High End

Where:
Cure
21 Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089128

Phone:
+65 6221 2189 (or email reserve@curesingapore.com)

Price:
SGD110 (+7% GST and 10% service) for the seven course tasting menu.  Add another SGD90 (+7% GST and 10% service) if you want the matching wine.

The deal:
Cure isn’t a new restaurant in Singapore, opening in 2015.  Situated on Keong Saik Road, it’s small and straightforward in muted tones of grey, bronze and emerald accents with  soft lighting and warm oak tones and tabletops to keep it from feeling too austere.  The menu changes monthly depending on what produce is available and seasonal.  Cue the promo shot of the white chef chilling in the grimey wet markets holding a fish cause ya know, LOCAL ASIAN SHIZZZZZZ.  But really, how much does this “eating seasonal” count for in a world where almost every single restaurant in the world is claiming to be changing their menu depending on the phase of the moon and whatever stupid sprout they managed to forage out of a crack in a volcanic rock that was lodged within a mound of lichen underneath the Látrabjarg cliffs in Iceland, that’s only available from the 12th April to the 23rd May every fucking year?  Regardless of my cynicism about seasonality, Cure is run by the Irish chef/owner, Andrew Walsh, and promises “top-notch plates, solid drinks and personable service that is delivered in a casual yet refined environment”, taking inspiration from both his European background as well as his time in Asia.  Predictable, his CV lists a billion stints at Michelin starred restaurants, including Sous Chef at the Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social by Jason Atherton and at Tom Aikens’ namesake restaurant in the UK.  

When it’s a restaurant in this style, I like to do the tasting menu because not only do I get to divest myself of any decision making, I get to see what is the story the chef wants to tell.  To start shit off, it’s Cure’s seeded sourdough bread, served with bacon flecked butter and pickled diced cabbage.  Predictably, the house made butter with rendered bacon fat is as fucking delicious as anyone could hope from a fat-on-fat combo.  With this bread, I feel my heart letting its guard down – that I might actually have a modern dining meal which is well thought out and meaningful.  It might seem small, but the bread course is the measure by which I judge any restaurant.  If a chef gives a fuck about his or her free bread, then it’s an indicator of someone who’s gonna give a fuck about everything else that he’s doing.  The pickled cabbage is acidic and tangy, reminding me of the pickled mustard greens that’s used in Chinese cooking and mixed with the creamy fattiness of the butter and the slight sour edge of the naturally leavened bread, it’s complete and well rounded, as my feelings swell and I wrestle with my inner demons to not ask for more bread because there’s so much more food to come.

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Sauce

There’s an assortment of “Cure Snacks” which are deftly and thoughtfully executed.  Our first course is the “Scallop / Vietnamese Dressing / Coriander / Yuzu”, a half shell perched against a pile of tiny pebbles, all elegant fuck yeah beauty with the scallop topped with coriander granita, minature violet petals and a single micro-sorrel leaf.  Most importantly, nothing has been dumped on this dish for aesthetics with every single element bringing something to this dish.  The flavour of the scallop is accentuated through pairing it with the green flavours of the coriander and the single micro-sorrel leaf and brightening it all up with the yuzu and the pop of the Vietnamese style dressing, the icy coriander tinged granita keeping everything fresh and crisp, like a spray of brisk ocean water.

Shit really gets real at the “Squid noodles / Onion Dashi / Chicken Wing”.  This is Cure’s riff on ramen, substituting the noodles with slices of raw squid which cooks slightly as the onion dashi is poured over it.  There’s an egg yolk in the soup which you stir through while adding toasted rice and crispy seaweed pieces.  This dish is fucking stunning, a complete and utter knock out, and unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before but still so familiar at the same time.  It’s the dish that has it all, the different texture from the slightly chewy squid noodles which contrast against the light crispy toasted rice and seaweed, and the heavier bite and chew of the chicken wing.  But it’s the broth that steadfastly anchors this dish all together, the onion dashi broth is sweet and clear on its own, when the egg yolk is mixed with it, it takes on this creamy, richness adding  to the onion’s depth of flavour and pulling every element of this forthright dish into its centre.

