Two wonderful French outposts in HK

Posted on March 9, 2007 by Aun

caprice2.jpg
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.
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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
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2166 9000

Caprice
Four Seasons Hotel
8 Finance Street, Central
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3196 8888

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Kate March 9, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Hey thanks for the tips…i’ll be in hk next week and definately try out these two places.

  2. Brigitte March 10, 2007 at 1:24 am

    Could you take me with you next time…I’m thinking about having a small suitcase packed for that event ;-))
    I hope I can visit one of those wonderful restaurant even if it will be only one in my lifetime.
    In the meantime I try my best in “my own”, tiny, tiny kitchen. Even if I always end up witha mess of dirty dishes and this in a country where dishwashers a so unusual :-((

  3. katinhat March 10, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Hey CH,
    Have you tried The Press Room yet – it’s on the top end of Hollywood Rd, near the Man Mo Temple. I remember that you liked brasseries. It has a cheese cave and charcuterie bar next door as well – I tend to find these things pretentious but am a huge fan of all things porcine. Next door is bar of the moment – mint. PS I tried Brasserie Wolf – you’re right – as always. The food is tres correct mais the decor – how could people get it soooo wrong?!? They obviously have the right menu- if only they took some lessons from the Press Room. Oh and service was amateurish. Shame, I predict it will not last.

  4. Anon March 10, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    “I wish that someone would open one in Singapore so that I could dine there weekly.”

    Rumor has it that L’Atelier may be headed to Singapore at the Fullerton hotel, so you may very well get your wish.

  5. Chubby Hubby March 10, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Katinhat: Damn! We actually had reservations at Press Roon and cancelled them to go somewhere else. Other friends have also said really good things. I’ll make sure I check it out next trip.

    Anonymous: Really? That would be awesome.

  6. cookwithlove March 11, 2007 at 6:46 am

    Pork neck with mashed potato, the white garnish on top it’s white radish?

  7. rob March 11, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Aun, thanks for the low down on both restaurants. I was wondering if you had any opinion on the quality of a chef’s restaurants as they grow ever more numerous. Robuchon is a great example. This is a chef who seems to open more and more restaurants every year. Do you think there is a price paid in terms of quality? In other words, can a chef, even one as great as Robuchon, really maintain a Michelin three star-type level of quality when he’s stretched so thin?

  8. Chubby Hubby March 11, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Cook with Love: Hiya, honestly, I can’t quite remember but I think it may have been radish. Sorry.

    Rob: I think it depends entirely how good the celeb chef is at finding talented chefs to run his or her various outlets. Also, it’s important to ensure that the recipes are pretty much fool proof. Some do this very well while others haven’t learnt how to control their expansion. I think Robuchon is managing his empire very well. On the other hand, I can think of other chefs that are having serious quality control issues.

  9. S March 11, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Hi Cook with Love, I think it was fennel.

  10. eatdrinknbmerry March 13, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Hi Aun, wow, I was just in HK over X’mas and saw Joel Robuchon’s restaurant in Central (Zhongwan). I couldn’t convince my other friends to eat there with me b/c it would’ve been hefty.

  11. Allen March 13, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Gorgeous pics — the food sounds amazing. I visited HK recently but didn’t partake — looks like I need to fly back immediately!

  12. Charlene March 13, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    hey chubby hubby! a site you might like (and no this isn’t spam or anything):
    http://www.opensourcefood.com/

  13. Linda March 14, 2007 at 3:59 am

    these photographs are phenomenal. glad you’re having a relaxing and delectable vaca!

  14. Chubby Hubby March 14, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Hi Linda, I wish it was a vacation. HK was a work trip. We just managed to squeeze in some good meals between meetings.

  15. The Hungry's Husband March 19, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    L’atelier in Singapore is a matter currently discussed. Unable to confirm the result 100%, but clearly considered.
    That and Chicago, and that’ll be it for the chain.

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