The definition of “arcane” is something that’s understood by only a few, a thing that’s infinitely mysterious. It’s also the name of Australian chef Shane Osborn’s first independent venture in Hong Kong; the irony of the title is that this is a restaurant well worth knowing.
We’ve been fans of Osborn’s cooking for a long time—in 2012, he took home our prize for Best New Chef for his work at the Alan Yau-owned restaurant St Betty. Three years on, the IFC Mall restaurant is no more, but Osborn has found his own wonderful space in a quiet cul-de-sac in Central, with a verdant terrace where he grows his own herbs, fruits and vegetables that are fashioned into the thrilling platefuls, which have evolved since he arrived in Hong Kong a few years ago.
It’s not easy to describe Osborn’s cooking, as is often the case with chefs from the southern hemisphere; his experience at Pied à Terre in London has worked in a dash of European flavour and flair, and no doubt his present home has further added an arsenal of deliciousness to his repertoire of fresh, consciously boundary-breaking creations. The menu at Arcane is modest, described as modern European, with a handful of selections for starters, mains and desserts. Each dish is a melodic combination of ingredients, which hint at a chef’s mind that’s full of possibilities.
There are flavours so assertive you have to wonder, upon reading the menu, how they could possibly combine in harmony on the palate—but they do, without fail. Silky avocado is paired with spanner crab mayonnaise, the oceanic hum of the sweet shellfish somehow magically enhanced and not masked by its bedfellow of cooling, piquant gazpacho, anointed with grassy coriander and sesame crisps. Osborn works magic with the delicate, sensual softness of raw Hokkaido scallops, which are paired with the contrasting crunch of fresh black radish and water chestnuts, bridged with tender butternut squash, and given a bracing blast of acidity with lemon and bittersweet pomelo.
And what of desserts? It’s incredible that Osborn’s talented sous-chef Ching Tso (who worked with him at Pied à Terre for four years in London) is also responsible for the thrilling sweets that come from the kitchen. The signature yuzu and lemon posset with mikan orange, mandarin and yoghurt ice cream is sensational in every way—a dessert that is absolutely perfect in its execution.
While the menu will leave you intrigued, the beauty of Arcane is that nothing on the plate is a mystery once tasted. It says everything you need to know.