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The “Foie gras brulee / Cinnamon / BBQ Sweet Corn” .  Served with a side of small jam stuffed donuts, these were potentially the only flawed component of the entire meal, as they were a little dry inside.  Not a fatal flaw though because any dryness was compensated for by spreading caramelised foie gras onto them.  Tinged with cinnamon and the sweet corn kernels, this dish was so  perfectly balanced that if this dish was an athlete, it’d be ready to take out Olympic gold on the beam.

For the closest thing to a main, it’s the “Beef Short Rib / Green Asparagus / Pomelo / Green Curry”.  I sigh with relief when they don’t fuck it up, because I’m sick of going to fine dining restaurants that get to the main course and seem to just stop giving a fuck.  Probably because the kitchen is dead exhausted from creating flavour filled, over tweezed tiny bite sized starters and just end up frying up bits of protein while seasoning it with  “that’ll fucking do” and “fuck me, cooking beef in larger portions sure gets boring”.

To close it’s a dessert consisting of chocolate textures, a smear of pandan mousse and coconut ice-cream.  Which is simple, cooling and an elegant as fuck close.  I’m into it and there’s always a complimentary miniature ice-cream sandwich is received when you are presented with the not inconsequential bill.

So, I get pretty fucking jaded when it comes to fancy restaurants and tasting menus because often they’re so ham fisted and you don’t get an idea of who the chef really is versus what the chef thinks people want to eat.  Whether it’s the chase for meaningless Michelin stars or restaurant rankings, it’s so easy for these restaurants to buy into the concept of what they want to be, rather than what makes them be.  Then you have a meal at somewhere like Cure where it’s just a chef cooking his heart out and laying his soul out on every purposefully selected ceramic plate, drawing on where he’s loved, lived and eaten.  Where every component and ingredient on this dish is there with steady purpose, unwavering and poised.  Where the sum of the ingredients is greater than each piece, without relying on over the top techniques or bombastic gimmicks.  And it’s in these quiet moments that are stripped down and bare, you can have this realisation that food is a medium that connects you to an experience.  And how fucking special is that?  It all just comes down to one chef treating his ingredients with respect, pulling them together in a way that’s honest and thought out and that’s more exciting than numbered lists, fancy photos or chefs who’ve worked with all the big names.  It just comes down to the plate and all the heart behind it and how this resonates in the depths of your being even when the food’s all gone.

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Which is everything I fucking love about food. Which is why I know I’ve felt true love, honest, shining and pure in Singapore.

Verdict:
So here is where it gets a bit fucking complicated – because when I wrote the bulk of the above review, I was all “FUCK YEAH – I will absolutely put my face on this one – that is, if you go here and have a shit time you have got my full permission to punch me in my goddamn face.  HOLY FUCKING SHIT, some of the best food I’ve had this year“.  I’ve been to Cure twice this year and it was absolutely some of the best meals that I’d eaten this year.

However, just before I finished the above review, I went back to Cure again for the third time and the wheels just came off so hard.  It was devastating, as I’d been looking forward to it all week and then it fell victim to one of the worst sins ever of a tasting menu – drawn out, sluggish timing and food that came out a bit cold.  Like WTF, can I even find it in my body to care if your dessert is delicious if it’s taken me 3.5 hours for it to get to the seventh course and all I want to do is go the fuck home because I’m fucking exhausted and so annoyed that this is taking so goddamn long?

