Fuck Yeah on Pay Day

Where:
Frantzén’s Kitchen
11 Upper Station St
Tai Ping Shan, Sheung Wan
Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2559 8508 or email info@frantzenskitchen.com.  There’s an online booking system but it might be more useful to punch yourself repeatedly in the balls so you can achieve the same levels of frustration without actually using their godawful booking system.  FRANTZEN’S KITCHEN USER INTERFACE DESIGNERS, Y U no let us see WHAT time slots are available or make suggestions as to what is free rather than making us stab randomly in the dark until a slot magically reveals itself as available???

Price:
HKD1,200ish per person before alcohol and not that much food.  We got out at HKD1,600ish per person after wine / drinks.

The deal:
Frantzén’s Kitchen bills itself as “a modern Nordic restaurant serving medium-sized dishes with Asian influences, all set in a casual and relaxed environment”, and it’s appeared as the first overseas offshoot of Björn Frantzén’s Swedish restaurant empire at the former site where Nosh used to be.  That is before Nosh, the casual brunch / lunch eatery, closed down and transformed itself into a “Let us deliver healthy low carb shit to your desk so you hate yourself a little less at work even though the very light is subsiding in your eyes” service.  Frantzén’s Kitchen’s á la carte menu has been created by Björn Frantzén and Jim Löfdahl (who is the executive chef of Frantzén’s Kitchen in Hong Kong and previously held down the same role at the two Michelin starred Restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm), the restaurant created in collaboration with the property developers, Arne and Helen Lindman.  I understand that the Lindmans were behind Nosh and actually own this Sheung Wan property which means props to them because their Nordic gastronomic adventure will not be at the mercy of the cruel and unnatural HK Landlords who are eating this town alive, one over priced square foot at a time.  From the get go, Frantzen’s Kitchen is an ambitious concept, stating that it is going to fill the gap in the Hong Kong market for modern Nordic cuisine (RIP forever Nur, Y U so fucking great but so commercially unviable?), their website stating that the restaurant will represent the “best of Swedish gastronomy”.

The restaurant itself embodies this Swedish sensibility, all clean lines, dark wood and grey marble tops with heavy stoneware, gorgeous as fuck cutlery which hasn’t happened by accident and a pair of chopsticks at each setting (cause hey fuckers, we are in Asia, amirite?).  Each menu is a series of black and white line drawn doodles by the chef which sketch out the ingredients and as I’m getting acquainted with the menu, the utterly charming Jean-Benoit Isselé, Frantzén’s Kitchen’s restaurant manager and head sommelier, swoops in with his dashing as fuck moustache and infinite amounts of charisma rolling off him in every direction. He’s warm, sincere and engaging, explaining carefully the menu and making sure everything’s perfect for his guests.  I react to this gorgeous act of kindness and off the charts service the only way I know how, by eating these feelings welling up inside of me, my fat little fingers shovelling as much of Frantzen’s Kitchen’s delicious as fuck browned butter and wafer thin bread crisps into my face with a heaping side of a futile attempt to not appear too gauche.

Frantzen’s Kitchen has a compact menu split into three categories, with only a choice of four “Snacks”, nine “Dishes” (with the recommendation for each person to have three to four each) and three “Desserts”. The one thing that every single server will make very clear is that they DO NOT recommend sharing.  Of course, this throws me into a tailspin because the prices per dish are not inconsequential and everything looks fucking delicious which means I want to comprehensively smash through the menu and somehow still make rent when it’s due.

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Reluctantly putting down the browned butter covered bread wafers, we get started on our “Snacks”.  It’s clear when the “Snacks” arrive why the Frantzén’s Kitchen homies are most def NOT about sharing because this is bona fide food for ants territory.  Maybe even micro, baby ants territory.  I get started with the Poached Oyster (HKD70 + 10% service charge) – a poached oyster prepared at 63.4c, topped with frozen sea buckthorns, seaweed powder and a walnut and juniper cream. It’s interesting as fuck, a contrast of temperature with the poached, just warm oyster playing against the tart, icy frozen sea buckthorns as the metallic hint of the briny oyster and seaweed powder is thrown against the warmth of the walnut and the hint of the resinous, coniferous juniper berry. This is rounded off in a cream sauce, which ties it all back to the creaminess of the oyster which hits you at the back end.  Despite this dish kicking serious goals, I guess I’m just an oyster purist though because whenever I have a fancy as fuck oyster I just always think, why mess with something that’s already so perfect just as it is?

Despite the repeated NO SHARING warning, I judiciously extract a tiny bite of the French Toast from Sir Crunch-a-Lot, served with winter truffles, balsamico vinegar & aged cheese (HKD125 + 10% service charge).  When I say a bite, this is actually half of the entire fucking dish.  It’s a predictably delicious given the ingredients involved but truffle smothered delicious items can just feel so played out by this stage.

