Restaurant review: Le Pan in Kowloon Bay – dishes mostly great, but the wine deal is overpriced
The food is beautifully presented, delicious and imaginative, but the atmosphere is stuffy and pretentious and the wine pairing was not good value to say the least
My meal at Le Pan made me realise that, however delicious food might be, at a restaurant of this calibre it’s not everything.
There was little I could fault with the dishes (although the wines were another matter), the servers were efficient and knowledgeable – but the ambience ...
It was so pretentious, uncomfortable and stiff that my guest and I found ourselves speaking in hushed voices – not that anyone could hear us, because for most of the meal, only one other couple was dining.
We’ve had meals at three-Michelin-star restaurants in France that were more relaxing than this.
Still, the food at Le Pan is very fine. The chef, Singaporean Edward Voon, has learned his craft well. We considered going à la carte, but the tasting menus offered better value. The most expensive (eight courses using ingredients such as oscietra caviar [although the menu didn’t list the producer] and Miyazaki beef) is HK$2,280; the cheapest is six courses for HK$1,280. We went for the mid-priced one – the menu decouverte (discovery) – eight courses for HK$1,480.
The meal started with a series of cold and hot hors d’oeuvres, the best of which were tomato gazpacho and an ethereal parmesan marshmallow (cold), and escargot bourguignon and a profiterole with Comte cheese and bacon (hot).
An orange blossom jelly refreshed our palates before the luxurious first course of Kaluga Queen hybrid caviar with botan shrimp tartare, sea urchin and lobster jelly. This was followed by a rich, smooth and decadent roasted poultry royale with Tasmanian winter truffle jus.
Blue lobster with Jerusalem artichokes and aromatic beurre blanc was a seemingly simple dish that was done extremely well. The lobster was perfectly cooked, the Jerusalem artichoke purée silky smooth, the sauce was light in texture and intense in flavour, and the garnish of salicorn added texture.
The final savoury dish – royal pigeon au sang – was so good I ate it all, despite feeling full by this point. The breast was wonderfully tender and had a deep, meaty taste, while the leg meat – chopped, then mixed with other ingredients before being formed back into a drumstick-like shape, breaded and fried, was also delicious.
There were two savoury courses I disliked. Atlantic hake disappointed because the fish was insipid and the sauce ravigote – served as a purée – was too strong. I liked the accompaniment – risotto with oysters and oyster pearls made from the oyster liquid.
Also disappointing was asparagus with aged wagyu, celtuce and brown butter. The asparagus was slightly undercooked, the aged wagyu turned out to be little scraps of meat that resembled bresaola, and they were laid across the brown butter which, despite its ethereal consistency was too rich.
We loved the desserts. The pre-dessert of very thinly sliced apples, cucumber sorbet and batons of yogurt meringue revived our palates with its refreshing flavours. The yuzu chiboust, with lemon ice cream, Japanese peaches, caramel and lemon jelly, was beautifully presented as well as delicate, light and tangy.
And about the wines. We ordered one wine pairing: HK$900 for six glasses. We expected a lot: the namesake behind the restaurant, Pan Sutong, is well known for his love of wine; his company owns wineries (as well as the building the restaurant is in), and he also started the (now-closed) Le Pan magazine, which focused on wine and luxury lifestyle.
The six glasses were nothing special, and we didn’t finish any of them. I took photos of the bottles and checked the prices online. The total retail price of the wines – bottles, not glasses – was about HK$900. Divide that by five (for generous servings, which these were not) and the cost for the pairing would be about HK$180 – again, that’s retail pricing (and restaurants don’t pay retail). So there’s a mark-up of five times.
Yes, I am well aware of how food and beverage average pricing works, yes, they have to pay staff to serve the wines and wash the glasses – but still, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
At the end of the meal, one of the managers asked us how we’d heard about the restaurant. Was it through the ad being aired locally? he asked. We said no, a friend had told us about it. We asked, “Is the ad in Chinese or English?”
The waiter’s reply said it all: “No, it’s in French.”
Le Pan, Goldin Financial Global Centre, 17 Kai Cheung Road, Kowloon Bay, tel: 3188 2355.
HK$1,280-HK$2,280, depending on which menu you order, without drinks or the service charge.
Other fine-dining French restaurants we’ve tried recently
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