Friday, September 26, 2014

Post-typhoon Lunch at Restaurant Akrame

With the typhoon brushed past us earlier in the week giving us an extra half day at home, I ended this shortened work week with lunch at Restaurant Akrame at the invitation of the restaurant PR. A relatively short commute from office I landed in front of the restaurant, which was located on the trendy Ship Street in Wanchai, just after noon. The facade of the restaurant reminded me of a countryside cottage rather than the concrete jungle the place is located in, but inside, the decor was chic and contemporary, with ivory and grey color scheme with a relatively small dining room in the front, and at the back was the open kitchen and a private room next to it.

The restaurant is the first overseas branch of Chef Akrame Benallal, owner of his namesake restaurant in Paris which earned the first Michelin star in 2012. Apparently his Hong Kong restaurant, opened late last year was modeled based on the one in Paris, in terms of interiors, food ingredients and flavors.

No menu was offered at the restaurant - it's purely on "omakase", except customers do have a choice of number of courses (3, 4 or 6 for lunch, and 4, 6 or 8 for dinner). In fact we didn't even get to see the menu before the food was served to keep the suspense. This day we opted for the 6-course menu. Not going to go into details dish by dish, but in general I appreciate the creativity both in terms of presentation and the combination of textures and flavors.

My favorite of the afternoon were a few seafood dishes served in the beginning. Of those I like the crab dish most, with the crab was steamed (or poached) and the meat was picked and placed on top of a mild red curry jelly with shredded nori and finally the crushed stout granita was spooned on top at the table. I can't remember having anything similar but it worked fairly well - the granita did bring out the fresh, umami flavor of the crab.

Another dish was the barramundi fillet grilled with crispy scored skin, and served with quinoa, parmesan and lemon zest - again, I appreciate the different flavors and textures working together in this unique fashion. 

But for a few dishes, I did find it a bit of an overshoot in terms of creativity - like our first course of charred cauliflower served with almond puree and a piece of milk gel-sheet (made of gelatin and agar agar). There's little contrast in flavors to make this any interesting, and the gel-sheet was a bit redundant that the dish could live without.

My opinion was a bit mixed on the main course of veal. While I think the veal has good texture and cooked well, I wasn't too impressed with the sides of zucchini and the intense coffee/ink sauce. Somehow I found it a bit unbalanced.

I don't think the sommelier could blame me for rolling my eyes sarcastically, as the only word he blurted out was "France" when I asked him where the wine he's pouring was from. Dah... Other than that, the wine selection was decent actually. The Chenin Blanc from Chinon of Loire Valley - the French wine he was referring to - was approachable and cheerfully fruity and floral. However, the Pinot Noir from Languedoc, the red wine to go with our veal, was very average - and not with the right intensity to match with the strong sauce in the dish. Come to think of it - a syrah, which was a more common grape varietal in the area - would have been more appropriate.

The dessert was actually 3 different dishes presented as one course. The pepper ice cream was the one I particularly loved - it's served in a dark earthenware cup with verbena cream and bits of mango. The sweetness of the fruit combined with that little hint of spice in the ice cream was perfect. The chocolate cake was probably the one which looked the most ordinary of all dishes we have had, but it's tasty - love the creaminess and extra sweetness.

We were told that the menu changed quite regularly based on seasonal ingredients and where Chef Akrame's creative mind carries him. If you are the type of diners constantly looking for surprises, I am sure you will find plenty in this restaurant. It didn't totally blow my mind away, but it's an enjoyable meal with interesting food, and it's a nice venue for a quiet meal.

When? September 19 2014
Where? Restaurant Akrame, 9 Ship Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Spicy - Crabs/Red Curry/Granita Beer
Couly-Dutheil Chinon Les Chanteaux 2013
Domaine Antugnac "Cote Pierre Lys" Pinot Noir 2012

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