However, what really moves the fuck yeah needle on Frantzén’s tiny Swedish snack time is the “Swedish sushi” (HKD75 + 10% service charge), where crispy white moss is used as a shari / rice substitute and it’s topped with hay ash, fallow deer, ceps (a type of mushroom) mayonnaise and a thin slice of frozen foie gras.  It’s a dish like this which makes you feel something because it’s not like anything you’ve ever had before (unless one of you assholes is on the reg, foraging about the Arctic Circle, hunting reindeer, making cep mayonnaise and then fashioning white moss snacks in your log cabin while wearing some sort of knitted woollen hat at a jaunty angle and drinking cups of sun dried lichen tea).  It’s distinctly taking something from the ingredients of Scandinavia while referencing a Japanese dish we all know, bringing it all together by using texture, taste and ingredients you can place but presenting it in a way that makes you think about what’s going on and feels so representative of what you’d imagine this Nordic world could taste like.  It’s thought provoking and a major fuck yeah and I do my best to eat this tiny portion of “Swedish sushi” as slowly as possible so I can piece it all together in my head and then revisit it to see if everything it made me think was correct.  However, before I can comprehensively reach a point where I’m ready to say goodbye, it’s already disappeared from my life and there’s no more Swedish sushi left on my plate.  CUE THE COMMENCEMENT OF MY SAD, BEREFT AND CRISPY MOSS-LESS TIMES.

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Given the open nature of the kitchen, you get to see all of the  dishes are all prepared right in front of you with deft hands and amiable smiles. It’s time for “Dishes” and there’s a reason why these bad boys aren’t called Mains because they’re still delicately tiny as fuck.  The Roasted Hokkaido scallop in ”Nordic” dashi (HKD205 + 10% service charge) is first up and it’s four pieces of gently roasted scallops topped with spruce shoots and fingerlime caviar, which the chef then pours a “Nordic” inspired dashi over it, made from smoked, dried scallops and also infused with ginger oil and truffles. It’s an elegant and forthright fuck yeah, with every element there for a definitive purpose – the sweetness of the scallops set against the greenness of the spruce shoots, with the bright edge of the citrus from the fingerlime. The dashi and the touch of oil in it creates a fullness to the dish and in this dish’s embrace, I find love that should be eternal because it’s not like anything I’d ever had before, but like a fleeting Summer romance slipping through my fingers, this scallop filled dream is over before I know it.

The North Atlantic cod “Janssons” (HKD230 + 10% service charge) is also a stand out, a piece of sweet ass cod served in beurre blanc and preserved anchovy juice, topped with vendace roe from Kalix  and crispy caramelised onions.  Kalix roe is some rare ass fish egg, harvested from a small salmonid fish species which chills out in the Bothnian Bay archipelago of the Baltic Sea in northern Sweden and predictably, is a hard to get asshole which only spawns a couple of months a year.  Hipster Swedish salmonid fish facts aside, the beurre blanc sauce here is major and the salty, fishiness of the anchovy juice and when you bite into the Kalix roe it just brings the fuck yeah fyahhhhh and depth to this dish.

However it’s not all modern Nordic dishes which are designed to turn your whole world upside down.  There’s some very well executed dishes which are all fucking great but just not that revolutionary.  But that’s part of the ebb and flow of a meal as well, because it’s not like you necessarily want to have your conceptions about Nordic food challenged at every turn.  The Grilled chicken (HKD215 +10% service charge) is excellent, the tender ass piece of chicken poached slowly and topped with blond miso, lemon thyme, hazelnut and girolles (chanterelles) and served with a quenelle of Jerusalem artichoke puree.  But it’s the Swedish pork belly (HKD195 +10% service charge) which crystallises the realisation that I’m just well and truly done with ordering pork belly at restaurants.  I just can’t get excited about it anymore and that was when I was facing down a perfectly executed, faultless piece of roast pork with accompaniments that all belonged together such as the earthy pumpkin puree, dots of apple based ”hot- sauce”, dried kale crisps and black roasted garlic.  Which raises a more existential question for me, that is, what kind of a privileged douchebag First World Life are you living when you just can’t get a stiff for roast pork belly which is giving all it can?

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However, for every ho hum another pork belly moment, there’s also some fuck yeah moments which sound innocuously straight forward, such as the Velouté (HKD120 + 10% service charge).  Simply billed as “yellow onion, liquorice & roasted almonds”, Frantzén’s Kitchen has obviously forgotten to list the other ingredients like “voodoo magic”, because this is such a fucking knock out.  Onion puree, almond oil, almond milk, almonds and onion soup with a whisper of liquorice cream to give it a subtle herbal, aniseed edge which creates this foamy thimbleful of fuck yeah times that I wanted to have so much more of.