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I raised the glacial speed timing of our food with the wait staff several times and they were nice enough about it (without actually addressing it head on or giving me any comfort that shit was gonna improve), even discounting our tasting menu price from the seven course to the five course menu.  So now I’m all conflicted because how can I give Cure the super OTT FUCK YEAH I was going to give it when the third time let me down and it would have solidly been a fuck no?  How can I tell my faithful FYN homies that if they go to Singapore they need to go to Cure to get their fuck yeah noms on when my last time was such a fuck no?  But I also get it.  Restaurants are run by humans (who are generally busting their balls to get the food out) and on some nights, shit just doesn’t go right, no matter what everyone’s best intentions are.  But when you’re laying down big money, the expectations for it to go right are high.  Is this the culinary equivalent of having two amazing dates and you start to tell your friends that this could be THE ONE and then when he finally rolls around to meet your friends, he’s 45 minutes late and his jokes don’t hit as hard as you thought they would.  So instead of your friends telling you “YASSS, now don’t fuck this one up”, they’re all “Well, I guess he’s nice and he has a good job.  I mean…if he makes YOU happy”.  I’m conflicted as fuck guys and I think the only way I can properly resolve this is to go back for a fourth time.  But considering the heart ache I felt the next morning after a meal that went down into fuck no timing territory, I don’t know if my heart can take the potential of Cure striking out at number four.  Perhaps it’s better to take those two perfect moments and press them between the pages of my fuck yeah memories and move the fuck on.

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Until further judgment, the jury’s out. But I still dream of love and those two perfect dates, when my heart swelled inside my tiny little chest and I pushed it back with fuck yeah bread and stories made of gorgeous, honest and tiny plates of fuck yeah food.

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.

nosharing

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:
Beefbar Hong Kong
2F Club Lusitano/16 Ice House Street
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
 +852 2110 8853

Price:
HKD880 (+10% service charge) for the signature tasting menu.  We were out at HKD1,300ish including cocktails and wine.  HELP ME I’M POOR.

The deal:
Beefbar have recently set themselves up on Ice House Street, adding Hong Kong to its other random assorted global locations such as Moscow, Mexico, Mykonos and Luxembourg. Just by its awful name, you can guess that Beefbar is pretentious as fuck and if you were in any doubt, the restaurant is tackily emblazoned with “BEEFBAR, BORN IN MONACO”.  On an early weekday, Beefbar HK is almost at full capacity and to make sure you’re having an experience befitting of a restaurant BORN IN MONACO, as soon as you step out of the lifts, no less than three attractive smiling hostesses will gently wave you into the restaurant as you pass by what seems seems to be an excessive amount of floor staff at every turn.

Beefbar HK has clearly dropped a bunch of coin on its fit out, befitting of the luxury concept they are going for.  Beefbar HK is a cool monochromatic slick interior with a fucktonne of white marble, black leather and a tasteful scattering of brass, lit appropriately by pools of just dim enough amber lights.  I’m always bitching about restaurant acoustics but I gotta say that despite Beefbar’s excessive amount of shiny, sleek, hard surfaces, Beefbar’s acoustically sound ridged ceiling means at least you’ll be spared from enjoying your BORN IN MONACO experience in a fuck no echo chamber.  Enjoying the rare privilege of being able to enjoy conversation despite the almost full restaurant, I ponder the most ludicrously sized menu which annoyed the fuck out of me because what’s the fucking point of importing all those black leather chairs if you can’t even comfortably sit at one without your menu careening into your olive oil dish, your neighbour’s bread or some fancy ass wine glass. HAY BEEFBAR, WHERE EXACTLY IS MY FUCKING MENU MEANT TO GO??

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Despite the hundreds of wait staff that are milling around, it took a ridiculous amount of effort to get the smaller tasting menus for the entire table, the waiters taking two separate requests and three individual trips before our table was blessed with the fucking novel concept of one menu for one person.  Menu logistics aside, after chewing down some fuck yeah bread and a negroni aged in a claypot (how necessary is claypot aging? I’m not entirely sure, but at least my negroni was fucking A1 great), our gang decides to pile in for Beefbar’s ‘Signature tasting menu’, which consists of four sections, “Raw Bar”, “Burger Bar”, “Our Great Meat” and “Dessert”.

