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HK Magazine Archive

Le Bistro Winebeast Is A New Breed of Beast

First Bite: We tuck into the hottest new tables in town.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 3:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:58pm

With a retail shop and restaurant rolled into one, the new Le Bistro Winebeast delivers a one-two punch.

If you need plenty of elbow room at the dinner table, you might never have set foot in the old Winebeast, hidden off in an obscure alley behind Wan Chai Market. The tiny French bistro packed 25 guests in like sardines—but with its affordable wines and a specials board which proffered up new gems on each visit, the place had us going back time after time.

But after a year and a half somewhat hidden in the shadows, a brand new two-story, 2,000-sq.-ft. space on Thomson Road is set to catapult this charming French restaurant into the spotlight.

The new dining room is quadruple the size of the old one, but retains the je-ne-sais-quoi charm of the original, thanks in large part to ebullient sommelier Cristina Ducroquet, whose magnetic smile and personality make it nearly impossible to turn down her enthusiastic wine suggestions. Thankfully, you won’t need to. One of the most knowledgeable sommeliers we’ve met in Hong Kong, Cristina is dedicated to her craft, effortlessly explaining the nuances in aroma, acidity and body that make up Winebeast’s extensive 600-bottle wine cellar. Best of all, each wine you buy is sold at retail price, without the usual sky-high restaurant markup.

In the kitchen, her husband chef Johan Ducroquet is just as brilliant, serving up a menu of French comfort food classics that rotates every 2-3 months. The addition of “Frapas”—i.e. French tapas, bite-sized starters which range from $38 for one to $128 for four—is great for those who can never decide between the charcuterie and the croquettes, although fans of Winebeast’s famous beef tartare might be disappointed by the smaller portion. The plus side is you’ll get to sample a wider range, from petite burgundy snail croquettes to a cauliflower salad marinated with a punchy fennel and green apple vinaigrette.

But you don’t want to ignore the specials menu. When we visited, it boasted a Winebeast signature in-the-making: A plump lobe of seared foie gras resting side-by-side perfectly cooked pigeon breast, wrapped in delicate puff pastry and drizzled with a truffle-infused jus—it’s like an upgraded beef Wellington and one of the best things we can remember having eaten recently.

Another notable new feature is the semi-open kitchen, so you can now catch chef Johan’s team hard at work. According to Cristina, this means more freedom for the kitchen to play with increasingly creative, time-consuming preparations. It also means you can take the time to congratulate the kitchen staff—it’s about time someone shed a little recognition on this not-so-hidden-anymore gem.

Recommended: Foie gras terrine, beef tartare, sea bream ravioli, confit beef paleron, chocolate dome (Feb-March menu)

Prices: Starters $98-168, Mains $198-328, four-course food and wine pairing $558

Open: Mon-Sat, noon-11pm; closed Sundays

G/F & 1/F, Tai Yip Building, 141 Thomson Rd., Wan Chai, 2782-6689, wine-beast.com/le-bistro. wine-beast.com/le-bistro.