SIMPLE YET ELEGANT
2/F, 77 Wyndham Street
Dining Concepts has brought another celebrity chef into its fold, with Australian David Laris opening LARIS, Contemporary Dining on Wyndham Street.
The restaurant is unpretentious with its simple yet elegant décor of wooden floors, comfortable seating with a focus on the marbled open kitchen.
For HK$788, the tasting menu presents culinary experimentation. The amuse-bouches came in a tiny glass cake stand and, when the cover was lifted, a whiff of smoke disappeared to reveal smoked oysters - literally.
Next came a straightforward starter of Iberico ham slices with a compressed melon cube.
Things got more playful with the crab with avocado salsa and lemongrass gazpacho, which was refreshing and light, and ocean trout tataki that looked like salmon, accompanied by slow-cooked eggs and XO sauce for an Asian touch.
Foam appeared in the warm sweetcorn soup with lobster chunks, followed by a delicate yet hearty pigeon stuffed with foie gras, Japanese pumpkin and port-braised prunes.
The main of char-grilled rib-eye was overseasoned, though the meat was tender with triple-fried potato and a vinegar spray to perk things up.
Dessert was underwhelming, as the carrot cake with chocolate ganache was bland, though the cardamom Anglaise tried to add flavour.
A well-edited wine list and some creative cocktails include a signature Laris one for HK$488. Bernice Chan
VALUE FOR MONEY
2/f, Hong Kong Kowloon East Holiday Inn Express, Tower 4
3 Tong Tak Street
Tseung Kwan O
Tseung Kwan O is fast becoming a new dining spot with the opening of Holiday Inn Express. On the second floor, Jin Cuisine offers excellent Shanghainese cuisine at reasonable prices.
The small restaurant has a medley of appetisers in individual portions (HK$108) that include drunken chicken, crispy eel in honey and chilled pork slices with garlic. Steamed crab claw (HK$138) is very meaty with egg white that has a hint of ginger, while the succulent braised pork with salty fish (HK$100) is a delicious contrast of flavours.
The chef’s skill is tested with the deep-fried crispy duck marinated with tea leaves (HK$240), but the meat has the taste of tea. Likewise, the pan-fried rice placed in a broth with seafood (HK$168) is cooked just right.
Fried rice with pumpkin and pork (HK$40) is delicately wrapped in a lotus leaf and tied with a chive stalk. For vegetables, the pea shoots in chicken stock with Yunnan ham (HK$128) is a good choice.
Traditional desserts are soufflé balls with red bean paste (HK$60), which are light and fluffy, and the rice dumplings in soup with sweet osmanthus and rice wine (HK$35). Bernice Chan
TASTES OF THE SEA
Level 7, JW Marriott Hong Kong
The Fish Bar is a casual spot, with the doors and windows opened up to the pool. The restaurant was recently revamped along with a menu that offers large portions ideal for sharing.
An impressive starter is the seafood tower (HK$780), three tiers filled with freshly shucked oysters, lobster, snow crab leg, sweet mussels and poached prawns.
We also enjoyed the classic seafood soup (HK$290), where a massive bowl was beautifully presented with mussels, shrimp, scallops, fish and cherry tomatoes before the broth was poured in. What flavour it had. The soup was thin but had a lovely pungent shellfish taste.
However, the same could not be said for the crab and lobster cakes (HK$170), which were thick and hearty but bland.
Of the salads, the avocado version (HK$130) has lots of greens, hearty tomato wedges and a refreshing soy wasabi dressing.
For mains, guests can order off a blackboard presenting the fresh, sustainable catches and have the fish char-grilled, pan-seared or blackened (HK$280).
The last option was delicious with a touch of spiciness and came accompanied with thin fries, peas, corn and salad.
The signature deep-fried ice cream (HK$90) is thankfully small, with fresh berry compote. Bernice Chan
BENE PIZZA + PASTA
Shop 106, G/F, Olympian City 2
18 Hoi Ting Road
Bene Pizza + Pasta in Olympian City offers northern Italian home-style dishes using fresh ingredients at reasonable prices. The light, contemporary interior uses orange and wood finishing with fun elements, such as the pasta pan light shades dangling from the ceiling. Large windows overlooking the mall run the length of the restaurant. Tables are a bit too close, however.
With more than 50 items on the menu, we started with roasted eggplant in sundried tomatoes garlic and basilica (HK$38) followed by spaghetti carbonara with cured pork cheeks, egg and Pecorino cheese (HK$78). Every area of Italy has its own version of carbonara, and this one is rich, although no cream is used in the sauce.
Neapolitan-style pizzas feature, with smoked duck prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato and spring onion (HK$128) and Italian sausage, tomato and mushrooms (HK$118) being particularly good. For dessert, the chocolate mousse with cream (HK$32) came with cake and berries, (HK$48), choices of ice cream also feature. Drinks include sodas, mocktails, smoothies and hot drinks - we enjoyed the hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows - and there is a choice of Italian wines at HK$48 a glass and beer at HK$35. Tracey Furniss
Xia Fei Society
4/f, Century Square
1-13 D'aguilar Street
Xia Fei Society serves authentic Shanghainese cuisine in a dark wood interior that seats 180 people. Ceiling mirrors give the restaurant a spacious feel. We tried the dinner set for two, for HK$419, which is the same menu for four people, but with half portions and prices.
