Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hidden Gem in Kau U Fong

I have heard a lot of good things about this new restaurant Beet in Kau U Fong and always wanted to try, so we were glad to have come a few weeks ago with the restaurant hosting us to check out their dinner tasting menu. The restaurant took over what used to be Le Port Parfume, the delightful bistro with rather generous corkage policy, under the same ownership. Giving way to the Parisian art nouveau décor and classic French dishes was minimalist interior, dark colored wall with abstract art hanging, fewer tables with more space in between, and a much simpler menu structure – for dinner there were only 2 choices, regular or vegetarian tasting menu.

They have a small drinks menu but full of interesting choices. Normally I would have gone for one of their signature cocktails but I have my eyes set on their mocktails this time, made with Seedlip, the new “non-alcoholic spirits” that have been getting a lot of attention lately. My “La Cucarita” was mixed with Seedlip Garden 108, agave syrup and yuzu which was clean, refreshing, citrusy, light-bodied yet packed with herbal flavor. Their wine selection follows the same trail – compact but well-chosen with a lot of not-so-common bottles. More on that later.

Menu was simple – either the 6-course vegetarian menu or the 7-course regular tasting menu – with description of each course done in just a few simple phrases of the key ingredients. We started with a trio of amuse-bouche, brought to us in sequence with each being introduced in more details as they arrived. First was the snapper ceviche with apple brunoise served on a rice cracker, followed by the chicken liver puree on a cep mushroom cookies with grated and dehydrated chicken skin and pickled grapes on top, and lastly, a gougere with chestnut cream filling and topped with grated parmesan.

The style and flavor combination of the dishes did somehow remind me of the old Cepage on Star Street in terms of concepts, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the Singapore-born Chef Barry Quek spent time at Lei Amis which also owned Cepage then. But there’s also trails of Nordic ingredient-forward style which was evident throughout the evening. The restaurant manager told us they tried to use as many local ingredients as possible, making constant changes to the menu to reflect seasonality and keep it interesting.

Next course was a chilled appetizer, with thin slices of scallop sashimi served with chunks of mandarin orange and dehydrated mandarin orange peel, finger lime and scallop roe emulsion. The scallop sashimi has excellent texture – soft and clean – and I love the mild citrus flavor from the oranges, though I was expecting some tingling sensation from the dehydrated peel to make the dish more interesting but it wasn’t there somehow. Nonetheless it was delicious and served in generous portion.

Threadfin is a common fish species in Hong Kong waters known as Ma Yau (馬友) and the main ingredient for our next course. The fish fillet was grilled on a bed of charcoal with the skin-side pressed against the grill-pan to make the skin extra crisp and charred, and it was then served with celeriac ribbon prepared two ways (pickled and raw) and reduced fish stock with a hint of acidity spooned on top. That worked well with the firm and fatty fish meat for balance.

While we were having our appetizers, the bread course was served, with sliced house-made sourdough bread on one plate, and the whipped butter on the other. The bread has a mild flavor, baked with a rustic crust and served warm, but the real star was actually the butter, light as air in texture but packed with flavor. We refused to let go of that little plate, mopping it completely clean with our last bit of the bread before a fresh new plate with more butter smeared on was brought to us (which we also finished soon after)

Main course was pork, not locally sourced this time but from Pyrennes in Southwestern France. The loin cut was brined and slow-cooked with butter and fat (almost like confit, as it was described), sliced and served with charred endives cooked with vinegar, baby bok choy cabbages, burnt pineapple puree and bits of pork cracklings sprinkled on top. The course reminded me of the one I had at Den in Japan a few months ago with the similar clean flavor and tender texture, accompanied by the grassy taste of the sides and an accent of charred and sweet taste from the black, burnt pineapple puree.

Through the large window customers in the dining area have a good view of all the kitchen action, with three chefs sharing the cooking duties inside. I was quite impressed at how smooth was their operations and the amount of dishes they turned out. Chef Barry brought out the dessert for us, which was brown butter icecream with strawberries and meringues. Brown butter icecream may not be as popular as it was a few years ago but I do like the burnt, slightly smoky flavor matching with the sweet strawberry chunks and meringues. And our meal ended with a bite-size treats of mochi coated with peanuts and toasted sesame seeds.

Went with two glasses of wines at our waiter’s recommendation – starting with a Loire Valley white (unusually a Sauvignon Blanc) followed by a biodynamic, natural Pinot Noir from Australia. Still not sold on the natural wine thing, but this one was exceptionally delicious (at least not as funky as the pale color suggests) and its super clean, light flavor did work out perfectly well with the pork. And overall, my dining experience did match with what I expected given the positive comments I have heard – cozy atmosphere with fun, well-crafted dishes using fine ingredients that made me wanted to come back more often, especially with the more-than-reasonable price range. This is a true hidden gem in this quiet neighborhood  – I love Le Port Parfume and it was still sorely missed, but I agree this is definitely an upgrade that’s worthwhile and a right move for something different in this neighborhood and our dining scene in general.

When? March 29 2018
Where? Beet, 9 Kau U Fong, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Porc Noir de Bigorre, Burnt Pineapple puree, baby bok choy
2016 Le Clos du Tue-Boeuf Le Buisson Pouilleux Touraine Blanc
2017 Lucy Margaux Noir de Florette Pinot Noir
Web: www.beetrestaurant.com

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