Saturday, February 11, 2017

Le Pan (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

After a disappointingly slow 2016, things are finally about to heat up in the local dining scene with a number of highly anticipated openings on the cusp. Le Pan is one of those new restaurants I've been keeping tabs on especially due to its rather unusual background.

Located on the ground floor of the newly opened Goldin Financial Global Centre in Kowloon Bay, Le Pan opens with one and only objective in mind - to win a Michelin star. That's no easy task for any fine dining French restaurant, let alone one which is deeply entrenched in an industrial area like Kowloon Bay.

Behind Le Pan's kitchen is Singaporean chef Edward Voon, who has trained under one of Spain's most well-known chef Paco Roncero. A few years ago, chef Voon made headlines with his molecular cuisine at Aurum in Clarke Quay before moving onto China to work as the head chef of modern European restaurant Le Pan in Tianjin’s Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club Hotel (which is under the same owner of Le Pan HK) in 2010. At Le Pan, expect an elegant avant-garde cuisine which is coupled with exquisite European cooking techniques.

Following a 15-minute walk from the MTR station, we finally arrived at the relatively empty Goldin Financial building.

When I walked into the dining area, I couldn't help but got more and more impressed with the incredible amount of space here. Tables are generously spaced and the interior is tastefully designed with great attention to details, which is a little rare to find in Hong Kong these days, even for a fine dining restaurant.

Like most fine dining restaurants in the city, Le Pan has a children's policy. As a matter of fact, theirs is even stricter than places like Gaddi's and Petrus. Here, children must be at least 10 years old or older. But knowing we've got our little nugget with us this afternoon, they were very accommodating in letting us use one of their private dining room with no extra charge. That was very generous of them!

While I was still admiring the details of our private room, our amuse bouche was already waiting on deck. The trio of small nibbles included three little tartlets of lemon, cauliflower purée and apple with crushed peanuts. That was quite a refreshing start.

Next, we got the ball rolling with their pressed Rouge foie gras. This was served with granny smith apple, celeriac, cranberry bonbon and a small green salad on the side. I thought the terrine had very rich flavors and silky smooth texture while the granny smith, celeriac and salad did alright to balance its richness. I actually found the cranberry "bonbon" as the single most fascinating item on this dish for its wonderful acidity and the way it popped in the mouth.

Between the two soups, everyone went with the velouté of chlorophyll. There was a strong taste coming from the watercress which was working well with the Champignon mushrooms, tapioca pearls and soft boiled egg.

This was very very creamy.

For our main dish, everybody had a different idea. Mom went with the supreme farmed chicken which was neatly crusted with a layer of porcini and served with a Iberico risotto, porcini cream, pickled carrots and poultry jus. That was pretty tender.

Less successful was braised beef cheek in cocotte with glazed tendons and charlotte potato purée.

I personally chose the pan-roasted sea bass, which was done to perfection.

There was a cute little tortellini sitting next to the sea bass, with fillings of chopped Mediteranean squid, cheese and what I thought was curry. Underneath all that was artichoke purée and lentils, while finished with a subtle lemon saffron emulsion. Very lovely dish.

The three of us couldn't pull our trigger on our desserts so I took the easy route and simply ordered one of each. First up was the warm chocolate "creméux".

This tasted a little like a cross-over between chocolate molten lava cake and chocolate macaron. Pretty interesting.

Mom ended up taking the safe bet with this "Tropical" creation of pineapple, coconut and lemon.

I tried some of that and thought it was a little underwhelming.

Last but not least was Greek yogurt in a chilled soup made with strawberries and hibiscus.

The Greek yogurt had this funny texture that reminded me of the Italian burrata cheese. I liked the combination of flavors there which was very soothing for the palates.

Finally, a traditional petite fours to put an end to a fairly entertaining lunch. 

What impressed me most about this lunch, on top of the avant-garde cuisine, which was quite solid, was the quality of service displayed all afternoon. This is a well-trained group of staff who's very dedicated to serve and they have got the knowledge and attitude to make it work too (making us feel like VIPs). From the food standpoint, I am not sure about the Michelin star yet but service-wise, it's definitely worthy of one. 

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$$
Address: G/F, Goldin Financial Global Centre, 17 Kai Cheung Road, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Kowloon Bay
Tel: +852 3188-2355

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