The location is a beat-up section of Causeway Bay, but bordering on luxury row, with Lee Gardens just a brisk 2 minute walk away. But behind the glass doors, and up the stairs, was a comfy dining room in cosy-lit surrounds, manned by waiters in chic black shirts.
While waiting for the dining mates to arrive, they plied me with a warm bread basket. Lovely selection. My favorites were the breadsticks in the glass - dunked in bits of cheese and hardboiled egg, as well as the big roll that was of course, crusty on the outside yet soft and fluffy on the inside, and most importantly, served warm.
While we each decided on variations of the 4-course menu, we all went with the same appetizer. And without regrets. The pan fried quail and foie gras with fig and hazelnut, served with an onion tart, was easily the dish of the night. Each of the quail and foie gras was finished to a crisp on the outside, and therefore mouth-watering when served. On the inside, the quail was very moist, and finger lickin good when finished off the bone. The foie in contrast was creamy on the inside and given a contrasting texture from the roasted nuts on the top. I don't really like onions, but in this case, even I have to admit that the caramelized onions over the buttery pastry was good to the last bite. Naturally, I wiped the plate clean.
My second course was the Burrata cheese ravioli with duck ragout and chanterelle mushrooms. The Burrata, which is a milkier and creamier version of the usual Mozzarella we eat, created both taste and texture as the insert of the ravioli. Combined with a tasty duck ragout with chanterelles, this dish had the complexity but not in a confusing way. Each taste came through and so you can enjoy the quality of each component. Of course, the greens on the top added a healthy factor to this dish which I liked, since there were no other greens available.
C1 went with the seafood risotto which was very nicely done but the raviolis were probably more of a signature of the chef here.
The widely touted Wagyu beef cheek and Ox tongue with whipped mash and a red wine sauce were C1 and C2's choice. However, both declined the ox tongue and so got a bigger cheek to savor. Both were very quiet while eating this. A difficult thing to achieve with them so it must have been very good. A tiny morsel I got out of charity proved this to be true. The meat is so soft that you can break it down with your tongue, but the taste was so unmistakably good beef. Aromatic from finishing in the oven, this was simply delicious.
My choice of the Roasted Pigeon was in contrast, not as "wow" but was still very good. Slightly pink on the inside to retain its natural juices, the outside was roasted to a crisp and as usual, I enjoyed the thigh bone and pulled every bit of meat I could off it.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert. Although this was not my choice (wrong again, sigh...) the pear tart with vanilla ice cream was the show stealer in the sweets section. Crisp tart base (thank you, Mr. Butter) with well stewed pear wedges over the top, finished with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream was good to the last mouthful.
My choice of the "apple demonstration" was good but just didn't come close to the pear tart. The tower was simply apple done in a variety of ways. My favorite was the slow-cooked apple base (which would have been a wonderful accompaniment to the tart base from the pear). Next came a tofu-like layer which had a fragrance likely from the beans of a vanilla pod, then "crumble bits" finished off with an apple sorbet. If I had to say what disappointed me from the night, this would be it. Even then it was very competent, just not my thing.
With any place, the last course could make or break the memory. In this case, the petit fours tray reinforced the wonderful experience we had. The madeleines (whether you go with Grand Marnier or Chocolate) were both good. The macarons (while tiny) can rival the macaron specialists out there. And even the little jelly drops dusted with sugar crystals were yummy.
And of course, the obligatory birthday tune, and a piece of Tiramisu interspersed made the night even sweeter. Thanks C1 and C2 for a lovely night and the TDR choir for providing the Acapella voices. Happy Birthday to me.
1/F, JIA Boutique Hotel
1-5 Irving Street