

So overall, shit was fine at Le Bistro Winebeast with a few moments which were fucking delicious but overall, there’s a consistency issue when only half of your tasting menu lands its punches.  I’m probably holding them to a higher standard too because I always apply stricter judgment on a restaurant if I order their tasting menu because this should be a restaurant’s fuck yeah slam dunk signature dishes.  Perhaps I’d have loved Le Bistro Winebeast more if I’d ordered differently (or someone who had been before had told me exactly what to order) but based on our meal, I wouldn’t have it on top of my list for a return visit.  Which is a bit of a shame because fuck yeahhhhh delicious well priced wine times and heart felt service ain’t all that common in Hong Kong.

Verdict:
A restrained and polite fuck no because you know shit can’t be that on point for a restaurant when you remember the wine pairings being stronger than the food.

Where:
La Table de Patrick
6/F, Cheung Hing Commercial Building
37-43 Cochrane Street, Central, Hong Kong

FYN Hot Tip:  Avoid looking like a lost loser on Cochrane Street because the entrance is actually on Gage Street, next to the 7-11.

Phone:
+852 2541 1401

Price:
The five-course truffle menu comes in at HKD850 (+10% service charge).  If you’re a #luxurycunt who can’t get enough of dem truffle feel$ you can even upgrade to Alba white truffle at cost price.  Which I’m sure is still some serious coin. The truffle menu is running til the end of December.

Full disclosure, I got my invitation on (anonymously yo, cause no one wants to take recommendations from some asshole blogger getting bullshit special treatment).

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The deal:
I received an invitation to try out La Table de Patrick’s five course Burgundy black truffle menu and asked one of my homies, Ms Space Invaders, to come along and jump on that junket train with me.  As I was wandering around outside 27 Kebab House trying to find the entrance to La Table de Patrick, Ms Space Invaders was messaging me updates from the restaurant that she was getting super friendly treatment from the Chef and the staff and she was suspicious that they were in on the wanky blog game.  I assured her that I was keeping shit on the downlow and that none of them should have known that she associates with some opinionated asshole with a keyboard.  When I finally get to the restaurant, the entrance leads straight to the front of the open kitchen where I immediately see where she’s coming from when Chef Patrick Goubier gives me an off the chart, sincere and friendly welcome to his kitchen. Fuck yeahhhh, Chef Goubier is a high chance to be the friendliest ever chef in HK.

Le Patrick de Table is a small, simple space in monochromatic shades of white, black and grey with a dominating red wall down one side, probably sitting no more than 30 people. While the walls and floor may be stark, I am positively shocked when confronted with a pressed, white tablecloth.  I resist all urge to place my face against the cool, white linen and run my hand down across the covered table while cherishing a precious cotton based fuck yeah moment. I regain my composure just in time to order the truffle menu as a friendly waitress loads me up on bread and given that La Table de Patrick is a French restaurant, there’s no surprise that their bread game is killing it.  I briefly contemplate how it’d be a sensible move to nibble daintily on half a roll but I’m a well practiced eating Olympian when it comes to drowning out the internal voice that implores you not to decimate through three bread rolls when you’ve got five rich courses on the way.  FYN fun fact, I find that being liberal with your butter helps to quiet this pesky voice of reason when you’re getting heavily involved with fuck yeah A1 bread times.

Our first course is the “Morel and black truffle egg foam” and I’m immediately cautious, given that the mere mention of “foam” conjures up all the worst memories of that dark culinary time when foamy spurts were ejaculated over everything (particularly flowers and scallops) but in this instance, it’s served more as a light airy mousse in a small martini glass.  The foam is created by using eggs which are stored with the black truffles, so that the egg-based foam can take on dem truffle feels before it’s mixed with morel mushrooms, cream and truffle sauce, piped out and then topped with a few thin slivers of black truffle.  Two “chips” sit perched for dipping by the martini glass, but even better than a fried potato, it’s actually two bread soldiers that have been deep fried in glorious butter.  Fuck yeahhhhhhhhh, I am firmly on board for butter fried carb related carriers which are, not surprisingly, fucking delicious.   I was really into this course but how could you expect anything less than a triumphant fuck yeah when you’re using crispy, butter-fried bread soldiers to scoop a light, delicate foam which gets its depth from the morels and truffles into your face?

