Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Belon (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

2016 has not been a banner year for restaurant openings so far but things are about to heat up with a number of new French restaurants in town led by Belon, a Parisian bistro brought to us by the Black Sheep Restaurants Group who are also behind culinary gems Burger Circus and Carbone.

Belon is not just another any neo-Parisian bistro. Their kitchen is helmed by Chef James Henry, who's one of the hottest names in Paris with his previous work at Bones drawing raving reviews in the City of Light.

I managed to recruit my usual partner in crime, Agent-I who's in town for meeting this week. Since she's been real fed up with Singaporean food these days, the timing just couldn't get any better for the both of us.

I like a restaurant with a simple menu and that they have at Belon. The food menu generally features about 5 to 6 small bites, appetizers, main dishes and desserts and it changes on a weekly basis. Like most modern French bistros, most dishes are meant to be shared.

Our dinner started off with one of the house specialties - sea urchin and sweet potato waffle with smoked bacon cream ($78 per piece). I saw pictures of these on the social network last week and it really got me drooling for a week since I'm a huge sea urchin fan. However, I must admit I was slightly disappointed with the results.

I thought they had something going with the sea urchin and sweet potato waffle combination but right off the bat, I could tell it wasn't going to work for me. The waffle was way too soft and not nearly crispy enough for my liking. The sea urchin was alright but clearly not of the top notch quality I was expecting.

Pain perdu with smoked eel and black radish ($58 per piece) was next. The pain perdu of course refers to the toasted bread on the bottom and that was nicely marinated with a roasted chicken sauce before they added toppings like smoked eel, black radish, pickled beetroot and granny smith.

This was better than the previous sea urchin and sweet potato waffle although the toasted bread was slightly too flavorful, which was a little too overpowering for the little piece of smoked eel.

It's asparagus season so we were not all that surprised to see them featured in the current menu. As our server explained, they have these fresh asparagus shipped in from Pertuis, a small commune in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France where they are supposed to be famous for their asparagus.

So after hearing all the background information, Agent-I and I agreed to get for it. Personally, I love asparagus and I always believe its marriage with hollandaise sauce is a match made in heaven but smoked bonito

Well, I actually thought the asparagus and smoked bonito meshed fairly well together (though Agent-I disagreed and thought it was weird.). My only complaint was perhaps they could be a little more generous there. For the price they're charging ($218 by the way), there's gotta be more than just the one piece of asparagus.

Hokkaido scallop was baked on the shelf with seaweed butter ($138), lots of it. 

Obviously this was very buttery. The spiced turnip on top was drawing mixed reviews from the two of us. While I thought it was a pretty innovative move, Agent-I believed it was a tad too spicy and she even went on to tell our server about it.

One thing we did agree on was the best dish of the evening and that honor belonged to the beetroot salad ($128). This particular dish featured beetroots baked in salt and served with crushed walnuts and tête de Moine. I really enjoyed the salt baked beetroot slices and tête de Moine tremendously. Those two worked so well together. Very nice.

We had a lot of food already so instead of having our own main dish, we decided to just share one together. We took a flyer on the market fish of the day which was baked flounder from Japan ($508).

While the mild-flavored flounder was sourced from Japan, the rest of the dishes was all local ingredients including garlic, chives, mint, green peas and watercress. Agent-I thought there was miso in there but I wasn't so sure. All I care was that it tasted good and I like the sauce which was very "Asian".

For the second week in a roll, I am having miso ice-cream ($108) for dessert. This time around, they elected to serve it with lemon meringue, lemon foam and lavender and whey granita. This has a very interesting mix of complicated flavors and textures; and without a question, very entertaining for our palates.

While I enjoyed Chef Henry's modern take on French cooking, some of the dishes tonight were hit-and-miss for the both of us. And the fact that the bill came to around $900 per head, came as a bit of surprise considering what had been ordered (No expensive food!). Some of those dishes looked really undersized and of course, that single-asparagus dish immediately came to mind.

Anyways, now that I've got Belon out of the way, I'm setting my sight on my next destination, which will be another new opening, Mercato by Jean Georges which is slated to open some time in May. If anyone has information on how to get a table, I am all ears.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 41 Elgin Street, Soho, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central / Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2152-2872
Website: www.belonsoho.com

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