This is a very pretty sexy little restaurant up in Elgin Street, Soho. In a way it's quite an incongruous location amongst the expat pubs, bars and fairly average restaurants. It's not an easy reservation as its quite small and doesn't appear to turn tables; plus it seems to have a good reputation by those in the know, and despite some tepid reviews by the usual suspects and bloggers its full of locals (we are the only non-locals). It also got a got a star in the recent Michelin. So a little odd it's taken us quite a long time to get here.
Cheffed by Vicky Lau ex-Cepage and a pre-cooking past in advertising and graphic art it presents an interesting proposition. The menu presents two choices a five course (at $780 IIRC) menu and a nine-course option at $1,080. They also do a couple of wine pairings. We went for the nine courses and a bottle of wine ($480 for a reasonable Pinot).
We kick off with an amuse of a small tomato mouse, mustard ice cream, watermelon and tiny mozzarella's, it is very prettily plated with some big tastes from small bites. The first proper course follows very fast "The Beginning" is a sweet corn puree, lime cream, bacon bits and black pepper crumble, again really nicely presented (first photo) and it tastes wonderful.
"Passion Marinated Scallop" has a small bowl of hokkaido scallop, sea urchin roe, caviar and passion fruit soy vinaigrette. Its a nice dish but possibly a little fridge cold. "Eel Foie Gras Terrine" sounds great but is a slight let down. Sake kasu cream, ginger gelee, cucumber apple maki, and smoked reel, see very tiny tastes of each ingredient none of which is significant to add much flavour. They hint at great things but the taste is ephemeral. At this stage the dishes have been delivered in very quick succession and I am starting to get concerned about the pace and size of the portions - will I be out in an hour and hungry?
"Liquid Caesar Salad" sees a soft qual egg, small lettuce leaves, bacon bits, and a sliver of anchovy which then has a lettuce soup poured over it. Clever, but some of the flavours get a little lost, it works really well when you get a bit of anchovy in the mix, but ends up being dominated by the soup - although its a good soup.
The kitchen kicks up a gear with the next three dishes. "Pan sautéed Amadai with scales" is truly superb, served in an onion consommé, grated daikon, and deep fried enoki. The portion size is a slightly larger, and I would have happily polished a piece twice the size. The technique of forming crunchy scales adds a great texture to this dish.
"sakura ebi tagliolini" sees an interesting "wrap" of pasta in a lobster broth, with parmesan foam, kombu powder, and dill: really great flavours with some wonderful textures. The "Kagoshima beef tenderloin" finished the savoury part of the meal: meltingly tender pieces of beef on miso potato puree, deeply flavoured wild asparagus, and some mushrooms: a perfect dish.
The two-dessert courses start with "Soleil" a meringue ball filled with banana parfait, sorbet, in a mango soup and yoghurt mouse. Its good but some of the flavours get lost. And then to finish the "Tate's Dessert Cart" which is really their petit fours - the bitter orange macron is very fine.
Overall a very good meal, the plates are superbly presented and the flavour depth when good is great. It does share the common fault of many modern restaurants where the little dots and dashes of flavour get lost - very artistic but you feel larger quantities would allow the food to shine. It’s not a cheap meal either, but given the quality and attention to detail it probably represents good value. In HK you can spend slightly less but for considerably inferior food. One to revisit when we want something interesting and classy and aren't in an Amber or Caprice mood.
Sorry about the photos - iPhone not the normal camera.