Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fine Dining in Causeway Bay

The dinner at Seasons with the CHF gang must have been in the planning for weeks, as it became more and more challenging to find a timeslot to fit everyone's busy schedule. But we finally pulled it off on a weeknight in early April.

The restaurant represent a rare breed of fine-dining French restaurants not affiliated with one of the luxury hotels in town, but instead located inside an upscale shopping mall in Causeway Bay. Chef Olivier Elzer has built up his reputation in the local dining scene since opening this restaurant a few years ago, with the restaurant earning its first Michelin star in late 2014 and kept it since.

Despite the wide entrance with a big green facade, the dining space was cozier than I thought, with about a dozen tables in the dimly-lit main dining area then there's more tables at the back along with the garden terrace. On the side was the long and spacious open kitchen where all the cooking actions took place. In front of the open kitchen there are additional seatings available at the high table, in the setting that resembled that of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, where Chef Olivier came from immediately before Seasons.

The menu offered a wide range of choices - for dinner service there's the 4-course prix fixe menu offering options for each of the courses, or one could go for the more elaborate tasting menus. On top of those, there were also a few pages of a la carte dishes which we went for this evening for sharing so everyone could get a taste of more dishes.

We began with a trio of appetizers - the tuna was done in fusion style like a Japanese tataki, grilled on the outside than sliced thick and sprinkled with Asian five spices, then underneath was the rich avocado mash; the red prawn was sliced razor thin and lightly seasoned, then served with a tamarillo "icecream" on top and the Alaskan king crab was done two ways, first the meat finely-diced and mixed with ginger mayonnaise, and on the side was 2 big chunks of crab legs poached then served cold with slices of avocado - that made a delightful appetizer especially in the hotter seasons.

A few more dishes made their way to our table next - all seafood except one. I personally loved the abalone dish the most – it’s diced and sautéed than served in its own shells, along with bits of chorizo, sauerkraut and horseradish foam (plus a few slices of black truffles) giving this an exotic spicy touch. It’s not usual for French chefs to make use of Abalone which was more of an Asian ingredient, but I enjoyed this version by Chef Olivier very much.

The sweetbread was another interesting dish - served as appetizer portion but definitely substantial enough for sharing. The crispy baguette was placed in the middle of the plate with a generous spoonful of morel mushroom cream sauce then topped with deep-fried bits of sweetbread. With the texture like a popcorn shrimp except it's much softer and richer, and the sauce creamier.

Just as we finished the dishes, the restaurant manager brought a wooden box to our table and opened it in front us to reveal our next course, which was the ribeye steak slightly smoked inside the box just before being served with shallots confit and red wine sauce. It’s perfectly cooked and I like the piece of steak tender and extra fat. And the side of potato mash was our favorite too – I felt it’s a tad less smooth and creamy than that famous version at Robuchon, but in my opinion more flavorful.

We ended our meal with a splash, essentially “sweeping” the whole dessert menu among the 7 of us. I thought the lemon soufflé was by consensus our favorite, with the right balance of sweetness and acidity with the calamansi icecream served on the side. I also liked the chocolate ganache (with Valrhona Grand Cru Manjari 64% chocolate) with salted caramel icecream served in a chocolate dome with hazelnuts.

I thought the meal was very decent and most of the dishes we had well-executed. I never thought of Causeway Bay as a haute cuisine destination, but maybe I should next time I crave for something more formal around this neighborhood, especially I thought their set dinner menu represents tremendous value for the food they serve.

More photos on my Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/albums/72157666732441031

When? April 6 2016
Where? Seasons by Olivier E., Shop 308, 3/F, Lee Gardens Two, 28 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Grilled Holstein rib eye, Shallots Confit & red wine sauce
Drinks? Champagne Jacques Picard Brut, Montagne de Reims NV

(The dinner was by invitation and courtesy of Seasons)

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