Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Zest-y Lunch

It's a pure coincidence that we had quite a number of meals that featured western style cooking re-interpreted by Japanese chefs in quick succession, first while we were in Japan late last month and that trend continued after returning to Hong Kong, including my recent visit to this new restaurant at the top floor of a commercial building in Central.

Late last year we saw the popular On Dining closed its door and taking its place a few months later was this restaurant called Zest by Konishi, taking up the top 2 floors of the 18 On Lan Street building. Some modifications were made to the interior and furniture giving the place a more contemporary touch and a pleasing pastel tone, but the set-up remained the same - the upper floor (Level 29) was their lounge area completed with a small terrace and the city view, and the lower floor (Level 28) was their main dining area with a private room at the back. Both floors have a separate kitchen with slightly different menus served throughout the day.

This time I was here for lunch on the lower floor, featuring a set menu with 2, 3 or 4 course options with choices for cold and hot appetizers, main and dessert. Behind the open kitchen was the familiar face of Chef Mitsuru Konishi, who was the original head chef of Wagyu Takumi under the same restaurant group a few years ago.

I could see the same traits of style from Konishi-san’s previous restaurant, with clever use of many Japanese ingredients combining with Italian and French haute cuisines in a more delicate and lighter approach. There were a choice of meat and seafood (and some vegetarian options) for the set lunch menu but I ended up focusing more on the seafood with my picks.

We started with the amuse bouche of akagai (ark shell) served sliced thin and raw with zucchini, cauliflower puree and tosazu dressing, all placed inside the shell. It was simple and refreshing, crunchy with a tangy flavor. Two types of freshy baked bread was served in a wooden tray, served with whipped butter, unsalted with a touch of matcha and kinako powder, and they were soft and tasty. My dining companion D recommended the “Green Garden” as the choice for cold appetizer – I obliged and it's as good as she said. The salad came with more than 20 different types of vegetables and herbs – from avocado, radish, radicchio to quinoa – and served with jelly made of tomato water, so it came with all sorts of texture and refreshing flavor form the fresh ingredients. It’s perfect in such hot, sunny day.

The langoustine was an easy choice for the hot appetizer course, with the unbeatable combination of cauliflower and Jerusalem artichoke velouté and a tender, well-cooked piece of langoustine served with dehydrated shiso leaves on top. It’s creamy with a touch of spice and worked well with the delicate meat. I chose red snapper as my main course, over the lamb rack and hanging steak. It came in generous portion, with the large piece of fillet pan-seared with the skin well crisped. It's served with a brothy sauce made with the fish bones along with mixed vegetables and herbs.

Went with an all-Italian wine pairing with a few interesting bottles – starting with a Trebbiano D'Abruzzo, then a Silician white finished with a full-bodied red from Sardinia. The young Sicilian white wine seemed to work best with the dishes especially the salad and also the seafood courses, easy to drink with aromas of apple and pear, good acidity and a hint of minerals.

We ended with a dessert in the same east-meets-west theme, with a sheet of mochi-yuba and sesame crisp on top of a quenelle of white sesame ice cream with a sprinkle of kinako powder. Overall, a solid performance by a well-regarded chef.

(The meal is by invitation)

When? October 12 2019
Where? Zest by Konishi, Level 28-29, 18 On Lan Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? The Green Garden and “Tomato Extraction”
2018 Azienda Agricola Valle Reale Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC
2015 Tasca d'Almerita Nozze d'Oro Sicilia Contea di Sclafani DOC
2013 Korem Isola dei Nuraghi IGT
Web: zestbykonishihk.com

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