The “Raw Bar” component is split into two courses, a ceviche and a tartare course.  The first ceviche duo is the ”Octopus ceviche, cucumber & panzanella salsa” and the “Sea bass ceviche, saffron, fennel & mandarin”.  The octopus ceviche is fairly unremarkable and while the menu may try to fancy shiz up by calling it a ‘panzanella salsa’ (an Italian tomato sauce with breadcrumbs), it’s really just a one-dimensional tomato sauce with some croutons bobbing about in it.  The sea bass ceviche also suffers from the indignity of sounding far more impressive on the menu than it really is, delivering fresh sea bass with some pieces of fennel and mandarin which don’t really pop with any of the faint liquorice or citrus acidity that you would hope for, with the lack of seasoning not helping the whole boring ass affair.

But as we’re at Beefbar and not Seafoodbar, I’m prepared to put my ceviche related disappointment to one side and set my expectations higher with the tartare course.  This course consists of two types of tartare – a traditional beef tartare and a milk-fed veal filet tartare.  The traditional beef tartare is solid but not exceptionally memorable, and it’s the veal tartare that provides the first solid fuck yeah moment of the night.  The veal is more delicate in flavour when compared to the beef and Beefbar play to this, bringing out the veal’s more subtle flavours by pairing it with the strong tarragon with its shade of aniseed and providing a textural contrast with a slightly sweet hazelnut praline.  I would have happily ditched the beef tartare and double downed on the fuck yeah veal tartare.

Beefbar isn’t a warm space and by the second course, one of my homies had already asked them twice to turn the blasting air conditioning down which was threatening to send us straight into the icy grip of hypothermia. Beefbar kept this Arctic theme up with the temperature of their red wine and despite our wine being served before our first course, by the end of our second course we were all desperately clutching our wine glasses to try and transfer some of our rapidly diminishing body heat into our icy as fuck red wine, as clammy condensation still formed outside the glass.  I’m fine with a red wine coming out a bit cool from the wine fridge as it will normally be an appropriate temperature after a few minutes but I don’t want to be served red wine so fucking cold that I’ve got concerns that it’s still gonna be frigid as fuck by the fourth steak course.  We pointed out our near glacial red wine cooler situation to one of the waiters who fetched a more senior dude who just shrugged us off and said “We didn’t want you to drink too quickly!”.  Yeah sorry senior waiter homeslice, don’t quit the restaurant biz to take up stand up because I ain’t fucking laughing at your quips.

When ordering a tasting menu at a restaurant, I always believe that a restaurant should be showing you their best shit.  Particularly if they have the audacity to slap ‘Signature’ on it.  This is why the Burger Bar component of Beefbar’s signature menu beggars absolute belief because what is the mental process behind putting out a tiny ass dried out sweet brioche bunned burger that holds a small grainy and dry as fuck beef patty which is swamped with super spicy jalapeno mayonnaise and then thinking “FUCK YEAH, this red hot mess of a slider is definitely my SIGNATURE”.  Unless Beefbar feel that their signature is providing constant, fuck no disappointment to everyone in their lives.  My feelings on using brioche for a burger bun is well documented and this dried out mess does nothing to allay my firm belief that sweet brioche ain’t fucking cut out structurally for burger life.  UGHHH, BRIOCHE, MY NEMESIS.  Y U STILL A THING?  But the sad times don’t end with the slider, as Beefbar aren’t content to just call their entire menu a signature, billing their uninspired kale salad as a ‘signature kale salad’.  This signature signature double throwdown is nothing more but big chat because fuck, let’s be real, who the fuck wants to eat kale when they’re smashing a night out at a restaurant focussed on how shit hot their beef is anyway?  Don’t we save that trying to be healthy kale bullshit for weekday al desko lunches and green smoothies after the gym?