The Lamb tartare (HKD175 +10% service charge) sounds like it’s going to be my granny perfumed fuck no nightmare with the promises of a lavender yoghurt.  However, despite my best efforts to taste my floral, soapy nemesis there’s no real trace of it, with this dish instead betting on Middle Eastern vibes with the cumin, feta cheese and smoked eggplant. But it’s the Swedish dairy cow (HKD295 +10% service charge) which leaves a far stronger fuck yeah impression, and not only because it clocks in at a very grand price for a very measured serving of 100 day, dry aged beef, all gussied up with petals from miniature viola flowers, beurre noisette, truffle salt, thinly sliced raw mushrooms and truffle ponzu sauce on the side. The minerality of the dry aged beef pairs off with the earthy mushrooms and truffles, the ponzu sauce giving it that citrus edge and acidity to the dish which is accentuated by the flecks of salt that catch the beef. It’s a fuck yeah triumph except for the persistent nagging thought about how this HKD295+ dish could really fit onto one heaped tablespoon.

Despite feeling like I’ve had only less than ten bites of food (and maybe half a kilo of browned butter with bread wafer crisps), I’m ready to fall into dessert.  Out of the three options, I’m most excited for the Smoked ice cream (HKD105 +10% service charge), a scoop of smoked ice-cream is covered in a glossy, golden, dark brown tar syrup and topped with bitter cacao nibs and nuts.  Hot fudge is poured over and it and the ice-cream dome gives up its perfect form, buckling under the heat, which is no doubt some beautiful as fuck statement on the transience of life and more importantly, a fuck yeah end to the meal.  The hot fudge is laced with cloves and combined with the smokey ice-cream and the deep, bottom notes from the tar syrup and the bitter cacao nibs, it’s an entirely satisfying and well thought out final, dark and bitter-sweet cadence to a purposeful meal.  It’s at this point that the Frantzén’s Kitchen’s playlist aptly plays the Swedish love pop classic “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn to close out the night as she sings bitter-sweet synth filled missives about watching former lovers kissing current girlfriends from the corner and I jealously scrape out the bottom of my bowl while watching other people receive their brand new desserts, before the lights turn on, the music dies and I take myself home.  Fuck yeahhhhh, desserts which aren’t a sloppy after thought which the chef has been forced to do because customers expect a sweet ending to their meal.

So the enormous price point of Frantzén’s Kitchen has to be talked about properly.  While all the other reviews might make a cursory mention that shit ain’t cheap and wrap it up with the glib platitudes of how it’s “something to save for special occasions!“,  I think it’s a broader, emblematic issue that with each year, we are careening towards some sort of crazy, does this even make sense price point for restaurants in Hong Kong, where we just make glib statements of “I don’t mind paying for good food, because there’s so much expensive average food in Hong Kong” before we willingly open our wallets and release our monopoly HK play money like flippant, worthless angels into the foggy, pollution filled Hong Kong skies.

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HOWEVER, I’m not a Russian oligarch or an African warlord who just dips into my iron clad treasure chest to rummage around my glittering rubies and gold ingots before I pull out massive fuck off bricks of hard currency to casually fund my Friday night dinners in Hong Kong. Regardless of where shit is from or how delicately it’s prepared, I don’t think any of us common folk can deny that when you’re laying down over HKD300 for two to three bites of beef, $hit is getting fucking major now.  But we somehow justify it because we’re used to laying down HKD200+/USD25+ for some piece of shit burger at some pedestrian as fuck restaurant on Wyndham Street or a HKD700+/USD100+ whole chicken in Soho because that’s just what things cost in HK. I just don’t know anymore, IS THIS REAL LIFE? IS THIS NORMAL BEHAVIOUR?  DO WE EVEN FEEL FISCAL RELATED PAIN ANYMORE?

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However, Frantzén’s Kitchen is really one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory in HK and it’s a potent knock out punch when you think of the exemplary fuck yeah service and the very fact that this was food that actually presented new things to you and made you think about what you were actually eating and why. Also, no doubt it probably costs all the money in the world to be flying in bits of moss and fish eggs in from Sweden just so I can get my snacks on in HK.  Which is why it’s so easy to then justify “Oh sure, it wasn’t cheap but why would I want to have three average meals when I could have one stand out meal“.  Or perhaps more accurately, a series of countable, though wildly satisfying fuck yeah bites.  But as I roll down towards Hollywood Road with my senses vibrating on what is right, wrong and fair from a HK price point perspective, I can’t help but shake the feeling that perhaps in this city the reasonable amount of cash to pay for food is always an unreasonable amount.  So you might as well buckle your shit up tight and ride that unreasonable price point head first into some innovative and thought provoking fuck yeah Nordic noms which hits you in your heart and makes you pause for a moment.  Before resuming your normal program with overpriced, bland as fuck burgers on Wyndham Street once more.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhh to some of the most thoughtful and fucking delicious food I’ve had in a long time but fuck me, this has gotta be at least fuck yeah on pay day.  Ok, I’ll be real – fuck yeah after two pay days.

 

Where:
Noma Australia
23 Barangaroo Ave
Barangaroo, Sydney, Australia

Price:
AUD485 (USD372 / HKD2,890) per person (with the matched wines clocking in at AUD215 (USD165 / HKD1,280).