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The second course is the “Chilled leek and potato cream, Morteau smoked sausage and black truffle”.  This is served as a cold potato and leek soup, with in the greatest of French tradition a shit tonne of cream.  The dish is topped with slices of Morteau smoked sausage and finished at the table with sliced black truffles.  Overall, it’s a straightorward though well-balanced dish which keeps shit interesting by contrasting the strong, dense smoky Morteau sausage and the fragrant, earthy truffle being played against the smooth creamy, chilled soup.

We are presented with the “Celeriac risotto, Parmesan and black truffle” and I’m immediately on alert when it’s explained by Chef Goubier that the traditional arborio rice has been replaced with small, chopped pieces of celeriac.  Like WTF Chef homie, is this some paleo-grain, low-carb substitution bullshit?  Am I going to be eating a piece of bread made from almond flour, coconut oil and unadulterated sadness next?  Any potential sad grain substitution is staved off by Chef Goubier preparing the celeriac risotto by cooking the tiny celeriac pieces with cream and parmesan cheese before adding some shaved black truffles at the table.  But truth, the subtle earthy and nutty undertones of the celeriac is a fuck yeah partnership with the truffles and by this point it’s clear that who even needs rice when it’s really a sea of delicious as fuck truffles, cream and parmesan that’s making the fuck yeah magic happen.

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The fourth course is the one that I was most excited about after reading the menu, the “Pan-seared pigeon breast, gizzard confit, green asparagus, black truffle sauce”.  I know gizzards aren’t for everyone but I fucking love gizzards with their chewy, bitey texture.  I often wonder how we came to eat these animal parts, like who was the first adventurous homie who spotted this thick muscular glandular stomach which birds use to grind up their grain and stone together before passing it through to their real stomach and was all “This shit is grim but I reckon if I confit it for long enough in some duck fat this grindy bird stomach shit is gonna be rad as fuck”.  Regardless, when it arrives this plate of warm winter colours is beautiful as fuck without being an unnecessarily fussy plate – the pink of the just seared pigeon breast set against the slices of orange carrots and the bright green asparagus spear, dotted with a burgundy-brown sauce.  Aside from the majestic as fuck colour combos, I was more into the fuck yeah textures that kept shit interesting from the crunch of the vegetables, the buttery soft pigeon breast and the chew of the gizzards.  But most importantly, OH MY YASSSS, the sauce was a distillation of what my fuck yeah hopes and dreams are made of, deep and complex, made with madeira wine, foie gras, truffles and the roasted bones of tiny, delicious pigeons. La Table de Patrick carefully provide you with a couple of thin truffle slices to delicately remind you of why the fuck you’re here, but I fucking loved how this course was making a firm point about its ingredients but still showed restraint without pointless showboating about the fact that you’re here to snack down on LUXURY TRUFFLES.

The last course is billed as “Truffled Coulommiers” but given that someone on our table wasn’t doing the truffle tasting course, Chef Goubier presented us with a mega-cheese selection, all matured by the Marchand Brothers.  We don’t get stiffed though and there is still a glorious piece of Coulommiers cheese stuffed with truffles which has been prepared by cutting the Coulommiers cheese wheel down the middle and stuffing it with truffles and then storing that phenomenal cheesy bastard for two days.  There’s any number of fuck yeahhh cheeses but the two that are burned indelibly into my cheese addled brain is my stinky cheesy top bitch, the Epoisses de Bourgogne and the 24 month aged Comte.  La Table de Patrick serve their cheeses with oven fresh buttery brioche and while my fuck no disdain for brioche on burgers is well documented, I make my peace with brioche by smearing it with all the fuck yeah cheese.  In fact, I give brioche peace a chance so hard that my heavily lopsided bread-to-cheese ratios sees me begging a waitress to please bring me more bread and I’m forced to wait ten painful minutes while they bake some of those buttery bad boys for me.

