48 Peel Street, Soho, Central
2880 0248 | lavache.com.hk
There’s a little bit of Soho that feels like walking down a street Saint-Germain. The smell of Gauloises hangs in the air while, outside bars and restaurants called Le Moment and Le Tambour, clusters of chic French folk drink Pastis and set the world to right.
The newest arrival in Hong Kong’s own Franco enclave at the top of Peel Street is La Vache (with an exclamation mark at the end so it translates roughly as “Holy cow!”). It’s a restaurant that oozes the sort of confidence – some might say arrogance – that Parisians can be known for. For, unlike most new launches in the city, it doesn’t try to wow with amuse-bouches, fusion twists or rare ingredients; it doesn’t even offer a menu. Instead, it offers just one dish: perfect green salad and steak-frites ($258).
The simple concept is not new – it derives from the famous Relais de Venise L’Entrecote in Paris where, for over 50 years, the Gineste family have served this one bistro favourite with Bernaise sauce.
As in the Parisian original, the meal at La Vache starts with a freshly baked baguette and unsalted French butter. The green salad is simple – just radishes and mixed leaves, but the walnut garnish and zesty mustard dressing turn it into one of the highlights of the experience. But the star of the show, of course, is the steak. Thankfully, chef Tony Ferreira is something of a meat expert having gained experience in great steak houses like Bistecca and Manzo. The meat selected is rib eye from Wisconsin, USA.
You do get to choose how you want your steak done; then it’s served to you on a platter placed on a warmer. Two thirds are served and the remainder is left to rest for later. The frites are free flowing and delicious, though I couldn’t be certain that they’re homemade. The sauce is slightly heavy on the vinegar and, I felt, detracted from the buttery, richness of the steak, but others seemed to love it.
For a restaurant that thrives on simplicity, the beverage list is detailed and adventurous. Classic French cocktails including Kir Royal are a perfect start to the meal – but don’t order your steak too quickly as service is very efficient. The wine list is a carefully curated list of approachable Old World wines, including a private La Vache red wine blend made specially to pair with the food.
After the meat feast, a retro dessert cart is wheeled to your table, heaving with rich delicacies including crème caramel ($78) and mille-feuille ($98). I would have preferred something lighter to follow the excess of the main course but the skill in producing these French classics is to be applauded.
Like the menu, the atmosphere of La Vache is loud and proud. The low ceilings mean it’s not the spot for a quiet, romantic get-together but if you want a place to set you up for the night ahead, it’s perfect.
Must try dish: The one and only!