Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dinner Near the War Zone

With random passersby being beaten by batons and tear gas firing aimlessly at protestors just a couple blocks away from where we sat and ate, we were not in particular joyful mood to enjoy a nice dinner at this new restaurant near Soho. But we got on with our original plan – figured one still had to eat no matter what circumstances, right?

We were long eager to check out Louise, a French bistro replacing Aberdeen Street Social at PMQ, as soon as word came out that Chef Julien Royer was going to open this new restaurant in town. Chef made a name for himself first as head chef at Jaan then his own restaurant Odette both in Singapore, with the latter now the reigning best restaurant in Asia according to some poll. I have not been to Odette myself but I was told that Louise is like the casual version of it, based on traditional French bistro cuisine with chef’s unique touch using local ingredients and elements.

The dining area spanned over two floors with separate menus, with the ground floor more like a bar/lounge serving cold cuts and simple dishes (with a long bar and cocktail menu) and the upper floor the proper dining room with the kitchen at the far end. I like the casual vibe with light wooden color theme and clothless table, and the place was packed with people when we arrived after a bit of effort getting through the “war zone”. Definitely an upgrade to its predecessor.

Menu was straight forward – appetizers, mains, sides, desserts. Mainly French with a few items featuring local ingredients and we ordered quite a few from each section to share. The smoked egg and potato dish was said to be inspired by a signature dish served at Odette and was comforting, with creamy potato puree mixed with chorizo, buckwheat and a half-cooked smoked organic egg. The frog legs dish was my favorite among all the starter dish we ordered, with frog legs from local market sautéed with herbs and served with garlic puree and a creamy foam on top.

We saw the roast chicken from chef’s IG post and we knew that’s the one we must order. The local yellow chicken was roasted whole with herbs, and served with a rice casserole with chicken oil and crisped skin, plus a plate of salad on the side. The chicken was shown to us before being carved at the kitchen and served. The chicken was slightly undercooked I reckon, but for the cooked part, it’s perfectly done. The skin was crisped and well-seasoned, and we all thought the rice was the part making the difference, prepared and served in a cast iron cocotte with great flavor and some slightly burnt crust making it even tastier. Reminded me of the Cantonese style "Bo Jai Fan" rice casserole. The pan-seared veal sweetbread, the other main course we ordered, faded in comparison. Still decent though with the firm texture and served with potato gnocchi and charred lettuce wedges.

Picked a few desserts to share. I liked the chocolate textures, with chocolate done different ways and served in a nice presentation. I had this pet peeve of madeleines not served warm (especially when they claimed to be “freshly baked” according to the menu description) but their texture was fine (but a tad too sweet with the icing sugar on top) Overall, still in work in progress I reckon, but I do want to go back and try more of their dishes at some point, especially when we are in a better mood.

When? July 28 2019
Where? Louise, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Roasted Hong Kong yellow chicken, Niigata rice "en cocotte", salad
2017 Domaene Gobelsburg Kamptal Gruner Veltliner, Osterreich, Austria
2015 Yves Cuilleron a Chavanay Saint Joseph Cavanos

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