There are a few things that stood out about this meal and in a city which is cursed with a sea of sullen staff or snooty door girls, all the fuck yeahs ever go to the sincere and personable Chef Goubier who is bursting with passion for his food and his customers.  Chef Goubier was so sincere in his goodbye, telling us with all of his big heart that he couldn’t wait to see us again.  While some kitchens rely on truffle menus to gouge you for your cash or just cover up lazy ass cooking by smothering it with truffles, there was nothing crass or bombastic about the way La Table de Patrick were using their truffles. It takes confidence to use a truffle to highlight its flavour without bashing your guest relentlessly over the head that they’re getting their luxury on.  It’s easy in this town to get sucked in by the newest restaurant and whatever trendy hot mess is in favour, but I gotta give some props Chef Goubier for pumping out fuck yeah food which he’s passionate about and through being respectful of the ingredients and showcasing each ingredient’s flavour, he’s combining it to form dishes which have depth and more than one fucking note. There’s something honest and true about that and fuck yeahhh, I can most def get down that that.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhhhh on pay day cause dishes scattered with truffles don’t come cheap.  I’d most definitely recommend booking La Table de Patrick if you’re after a smaller, more intimate venue for homies who are fucking down with friendly as fuck chefs, don’t mind dropping some coin for food done right and give a fuck about the process behind their meal.  I.e.  ALL THE BEST HOMIES.

Where:
ÉPURE (lolzzzz, string intro sound effects, feel dat Versailles Vibe)
Shop 403, Level 4, Ocean Centre
Harbour City,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  To minimise the amount of time spent in the hell that is Harbour City, enter on Gateway Boulevard near the Chanel store and take the escalators straight up.

Phone:
+852 3185 8338

Price:
HKD1,388 for the eight course tasting menu (+10%). After drinks and extras we were out just under HKD6,000 for two people. Yes, I’m eating a combination of instant noodles, bread and water this week month.

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The deal:
As an obnoxious as hell HK food blogger, my raison d’être is to constantly name drop new restaurants and have completely unfounded opinions about whether I even want to check them out.  So I was surprised to learn that Épure, a high end French restaurant, had opened in June 2014, because I had no idea of its existence until May 2015 when I saw a gushing review by finefooddude.  I can only conclude from this that Épure’s promotion must have been so subtle and understated completely fucking non-existent considering the above average effort I put into reading any number of dreadfully woeful food publications and anaemic press releases so I can be an insufferable new restaurant know it all.

On the strength of finefooddude’s review, Sir Crunchalot and I decided to push the boat out and drop some serious cash for a celebratory dinner.  Executive Chef Nicolas Boutin is the driving force behind Épure with some heavy hitting credentials including stints at a number of three and two Michelin star restaurants in France and worked alongside Richard Ekkebus to open Amber at the Landmark Oriental HK. Unfortunately, the pedigree of the Executive Chef can’t prevent Épure suffering from the indignity of being a fine dining restaurant smashed into the shopping mall hell that is known as Harbour City.   As far as I could tell, there is no easy direct way to get there without pushing past the bombastic luxury brand name shops and the escalators packed with harried shoppers and their wheeled suitcases. Épure have done what they can to try and insulate their diners from the harsh Harbour City mall feel, their slick as fuck front desk ushering you quickly through the heavy front doors adorned with a golden stylised map of Paris and into the grand as fuck Yabu Pushelberg designed dining room.  Hues of gold, grey and bronze, broken up by private circular padded booths, architectural floral sculptures and painted green blue forest scenes complete with deer, all offset by careful warm low lighting.  However, fuck no, NO TABLECLOTHS.  You all know my feelings on linen and I snippily bitched to Sir Crunchalot that it seems crass to be dropping HKD1,000+ on a tasting menu and being forced to eat it off a synthetic plastic woven mat.  Despite the lack of natural fibres, there is no doubt that Épure’s shit is fancy as fuck and everything about its interiors has you set up well and truly for the expectation that you will be leaving behind a large chunk of change in Épure’s custody.

However, there’s something more striking than the interiors and it’s the really super fucking slick Épure service  As soon as you arrive, the front desk breezily checks off your reservation.  The general manager Olivier Le Guyader warmly escorts us into the dining room and attentively provides us with the perfect amount of choices to ensure you’re going to have the best night possible.  This nothing is too much trouble attitude has been drilled effectively into Olivier’s fleet footed waitstaff who swoop in to smile and offer the same genuine welcome.  Compared to other restaurants where the service starts off strong before petering away to a bored indifference, the Épure waiter homies powered on strong through the entire meal without dropping a single beat. They noticed everything that was happening at your table and communicated with each other with a subtle look, before executing whatever was necessary.  Each course was presented with precise synchronisation and each finished plate was whisked away with equal choreographed precision.  It’s been awhile since I’ve encountered such fuck yeah flawless service, whether it be in HK or anywhere else in the world. Bravo Epure waiter homies, cause I couldn’t fault anything and there’s nothing more I wanted from you, and I don’t often say shit like that.