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Hopes for my steak course were not riding particularly high at this point with my spirit sapped by the brioche slider nightmare that had just transpired.  For the meat course, it’s a choice between the “Milk-fed Dutch veal filet 200g”, “American prime “Black Angus” beef filet 200g” or the “T-bone Colorado lamb rack”. I order the beef and while there is much written about how Beefbar cook their steaks, for all the fancy as fuck bluster and technique, I was considerably underwhelmed.  I always have my steak rare and my Black Angus beef fillet is not so overcooked to warrant it being sent back but it was definitely closer to medium-rare territory than rare.  All I could think of was how I wanted my steak to be juicier and more tender, with not a single fuck yeah steak synapse firing within my increasingly weary body. If any waiter had bothered to ask me how my steak was I probably would have replied “FINE”, through gritted teeth as I wished for slightly bloodier times.  It’s served with some fresh horseradish tartar which I can get behind, more so than the blueberry honey sauce which despite its feeble attempts at being an inventive steak sauce results in a slightly fruity, sweet sauce which resembles cheap BBQ sauce, doing everything it can to detract from the lack lustre beef.  I can’t remember ever eating blueberry anything with a steak and I can’t say I’ll be making it a life goal to make it part of my future steak endeavours.

Beefbar don’t stop the big talk and their menu declares that “All mains are served with our unrivalled mashed potatoes”.  I gotta say, Beefbar’s mash is a big fuck yeah and I decimated my serving, enjoying it far more than anything else I’d been served so far.  But truth, how fucking hard is it to make off-the-charts mash provided you add enough of the calorific good shit like cream and butter?  End conclusion, Beefbar’s steak failed to elicit any strong fuck yeah feelings at all and while the potato mash was a fuck yeah, I was devoid of any fuck yeah feelings for a steak that could at best be described as serviceable and at worst, bordering on being too overcooked. But WTF mate, am I at Mashbar or Beefbar?

We ask for the third time to turn down the arctic level air conditioner which continues to battle valiantly in the struggle against global warming, with each request to do so resulting in mass confusion amongst the increasingly flustered waiters. Our entire table is completely underwhelmed with the beef course and hope to find some salvation in the Dessert “Maison” section of the evening.  At some point, one of the waiters informs just one of our guests about how the soufflés take 20 minutes so we should order it now if we want it.  She replies “OK”, thinking that meant “OK, I heard you” versus “OK, giddy up the whole table wants soufflé, ship that good shit in”.  We were sitting at our table a bit confused as to why we’d been abandoned by the numerous waiters flitting about, until we see about five waiters busily setting up a side-table next to us where two large soufflés are presented with much aplomb.  One is a pistachio and cherry soufflé and the other is allegedly a chocolate, sesame & caramel soufflé with yuzu ice cream, with each soufflé designed to be shared between two people.  They look fucking perfect, rising like a puffy pale green or delicately brown cloud, an inch over a shiny, copper pot.  However the problem is that none of us really wanted soufflé as we’d had our hearts set on the carrot cake.  To our waiters’ credit, when we flagged the ordering mishap to them they very graciously took the whole mix up in their stride, not making a single bit of fuss and politely offering us a couple of additional serves of carrot cake as well. Fuck yeahhhhh, waiters who make the best of a shitty situation without throwing the blame in my face.  However, given the amount of puffy soufflé that was being served to our entire table, we said we’d settle for just one serve of carrot cake.

