hazlenut tropizienne with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream from Caprice
Two of the restaurants we were most excited to visit in Hong Kong were L’Atelier de Robuchon and Caprice. Both establishments opened recently to great fanfare. Both are French imports, the former part of a growing international chain helmed by Joel Robuchon, once considered the world’s greatest chef. The latter is an off-shoot of Le Cinq, the respected flagship restaurant of the Four Seasons Georges V Hotel run by Philippe Legendre.
I visited the Paris branch of L’Atelier a few years ago and loved it. I’ve also eaten several times at Robuchon’s restaurant in Macau, of which I am a huge fan. S, however, had never eaten at any of his establishments. I was thus really thrilled to be able to take her to the Hong Kong branch of L’Atelier, located on the 4th floor of the Landmark building, for her first taste of Robuchon’s cuisine.
As at all L’Ateliers around the world, the HK branch has striking and sexy red and black interiors. Unlike some of its sister branches, you can sit at either the counter or at a table. By contrast, the original branch in Paris only offers counter-dining. Because we wanted to see the action (in the kitchen) and we because we always enjoy chatting with a restaurant’s staff, we chose counter seats. While L’Atelier offers a pretty awesome 9-course “menu decouverte” for HK$1450, we decided (mostly because we were so stuffed from our lunch at Yun Fu) to order a la carte. S chose 3 courses from the “small tasting portions” menu and then a main dish from the hot and cold appetizers menu. She had the “Iberian Bellota” ham served with toasted bread and tomato; scallops in their shells with seaweed butter; steak tartare with handmade French fries and foie gras ravioli in warm chicken broth. I ordered similarly, but chose my main from the fish and meat entrees menu. I had the scallops with seaweed butter; crispy langoustine papillote with pesto; the beef and foie gras burgers with lightly caramelized bell peppers; and the free-range quail with foie gras, served with truffled mashed potatoes. I ended my meal with Robuchon’s version of a mont blanc, described as “cream of chestnut with aged rum and crunch pearls”. S had ice cream. The meal was fun. The food was very well-executed and very tasty. The staff (once we ordered our second bottle of wine) were very nice and chatty. I have to admit that I think the food at Robuchon’s much pricier, more formal and more old-fashioned restaurant in Macau is a little bit better. But unlike the Galera a Robuchon, which I would only go to on special occasions, I would feel comfortable popping into L’Atelier often, ordering 2 or 3 things off their small tasting portions menu for lunch or a light dinner. I think L’Atelier is a great addition to the HK dining scene and I wish that someone would open one in Singapore so that I could dine there weekly.
pork cheek with mashed potatoes from Caprice
There are some restaurants that simply look best at lunch, with the afternoon light flooding its rooms. Novus in Singapore is one such restaurant. And after having visited Caprice, the French restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel, for Sunday lunch, I think it is one of these as well. The main dining room is large, with extremely high ceilings and huge picture windows. The color scheme is light. The interiors have a touch of old-world elegance that both S and I really loved. At lunch, the restaurant is bathed in natural light and, well, glows.
Lunch is also a great bargain, so long as you order from the set menus (you get to choose either two or three courses from a list of dishes) or from the tasting portions menu, available (I was told) only on Saturdays and Sundays. I opted to order my first course from the tasting menu, a langoustine and sweetbread ravioli served in a reduced lobster broth. It was a gorgeous dish and the best of the day. For the rest of my meal, I opted for the two-course set lunch and had a pork cheek served with mashed potatoes and a hazlenut “tropizienne” with salted caramel sauce, tangerine slices and vanilla ice cream. Both courses were very good. Not life-changing but good. S also had the langoustine and sweetbread ravioli to start but had a Challans duck for her main course. It was gorgeous — tender and flavorful. To end the meal, she tried the black and white chocolate geometry with caramelised almond and cocoa sorbet, an elegant and light dessert. She also ordered a cup of the hotel’s signature tea, a blend of lavender, jasmine, vanilla and green tea. She liked it so much she bought a whole tin of it.
In all, both restaurants were lovely. L’Atelier is dark, moody and sexy, Caprice, during the day, is bright, elegant and glamourous. If L’Atelier is Angelina Jolie, Caprice might be Gwyneth Paltrow. Personally, I liked Caprice’s interiors better. But that’s a purely personal preference. Food-wise, I’d be happy eating at either restaurant any day of the week.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Shop 401, 4/F The Landmark
15 Queen’s Road, Central
Tel: +852 2166 9000
Four Seasons Hotel
8 Finance Street, Central
Tel: +852 3196 8888