The deal:
The omnipotent reputation and weight of Noma is crushing. So much so that Noma can announce that it’s going to leave its digs in Copenhagen, Denmark and spend 10 weeks in Sydney, Australia and even with the eye watering price tag and not knowing exactly what this will entail, a throng of eager punters crushed the servers and snapped up all of the available tickets in mere minutes and then 27,000 wannabe customers piled onto the waitlist in the faint hope that someone might give their golden ticket away. Through some judicious planning which involved a coordinated syndicate of food obsessed assholes agreeing to target certain dates and table sizes, I was lucky enough to secure a booking for a table of eight and planned an international trip to Sydney around it.

Our booking was for Noma Australia’s third last night in town and I’d tried to stay on a relative media blackout, spotting the occasional picture online but resisting the urge to read the write ups so I could approach it without any preconceptions. Arriving just as the Sydney sun was slipping away over the harbour, we sit outside on the wooden table and benches as Noma’s waitstaff efficiently flit around and sort us out with an aperitif, their take on the Snakebite as we have a clear view of their chefs preparing various components in both their inside and outside kitchen. The choice of the Snakebite sets an indicative humorous tone which pervades some dishes, playing on a drink which traditionally is a blend of cheap beer and cider (sometimes with the addition of red cordial to hide the alcohol related atrocities which lurk below), favoured by young Australians who don’t know better other than they want to get wasted as quickly as possible. In this rendition though, it’s a cider / beer inspired blend made by Ashley Huntington of Two Metre Tall in Tasmania, using a combination of a seven year old ale, a two year old apple cider, a two year old pear cider and young soured ale, which is lightly effervescent and highly drinkable. I guess old Australian drinking habits die hard because I could have easily finished off a bottle of this.

Even at the end of ten weeks just as the Australian summer turns itself into autumn, the staff show not a shred of apathy and in fact seem to be beaming from their time in Australia, forming a guard to greet every table as they pass through the entrance and hold me back, René Redzepi himself is front and centre greeting guests with a beatific smile. I resist all urge to lunge towards him to grab a tuft of his hair to sew into my deranged voodoo chef doll which enjoys foraging and exploring the boundaries of local produce and instead smile politely and try to act like oh hay, no biggie, it’s just René welcoming me into motherfucking NOMA AUSTRALIA.

The Foolscap Studio designed dining room is straight forward and simple, taking cues from the Australian outback as well as Noma’s Danish heritage, with the art work taking inspiration from the ochre hued Australian landscape and the placement of several native blackboy grass trees. The Carl Hansen & Sons wooden tables and chairs have been shipped in from Denmark with the occasional wallaby fur pelt strewn across the back of a chair and a purposefully tousled bouquet of Australian foliage and flowers sitting in the centre of every table. There’s thirteen courses (ten savoury courses and three desserts) and no written menu is presented, with each course and the provenance of all the locally sourced ingredients explained by the enthusiastic staff at the beginning of each course.

The first tasting dish is the unripe macadamia and spanner crab, which uses thin slices of green macadamia nuts in a clear, chilled spanner crab consommé with a touch of rose oil. Served in an earthen stoneware bowl surrounded by ice, our waiter lets us know that it took the Noma team three days and several knives to figure out how to prise an unripe and stubborn macadamia from its shell. The sweet green macadamia is reminiscent of a firm water chestnut, playing well with the cool, sweet spanner crab consommé with only a hint of the floral rose peeking through.

The wild seasonal berries flavoured with gubinge (Kakadu plum), is a plate of native berries (including lillypillies, lemon aspen and muntries) and pickled lemon myrtle buds.  It’s beautiful as fuck, all pale pinks, greens, creams and yellows with the white powder of a Kakadu plum dusted all over. It’s an intense mix of sweet against sour, astringent and salty flavor profiles, the Kakadu plum powder reminding me of how the Taiwanese use plum powder on their pineapple or apples, to get that same fuck yeah salty and sweet flavor contrast.

The porridge of golden and desert oak wattleseed with saltbush looks innocuous enough, consisting of three saltbush leaves which are used to wrap a porridge made from two types of wattleseeds which have been boiled for hours to crack their tough outer seed cases, topped with a green oil made from anise myrtle. A finger lime and its caviar like insides is squeezed over this dish to cut through all the verdant flavours and nutty tones and this is the first dish of the night which knocks me the fuck over. I was the slowest person on my table to eat this dish because I wanted to understand every part of it on its own and all together and by the time I’d done this, I’d already eaten two of the three parcels, so I had to slow the fuck down so I could fully process what the fuck was going on in the final saltbush parcel as I declared multiple times that I was having a serious fuck yeah moment.

The seafood platter and crocodile fat, is five shellfish that are perched across smooth river rocks and topped with shards of chicken stock skin (imagine the film that forms when you roast a chicken and the oil drips to the pan and you allow that to cool slightly) painted with crocodile fat that look like the rock pools that dot our Australian coastline. I have no reference point for what crocodile fat should taste like and while the shards are interesting, it’s really all about the sweet simple flesh of the clams, mussel, pippi and oyster.