There’s no attractive way to serve blobs of pistachio or chocolate soufflé and we’re all presented with smeary plates of pale green and brown soufflé.  Even putting aside “the first bite is with the eye” bullshit, my first bite into Beefbar’s soufflé was one filled with unmitigated horror which is burned indelibly into my psyche more than a week later.  The pistachio soufflé tasted strongly of artificial pistachio essence, filling my mouth with what I’d imagine an eggy sponge soaked in saliva, liquid soap and perfume to taste and feel like.  It’s served with a side dish of allegedly sour cherries which are a sickly sweet mess which does nothing to hide the soapy pistachio soufflé we’ve been served.  For all its claims of being a fancy fucking chocolate, sesame and caramel soufflé it is at best a vaguely chocolatey, wet and eggy mess with not a hint of sesame or caramel.  The yuzu ice cream it’s served with is fresh and gorgeous, but who fucking knows how biased this view might be because anything would seem like ice-cream fit for kings and angels compared to the soufflé related crimes against dessert that were occurring right in front of me.  The borderline cruel Arctic air conditioning blast is returned to full force, just to make sure that our soufflés cooled down rapidly so the above atrocities could be even furthered by eating it stone cold.  I’m fucking horrified but I’m also like a mosquito drawn to a electric bug zapper and I return to choke down several more bites of both soufflés just to make sure that this is truly one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.  As I force down another spoonful, I quietly think to myself that this soufflé could be used as a blunt torture tool to break the spirit of hard men.  To make them confess to crimes they did not commit before they weep on their knees, begging for forgiveness or crying out for non-soufflé related mercy or some sort of sharp implement so they can fucking end it all.

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At this point, I look over at Ms Two Serves and I hold onto her for love and comfort, looking for safe shelter from this soufflé related abomination that we’ve just endured.  “Don’t worry”, she coos, smoothing my hair down and holding me close to her breast, “We’ve got delicious carrot cake coming to take this pain away”.  Together we stare at this apocalyptic souffle ridden wasteland, surveying the seven dishes of almost untouched congealed pale green and brown monstrosities strewn across our table.  A cheery waiter appears to present a plate containing three round orange discs the thickness of a HKD5 coin and this is when we realise that our “Carrot Cake” has arrived.

Now imagine everything that you love and hold dear about carrot cake, before you systematically strip it out and this is exactly how Beefbar must have conceptualised their abominable “Carrot Cake”.  I’m not even sure it’s legal for Beefbar to call this fuck no mess a carrot cake because fuck, that’s some misleading and deceptive conduct right there.  This “Carrot Cake” nightmare takes what should be rich, luscious carrot cake stuffed with walnuts, olive oil and brown sugar and turns it into three thin discs of dried out, grainy flavourless “cake”, topped with some sort of orange puree which tastes like processed apple sauce.  What should be tangy, thick and sweet cream cheese frosting that you want to rub all over your body to become the best version of yourself has been reduced to a tiny, watery creamy blob which serves no other meaningful purpose except to perhaps be some sort of symbolic representation of the watery tears that you want to let forth from your traumatised body, beaten into submission by this alleged “Carrot Cake” experience.  Then in what must surely be Beefbar’s “Carrot Cake” bon mot, a slice of plain roasted carrot is placed on top of it all.  I cut a piece of carrot off for Sir Crunchalot, feigning my best enthusiasm and jauntily telling him “You have got to try this!” before he realises that IT’S A TRAP, and with the betrayed eyes of someone who has been wronged he cries “Why did you do that to me??”

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Our waiters come to silently clear this dessert crime scene, heads bowed so they don’t have to make awkward eye contact with any of us, in case they might be forced to ask if everything was ok when clearly some bad shit had gone down because all the plates of dessert have been barely eaten.  We settle our substantial as fuck bill and leave with our wallets much lighter but our physical being laden with enough disappointment to see us through 2016 and beyond. That’s where I look at Sir Crunchalot at the end of the meal, press my hand into his and as my eyes well with tears and I tell him in a timid, broken whisper “That meal made me want to be alive a little less”.

Verdict:
FUUUUUUUUUCK NO.  If these are Beefbar’s signature moves, I’d hate to see their non-signature everyday meals.  Fuuuuck it might not even be mid-January 2016 but I’m gonna make the call, Beefbar’s soul destroying soufflé and “Carrot Cake” with a serve of broken dreams will be definitely making an appearance in FYN’s 2016 ‘This is Bullshit’ awards.

