Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Petrus at Island Shangri-La (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

As a long-time modern French food faithful, it's the light of VEA Dining and Tate Dining Room & Bar that gets me all excited and pumped up. Do I still love some good old traditional French fine dining occasionally? You bet I do but time doesn't seem to be on its side. At least not here in Hong Kong.

Over the past few months, Hong Kong's fine dining scene has already suffered a couple of setbacks. First, there was the abrupt closure of Spoon, a fine dining stalwart who has been around forever. French celebrity chef, restauranteur and mastermind Alain Ducasse decided to close it down in January and rebranded it under the more casual Rech by Alain Ducasse. Then, just when we were all set to welcome S.T.A.Y., French masterchef Yannick Alleno's fine dining concept with open arms, he decided to throw in a curveball by introducing his casual French bistro concept, Terrior Parisien instead. So is traditional French fine-dining really a thing of the past in Hong Kong?

Not so fast.

When I first moved back in Hong Kong more than a decade ago, Gaddi's, Petrus and Vong (which was eventually replaced by Pierre) were the fine dining temples where we normally went for our celebrations. But time has caught up to them in a big way. Not only has their once-luxurious décor turned dated and tired, their old-school French cuisine also seemed to wear out its welcome too. So, am I ready to close the books on these heavyweights (Gaddi's and Petrus in particular)?

Not so fast.

Things have been brewing at Gaddi's and Petrus since they made a change at the helm last year. The idea is obviously to get young (I mean its cuisine) and a little more innovative without going over the top. Taking over at Gaddi's was chef Xavier Boyer, a Joel Robuchon alumnus who has spent over a decade working at different L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon from around the world. He's serving up a culinary style which he describes as “modern classic". Almost at the same time (actually 2 months earlier) came Chef Ricardo Chaneton, a Venezuela native who took over as the new chef de cuisine of Petrus. What really excited me about chef Chaneton's experience was his time spent working under the visionary Mauro Colagreco at Mirazur in Menton. We're talking about the sixth ranked restaurant in the world according to World's Best 50 Restaurants and one that I had the pleasure of visiting last summer so I was really curious to see how he puts his stamp on Petrus's revamped menu.

It's been nearly a decade since I last sat here in this dining room. Looks like nothing has ever changed since my last visit.

They still have one of the better views of any fine dining restaurants in the city.

But like Gaddi's, the décor could use a bit of a facelift for sure.

Just the one little nibble to start the meal, a small cracker topped with savory Iberian ham and cheese powder. Pretty decent.

There were plenty of choices from the "Cold Starters" section of the menu and I went with their foie gras terrine which was served with clementine in four ways and three spice powder. This turned out to be a pretty flawless interpretation of the classic French dish. The silk smooth terrine was rich in flavor and I love the acidity from the different textures of clementine meshing well with the richness of the foie gras while the three-spice powder provided the extra kick.

Next up was something from the "Hot Starters" portion of the menu. While the signature red prawn ravioli looked amazingly attractive, I decided to go with my instincts and went with the pan seared Hokkaido scallops instead.

I had pretty much the same Hokkaido scallops from Plat du Jour last week and the results couldn't be more different. These were perfectly seared on both sides for the wonderful golden color and crispy crust. Purée made with cauliflower and Mediterranean blood orange were very good matches with the sweetness of the scallops. Very nicely done.

Fairly quickly, I was already down to my last dish. This time I did go with one of their signature main dishes, poached lobster tail which was beautifully plated next to a pool of spiced green sauce, with a baked Cevennes onion on the side.

This boasted very fresh and clean flavors from the lobster meat, perfectly complemented by the earthy flavors of the green sauce.

Inside the Cevennes onion were diced lobster meat and mushrooms smothered in a rich and creamy Béarnaise-like sauce. That was a very enjoyable dish.

One last look at the amazing harbour view from up high before I go. (Surprisingly, there was no petite four.)

At $600 per head, there was obviously a good number of options available in the city for an enjoyable lunch but I was glad that I have picked Petrus over places like Caprice to satisfy my curiosity. I thought chef Chaneton's cuisine is contemporary and exciting without crossing the line. Pacing was clinical and that efficiency got me out of there in just a little over an hour. But if there's an area for improvement, it's probably with their service which was slightly under par for a restaurant of its caliber.

Looks like they have finally turned the corner since the departure of Frédéric Chabbert. I'm now working on finding myself an excuse to visit this place again for dinner.

PS. Traditional French fine-dining is still very much alive in Hong Kong. Just that it has evolved into something more modern and less pretentious.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 56/F, Island Shangri-La Hong Kong, Phrase 2,Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Admiralty
Tel: +852 2820-8590
Website: Link

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