Settled in, we were presented with the menu which offered two choices – either the six course tasting menu (HKD1,088 + 10% service charge) or the eight course tasting menu (HKD1,388 +10% service charge).  This is a hefty chunk of change but I note that when I was cruising around older reviews, it seems that Épure has moved its prices down over the last year or so (I’ve seen previous reviews quoting the six and eight course menus at HKD1,288 and HKD1,588 + 10% respectively). Sir Crunchalot and I predictably went for the eight course menu, because if you’re having a balls to the wall special occasion feed why would you want to miss out on another two courses, when one of those is the cheese course?  More importantly, is it even fucking possible to celebrate any special occasion without cheese??

This is the sort of meal that is food blogging mana from heaven, if I wasn’t such a stubborn asshole who prefers to cram food into my face versus taking a shit tonne of photos.  It’d be so fucking easy, you’d take some shots of some amuse bouches with some artistic lighting and some blurred out micro-sprouts chilling in the background. Bump the contrast to all hell, copy and paste the PR release while changing a few adjectives around and then call it a night.  Everything we ate at Épure was so fucking beautiful – the sort of meal that if you did photograph every single course and shoved it up on Instagram / Facebook, heaps of your homies are going to throw likes in your face and then jump all over your shit to ask where it was or just to say trite things like ‘Wowwwwwwwww’ or ‘OMG looks so delish!’.

Instead I’m trying to describe this shit to you without just going through each course one by one, because I hate the idea that someone would go to Épure and there would be no surprises.

First of all, Épure’s bread game is a major fuck yeah.  I always judge a restaurant by its bread game and Épure’s bread is punching hard. Six different types of bread and two types of butter (unsalted and a mild chilli) were giving me the fuck yeah carb feelings, in particular the baguette and the cheesy puffs (technical nomenclature, yo).  Our smiling waiter homie happily refilled our basket while giving us a gentle reminder not to stuff ourselves too full of bread, which meant we only powered through two servings even though I desperately wanted to eat at least two more baguettes and a generous handful of cheesy puffs.

After getting some solid bread times in, everything we ate at Épure was fucking exceptional, well thought out and not just being inventive for the sake of it.  Just to take you through a few highlights, the second course, le foie gras de canard and encornet was a generous seared slice of duck foie gras served on a thin slice of Atlantic squid, resulting in a phenomenal fuck yeah contrast of textures between the caramelised though tender foie gras and the firmer bite of the squid.  A sauce made from black figs and piquillos (a variety of chilli with a minimal amount of heat) had just the right amount of acidity to cut through the fatty foie gras but with enough sweetness to highlight its subtle flavour.

Another example of seemingly simple dish done right was the soup course.  Sir Crunchalot went for the le champignon de Paris  (Paris white button mushroom soup) versus my choice of the moules de bouchot & mais bio (organic corn, bouchot mussels soup) and while my soup was most definitely a fuck yeah, he definitely had the superior soup choice. It’s no surprise this is one of their signature dishes with this being a fuck yeah example of something so simple being immaculately executed. A creamy, silky smooth mushroom soup poured over tiny perfect spinach leaves, wafer thin slices of button mushrooms and miniature spinach ravioli. This tasted like the fuck yeah mushrooms of my dreams would and you can imagine how hard it generally is to get that fucking excited about mushrooms.

However, between these immaculate courses and fuck yeah faultless service, it becomes apparent that Épure’s marketing team’s lacklustre efforts weren’t just restricted to its opening because at 8pm on a Saturday night we are still the sole patrons of the entire, grandiose restaurant.  At one point, Sir Crunchalot goes to the washroom and I cut a lonely well-fed silhouette, sitting deserted in this looming quiet space.

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A bit later another couple show up for dinner, but this is the only other table that is occupied ALL night.  I’m all for private and intimate dining affairs but I can’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that we’re in a restaurant which isn’t going to survive long.

Pushing whatever lingering doubts I have about Épure’s financial viability and how boring it must be for the waitstaff, I fucking loved that in every dish the focal point is provided by one key ingredient and isn’t overpowered with a red hot mess of complex techniques and luxury items such as piling truffles, caviar and fancy liqueurs just to prove that they can.  With the le rouget barbet de petit bateau (seared red mullet), I was prepared for it to be the obligatory fish dish but each piece of seared fish tasted so specifically of sweet red mullet and the green olive puree blobs or tiny onions all added something to the dish, rather than being there for decorative optic purposes.