For starters, the marinated cucumber with homemade sauce is appetisingly sour, while the deep-fried minced shrimp balls with chicken broth centre is crispy outside and soft inside. The chicken broth in the middle is rather hot and, like the golf-ball-sized shrimp balls, could be difficult to handle.
For the deep-fried sliced pork served with bread, slices of pork with red fermented beancurd flavour are perfectly cut to fit inside the bread.
A whole fish is used for the braised sliced Mandarin fish in sour soup. The meat is expertly filleted, and served with rice vermicelli and pickled vegetables.
While the salted pig’s trotter and pork belly are tasty, the latter was quite fatty. We also felt the soup and the fish portions were sufficient for four, but it’s a shame the dinner set does not include dessert.
A selection of Chinese teas are available, with red and white wines available by the bottle or the glass. Keith Chan
32 Wyndam Street
Sal Curioso will delight with its daring palates, but they can sometimes miss the mark. I love the Roald Dahlesque feel to the menu, with a Willy Wonka-inspired turn in language and presentation.
Standout dishes were the brandade croquettes (HK$60) with cured cod. The crispy balls were served with slices of fennel and warm black and green olives, giving good balance and texture. The king fish ceviche (HK$100) was a mix of raw and seared yellowtail with an impressive array of accompaniments, such as the sweet tequila kumquats and Seville marmalade.
The molasses suckling pig (HK$130 for 100g) was juicy, tender and fatty with a sweet pear compote. The saltbush lamb meatballs were well-seasoned with walnut-braised chickpeas and melted foie gras, giving it a wintery feel. But, while curiosity never killed this cat, some dishes were confusing, overloaded with flavours and textures, like the jambalaya (HK$100), but the seafood, chorizo and pork all vied for attention.
The dessert of rice pudding (HK$90) was not creamy and moreish, instead served cold with the truffle-infused popcorn, shocking my dining friend who felt the flavours jarred. A fun place to venture outside of your culinary comfort zone. Lana Lam
Shop 2032, Elements
1 Austin Road West
Mango Tree has expanded across the harbour to Elements, next to Miu Miu. The large space allows the restaurant to have a bigger kitchen and menu, offering more seafood dishes.
For starters, the deep-fried, soft-shell, crab salad (HK$138) was delicious and light, the julienne of green papaya refreshingly tart and spicy. Thai crispy golden cups (HK$98) were easy bites of shrimps, sweet corn, minced pork and water chestnut.
A soup that piqued our interest was the tom kha goong (HK$168), with hearty prawns and mushrooms in a soup base of citronella, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, fish sauce and lemon juice. Another shellfish-laden dish was the prawns in a clay pot (HK$238) with glass noodles. The roasted codfish curry (HK$238) was perfectly cooked and seasoned.
For dessert, the signature sticky rice with mango (HK$85) was popular, while the Thai pandan layer cake (HK$75) was chewy.
Creative cocktails include the espresso Martini (HK$85), and the non-alcoholic lychee smash (HK$70) with mint is a sweet drink. Bernice Chan
2-3/F, 21 D'Aguilar Street
Thai restaurant Cafe Siam has reopened in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong after many years on a busy SoHo street corner. Known for its extensive menu of popular Thai dishes, all at reasonable prices, it is now located on two floors of a commercial building.
For starters, the larb gai (HK$92) was a refreshing minced chicken salad with mint, lime and shallots, but a few more lettuce leaves to wrap up the meat would have been good. The tom kha gai (HK$72) was a creamy coconut milk soup infused with aromatics such as galangal and lemongrass, a good choice for spicy-shy diners. The gaeng phed ped yang (HK$102) was the top dish, a thick red curry with slivers of roasted duck. My only gripe was the grapes which were a great contrast to the rich, complex sauce, but there were only three halves, despite it being listed as a key ingredient.
The steamed whole mullet fish with minced pork and Thai herbs (HK$208) was a clean, simple fresh option after the coconut-heavy dishes, but the stir-fried morning glory (HK$72) with garlic and bean sauce had too many tough stems. Dessert of pumpkin caramel custard (HK$56) was a melange of odd textures, not overly sweet, in an equally odd presentation. Lana Lam
BISTRO DU VIN
1D Davis Street
Davis Street in Kennedy Town is becoming a destination for foodies with the recent opening of Bistro du Vin.
The French bistro is long and narrow inside, with high ceilings, pictures and souvenirs hung on the walls, tiled floors and a wine cellar at the back. It can be noisy at times, so it's not a place for intimate conversation.
Nevertheless, the food is the topic of conversation here. The house-made charcuterie platter (HK$170) is a good start, and the duck pâté, in particular, is delicious along with the duck rillettes.
A standout is the bouillabaisse (HK$570) that arrives in a Le Creuset shallow pot filled with crab, fish, clams and large prawns. The broth is a bit thin, but the flavour is divine, making this dish a meal in itself.
Another highlight is the crispy suckling pig confit (HK$220), with its crispy dark skin, the thinnest layer of fat underneath and very tender pork leg accompanied by sauerkraut.
The rabbit leg in white sauce (HK$180) is heavy and creamy, covering up the accent from the Pommery grain mustard.
For dessert, the Grand Marnier soufflé (HK$75) is a touch undercooked with almond-flaked vanilla ice cream, while the Madeleines (HK$70) hit the spot.
Wines by the glass start from HK$60. Bernice Chan