Multiculti Melange

Almost two years ago, when we reviewed

Lumiere, which opened in February in Hong Kong’s IFC Mall, we called it

probably the most interesting new restaurant in Hong Kong,

a statement met with derision, disdain and, on the part of some purists,

outright horror.

Since that time there have been lots of new

entries to the Hong Kong culinary scene,

particularly from Joel Robuchon and Nobu Matsuhisa. But Kenny Chan, the chef at

Lumiere, has crafted an imaginative menu of Sichuan

cuisine complemented by influences from Brazil,

Cuba and Peru. It sounds

strange. But take our word for it. Bind up your antipathy and go.

Lumiere is very much a western restaurant,

and an attractive one, approached through a long foyer on the third floor of

IFC, with a low water flume along the floor to provide tranquility, and a row

of colourful stylized glass versions of Chinese wine cups and white

celedon-glaze vases before the space opens into a big 16,000 square foot vista

dominated by a view of Victoria Harbor.

A large bar surrounded by dining tables occupies the part of the room

closest to the entrance, which is a little unfortunate because bars tend to distract

diners.

Designed by the award-winning international

firm of Hirsch Bedner Associates, the restaurant itself is a bit spare,

highlighted with cedar and 7.5 meter ceilings that are kept from being

cavernous by an intricate bank of attractive red cube-shaped lampshades.

Without carpets or napery to deaden the sound, the restaurant tends to be a bit

noisy.

But it’s the menu that counts. Senior

management of the Miramar Hotel, which owns Lumiere and its sister restaurant

Cuisine Cuisine in the same area, researched menus from New

York, Chicago and London to come up with western cuisine with

points in common

with Sichuan

fare.

The work flow in Chinese kitchens is

dramatically different from that in European ones, with European line cooks,

sous-chefs and other personnel arrayed in far different order than Chinese

chefs, who largely depend on woks sitting on gas burners delivering huge gouts

of flame. Chan had to change the way a Chinese kitchen operates to accommodate

the new style. Chinese dishes are served family style, while western

presentation is largely by individual plate.

Chan studied western cuisine in his

adaptation to the new styles, ordering food tastings twice a week with Miramar staff to ensure

that it would work.

Consequently, as it was when the restaurant

opened two years ago, presentation is western and contemporary, with slim,

almost delicate flatware and stark white plates in different shapes and sizes

depending on the dish.

While the seared sea bass is “in ancient Sichuan style,” according to the menu, it arrives

accompanied by bamboo shoots, black mushrooms, Sichuan bacon and chilli paste in a form

that is purely western. The beef tenderloin medallions come with pan-seared

foie gras with a sauce made from orange peels, among other things – Mandarin

oranges, to be sure, but it’s still a western-style sauce.

There is also a purely Chinese Sichuan

menu, which I don’t recall from two years ago, including the roast baby pigeon

stuffed spicy sausage, a crispy duck leg, and a dim sum selection. Must go back

and try them at some point. But it is

the superb job of mating Sichuan

with western cuisine that is interesting. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but

it does.