For my main, I austerely went with the standard option of the le canard de la maison Burgaud (roast Challans duck).  While it seemed ridiculous at the time for the menu to specify that the dish would be accompanied by Provence blackberries, each air freighted druplet of those blackberry bad boys tasted so intensely of blackberries that I tried not to think of the carbon footprint my meal at Épure had inflicted on this fragile planet, just so I could get my fuck yeah noms on.  Predictably, standard main courses never fit Sir Crunchalot’s insatiable lust for luxury and the good life, so of course that a$$hole took the +HKD300 upgrade for the le boeuf Japonais and got that seared wagyu beef A5 from the Gifu Prefecture into this life. Despite the financial damage that his choices were wreaking upon us, I gotta say that our pampered Japanese bovine homie died for a delicious fuck yeah cause.

We were presented with five cheeses billed as a ‘selection of mature cheese by Xavier from Toulouse, France’ with a homemade plum preserve and thin slices of fig and hazelnut bread. FUCK YEAHHHHHHHHH it was fucking amazing, except that I could have done with a slightly larger serving.  That is probably more a reflection on my extreme greed for fuck yeah cheese vs stingy portions from Épure.  Perhaps I’ve just been spoilt at other restaurants when it comes to hefty cheese servings (Zurriola and Amber, imma lookin at you) because I always want MOAR CHEESE.

I can’t remember what the second cheese was but I do remember that it was my favourite but unfortunately, we were given just the tiniest amount.  I lovingly smeared a scant amount of this ungodly fuck yeah cheese onto my fuck yeah fruit toast, hoping that this moment could last forever.  I did ask the waiter for the name of the cheese and hoped that he’d offer to give me MOAR CHEESE.  However while he helpfully provided me the details (which I promptly forgot AGAIN), all I got was the assurance that we could buy some to take home later.  This turned out to be a goddamn cocktease though because by the time we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to have to buy some take away cheese, this wasn’t even possible because when we stopped by the cheese room on our way out, our fuck yeah favourite was all sold out. Perhaps those two small ass pieces that we got was all that was left in the entire restaurant.  Either way, TOO SAD.

alwayssunnycheese

Behind the desserts at Épure is Head Pastry Chef Matthieu Godard (ex-Head Pastry Chef from Amber) whose desserts have universally gotten a massive fuck yeah from all who’ve been.  I can’t say I was super excited about the la pomme de nos vergers, which was a fancy ass baked apple done in tatin style with a Granny Smith sorbet, but took it as a bit of a palette cleanser before we stormed home with the final desserts.  The signature le soufflee au Grand Marnier (Grand Marnier souffle with mandarin sorbet) was everything one could hope for from a faultless souffle but in retrospect I probably should have swung with the chocolate option, but that’s more down to personal preference than a reflection on the souffle.

To round it all off, a tower of petit fours is presented and they’re all tiny, beautiful as fuck dessert based art pieces.  The pistachio financier was a stand out with its jasmine cream making it a fresh as fuck, stand out but most importantly these single fuck yeah single bites were just enough to finish an all-in-all spectacular as fuck meal.

After settling the very large and in charge bill, our congenial waiter homies sent us on our way with a macaron to go and we pushed our way from the plush sanctuary of Épure and into the harsh indignity of Harbour City’s fluorescent lighting. Descending an escalator, we cruised straight past a bank of LCD TVs on sale at Fortress and I can’t help but think that this is never how anyone wants to end a high end fuck yeah dining experience.

