Friday, December 5, 2014

A Parisian lunch treat in Wanchai

Recently I received a lunch treat at Le Relais de L'Entrecote, a casual Parisian steakhouse in Wanchai. The shop joined the scores of new restaurants in town running on the same concept of a casual French bistro serving steak-frites, an idea pioneered by Paul Gineste de Saurs with his Paris restaurant Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote. But this is the only one which was somewhat linked to the original founder - since it's operating under a franchise agreement with one of Mr de Saurs' daughters and have some of the food ingredients flown in from France direct.

The restaurant in Hong Kong was said to follow strictly to the entrecote tradition, including the no menu, no reservation policy. On the day we went it wasn't that busy but I heard the waiting line can get a bit long especially at nights, so be warned if you are considering going.

Since there's no menu, it saved us the trouble of picking and choosing, and soon they brought out the salad as our starter. At first the mixed green salad looked tame with only lettuce and frissee plus some crushed toasted walnuts on top, but the dressing was already mixed in. I am not the biggest fan of the vinaigrette dressing - I found it a bit salty and one-dimensional, dominated by mustard - but the greens were crunchy so it's alright.

As soon as we finished our salad, they brought in our main course of steak - sliced, drenched in green sauce on a metal platter - plus the fries on a separate plate as well. Then they served us one by one but putting them into the empty plate in front of us. I think the meat itself was fine - well-seasoned with good flavors, but I personally would prefer a little firmer crust and meaty taste. All the fat was trimmed but the piece was juicy and didn't feel lean at all. I ordered the steak done rare and it was just that. (I was told here "rare" means what we usually thought as "medium rare" - pink meat, uncooked in the middle and no blood - just so you know)

But I think what set the place apart was the sauce and the fries - both were excellent. Many tried to decipher the ingredients of the sauce - it's said to be a well-guarded secret. I think it's probably a mix of different herbs, crushed caper, garlic, meat jus of course, perhaps some anchovies and olives, and definitely a lot of butter. Basically a modified provencal butter, I reckon. Regardless of how it's made, it worked wonder and I simply never had enough.

The fries - stacked on the side of the sliced steak - was freshly cut (by a machine of course) and deep-fried to dark golden brown color giving it a good, well-seasoned flavors, and I think it's of the right crispiness - I usually prefer my fries to be a bit on the "soggy" side and I like this one.

The steak was served in two rounds, and it came with unlimited refill of fries. They kept the steak on top of a food warmer while you were working on the first round, so there's no hurry to rush through.

The lack of choices for entrees (which I wasn't complaining) were more than compensated with the choices for desserts. There were more than 10 choices - from a simple sorbet to the the red Vacherin d'ete which constantly showed up on my Instagram feed recently. I ordered the Mont Blanc which was served on a tall stemmed glass with an overdose of whipped cream and chestnut mousse but not overly sweet. I did take a bite at the desserts others have ordered, but since I like everything made with chestnut so the Mont Blanc was still my favorite.

With food true to the tradition - I could only imagine, since I haven't been to the original branch in Paris - with well-executed dishes, comfortable setting and friendly pricing, this one is a keeper, especially if you are into a more casual, no-brainer kind of a meal.

The lunch was paid by the restaurant as a tasting invitation. All of the items I tried were their regular offerings, including a glass of house wine coming from owner's family vineyard.

When? November 26 2014
Where? Le Relais de L'Entrecote, 222 Queen's Road East, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Steak & French Fries w/ it's unique sauce
Drinks? Chateau de Saurs La Constance 2012

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