When my friend warned me she had never left La Cantoche hungry, she was not wrong. This was proven by last night's tasting of the sumptuous new menu from this passionate Parisian chef whose restaurant is now in its fourth successful year in Hong Kong. His style is rustic French without any of the airs and graces of fine dining. Indeed, customers are greeted by a babyfoot before ascending stairs to the restaurant with its graffiti-clad walls.
We kicked off with a selection of appetizers, including fried calamari and breaded sole fish fillet, a fois gras & mushroom terrine, baked Camembert, goats cheese spring rolls and his mother's recipe of Rice Crispies fried pork wrapped up in lettuce leaves, pictured below.
Following that we sampled the beef & lamb merguez sausages, sole fish fillet with sauce vierge, roasted deboned lamb shoulder and chicken cordon bleu. The latter was a personal highlight which the chef explained he used to make using reblochon cheese, possibly the smelliest French cheese out there. He has now toned it down to a Morbier which remained dominant without overpowering. The sides were of equal if not superior merit here: fresh salad leaves in an addictive vinaigrette, pommes noisettes which melted on the tongue, (and which we couldn't help feeling might have been further improved by dipped them into the Camembert), and finally those yellow beans which really deserve their own paragraph.
Similar in size and shape to haricots verts, the Chef flies in their yellow cousins from France each week where they undergo the typical French cuisson of being anything but al dente; instead intensely buttery, garlicky and very well seasoned.
He then proudly presented his roasted whole leg of New Zealand lamb, a main course sufficient to serve 6-8 people. As with the lamb in the previous course, this was cooked fractionally more than I would have cared for but luckily there were still a few pink bits up for grabs. While the meat was succulent and tender, the pommes purées, yellow beans (one can never have too many of these) and rich jus in which it dsat were everything you could hope and dream for in a traditional French meal en famille.
We then tried the entrecôte, a marvellously marbled 16 oz US ribeye which we dipped into a sweet balsamic wholegrain mustard, a classic combination which was perfectly executed.
Beef Wellington was the finale to an already decadent meal. Thankfully we all liked it pink (and no I haven't tampered with the colours in this photo!). His recipe is classic, wrapping up a tender fillet in parma ham and mushroom duxelle, all of which permeated the puff pastry with juice and flavour. If we had known this was coming, we may have left a little more room!
In the unlikely event you do have space for dessert, there is apparently a fabulous flour-less chocolate cake, although unavailable last night. We did try a blueberry & blackberry cardamom tart however, that the chef had made for himself rather than menu(!) and last but not least a nougat and M&M ice-cream. Suffice to say, despite the previous groans of fullness, everyone found a little space left to polish off both desserts.
Just to finish us off properly, shaken vodka shots were poured into marble bottomed glasses, which first appeared plain, but once full of liquid, revealed the picture of a naked man or lady. Then my evening was officially complete...