Thursday, June 1, 2017

Fancy lunch across harbor

We thought we should give it a try to some of the restaurants on the other side (of the harbor) so we made a booking for lunch at Epure. We have been here before once about 2 years ago and thought that was enjoyable, so we expected even more now that they have the first Michelin star. Though the main dining area was more or less the same as before, now they also expanded to include an outdoor area for their Bistro/Café serving a more casual, all-day dining menu. Definitely worth our consideration next time when we wanted something less formal.

I didn’t realize it was the Mother's Day weekend when we went, and they ran a special brunch menu for the occasion. I have no idea how that differed from the regular ones, but on this menu, there were the options of 3 or 4 courses, and each with a number of dishes to choose, and as you could imagine, the restaurant was packed with people wanting to celebrate this special day.

Didn’t take long for us to pick our choices for the 4-course menu, and soon the amuse-bouche bites and bread basket were brought to our table. I thought the tartlets duo – one with peas and one with thinly-sliced mackerel – were cute and tasty, and so was their bread, especially the brioche paired with the smoked Bordier butter was spot-on.

I went with the soup as my first course as it was listed as one of their "signature" dishes. To be honest I was a bit disappointed. The mushroom flavor was a bit timid – well in their defense I wasn’t feeling 100% that afternoon so my palate might be slightly off – but there’s nothing much in the bite. On top was the thin slices of button mushroom and baby spinach gnocchi. Yes it looks well in picture, but that’s just mandoline talking not chef's skills talking, and the little gnocchi didn’t do enough to add to the overall taste. It's fine but definitely a far cry from being a signature.

I went for the Vol au Vent as my main course – listed on the menu as “must-have” and marked as their signature dish again. This time I did think the dish was excellent. On the menu it was described as having "in-season seafood", and the waiter described that as lobster and scallops when the dish was brought to me. But I ain't see lobster but instead it was a piece of poached cod inside that ring of puff pastry. It was well-cooked so I really didn't mind, but the miscommunication was still a bit baffling. The scallop was great – pan-seared to perfection and with fresh umami flavor, and the licorice (and caramelized onion?) puree was an interesting touch, contrasting well with the bisque sauce that was poured on to the dish at the table-side. That was a meal-saving dish.

To put it bluntly, cheese course was passable – evident with us leaving half our favorite Comte on the plate, but the homemade fig preserve served on the side was outstanding (and the blue cheese that I liked). Choices of desserts only included soufflé with four different flavors and matching icecream or sorbet – not the most interesting set of options, but I thought my pistachio soufflé was okay with a good rise and texture – just not enough of pistachio taste - but I enjoyed the cherry sorbet served on the side.

For such a light menu a bottle of white was in order. They had a decent selection of wines by glass and half-bottles - not going to push for too much booze for lunch. The Sancerre we went for has a clean, crisp taste and honeysuckle, floral nose with some minerals at the back. That's something I would love to have any time of the day.

It's only after I came home and checked my old blog for our meal last time did I realize what I had just now were awfully similar to the menu we had 2 years ago. I didn't mind having that Vol au Vent the second time (I guess they really meant it when they said the dish is a "must-have"), but that did lead to the question of whether this was a case of serendipity or just a bit lack of creativity from the team. This meal reminded me of a phrase I recently learned – comme si comme ça. That pretty much summed up what I felt. Not bad, but I suspect we failed see its best with what we had this afternoon.

When? May 13 2017
Where? Epure, Shop 403, Level 4, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Invente par Antonin Careme - the must-have Vol au Vent: flaky puff ring, in-season seafood, licorice scented coulis
Wine: 2014 Domain Vincent Pinard Sancerres "Flores" Blanc (half bottle)

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