Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Uncharted Territory

Understandably I was a bit surprised when I heard several high-end restaurants are opening up at the tip of Kowloon Bay all by the same owner. One of those restaurants is Le Pan, headed by the Singaporean chef Edward Voon specializing in contemporary French/progressive cuisine, which I had a chance to visit recently at the invitation of their PR team.

Well, other than the fact that Kowloon Bay is hardly a culinary capital by any definition, I must say the restaurant’s location is not the most convenient of all. But once I arrived, I was impressed with the huge space it has and how lavish it is being used, with the grand entrance leading up to the lobby with white marble flooring then through the corridor lined with cabinet filled with fine wines and into the dining area with tables well-spaced from one another. In this town where space is such a premium, it certainly helps when the restaurant is located slightly off the beaten track, and the owner also owns the entire office building it is in.

For dinner, only tasting menu is available with options for either 4 or 6 courses. We were told the menu changes regularly depending on seasons and whatever Chef Edward was in the mood for. We began with an amazing display of small bites served as amuse-bouche – among which my favorite was the parmesan marshmallow, with the airy texture just like the conventional version except it’s savory and coated in grated parmesan. I also liked the spherified gazpacho shaped like tiny cherry tomatoes and served in an ice-bath. It popped in your mouth just as you bit into it, giving you the whimsical feeling and the burst of intense tomato flavor.

We continued with a fancy appetizer as our “first” course – inside the chilled glass bowl was layers of various ingredients, starting with the bottom crustacean jelly, then sea urchin, grated yuzu ice and on the top, a sumptuous quenelle of Kristal caviar. That’s a spoonful of super umami right there when we scooped from the bottom all the way to the top, taking in the ingredients in one single bite.

The menu was definitely on the adventurous side – Chef Edward did not shy away of taking advantage of all sorts of avant-garde cooking techniques, picking unusual food combinations and sparing no expense of using the most decadent ingredients he could get hold of. You could easily find four or five or even more different main ingredients in a single dish, sometimes with contrasting flavors and interesting textures. My favorite was the one Chef Edward introduced as “taste of the sea”, with crustacean croquette, king crab leg, scallops, tortellini with caviar served with pea puree, parsley oil and a bisque-like foam. I thought each individual components were cooked well and everything worked in perfect harmony.

Our main course turned back to something more “traditional” but not without a twist. The Iberico lamb rack was seared with the crispy skin (almost like the pork crackling) and super tender meat, and on the side was grilled apricot, deep-fried blue cheese, parsley potatoes and a wine reduction sauce. So you got double punch of the (mildly) gamey lamb with the equally gamey blue cheese than contrasted with a hint of sweetness from the apricot. We then finished with more apricots in the light dessert, which once again was beautifully plated, and a medley of bite-sized petit fours.

Before I came to the restaurant, I didn't quite know what to expect because I knew so little about this new place, but I went home pleasantly surprised. I don't know whether the effort of bringing such a line-up of high-end restaurants will propel the area into a dining destination, but for me it sure was an unique experience which was worth that little detour travelling to an uncharted territory.

When? March 31 2017
Where? Le Pan, G/F, Goldin Financial Global Centre, 17 Kai Cheung Road, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Crustacean Jelly, Sea Urchin, Yuzu Ice and Kristal Caviar
Domain J. Laurens Cremant de Limoux "Les Graimenous" Brut NV
2014 Vega Sicilia Oremus "Mandolas" Tokaji Dry
2013 Clau de Nell Anjou Cabernet Franc
Web: www.lepan.com.hk

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