So while the meal we had at Epure was one of the best I’ve had this year and definitely a notable standout from a HK perspective, I fear that things are not going end well with Épure because of its location.  Despite its inventive and precise fuck yeah food and absolutely flawless service experience, who is Epure’s target audience?  With its sky high price point, this isn’t a casual experience that most people will try just to see if they like it (although, it does offer far more affordable lunch and brunch options starting at around HKD400+).  Unfortunately, most assholes who have the cash and inclination to splurge on fancy ass dinners aren’t going to want to leave the Island to traipse through Harbour City in TST to get to Épure. I can already imagine all the people who ask me for food recommendations for a special occasion and once I mention ‘TST’ and ‘Harbour City’ they’re going to immediately glaze over and end up going to Amber, Caprice or L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon instead because omfg guys, dark side lolz.  Add into that mix the non-existent marketing and profile that this restaurant has (I’ve talked about my meal with a few of my Foodie Asshole Homies and all of them asked ‘What’s Épure?’) and the very fact that there were only TWO tables there on a Saturday night, how can a restaurant survive?  Sure, we broke bank on our meal but even my HKD6k isn’t going to be enough to fund an alleged 25 strong kitchen staff, the front of house staff and the TST Harbour City rents.  There’s talk that Epure will get its Michelin star this year which will inevitably increase its profile.  However, Épure better figure out its marketing strategy ASAP because it would be a crying shame that a restaurant which is punching it out on all levels would slip away just because no one even knew it existed or couldn’t be bothered crossing the harbour.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah but most definitely on pay day or when you’ve robbed a bank day. An accomplished, nuanced meal on all fronts which warrants the price tag.

Where:
Seasons by Olivier E
Shop 308, 3/F Lee Garden 2
2-38 Yun Ping Rd
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2505 6228

Price:
HKD318 (+10% service charge) for the three course lunch set. I wanted to do four courses (HKD398 + 10% service charge) but due to tardy service, I fucking ran out of time.

The deal:
I’ve wanted to try Seasons by Olivier E because it seemed like they were doing interesting shit or if you would like a more verbose explanation of their restaurant you should check out their website which aside from having functional information like fully expressed menus (GO TEAM WEB SEASONS) also contains the explanation that “Like the passage of time itself, Seasons is in calm but constant transition, refining and redefining itself in a fluid, harmonious evolution. Chef Olivier’s philosophy is one of inclusion, pairing a classical understanding of French cuisine with a modern Asian sensibility and unbridled delight in the finest ingredients, not just from France, but from the world at large.”  Oh, ok if you say so Chef cause like sands through the hourglass, THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES.

Seasons by Olivier E is within the Lee Garden 2 shopping complex in Causeway Bay.  Every time I go to Lee Garden 2 all I am struck with is who the fuck is so goddamn minted that they not only need to buy their little brats Versace Youth threads and HKD350+ haircuts, but they need two floors providing them a variety of obscenely overpriced children’s goods?? Major sads when I realised that I’ve probably walked past 5yo HK children who are wearing the equivalent of several months of my salary.  Rich brat shops aside, the restaurant itself is meant to have four areas which are each inspired by a season (GEDDIT?) when I was actually there though I guess I just saw it as the ‘shitty seats outside the restaurant in the shopping mall’, ‘seats nearest the kitchen’, ‘back salon for tai tais’ and ‘outdoor bar area which looks rad but is hot as all hell and unusable until October’.

Chef Olivier Elzer has worked at all the big names, with his bio saying he’s worked at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Pierre Restaurant Hong Kong. I guess that’s kinda in the way that every fucking chef seems to have worked at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Amber or NOMA these days.  Yes, I fucking get it – you’re classically trained in French but you love to forage for some seaweed to get some umami into your dishes while demonstrating your love and appreciation of Asia by throwing in some sea urchin every now and again.  I’m starting to wonder if I can claim that I’ve worked at Amber because I’ve eaten there more than three times.

Seasons by Olivier E is not fucking messing about, with a huge ass open kitchen which looms over the main dining room.  I counted about ten chefs doing their thing and it looked like a tight ship where everyone was hauling some serious ass as I made my way to the Back Salon for Tai Tais section.  I was impressed with the Seasons by Olivier E lunch menu which was filled with fuck yeah sounding choices – there’s nothing worse than when you read a set lunch menu and you’re just trying to choose between what seems the best of two fucking boring options which are trying to cheap out on ingredients.  I snacked down some fuck yeah bread while I made these big decisions, ticking off the bread test and noting that Chef Olivier’s carbs have done his French origins proud.

For my starter, I went with the burrata, olive oil and fresh tomato caviar  (requiring an additional HKD50).  The fresh tomato caviar wasn’t exactly what I expected (I was envisaging some sort of molecular monstrosity) but it was almost a tomato seed reduction of sorts, each piece mimicking the intensity of a sun dried tomato without givine me those late 1990s feels.  While the tomato caviar might have been interesting it all pales in comparison to DAT BURRATA.  I don’t think I know enough adjectives to describe how fucking majestic it was – a barely there solid outer with the liquid cream inside with a drizzle of no doubt, some fancy ass olive oil.  All of the components worked together but while I can appreciate the thought that went into it, I would have been just as happy to have eaten that boss bitch burrata on its own on a little bit of thinly sliced toast before sitting on my hands to ensure I didn’t succumb to my base desires to rub fuck yeah burrata all over my body.

