Spoon by Alain Ducasse

I’m not really sure why it took over eighteen months to finally get around to visiting legendary chef Alain Ducasse’s Hong Kong restaurant.  It ticks pretty much every box that I ever look for in a restaurant, French, modern, Michelin Starred and as a bonus, a restaurant from one of the top chefs in the world.

Perplexing really.

Anyway, I finally managed to get along to Hong Kong’s Intercontinental Hotel, the home of Spoon by Alain Ducasse.  I’ve dined at the Intercontinental before, for another legendary chef’s HK outlet; Nobu, which I found to be quite outstanding (see post here); so I had an inkling of the amazing view that awaited us when we were shown to our window seat.

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Hong Kong undoubtably has the world’s most spectacular skyline, and the view from Spoon gave us unfettered access to the Island’s many skyscrapers.  We were seated just before the sun set and were able to watch the skyline come alive as we consumed our meal.

The incredible service that you’d expect from a Michelin starred restaurant in a five star hotel commenced from the moment we were greeted by the front staff, who took us to our table and introduced us to our two waiters who would pamper us for the entire evening.  We were the first to arrive in the restaurant, ensuring that for the first part of our meal we were the complete focus of our team.

Like most great French restaurants, the girl was offered a glass of champagne just after seating and after hearing her options, decided on the Deutz rose champagne; a definite favourite.  Watching as the generous portion of bubbly was poured into the unique looking glass, the girl licked her lips in anticipation of her first wine of the night.

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Next came our menus, with instructions on some of the highlights from the a la carte portion, as well as an explanation of the tasting menu.  We were also advised that there was a special truffle menu on offer, which looked interesting but ultimately was discarded for the a la carte.  There were just too many lovely looking dishes on offer and we both wanted very different things.

A lot happened very quickly after we placed our orders, firstly, some warm cheesy puffs were delivered; we were presented with a plethora of bread roll options, with lovely room temperature salted and unsalted butter; finally, we were given our amuse bouche, a delicious small bowl of fresh peas bathed in a tomato confit and finished of the a light an airy pea foam.  The fresh and intense flavours balanced wonderfully, the acidity from the tomato working in harmony with the sweetness of the pea.

Oh, for the record, I selected two baguettes that were piping hot, to go along with the big pile of salted French butter that I couldn’t resist devouring.

It was time for our starters and I was suitably impressed with the amazing presentation of the girl’s poached langoustines with salads, vegetables and flowers.  It was a serious work of art.  But, you know the saying, food needs to do more than look good, and naturally the dish tasted as delicious as it looked.  The base was made of a pea and olive mix, with fresh and sweet langoustine sitting atop, then a garden salad finishing off the dish.  I loved the care with which the dish was plated, which actually went some way to increasing the dish’s desirability.  The salty flavour of the olive worked to enhance the overall flavour of the dish, which was quickly dispatched!

I’d chosen one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the steamed duck foie gras with cedar lemon, which didn’t look as wonderful as the langoustines.  What it lacked in refined presentation, it made up for with the seriously generous pile of expertly cooked foie gras and the mind blowingly good taste.  I mean, wow, the creamy and earthy foie gras worked incredibly well with the lemon based sauce that sat atop the controversial ingredient.  There was a side of lemon puree and some lightly toasted brioche that was supposed to be consumed with the foie gras, but I found them both distracting from the dish and largely left them alone.

It was in between our starters and mains that the twilight gave way to darkness and Hong Kong Island came alive.  In all of our time in HK, it was the first time I remember just watching the sun slowly glide over the mountains and the natural light give way to the artificial light that comes from so many high rise buildings equiped with all sorts of neon signs.  Even better than that amazing skyline was watching all sorts of sea vessels moving up and down the harbour, none better than when we witnessed an old tall ship glide in front of a modern day behemoth.

The girl’s main of young pigeon from Bresse with figs and dried fruits was presented and I was just a little disappointed with the presentation, especially after witnessing what could come out of the kitchen.  Served on a white plate with black a large black border, the pigeon was lost on the plate, especially hidden by the jus.  Again, luckily you don’t judge a dish on its appearance, it is all about the flavour, and the game bird was full flavoured and expertly cooked.  Right on medium rare, the tender bird tasted earthy and rich, helped along with some acidity and sweetness from the roasted fig and sticky jus.

My main was a dish you’d normally see as a starter, so I was intrigued to see if the seared sea scallops with ‘gold’ caviar would sate my raging appetite.  I had doubts when I first laid eyes on the three medium sized scallops that were covered in little spheres of potato, then doused in a lovely and light cream sauce. Wow, it must have been the excessive amount of potato balls that filled me up, but I almost had trouble finishing the whole dish.  There was much I loved about the dish, the scallops were caramelised perfectly and were sweet and wonderful and the sauce was exquisite and supremely matched to the scallops.  My issue arose around the balance of the dish, there were too many ‘gold’ caviar pieces, the potato slightly overpowering that sweet scallop flavour.  As a main course, I would prefer to see four scallops and slightly less of the potato, but none the less, I did enjoy the dish, even if I left some of the spheres.

There was never any doubt that I’d be selecting the almond soufflé on the dessert menu, after all, a soufflé is my general ‘go-to’ dessert when on a menu.  I was a little dubious about trying an almond variant, but those doubts were largely dispelled when I laid eyes on the perfectly risen dessert.  A light golden colour, the soufflé was light and sweet and just lovely; until I reached the bottom and found chunks of toasted almonds, which are not really my favourite of nuts.  I found that the nuts detracted from the overall enjoyment of the soufflé, but I solved the problem by eating around the chunky nuts!  With the crisis averted, I could also focus on the incredibly creamy almond sorbet that accompanied the dessert, which surprised me by being delicious!

SC only had eyes on the signature dessert of chocolate from the Alain Ducasse factory in Paris, which was served as two crescents on the plate, one dark chocolate and one milk chocolate.  They were almost little complicated millefeuille in the way the chocolate was layered, which included some crunchy praline.  I wish I could tell you more about the dessert, but the promised taste from the girl never came!  Yep, she devoured the lot before going ‘oh, I forgot to give you some, it was delicious!’

Sigh, I would have loved to have tried that signature dessert.  Maybe next time.

Of course there was the obligatory petite four at the end of the meal, which included an interesting take on providing marshmallow, it was rolled up in jars on a trolley and we were cut portions at the table; as well as three little cakes that included a caramel, a tiny little millefeuille and a raspberry and passionfruit tartlet.  All delicious but hard to eat, we were so full!

When you go to a French fine dining restaurant by one of the world’s top chefs, a chef who has many restaurants around the world, the kitchen is always given to a trusted chef to run to the standard that’s expected.  Helming the kitchen at Spoon was Stéphane Gortina, a trusted lieutenant who’s worked with the Ducasse chain of restaurants for over ten years.  I have to say, trusting chef Gortina has paid off, we really enjoyed our meal; even more than our only other Ducasse experience at le Jules Verne in Paris (see post here).

Sure, there were a couple of very tiny issues with the food, the presentation of the pigeon and the balance of the scallop dish, but upon reflection, these are minor quibbles for what was a highly enjoyable meal.  Service was faultless and we even had the restaurant’s manager coming across to chat to us about the restaurant and once we’d finished and paid, walk us out into the night.

Yeah, I’m not really sure why it took so long to get over to Spoon, but I can say with quiet certainty that it won’t take so long for our next visit.

http://www.alain-ducasse.com/en/restaurant/spoon-by-alain-ducasse-hong-kong

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