Akrame’s creative, complex cuisine
IN YOUR FACE - Marielle Santos-Po (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2015 - 12:00am

Always on a hunt for new places to dine in, my husband and I were excited to try Akrame in Hong Kong. Recommended by a foodie couple that has tried chef Akrame Benallal’s cuisine both in Paris and in Hong Kong, we were amazed by the fact that the chef de cuisine gained a Michelin star within six months of operation at his Paris outpost. A second Michelin star soon followed and two years later he decided to go global and opened in Hong Kong — his only restaurant in Asia, which recently gained its first Michelin star as well. A great achievement for a chef in his 30s, but I guess being trained by Pierre Gagnaire and Ferran Adria does not hurt at all.

Located along hip Ship Street, its nondescript exteriors blend in with the other new haunts in the area. The interior, mostly in blacks and grays, is quite minimalist and gives a sense of calmness — undeniably French but the feeling and impression is Japanese, somewhat Franco-Japanese, which in this case works out well. This union extends to the cuisine, in which you may choose four, six, or eight courses from HK$888 to HK$1,398. That’s as far as the menu goes since the ingredients may change daily depending on the produce they purchase that day, so be prepared to listen closely when they describe each course because, as subtle as it looks, the preparation is quite complex, marrying all the ingredients to attain refinement.

We went with the eight-course menu to experience chef Benallal’s cuisine. It started with a selection of one-bite amuse bouches served on our linen napkin — an olive crisp topped with a sliver of green olive and yogurt, endive with salmon roe, and Parmesan crisp with turnip and anchovy. They bake their own bread and serve it with butter whipped with lemon, tonka vanilla beans, almonds, and cinnamon — that butter was good!

The first course was a celery root consommé with smoked herring, caviar, and lemon. Though I am not a fan of celery, I appreciated the nakedness of the dish. The consommé was extremely light and earthy but the saltiness of the herring made it more interesting and the lemon brightened up the dish.

Next came the razor clams with a creamy white bean and passion fruit sauce, wherein the scent of the passion fruit was a bit overwhelming; however, the taste was surprisingly mild, delicate, and actually married well together.

One of our favorite dishes on the tasting menu was soon served — lobster that arrived raw on top of a velouté of black charcoal, then the server poured over hot cucumber broth with a touch of Chinese herbs and the lobster poached right in front of us. The lobster was extremely tender and the velouté of edible black charcoal added smokiness and richness to the dish.

The last seafood course was stone bass that was steamed between 40-45 degrees on a bed of quinoa and had a touch of oyster and vodka broth. Though it was good, the lobster was a tough dish to follow.

The meat course started with poached foie gras on top of licorice gelée with slivers of red and yellow candied beetroot and beetroot compote. The foie was quite delicate due to its cooking process and was perfect for the mildly sweet compote and the texture of the candy slivers.

The main course was seared duck with a rich au jus served with yellow and white turnip, and a potato-radish mousse. I would have preferred it if they had served a nice piece of beef, being that my husband and I are true carnivores, although duck aficionados would’ve loved that it was very tender, perfectly cooked, and the au jus was quite amazing! 

The cheese course on broth was made up of mushroom and Comte cheese layers (similar to a layered crepe), which was surprisingly light for a cheese course. Last came an array of generous desserts: chocolate soup that melted right before our eyes, sinfully bitter chocolate torte, and cardamom ice cream with crisped rice.  Instead of the usual petit fours that they serve right before the bill, they give you your own homemade salted chocolate bar to take with you and enjoy at your own leisure.

Akrame’s cuisine was creative, subtle yet complex with a Zen-like quality.  It respected the produce by showcasing its original element without the need for molecular techniques but by marrying it with different flavors and textures, making each ingredient stand out. With that in mind, I’m quite curious as to what he can do with a nice piece of beef.

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Akrame is located at Shop B, G/F, No. 9 Ship Street, Hong Kong, tel. 852-2528-5068, or visit www.akrame.com.hk.

 

 

 

 

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