Friday, September 2, 2011

Cepage: revisited (Hong Kong - Closed)

July 2011

23 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2861 3130

Update: Regrettably, Cepage has closed. Its lease ended in June 2013 and there are currently no known plans by the Les Amis group to re-open something similar in Hong Kong.

This would be my third review of Cepage, a 1-Michelin star French restaurant in Hong Kong (see earlier reviews: Cepage 1 and Cepage 2), and so this writeup will focus mainly on the dishes we had this time round.

One observation of the dining room was that it was looking a bit tired. Perhaps our perception was affected by the quality of the diners present that night. There was more than one table where the guests were dressed casually; some in t-shirts and trainers. We naturally had very high expectations since our last few trips were very memorable, so it was not surprising when our initial impression this time round was less than stellar. The amuse bouche was a layered foie gras and jelly concoction with a spoonful of foie gras and red wine redux as the sauce. It was a good idea but taste-wise it didn't quite match up. To add to the disappointment, we were informed that the Limousin veal (which we had specially gone to this restaurant to eat) as well as the E'Paule (the lamb shoulder), were sold out. We were quite irked that 2 of its better known main courses were sold out already so early that night (Note to self: pre-book the Limousin veal next time we are in Hong Kong).

Angel-hair pasta with Oscietra caviar and black truffle - this was an off-the-menu special for the day. It was good but the version done by Gunther's in Singapore (see earlier review: Gunther's) with its use of kombu was better. The portion of caviar was very generous though.

L'Oursin: Island of sea urchin on lobster custard and touch of aniseed - This was an excellent entree. The sea urchin was a perfect match for the lobster custard (which fortunately did not taste too eggy).

Steak tartare - This was another off-the-menu entree which was very well prepared. The beef was fresh and was well marinated with some mustard and pepper. The meal was looking up already at this point.

Le Canard: Duo of steamed duck breast and foie gras - This was my main course. I typically shun duck breast because it is difficult to cook without making it too dry and chewy. But the combination of the duck breast and foie gras was interesting, and I decided to try it, without any regrets as it turned out. The duck was tender and maintained its juices well and the foie gras was a perfect counterpoint to it. Both pieces of meat were arranged to form a circle, and reminded me of the yin-yang symbol representing perfect balance. The soft melt-in-your-mouth foie gras would be the yin and the more substantial duck meat (which would require some chewing) would be the yang. A very good (yet relatively light) main course.

L'Agneau: Milk fed baby lamb cooked in a "plancha" style, glazed baby carrots, lamb jus - This was my wife's main course. She enjoyed it thoroughly as the sauce in particular, was excellent.

The usual french cheeses were served before dessert and they were quite unremarkable in this instance.

La Fraise Sauvage: Malaga wild strawberry tart, vanilla cream, lime granite - The signature dessert of the chef and it was a delightfully refreshing dessert. The strawberries, though sweet, retained some of its sourness and that coupled with the crushed ice with lime, made this the perfect palate cleanser. Some might feel that this dish would be insufficient to be the sole dessert of the meal.

Le Citron: warm soft centered lemon cake, caramel sauce, lemon ice cream - Another very light yet very good dessert. Again probably insufficient as a standalone dessert (unless one was already very full) and could do with an additional dessert of chocolate (but then I may have been spoilt already by the mammoth dessert courses served in Paris). Some petit four to end off the meal.

Final Thoughts: We still really enjoyed the food here, even though this restaurant just seems to feel more and more casual each time we come. Main courses in particular have always been top-notch. In addition, Cepage has one of the better wine lists in Hong Kong and even their wines by the glass at night were of a high quality.

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