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With Odette, Singapore, newly crowned the No.1 restaurant on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2019, eating French is trendy again. But until Royer opens his new casual restaurant Louise in Hong Kong and with Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental still closed for renovation, where should foodies head to for their French food fix in Hong Kong? Here’s a shortlist.
Named for a French oyster, Belon (No.15 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019) is a neo Parisian bistro by former Per Se chef, Daniel Calvert, that serves bistro classics teeming at times with a Japanese twist.
Given Calvert’s pedigree, it comes as no surprise that the French fare on offer is executed at a high-level and with the finesse of a fine-diner. Hokkaido scallop is served as a raviolo, cooked, halved and served in a kombu-flecked dashi sake sauce with pomelo, a unique medley of savoury, citrusy and deep umami flavours. But most diners who come make an advance reservation for Calvert’s pigeon pithivier - pigeon breast layered with tarragon, spinach and button mushroom finished with a coat of pastry skin and served in an intense fig and amaretto sauce.
First time guests may prefer to leave your meal to the chef via the Selection de la Cuisine (pick premium if you like yours loaded with caviar and truffles).
41 Elgin St, Central, Hong Kong
Calling it French-Chinese may be over-simplifying the complex cuisine that HK-born and USA-trained chef-owner Vicky Cheng dishes up at VEA (No.34 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019), the restaurant-bar perched on the 29th and 30th floors of an office tower on Wellington Street in Central.
Featuring just one tasting menu with multiple snacks and eight courses, Cheng endeavours to show diners the full gastronomic potential that indigenous Chinese ingredients and local seafood have in the hands of a French-groomed chef. His signature dish of sea cucumber sees the prized Chinese delicacy flash-fried in oil and stuffed with a seasonally-changing melange of ingredients (during my visit, it was langoustine mousse and white asparagus).
29 & 30/F, 198 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tate Dining Room
Former Asia's Best Female Chef Vicky Lau is no stranger to French cuisine, having trained at the now-defunct Cepage but at her restaurant Tate Dining Room, she marries Chinese ingredients and influences delicately with French, resulting in the birth of a refined cuisine that flirt - rather than overwhelm - with subtle oriental flavours.
Her bread course arrives in the guise of a cube of butter brioche with a quenelle of heavenly fermented tofu butter while the opening course is a square of layered Australian abalone carpaccio and celtus slivers crowned with domes of mushroom puree and dollops of pike fish roe finished with a drizzle of chicken oil.
Tate Dining Room
210 Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
French cuisine-trained former NihonRyori Ryugin (Tokyo) and Tenku Ryugin (Hong Kong) chef, Hideaki Sato, brings the high art of French-Japanese dining to an appreciative audience at Ta Vie (No.50 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019), his gloriously quaint yet austere outing at the Pottinger Hotel in Central.
His singular tasting menu, a 10-course degustation of “pure, simple and seasonal” cuisine, is a showcase of not just French and Japanese ingredients, but the bounty of the region. His caesar salad is a European-Japanese hybrid dish topped with Hotaru squid drizzled with an umami dressing laced with Hotaru squid instead of anchovies. But the dish that best represents Sato’s “pure, simple and seasonal” philosophy is that of the house-made pasta with seaweed sauce topped fresh sea urchin.
2/F, The Pottinger, 74Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong