As someone who eats out regularly, it takes a lot to get me excited about a meal. But soon after we started our lunch at Akrame, my guest and I knew that we were onto something good. The food was so delicious that we contemplated having regular lunches there so that we could taste the food every time the chefs changed the menu. (That happens every two weeks, so if you book soon enough, you could catch the tail end of the meal we tasted).
The entire meal was as inventive and polished as any that I've had at Michelin-star restaurants in France and Japan (the original Akrame, named after chef Akrame Benallal, is in Paris and has one star). Lunch is a bargain when you consider the quality: HK$580 for six courses or HK$380 for four (at dinner, it's HK$998 for six and HK$788 for four). The lunch and dinner menus are similar, so if you're flexible lunch is the way to go.
Every course was memorable, even the four tiny items that made up the amuse-bouche: an olive chip with Greek yogurt, a squid ink cracker with smoked eel, a parmesan cookie with salmon roe and a celery stick with anchovy. The flavours started strong and became more powerful when eaten in the right order.
The first course calmed our palates somewhat, with celery root in different forms (foam and cooked with coffee), onion purée and breadcrumbs served in a martini glass. The waiter instructed us to mix everything together to blend the textures and flavours. Next up were fresh and briny razor clams served with sautéed spinach and topped with ginger foam. The third course was a highlight - lobster with cauliflower risotto (no rice, just pieces of the vegetable cut into tiny rice-like pieces) topped with shaved cauliflower.
The fish course juxtaposed two ingredients you wouldn't normally think would pair well: a moist piece of mild snapper with earthy tasting beetroot purée and beetroot wedges. Fried fish scales added crunch to the dish. The meat course was another highlight. Tender, pale-pink Iberico pork slow cooked with maple syrup and served with mild sauerkraut, yogurt, lightly charred baby pak choi and a drizzle of charcoal oil.
For dessert, we were served two items: a brightly flavoured pineapple carpaccio with margarita sorbet and a small dish of airy chocolate mousse with raspberry purée topped with a crisp chocolate and sea salt wafer.
Service was good, particularly as the waiters patiently answered our incessant questions. The only fault I could find is that some of the chairs don't have backs, which makes sitting uncomfortable after a while.
Restaurant Akrame, 9 Ship Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 5068. Open: Monday to Saturday noon-2.30pm (last orders), 6.30pm-10.30pm (last orders)