The WA deep sea snow crab with cured egg yolk comes with the René Redzepi’s claim that he thinks that this deep sea snow crab from Albany, located on the southern coast of Western Australia is one of the best in the world and it’s impossible not to feel some sort of patriotic pang of pride that this is Australia punching out its best on the global crab stage. This dish is fucking spectacular, the barely warm flesh of the snow crab just picked from its shell is mixed with an egg yolk which has been cured in kangaroo garum (fermented sauce made from kangaroo mince, which Noma started making back in October), rice koji (a fermented culture fed on rice, kept in a warm place)  and smoked butter. To mix this warm, sweet delicate meat with the cured egg yolk feels reminiscent of the salty egg yolks that you’ve had in Hong Kong, but topped with this barely there fish-sauce like note from the fermented kangaroo meat and koji creates something you’ve never had before but with a few familiar reference points.

That’s not to say that it’s all ecstatic rapture and the unbelievable swelling of new flavours. Noma’s take on the Australian tradition of the meat pie is made from dried scallops and topped with nasturtium flowers. The pie itself is a kelp crust, filled with nasturtium stems, topped with a brown, viscous and slightly grainy, sticky frozen topping made from combining dried Tasmanian scallops together with beeswax and elderflower oil.  Unfortunately, it reminds me of the brown grease that drips from my rangehood when it’s overdue for a clean. This is eaten with two accompanying yellow and orange nasturtium flowers (the earlier sittings at Noma ate this with a lantana flower), their peppery sharp flavour cutting through this greasy, rich scallop chilled fudge like paste but I’m unable to fully shake the smell of stale oil from my rangehood.

The next three courses are the BBQ’d milk ‘dumpling’ with marron and magpie goose, the simply named truffle and avocado and the sea urchin and tomato dried with pepper berries. The ‘dumpling’ uses a crispy milk skin crepe to wrap together a barely cooked marron (a small Australian lobster-like crustacean) with the meatier punch of the gamey magpie goose, all wrapped together in a nasturtium leaf. I’ve never eaten magpie goose but understand that it’s a bird from the Northern Territory that’s almost regarded as a pest given its predilection for eating mangoes.  The truffle and avocado is a single slice of creamy avocado, topped with a black truffle ragout which is a simple fuck yeah interlude from all the layered, complex dishes before it. To reset the palate for the final savoury course, it’s a clean and fresh fuck yeah dish of Tasmanian sundried bush tomatoes, dehydrated for eight hours, topped with subtle Southern NSW sea urchins from Ulladulla and a broth made from native pepper berries (with shades of the Sichuan pepper) and elderflower oil.

The final savoury course is one of my absolute fuck yeah favourites of the night, Noma’s take on the Australian pub meal, the abalone schnitzel with bush condiments. Or as it’s more affectionately known in Australia, the schnitty. Served with a knotted bouquet of Australian green herbs (including Warrigal Greens), Kakadu plum, nuts (palm nut, Atherton Oak Nut), an assortment of seaweed (sea fennel, glass beads and Neptune’s Necklace), a stem of mat rush and the tiniest half of a native Australian sandpaper fig. The abalone has been crumbed and fried, after some sort of complicated cooking technique applied to it, to make an otherwise chewy shellfish into something tender.  The schnitty is fucking great on its own but by combining a bite of this schnitty with the Australian accoutrements is when it transcends fucking everything.  It’s the sweet, young slightly starchy stem of the mat rush. The grassy bouquet of green herbs which cut through the fat of the schnitzel and smash you in the face. The finger lime makes another appearance with its acidic, citrus pearls bursting in your mouth to cut through the fried schnitzel and the green notes. I want to eat this dish again just so I can really get my head around all the fuck yeah Australian foliage and seaweed magic that was happening on this plate.

The next three dessert courses have been much discussed by the press and it’s easy to see why given the green ants on fruit and the highly photogenic riffs on the Australian classics, the lamington (a chocolate and desiccated coconut covered sponge) and the Golden Gaytime ice-cream (a toffee and vanilla ice-cream dipped in chocolate and wrapped in honeycomb biscuits, on a wooden popsicle-stick). ice-cream.  The first fruit based dessert, marinated fresh fruit, is simple, a piece of mango wrapped in a palm leaf and topped with small dried green ants, and a cube of pineapple and watermelon all set on ice.  I wryly smile to myself as I think about how instead of getting food for ants, I’m actually getting food with ants.  As you can expect, each piece of fruit is intense and represents a best in class example of that fruit, with the dried green eats tasting exactly as you’d imagine if you’ve ever squashed an ant.

The rum lamington is all white, an airy piece of cake which is pumped full of Black Head Rum made just north of Sydney, with the “coconut” made from grated solidified milk, sitting in a red pool of native tamarind which isn’t as sour as the tamarind I’m used to.  The native tamarind sauce cuts through the sweetness as the lamington dissolves to nothing in your mouth. While tasty it’s not knock your lights out delicious and relies more on its story and reference to what a lamington is.

The final course is the peanut milk and freekah “Baytime”, which looks like a little a mini-rustic Magnum ice-cream, with its riberry stick instead of the traditional wooden paddlepop.  The ice-cream component has been made from a raw peanut milk and there’s a caramel centre, before it’s coated with a freekah glaze, that gives it the appearance of the chocolate coating of a Golden Gaytime.  Freekah is an ancient grain which Noma have roasted until it’s dark and in the glaze, it tastes like a deep, roasted grain with some chocolate overtones (even though there’s no chocolate in it).  It’s fun and interesting, a humorous and earthy nod to an Australian ice-cream icon but not a blockbuster dessert on its own.  With the food all done, we go outside to take our final digestifs and René makes the rounds to the remaining tables outside, stopping in to say hello (although he didn’t make it to our table), before we leave to literally and mentally digest everything that’s gone before.

When I got home that night, I actually couldn’t sleep because I was too busy trying to process exactly why I had this downright, primal and visceral reaction to this meal. The feeling when your heart can’t even fit your chest and you shake your head because you can’t figure out why did this meal resonate in every part of your being?  And then days later, with some furious internal workshopping as to why this moved my internal needle so much, I slowly began to pull together the more nebulous threads to why Noma Australia felt so personally Australian. Because sure, at first glance the Australian connection is so fucking obvious, it’s the madness of René Redzepi and his globally sourced Noma team coming to Australia to seek out these indigenous ingredients which Australia itself doesn’t use with regularity and then making that work within some sort of commercial context.  It’s the subtle nod to Australian food icons such as the lamington or the meat pie. But then it’s the realisation that for all these new ingredients and highly technical preparative techniques what lodges it in my psyche is the association to personal shit that you know from actually growing up in Australia:

It’s the bunch of native Australian herbs with the schnitzel, which hit you in the back of your throat like the smell of freshly mown grass because fuck, we had the luxury and privilege of lawns in Australia.

It’s the quarters of lillypillies in the wild seasonal berries assortment that you remember from the novelty of being able to eat something that looked like a tiny pale pink apple, straight from the tree in your backyard as a kid.

It’s the verdant, fragrant oils distilled from Australian foliage used in the saltbush wattleseed porridge that remind you of the eucalyptus and lemon myrtle leaves you’ve picked when you’ve been in the Australian bush on school camp and crushed them between your fingers, to leave that green smell of fresh gum trees on your fingers that will never as long as you’re alive will remind you of anything other than Australia.

It’s the shellfish nestled in the smooth river rocks which throw you back to that time you were under the almost surreal azure skies and poking around the crystal clear rock pools of some remote part of Australia’s jagged coast line where every rock you moved with a stick saw five things move the fuck away from you.

It’s the use of nasturtium flowers and stems which remind you of how nasturtiums used to grow almost like weeds in your backyard and eating the flowers as a kid before you spat them out in sheer disgust, wondering why anyone would ever want to eat these stinky, peppery pungent flowers (and now look at you, you’re paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege).

It’s the smear of black truffle ragout on a piece of avocado which you already think FUCK YEAH AUSTRALIA because of the dire avocado situation in Hong Kong. But the truffle ragout paste is black and filled with vaguely yeasty and umami tones giving you some poshed up fancy as fuck take to all the avocado toast with a smear of Australia’s real black gold, Vegemite, that you’ve devoured in this lifetime.

It’s the delicate strand of glass bead and Neptune’s Necklace seaweed which burst in your mouth and remind you of the sargassum seaweed balls that you popped between your fingers when you were down at the beach on school holidays.

It’s when you eat the zingy green ants perched on the mango for dessert which while you’ve never eaten ants before, the taste reminds you of sitting on some warm lawn, the tiny stinging bites of these anty fuckers and the smell of the sharp formic acid after you’ve crushed their feeble bodies against your legs.

So you take this body of personal Australia experience and process that against the fact it’s been a Danish chef who’s shown it to you and then you set that against everything that’s conspired to let you be there, to have this in your existence. Getting the tickets to Noma Australia. Having the time and means to get your ass to Sydney to effectively have dinner. With everything lined up, you then get to have a dining experience which speaks so uniquely to what you know as an Australian and then expands upon that by showing you all sorts of shit you didn’t even know. Noma Australia moved me in a seriously major way and it crystallised everything I fucking love about food and eating.

Because what is better than food that moves you? Food where absolutely everything on that plate has been pored over and deliberated on to be a distillation of what a chef is passionate about, what he truly believes in and presenting this fucking incredible innovative take on unconventional ingredients and still make the sum greater than its individual parts. Where in the ensuing days and weeks, you’re still trying to fucking figure it out in your head as to why it was such a fucking potent experience? I eat so much all the time but I’ve never had an experience which has thrown up so many thoughts and questions days later. I desperately want to know every single thing and detail behind this meal so I can better understand how Noma ended up at this final point for their Australian menu and how did they distil so much of this fucking amazing country into thirteen plates of food.