 

Where:
Zurriola (you can check my original review out here)
18/F, The One, 100 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2253 7111

Price:
Yo, I got my invite on.  I’ve included the prices below for the Zurriola menu items.

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The deal:
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Zurriola since Executive Chef Daniel Birkner moved across.  If you catch me on my FY Noms FB (for real though, why wouldn’t you want a random internet homie to show up on your page to give you a ‘Fuck yeahhhh’ when you deserve one), I’ve encouraged any number of random internet FYN homies to check out Zurriola’s beautiful and inventive Modern European food when they’ve asked me for a recommendation.  Of course, it’s also imperative that you definitely finish up that rad as fuck meal with Zurriola’s seriously major cheese platter.  I can’t emphasise this enough, you are definitely living your life wrong if you don’t get all Kanye up in that French raw milk cheese deal and be all “Where are you Yeezy Cheesey??”.

Zurriola are running a game menu in November and December, in line with the European seasons.  As it’s allegedly Autumn in HK, this means we should be getting all romantic and shiz, wearing ridiculous Arctic suitable puffa jackets and cuddling up with big round goblets of bold reds and then celebrating the changing leaves by eating strong, robust game meats of delicious wild animals like deer and boar.  Let’s just push to one side the fact that it’s almost mid-November and most of HK is still puffa jacket free, but honestly I’m led to believe that HK will get cold at some point in time.  NO REALLY, I SWEAR WINTER IS COMING.

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To console myself with the fact that it feels like I’m always going to be a sweaty-ass mess in HK, I tried to hide my weather related disappointment by eating a fuck tonne of delicious wild animals paired with all sorts of earthy, warm ingredients like pumpkin, mushroom and celeriac.  I got my invite on here, so I managed to get a taste of everything even though Zurriola’s game menu isn’t meant to be eaten as a ‘tasting’ menu.  Rather, you should pick a starter and a main of your choice.  Before flinging yourself head first into all the French raw milk cheese with fruit bread that you can get your dirty mitts on.  So with my Deer Hunter pants firmly on, let me tell you about all the Zurriola game offerings that I obliterated my way through.

