This is my last Hong Kong post, and there is a reason why I’ve saved it for last. I didn’t plan to dine at ÉPURE. It wasn’t even on my radar. However, on a fateful Sunday afternoon, while I am enjoying afternoon tea with a friend, a man walks up to us and starts chatting to my friend. She introduces me to Olivier, the manager of ÉPURE, a French fine dining restaurant at Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui. Upon hearing what I do for a living, he insists I find some time to pay them a visit.
I definitely find some time — the following day in fact — by ditching my dad and his posse for lunch. I take the Star Ferry across to Kowloon and meet two friends at ÉPURE. Don’t let its location fool you. Yes, it’s situated in a mall, but don’t judge before you give them a try. It is fine dining at its best, and possibly, the best meal I eat in Hong Kong.
During the day, there is an Executive Lunch (HK$398/USD51.35) option, a three-course set lunch which is intended to be served in a timely manner. Otherwise, the lunch menu is offered as a two-course (HK$398/USD ), three-course (HK$468/USD60.40), or four-course (HK$538/USD69.40) depending on how hungry you are.
Between the three of us, we select one Executive Lunch, and two of the three-course lunches. There are several choices on the menu from each course for you to choose from. We are brought little dishes with a towel to freshen up before the meal. You can watch how water is poured to reconstitute the towel at the table here.
A bread basket of various house-baked goodies arrive including baby baguettes and little rolls with cheese or olives. I am forewarned not to overindulge, but it is extremely difficult.
Before your meal, little bite-sized amuse bouche are presented. There are two small morsels each to whet your appetite. I am not able to recall what they are now, but all delicate and light as air.
But wait, another amuse bouche arrives and it is Jerusalem artichoke puree with lobster espuma and a crispy artichoke garnish. Silky and utterly delectable, I’m excited about what’s to come.
Our appetizers begin with Fignes de Sollies & Jambon Basque Louis Orteiza, the starter from the Executive Lunch. A beautiful salad of black fig discs, beetroot, cured Basque ham and alpage gruyere cheese — alpage means mountain pasture and when used to describe a cheese, it refers to milk taken from the cows only during the warmer months when the herd is able to graze on the wild flowers and grasses of the alpine pastures. The balance of flavors is incredible, from the sweetness of the figs, to the saltiness of the ham.
My favorite appetizer from the lunch menu is Les Coquilles Saint Jacques de Normandie, a beautifully presented dish of raw marinated scallops, faiselle cheese — one of the oldest specialties of cheese dating back to 5000 BC in Egypt — and two types of jellies. The green cucumber tarragon jelly is fresh and light, while the brown sherry vinaigrette jelly is a little more robust in flavor. Each mouthful offers a different taste depending on which you pick up. The presentation is stunning, and it tastes even better than it looks.
The ‘Pot au Feu’ en Terrine & Consommé is not like any oxtail you’ve ever had. The braised French oxtail is served as a terrine atop a Dijon, red wine sauce. The accompanying root vegetables are tender and act as a respite from the unctuous oxtail. A small shooter of warm consommé served alongside is rich and robust — take a sip in between bites to maximize your culinary experience.
We are graced with an extra course from the kitchen, sent out by Chef Nicolas Boutin. Chataignes & Cepes, a luscious chestnut and cep (porcini) mushroom soup with William pear, utilizes Paris white button mushrooms which is tipped to be more delicate than other button mushrooms in the world. The little spinach gnocchi are pillowy and add textural contrast to the silky smooth soup. No words can describe how mind-blowingly good this is. Umami-filled with heady aromas that leave you wanting more.
Moving on to main courses, we have La Broche du Jour from the Executive Lunch. Today, the “daily roast” is a roast pork loin with a gorgeous reduction and vegetables such as Romanesco broccoli. I’m not usually a fan of pork, however, the loin is nicely seasoned, and the sauce is absolutely stunning, I would have asked for more sauce had it been my main course.
Being a huge fan of duck, naturally, I select Le Canard de la Maison Burgaud, a perfectly executed roast Challans duck with roasted quince, sauteed autumn mushrooms, and caramel jus. I am at first very surprised at how tender the duck is given how lean it looks, however, after a little research, I find out that Challans ducks are raised in the Vendée area of France, primarily for their lean tender meat. They are allowed to roam free, along the canals, where they forage on snails, bugs, tadpoles. At eight weeks, they are gathered into pens to be fattened for consumption. The duck is served at a perfect medium rare temperature, the jus is poured table-side and it is full bodied, and fabulous. I mention to my friend how I wish there is more, and within minutes, I’m brought more. This is a true testament of fine dining, when your server presents you with something before you even ask for it!
Everything thus far has exceeded my expectations. Although I absolutely loved the duck, Le Vol au Vent is hands down the dish that blows me away. One of ÉPURE’s signature dishes, the flaky butter puff pastry ring encases chunks of lobster and line-caught fish from Brittany, France. Accompaniments include fava beans and a licorice-scented coulis. When the dish is served, a little tureen of lobster bisque is poured over the vol au vent, table-side. The umami flavors are outstanding and it takes so much for me not to reach over and take another bite from my friend’s plate — I end up eating three bites!
Before dessert, we are asked if we wish to tour the kitchen. I, of course, jump at the chance. We meet Chef Nicolas Boutin, an effervescent Frenchman with so much passion for his craft.
He tells us of the incredible array of cheeses the restaurant has sourced and of the cheese room specifically built for this purpose. I so regret not having room left to experience the cheeses because in Hong Kong, unlike the US, there is no restrictions on the importation of unpasteurized cheese (see cheese room to the left of the photo).
It’s now time for dessert. ÉPURE refers to La Pomme de Nos Vergers as a pre-dessert, something to help cleanse the palate before the dessert is served. The baked Gala apple tart tatin is served with little dollops of Chantilly cream, several Corinth raisins (currants) infused with aged rum, and served with a quenelle of Granny Smith apple sorbet. There are gold flecks dotted on the fresh Granny Smith apple sticks giving off a regal air. The apples are presented three ways: in the tart itself, in the apple sticks, as well as the sorbet, allowing the varying degrees of tartness to playfully refresh the palate. Simply amazing!
Then comes La Fève de Chocolat Biskelia 34%, a simple dessert using Valrhona Biskelia chocolate as its base.
However, it is the dessert from the Executive Lunch, a Hazelnut Cake with a dacquoise base, that blows me away. It is an exquisite work of art and comprises layers of texture one upon another tantalizing my mouth. A quenelle of hazelnut ice cream adds a creamy component to the mix. For someone who is typically unswayed by desserts, I am completely smitten.
And if that’s not enough, a tower of petit fours arrive with your tea or coffee. Included are macarons and other delectables to satiate that sweet tooth.
In a previous post, I mention the Michelin awards in Hong Kong and how mind-boggled I am by some of the recipients, and those who were not awarded. ÉPURE is the perfect example! Why this restaurant has not earned a Michelin star is beyond me. Everything from service, execution, presentation, to delivery and taste is impeccable. It is a flawless experience.
Just on an end note, some of you may know I had a less-than-stellar meal at Le Bernadin (3-star Michelin) several years ago. ÉPURE surpasses by leaps and bounds which goes to show, perhaps we should all take the Michelin ratings with a grain of salt?
Shop 403, 4/F
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 3185 8338