This was a meal which at the time it hits you in the chest with the impact of something totally fucking new but then pulls you in by the shoulders, to kiss you softly on the forehead with familiarity and nostalgia.

And with that, I will never forget you Noma Australia.

Verdict:
ALL THE FUCK YEAHS EVER.

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:
SAAM (fuck yeahhhh, fully functional website)
G/F, 51D Graham Street (just up from The Globe)
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2645 9828

Price:
The seven course tasting menu cost HKD788 (+10% service charge) with seven half glasses of wine at HKD 348 (+10% service charge), so HKD1,250 in total.

The deal:
Chef Patrick Dang summarises his background and cooking in three sentences on his website, “I was born in Hong Kong. I was raised in Australia. The globe is my inspiration.” and if you had to categorise his restaurant, I’d say it’s ‘Modern European’.  There’s been a fair bit of press around SAAM and the new ‘Back to School’ set tasting menu which is being offered in September / October and as a few FYN homies had told me that they’d really enjoyed the menu, my linen loving self decided to forgive SAAM for proclaiming shit like “We want to take away tablecloths; while maintaining styled elegance” and rounded up some homies to go and check it out.

However, SAAM do not make it easy for you to book a table at their restaurant, outlining a long list of requirements to achieve a booking on their website.  You need a minimum of four people.  You need to pay a HKD200 deposit per person via bank transfer and then whatsapp in the proof.  You can book online but despite the bank deposit requirement, you still need to hand over credit card details.  For reservations of less than four people you go through the same hoops but it’s on a ‘first come, first served’ basis (which really seems contrary to the whole fucking point of a reservation??).  On top of all of that, SAAM will only hold your table for 15 minutes, so don’t be late homies. Either way, SAAM’s reservation shit is NOT easy.  I imagine some of this comes from the fact that SAAM is relatively small, probably seating 20 – 30 people and flakey no-show fuckers (yes HK, I mean almost all of you) would really mess their economics up.

Chef Dang’s vision for his ‘Back to School’ menu is his homage to all the HK kiddies headed back to school in September and is a play on all those mass produced school lunches but of course all fancy and cheffed up.  Each course is named simply and there’s a twist with each course, with the promise of bringing some lightheartedness to the table and no doubt, meant to evoke that innocent childhood feeling inside every diner. Cue every fucking food blogger overusing the adjective  “whimsical” and potentially throwing in some carefully researched Alice in Wonderland quotes about Chef Dang’s mad creations taking you down a fantastical and wondrous culinary rabbit hole.

SAAM kick off proceedings with an Irish oyster amuse bouche (which is in no way connected to the School Day theme).  There is only one waiter for the entire restaurant which means it takes him a few rounds to serve everyone’s food but he’s also knowledgeable, friendly and succinctly explains all of the food we’re about to eat.  The first course is  ‘Nutella & Toast’, where a small pastry (the “toast”) is stuffed with “nutella” (which is in fact a truffle panna cotta), served alongside a scallop crudo and some hazelnuts. It’s interesting and tasty enough, but definitely benefits from being presented within the context of it riffing on the appearance of Nutella toast.

This gimmicky (though tiny) opening course is followed by the simply titled ‘Cereal & Yoghurt’ which was one of my favourite fuck yeah highlights from the night. A small dish of fuck yeahhhh foie gras parfait is topped with a thin layer of pineapple jelly.  SAAM have scattered savoury crunchy granola and small peppered pieces of pineapple on top, with a few small piped blobs of almond yoghurt.  I fucking loved this dish because it was full of fuck yeah contrasts – the crunch of the granola against the soft foie gras, the acidity of the pineapple cutting through the fatty foie gras.  I could have spooned this foie gras concoction onto little toasted crackers all day and into my face, even without being loaded up with a cutesy school food story.

It is at this point that I start to panic regarding whether I’m going to be swinging by McDonald’s to get some McWings afterwards as each tiny though elaborate course disappears swiftly.  The wine pairing provides a half-glass with each course and SAAM are definitely showing some precision in their pours.  It isn’t one of those scenarios when you order a matched ‘half-glass’ wine tasting menu and end up getting generous almost full glass pours and you drunkenly roll your lush ass out of the restaurant.  I enjoyed the wine tasting but I guess I’m just a fucking lush cause I wanted more wine.

The third course of ‘Sausage & Egg‘ was the most successful in terms of the surprise factor that SAAM were gunning for.  The dish arrives with a super convincing ‘sunny side up fried egg’ which has actually been constructed from coconut and the spherification of some butternut pumpkin puree (which mimics the membrane of an egg yolk).  WHOA, SURPRISE NO-EGG EGG YO!