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  • Venison tartar (HKD178 +10% service charge):  I have always been partial to the meat of the majestic deer.  Maybe it’s because they’re so damn adorable or maybe it’s just because I fucking love bold, gamey flavours and rare as fuck meat.  So you can only imagine my unbridled enthusiasm towards small cubes of raw venison meat which have been dressed with dehydrated mushroom powder to deliver that fuck yeah umami earthy punch.  There’s also some thinly sliced cauliflower, cauliflower puree and micro-red shiso leaves to gently hint at some sort of cruciferous, anise style flavour. My fucking beautiful, beyond rare tartar – I’m swooning at the very thought of you.
  • Pheasant consommé (HKD108 + 10% service charge):  The pheasant consommé wouldn’t necessarily be for everyone but I reckon for people who can appreciate a super labour intensive consommé which has fucktonnes of flavour layers, you will be all up in this broth based shiz.  Just cooked pieces of pheasant with poached cubes of celeriac and celeriac puree are served in a clear brown consomme made from the roasted carcasses of pleasant pheasants and madeira.  The madeira gave it that warm, fruity roundness and reminded me of the overtones of red dates and herbs that you get in Chinese herbal chicken soups.  If only medicine was this fucking delicious and involved delicately prepared tender slices of pheasants.
  • Paté of wild boar (HKD208 +10% service charge):  This can be served either hot or cold and Zurriola served up the hot version.  It’s a mixture of strong wild boar meat and pistachios, served with mushrooms and pickled onions to cut through the rich boar meat. I could have eaten three of these.  I could have eaten it cold.  I could eat it right the fuck now and be fucking happy with my life.
  • Wild Boar Bourguignon (HKD348 +10% service charge):  This dish doesn’t look that big but it packs a heavy punch thanks to its rich fuck yeah flavours from the wild boar meat, braised vegetables and some water chestnuts for contrast.  It’s not Zurriola’s fault that HK is still so fucking hot that it seemed like this dish was two months too early.  I’d probably say this is your most ‘traditional’ style dish so maybe order this one if you’re into predictable through comfortably hearty fuck yeah dishes?
  • Venison loin (HKD540 + 10% service charge):  This is NOT cheap shit and I guess those wild running European Bambis aren’t cheap by the time you hunt them down and air-freight their chilled adorable carcasses to Hong Kong.  I assure you that this was a special fuck yeah moment though, beautiful pieces of venison loin served with a puree of creamy, sweet Hokkaido pumpkin, a flourish of a Hokkaido pumpkin ribbon twisted into a flower and just candied ‘black’ walnuts.  Of course it was all art and beautiful as fuck.  But not as beautiful as it was eating this gloriously tender fuck yeah venison loin.  I was so taken by the ‘black’ walnuts that I asked for more details.
    FYN Fun Fact – a Lesson in Nutz:  Black walnuts are actually green walnuts which are picked unripe before the nutshell is built. These labour intensive fuckers than require pricking with needles and are watered for 10-14 days, requiring more needle pricking every damn day because it allows tannic acid to be discharged at the prick holes.  When all that laborious shit is done, the nuts are boiled in a syrup or broth to taste. These needy nutty bastards are then usually packed and sealed either in mason jars or vacuum bags and left alone for roughly a year.  You’ll be pleased to know that regardless of how long these inky beauties took to take this form, I managed to snack these up in mere seconds.
  • Ballotine of Deer Loin (HKD580 +10% service charge):  Fuckkkkk, I can’t lie to you and pretend that any dish that starts with a five handle is anything but really fucking expensive  But if it’s pay day, I’d say this ballotine is a boneless fuck yeah wonder.  Zurriola take the deer loin and roll it into a round, egg like shape.  It’s then served with a celeriac puree, Black Trumpet Mushrooms and a jus sauce that’s so fucking incredible you’ll want to bathe in it. If it was socially acceptable I totally would have licked the fucking plate.
  • Deer Shoulder 48/48 (HKD378 + 10% service charge):  While it may have a title that sounds a bit like a Justin Timberlake album, it is to signify that the deer shoulder has been cooked at 48 degrees Celsius for 48 hours.  Our waiter brings out the cooked deer shoulder to show it to us before it’s returned to the kitchen for slicing.  The menu might simply declare it as having ‘Brussel Sprouts’ and ‘Salsify’ (the root of the oyster plant) but of course it’s all fancy fucker times with individual brussel sprout leaves and swooshy black liquid trails painted across our plate.  The 48/48 deer shoulder has been seared before serving so it’s does get some char to it and it’s not an insipid mess that was cooked in a warm water bath.  SO FUCKING DELICIOUS.

One thing that I just cannot jive with at Zurriola is their fuck no plastic placemats which look like carpet underlay material.  While I’m all up in the food and there’s a fuck yeah harbour view, I just don’t think the dining room is modern enough to be trying to pull of plastic underlay placemats while charging HKD500+ for mains.

Despite dreaming about the cheese plate all day, I didn’t demand satisfaction at this point.  If only because I’d eaten my way through a small mob of delicious, tender deer at this point in time and was full as fuck.  One thing to note is the warning that you might find the odd piece of shot in their dish in a nod to authenticity and a sign of quality.  Unfortunately, no bad ass lead filled treats for me and I can report that my game meal was just full of fuck yeah delicious sauces and wild game.  If you’re jonesing for dem venison and wild boar feelings, it’s time to get involved before the end of 2015.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhh, cause oops I did it again, got lost in the game oh baby baby.  But fair warning, if you’re gonna pile in for the expensive venison related items make sure it’s on pay day.

 

 

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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