|Our Correspondent||Feb 22, 2007|
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,
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
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
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
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