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Our helpful waiter instructs us to mix the ‘yolk’ with the ‘egg white’, to form a dipping sauce for your ‘sausage’ made from lobster. Sure it’s a bit gimmicky but even this grumpy, cynical gloomy fucker can let a little slice of corny no-egg egg sunshine into my goth as fuck heart and enjoy the fuck yeah pumpkin, lemongrass infused coconut sauce with the lobster ‘sausage’ sprinkled with madras curry flavoured bread crumbs

Next up was the ‘Fish & Chips’ course which didn’t play too hard to trick the fuck out of you with fancy shit.  Despite it not having a M Shyamalan twist, it was one of my favourite fuck yeah courses.  A decent sized slice of poached turbot is served on a bright green bed of mushy peas.  A ‘potato crisp’ is made out of thin reconstituted potato wafer, flavoured with vinegar powder, cleverly hinting at chips splashed with vinegar.  A ball of deep fried tartar sauce is as tricky as this dish gets and it was just a well balanced, fucking delicious course.  All I wanted was MOAR TURBOT. Much tender. So wow. Many fuck yeah fish related feels.

The ‘Gluten free noodle soup’ is described as a gluten free chicken instant noodle.  That’s because the noodles are actually made from pureed chicken breasts.  Our waiter explains that it takes five hours to make these noodles, explaining that it’s super fucking tedious to remove all the tendons.  Sure, it’s clever and chock full of technique but fuck, I’m not convinced the pay off was fucking worth it.  HOWEVER, the superior abalone broth which took two days which is poured over the noodles is fucking spectacular. I’d happily skip the extruded chicken mousse noodles for a gluten filled bog-standard wheat udon noodle as a pay off to get triple the amount of dat fuck yeah broth.

Rounding the corner into the final savoury course, it’s the ‘School Roast Dinner’ which doesn’t stray too far from what anyone would perceive as a roast dinner, except it’s been poshed up to the max with a singular ‘potato fry’ and ‘umami gravy’.  The Australian Wagyu short rib is cooked sous vide and then grilled so it can get some semblance of brown onto it.  Fuck, I don’t really get behind sous vide that much and I dunno why fancy ass chefs are so obsessed with letting meat sit in a warm bath all day rather than just fucking cooking it properly in the first place?? Blah blah tender blah blah gentle cooking blah blah even temperature, fuck off I know I know, I’m just not fucking into it.

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Either way, the beef was still fucking delicious and ‘umami’ sauce was just a fancy way of describing ‘concentrated mushroom’ sauce.  I gotta be real that I would have preferred a bit more char on my beef, but due to the lameness of warm bathtime sous vide beef, I get that you have to avoid overcooking it.  I also don’t know if the reconstituted potato smashed into a singular mega-fry shape added much to the overall dish, but the sides were all a side note to the fuck yeah beef.

The dessert course is the simply named ‘PB&J’ and it’s a peanut butter parfait with a grape sorbet, served with some tiny champagne grapes and lego shaped banana pudding.  It’s nice to look at and quite the hit with our table.  I categorise this one under a solid dish which is cute enough. My less curmudgeonly homies seemed to enjoy this more.  The flavours were a fuck yeah but didn’t seem to necessarily come together cohesively enough for me.  I just wanted more from this dish to move it from an interesting concept to a solid fuck yeah dessert moment.

What I liked about SAAM was that it was trying to do something interesting and have its food tell a story.  Was every dish as successful as it had set out to be?  Fuck no.  Was my palpable fear of going through one of those modern, food for ants tasting menus fulfilled?  Not quite, but on a scale of 1 to ‘I gotta get McWings on the way home’ hunger scale, I was probably a 6.5.  Which means that if SAAM hadn’t been so tightassed with their bread (fun fact, you gotta hand over HKD9 per person if you want bread. Like, R U SRS SAAM, HKD9 is really changing the economic metrics of your restaurant, when I’m already handing over HKD1200+ per person?) I would have been fine. Were some dishes fucking about with fussy techniques, just to do something different and provide a surprise moment?  Fuck yeah.  But there was still the occasional major fuck yeah moment like the ‘Cereal & Yoghurt’ foie gras parfait or the ‘Fish & Chips’ turbot with the mashed peas.  Chef Dang is putting something different out there which is unique in Hong Kong and while some of that may result in 5 hour chicken mousse noodles which don’t really outperform your run-of-the-mill standard udon noodle, I gotta admire that it takes balls to do something like SAAM.  And I’d take that any day over all the Mexican-Korean fusion horrors which have taken over this city.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah on pay day, cause this modern creative shiz don’t come cheap.  But I’ll caveat it that SAAM isn’t going to be for everyone.  I’d only recommend getting involved if you want to try something different and you can jive with the wank-off fact that you’re sometimes eating the story as well as the food. HOWEVER, DEM CEREAL AND YOGHURT, FOIE GRAS PARFAIT FEELZ DOE.

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.

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