Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hong Kong - La Maison

Every once in a while, private dining is nice.  Something different from the mainstream, more likely to be a residential address and therefore akin to visiting a friend for dinner.  Private dining is really a hit and miss.  There are some really good ones and then there have been awful reviews on some.  So you have to want to do it in a forgiving mood and accept it for what it is - passionate people who want to share the fruits of their labour with anyone from the public who's willing to give them a chance.

La Maison was a little bigger than I expected.  However, you still need a pretty good GPS to get there on account that Swatow Street is not signed at the Queen's Road East end, which is where the restaurant is nearer to, and that it does not have a street-level presence.  The dim lighting added to the French country feel but would be a bitch for photos.

The food was between a good to an ok.  The 3 starters we ordered to pick at definitely gave us high expectations.

The pan-fried foie gras with peach was crispy on the outside but a little too runny on the inside.  While I like the insides creamy, runny was a tad much.  But taste wise, the canned peach and balsamic did a competent job to cut through the richness of the liver.

Escargot de baroque (Snail with Garlic Butter & Potato Puree) was yummy with the garlic fragrant but not overpowering, a nice balance with the herbs.  The molluscs were suitably firm but easy to work through and absorbed the flavors well.  What was most impressive, surprisingly, was the bed of mash the snails sat on.  Smooth but not losing potato flavor, one would do well to have a mouthful of the slug and puree together.  

The fresh mussels steamed in white wine sauce used the tinier mussels from France and therefore more akin to oysters.  We made sure to ask before we order since we all didn't like the fatter NZ variety which are too meaty and lose the slightly springier texture of these lil ones.  The stock was not creamy nor garlicky as with most places but of the herbier chicken stock variety.  Makes it lighter and easy to lap up although just a tad salty.

Where soups are concerned, the french onion soup beat the crab bisque hands down.  Even then, unless you must have soup, you may be better off with more appetizers to share since they seem to better excel in that department.  Soups were overall thin and weak.  The french onion soup won only because it had the gratinated Gruyere on a slice of french bread.  (Note: breads were were pretty low quality - the airy kind.  So a waste of the yummy herb butter and pate they serve them with).

For main courses, the grilled Angus Rib Eye with truffle and black olive sauce was an "ok".  The taste was decent but the meat was a little tough for me.  But overall, the ladies enjoyed it enough to finish a pretty sizable portion.

My main of the Confit de Canard (duck leg with green apple salad) was enjoyable.  It wasn't the best I've had since the skin wasn't crispy as I usually like it and the green apple salad wasn't enough to neutralize the salt content of the cured duck.  Might have been better with a Pinot Noir.  

Desserts were certainly competent although the dark cherry clafoutis was the most outstanding.  Akin to a dark cherry souffle, this traditional French dessert is a little heavier than a souffle and in my opinion, yummier in texture and eggier in fragrance.  And because you cannot get it at most places, the better it was.  

The french fudge chocolate cake was pretty good too but because it's been done to death, the chocolate alone wasn't enough to divert our attention from the clafoutis.  The apple crumble was "blah" at best and I have to say, crumble is best done by the English - let's just fuel the Anglo French rivalry once more!

Overall, an enjoyable dinner and at very reasonable prices.  No service charge too, mind you.  Our friendly and patient host was great and so you know, there will be new items on the menu soon.

1/F, Mountain View Mansion
2 Swatow Street, Wan Chai
Tel: +852-26283888

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