For my second course I got the escargots fricassee with tomato and Pastis sauce. Seasons cooked the snails perfectly, so they didn’t turn into chewy fuckers but this dish was all about the fuck yeah tomato and Pastis sauce.  I’m not normally fucking down with Pastis (cause I don’t get no satisfaction from anise flavored spirits) but in this magical sauce it was mixed with a touch of tarragon and just gave it this fuck yeah depth of flavour that just wouldn’t quit. I scraped the plate clean with a piece of bread, only because I don’t know if the tai tais on all the surrounding tables would have appreciated me licking it clean.

At this stage I was getting relatively full, cause Season’s Portions are very decent in size.  If I did my time again at Seasons, I’d probably only go for two savoury dishes and a dessert.  However, as it was my first time at the Seasons’ rodeo, I’d piled in with ambitions to smash up four courses as I’d envisaged tiny-ass French style portions.  For my final savoury dish, I ordered the beef tenderloin fricassee.  Fuck yeah, the beef was cooked fucking perfectly – juicy, tender and all that good shit.  While I can’t remember much about the salad, I can only assume that it was fresh and beautifully presented because that just seemed par for the course during this meal.  However, I haven’t forgotten the crispy fuck yeah sweet potato fries which were fried in a light tempura-style batter and were a motherfuckin’ carb filled treat.  The only fuck no is that these sweet potato fries came in a delicate appropriate portion vs the indecently sized portion that my fat guts desperately desired. CARB LYFE = BEST LYFE.

I gotta give a fuck yeah mention to Chef Olivier who I spotted ducking into the back dining room a few times to quickly check on how shit was going.  Unfortunately, one thing that let Seasons by Olivier E down was that their staff seemed well intentioned but didn’t seem to have a clear system on exactly who was doing what and in what order.  Or maybe it’s because the clientele at Seasons by Olivier E is dominated by tai tais with their voluminous hair styles, bejewelled clothing and designer handbags so there’s no need for service to be clicking along at the rate of knots cause they’ve got all fucking afternoon to swan about in Lee Gardens 2.  However, I was a bit devastated cause I’d been eyeing off people ordering the camembert in two textures for dessert (the menu claiming these textures to be the real and the creamy one) and I desperately wanted in.  However, after we finished our mains this is when Seasons’ service slowed down hard – it took just a little bit too long for someone to clear our plates.  We waited again for a dessert menu to arrive.  Waiters blew past our table, some clearing plates for other tables and some idly setting up new tables, but no-one came to see if we wanted to order any dessert or get the included coffee or tea in our set lunch.  Finally someone did come to ask but shit was just too fucking late and as a non-tai tai, I had to drag my sorry non-bouffant hairstyled ass away from Lee Gardens 2.  Fuck no Seasons Homies, now I’ll never know the real and the creamy Camembert textures or the other potential for fuck yeah desserts at Seasons by Olivier E.

downtonmisspudding

Verdict:
Fuck yeah! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a set lunch menu which was filled with fuck yeah choices and even fucking better, each course was a memorable, well executed fuck yeah.  Sure, the tardy service at the end resulted in my fuck no Camembertless experience, but fuck me, at least I’ll always have those fuck yeah burrata memories. Chef Olivier, imma comin’ back for your dinner time eats.

FYN Update:  I went back to Seasons by Olivier E last night for dinner and did the 6-course Carte Blanche Chef’s choice menu for a pricey HKD1,188 but it was fucking incredible.  One of the best meals I’ve had in 2015.  I watched impressive looking steaks sail out of the kitchen in wooden boxes with smoking sprigs of rosemary stuffed inside.  The Carte Blanche menu was thoughtful as fuck, beautiful and fucking delicious.  The chocolate dessert course was a dark chocolate mousse with coconut ice-cream and chocolate salted popcorn and I don’t even go that wild for chocolate but I want to eat it again right the fuck now. FUCK YEAHHHHHH ON PAY DAY, GET INVOLVED HOMIES.

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