New fine-dining restaurants in Hong Kong: Écriture in Central – Japanese-inspired French dishes skilfully made
From the wall of books in the entrance to the minimalist decor, everything at Écriture is precise, well thought out and professionally executed. The beautifully presented food marries the best of Japanese and French ingredients
I didn’t actually think I could get away with eating anonymously at Écriture, the new restaurant by executive chef Maxime Gilbert, who used to be chef de cuisine at Amber, but I tried anyway by booking under my guest’s name and giving her phone number and email address as contact details. I suspected I was spotted as soon as I walked in, but it wasn’t until we were served extra courses that I knew for sure that the game was up.
Écriture translates to “writing”. The theme starts at the entrance, where you see a wall of books, and continues with the menu, with the set meals titled “Calligraphy” (for lunch) or “Library of Flavours” (for dinner). Instead of listing how the dishes are prepared and with what, the main ingredient is given a foodie-dictionary description (ie, “amaebi, or spot prawn, is a cold water northern shrimp known and named for its sweet taste”). Diners are asked if they have any allergies or dislikes, and the ingredients are prepared accordingly.
The Library of Flavours menu is seven courses for HK$1,488 plus 10 per cent. Given the skill of cooking and the top-quality ingredients, it’s a reasonable price – and a lot of food. We were given several extra courses, one of them a caviar dish which normally has a HK$388 extra charge.
The meal starts with a selection of creative amuse-bouches and really good bread and butter.
The first course of amaebi made it clear we were in for an excellent meal. The shrimp – cool and sweet, with soft bonito jelly – contrasted with small slices of tart pickled onion and a delicate beetroot chip.
The next dish – complimentary – was prepared at the table. Royal schrencki caviar, which had been wrapped briefly in fine slices of Galicia beef “ham”, was unwrapped then spooned generously over greens (including sorrel, kale and lettuce) that hid a bone marrow soufflé, before a frothy basil sauce was drizzled around the ingredients.
It was a delicious, indulgent dish, with the saltiness of the caviar enhancing the subtle flavour of the soufflé.
A beignet of Hokkaido scallop and black truffle was served next. Thin slices of truffle were layered with thicker slices of the sweet, succulent scallop, coated with a light batter then deep fried.
The celeriac purée served with the beignet was silky smooth, and the dish also had an ethereal foam made from the scallop trimmings.
Another free dish, bamboo mille-feuille, turned out to be one of our favourites. Very fine slices of bamboo were layered and pressed into a terrine shape, which was then sliced and seared in butter, for a warm, nutty flavour, and accompanied by tiny peas and truffle.
Tender pieces of poached abalone came next, served with small pieces of the Galicia beef ham (the one used earlier to wrap the caviar), aubergine and sorrel, along with a thick sauce of abalone liver and
mustard that was a little too salty.
By this point, we were getting full, so we were happy to hear there were just two more savoury courses.
A kinki fish, with its distinctive huge and ugly head, was presented whole, before being cut up at the table. The meat was fine and delicate, but we preferred the other dishes made from the rest of the fish.
Blue cheese ravioli with the kinki liver and cheek came with an intense tomato sauce. The fish fin, served with lime (although we didn’t use it), had lots of interesting textures and a surprising amount of meat.
The milk-fed lamb was some of the best I’ve eaten. The meat, wonderfully mild and tender, had accompaniments of miso topped with lamb floss, cabbage and morels.
Yogurt with citrus, sake jelly and sake lees ice cream refreshed our palates for the other desserts to come.
A complimentary dessert of cauliflower with egg yolk, caviar, white chocolate and lime foam sounded much odder than it tasted. We couldn’t taste the cauliflower, and the caviar added saltiness but not fishiness. The lime foam balanced the richness of the white chocolate.
By this point, we were stuffed, and could only taste the other sweets, which included a rich, creamy and intense chocolate tart that had delicate pastry; Alphonso mango with spicy chocolate pine nut ice cream; and kouign-amann sandwiched with sour cream.
A word of warning: the lighting at some of the tables isn’t great for taking photos, so if that’s important to you, you might want to visit at lunch time.
Écriture, 26/F H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central.
Bookings are online only and require pre-payment: ikky.com/en/restaurant/7203/ecriture.
HK$1,488 for the seven-course dinner tasting menu. Lunch menus are HK$488 and HK$688. You can also order à la carte.
While you’re in the area