By: Claire Locking
Being offered vinegar to go with your chips might at first seem slightly naff for a fine-dining restaurant, but when it’s a red-wine vinegar mist presented in its own personal atomiser designed to accompany three perfect triple-fried potato morsels, it takes the establishment in question well up the cool-o-metre.
The restaurant is Laris, the latest offering from Dining Concepts, sandwiched between Tango and Bombay Dreams at 77 Wyndham Street.
Laris is the brainchild of Davis Laris, a darling of Shanghai’s restaurant scene for many years. Originally from Sydney, with much of his childhood spent in Greece, David has built an excellent reputation for modern dining with an Australian flair and global approach, firstly in London where he launched Terrence Conran’s award-winning flagship restaurant Mezzo and most recently in Shanghai where his restaurant Laris at Three on the Bund was awarded That’s Shanghai’s Restaurant of the Year for three consecutive years. His Shanghai-based “davidlaris creates” has since opened numerous notable dining concepts across the city and wider region.
The chef’s latest project in Hong Kong provides a first opportunity to bring his unique contemporary brand of food, style and service to Hong Kong’s eager food lovers.
We visited on a sun-drenched afternoon and were seated at a window table with a view over the heritage-splendour of the former Central Police Station.
Our meal kicked off with a totally unique Laris concept, the pre-starter. The idea behind this is to offer hungry diners something extra or those less hungry a smaller portion size than a usual starter, perhaps allowing some room for dessert. Our crab with avocado salsa and lemongrass gazpacho ($118) was recommended by new general manager Andre Lense, straight off the plane from Shanghai. Let’s just say he certainly knows his onions!
This mini-starter was without a doubt my favourite element of the meal: light, refreshing and packed full of flavour and texture. We continued on the seafood theme with seared scallops, green pea, pancetta and a mint-and-milk foam (HK$198), large and succulent but slightly overcooked on this occasion. What was a triumph – and it’s unsurprisingly a Laris signature dish – was the tinned tuna: house tinned tuna with caper, onion, lemon, dill and gherkin relish. For lovers of the brine-drowned variety, you may be disappointed, as this is tinned tuna taken to a different league; a prime piece of fresh tuna, delicately cooked sous-vide style and served with a puree of perfect complementary flavours.
Mains were meaty affairs with two dishes chosen from the restaurant’s very popular Tasting Menu ($788 for 8 courses). Pigeon stuffed with foiegras, Japanese pumpkin, port braised prunes and apple foam packs a fairly robust punch for a lunchtime, but lovers of strong, gamey flavours will enjoy it. A char-grilled New Zealand rib-eye came with the aforementioned triple fried potato and vinegar spray, as well as truffle butter and morel mushroom, and was truly delicious. The meat was succulent and packed full of salty minerallyflavours, a result of a three-hour water-bath followed by a quick flash-fry method that David prefers using for most meat.
If you have room for desserts, there is everything from “light and fruity” to “warm and rich” listed on the menu. We went for the “tangy and sweet” option, a lime curd meringue tart with passionfruit. Tangy was certainly the right word! One of my fellow diners had opted for the set lunch ($138 for two courses, $178 for three) and the sight of the “Blonde Brownie” that followed his lobster bisque and pan-seared Norwegian salmon certainly set the tastebuds going.
David says he has a “long love affair with elegant, unpretentious dining” but the innovative menu he has devised for Hong Kong seems to have a few too many gimmicks for a chef with this philosophy. That said, take away the mists, foams and powders and the quality of the produce, the opulence of the décor and, without a doubt, the best service I have enjoyed for some time, and Laris deserves a spot at the top of the list of the city’s best new dining spots.
Must-try dish: Tinned tuna: house-tinned tuna with caper, onion, lemon, dill and gherkin relish.
2/F, 77 Wyndham Street, Central
2530 1600 | diningconcepts.com