Saturday, November 4, 2023

New Chef, New Era

There were plenty positive about the new Epure now under the helm of Chef Aven Lau as I found out after a recent dinner there. Chef Aven has quite a following since the days when he was the chef at Batard, and it’s been almost 6 months he moved to this side of the harbor in a restaurant which was somewhat different and this time, with a Michelin star he surely was tasked to keep. 

The restaurant didn’t change much since my last visit, with the quiet and cozy dining room well-suited for a formal sit-down meal, a dinner date or to celebrate any special occasion. Either the booths on the side, the long table along the window or the private room at the back was comfortable, depending on the mood or the occasion for the meal.

We were presented with the 8-course tasting menu, starting with a series of canapes and ending with small sweet bites of Mignardises. We began with two “tartlets”, first the sea urchin with Jerusalem artichokes, and next to it, the saba tartare with beetroot and horseradish. The former – the yellow one - is what one would expect, with the rich uni mixing well with the creamy Jerusalem artichoke puree with acidity from the ponzu jelly on top. The second one – in red color - was slightly more complex, with the hint of smoky flavor from the fish matched with sweet beetroot and a touch of horseradish. Another colorful dish was presented as our first course, with kegani (crab) with cauliflower puree and curry. The flavor profile might be familiar with the clear Singaporean connection (reminder of Chef Aven’s home country) and underneath the green cauliflower and curry mousse was picked Hokkaido kegani crab meat with nice acidity to hold up the flavor together. 

The glazed foie gras was another IG-worthy dish, with the soft foie gras terrine presented as a sphere glazed with red syrup, then on the side, another sphere of creamy mousse infused with Madeira, presumably prepared with Mold Brothers’ signature sphere mold. Nothing wrong with this combination and this is well executed with precision.   

Next, two more seafood courses were served. The roasted scallop was another well-executed dish,  seared and served with finely julienned yari-ika (cuttlefish), creamy crustacean reduction sauce and a dot of squid ink “Sauce Nero”. The sauce was just perfect with rich flavor that matched well with the well-seared giant piece of scallop coming from New England.

The langoustine was another aesthetic course, with gently cooked piece of langoustine served as a “roll” with striped pasta sheet and savoy package and the creamy vin jaune espuma on the side. I love that distinct aroma of the Jura yellow wine. Many have sung praises to Chef Aven’s roast chicken (some even called it the best in town and inspired by the version at Belon) but this time, a different bird was served instead and inspired by one at a different restaurant. The piece of quail breast was poached and then roasted, and served with the creamy “albufera” sauce made with chicken jus reduction, and on the side, pieces of pomme souffle. Reminded me of a similar dish I had a few years back in London. Anyhow, couldn’t fault this one either for the execution as every components were nicely prepared and assembled. 

I could always count on the dessert offering at this restaurant and this time there was no exception. The peach melba, prepared with seasonal Japanese momo peach mousse with rose champagne and lemon verbena, was refreshing, light and fragrant, plus the small Mignardises served in a silver-plated “tree” like decorations. 

A few bottles were chosen to go with the menu and they were very much enjoyable, and no surprise it’s an all-French lineup given the restaurant owner's well-known love for French wines. Love the farmer’s champagne made with 100% chardonnay from Grand Cru vineyards – a good start and a perfect match with the seafood starter. The classic Meursault with good concentration and minerality kicked up a notch in richness as we moved along to dishes with more intense flavor, then with the meat main course it was a well-aged Pauillac poured from a magnum bottle. The gentle red fruit with nice acidity and floral aroma worked well with the quail and the rich and creamy sauce. 

Overall, I think Chef Aven did bring the sense of excitement and a promising new era to this classic French restaurant holding the fort of being one of the few fine-dining establishments on this side of the harbor. Given more time to adjust to a new environment and clientele as he went on full steam, I was eager to see more of his original creations in the months to come, something that he could proudly call as his own and can still wow the crowd. I am confident that he eventually will. 

More photos here:

When? October 5 2023
Where? Epure, Shop 403, Level 4, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Quail “albufera” and pomme souffle
Champagne Varnier Fanniere Grand Cru Brut NV
2019 Domaine Pierre Morey Meursault
2005 Chateau Haut-Bages Averous, Pauillac

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