Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Comfortable Homestyle Bistro - La Cantoche

I was in La Cantoche recently for an invited dinner tasting. Apparently the restaurant has been around for a while, hidden in a small alley in Soho but it's my first visit. I was greeted by French-Vietnamese owner David Sung as I walked in the loft-style space with the bar and kitchen on the ground floor, and additional tables on the second level. I love the casual decor which reminded me more of a bachelor pad every guy dreamt having with colorful chairs, graffiti wall and a nicely-crafted foosball table - so I felt like right at home immediately.

We left it to David to decide what we are having but out of curiosity we did take a glance of the menu. There's no particular theme or specialty, must-have dishes, and it shouldn't be. It's meant to be a cheerful, casual selection of dishes good for any occasion - be it a casual date, small group dinner with friends, or larger group of gatherings. The menu items are available a la carte, or part of the party menu meant to be shared in family style.

The Southeast Asian influence is evident given the family root of David but not so much as being seen as pretentiously fusion. You probably won't find lettuce wrap dishes in other places than Vietnamese restaurants but this version came with rice krispies. It's a fun dish to start the meal. I quite enjoyed the 4 appetizers we had. The grilled sardine in escabeche marinate has a strong Mediterranean flair and excellent flavors. I personally preferred the beef tartare to be more seasoned for a more complex taste but at least this version has good, chewy texture.

The merguez - beef and lamb sausages were loaded with fragrant Middle Eastern flavors but never over-reaching. A few deep-fried dishes did stand out as well. A small plate of cheese balls was served as appetizer to dip into camembert baked in its own wooden box. We were so busy dipping those into the melted cheese and munch like it's crack. I love the Chicken Cordon Bleu served with melted reblochon cheese - too strong the taste to some but I like the contrast of that and the milder chicken, plus the creamy texture. The chicken was moist and tender, well breaded and deep-fried but not laden with grease - perhaps the work of an air-fryer? Anyway that was well-executed.

The meal didn't blow me away per se, but this place is a simple, easy-going bistro that you don't need to find an occasion for; with a menu you don't need to think too hard about what to order; with food that you are comfortable of having day in and day out, with price you don't need to break your wallet for, at a place you can totally feel like home and chill.

Thanks La Cantoche for the kind invitation.

When? October 9 2013
Where? La Cantoche, G/F 227 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Menu highlights? Cordon bleu maison au reblochon

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