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A slow lift resembling a capsule builds the anticipation as it transports diners up to Le Dome de Cristal on the third floor of The Galleria in Hong Kong’s Central. Formerly home to a nightclub, the circular restaurant, with outdoor terrace is set around a square shaped gallery and is the first Cristal-branded restaurant in the world. A handful of luxurious, cozy booths are the best seats in the house, looking out across the low-lit restaurant as gentle piano music forms an audio backdrop. The atmosphere is romantic and it’s a restaurant designed for celebration with champagne the order of the day. A glass-fronted cabinet fills one wall on entry and is filled with champagne bottles of all sizes and vintages of all ages, while the first offering is a choice of champagnes or white wine served from a roving silver ice bucket.
Eight-course Degustation and six-course Concordance set menus offer optional wine pairings, while the a la carte is succinct and to the point, with a choice of just four appetisers and four of either seafood or meat dishes for mains. Following a refreshing and well-seasoned eggplant gazpacho with seaweed crushed ice for the amuse bouche, the foie gras with figs, toasted rye bread and oolong tea is an unusual combination. The foie gras is rich and perfectly cooked and works well with the figs, but the pouring of oolong tea makes the rye bread soggy so that the course is somewhat lacking in texture. The seabass carpaccio is again out of the ordinary, served with a warm shellfish pie topped with puff pastry over the top that works surprisingly well though part of the beauty of carpaccio is its raw, refreshing nature. An interim dish of fresh sweetcorn, egg, and potato comes next. There’s a lot going on but it’s well thought out and the various textures and flavours complement each other. For main courses the signature pigeon is cooked two ways: a slow-cooked breast, served beautifully pink, with a leg confit, both accompanied by an intensely sweet and sharp jus as well as beetroot, gravy and mashed potato. Again, there is a lot going on, and the spindly pigeon legs presented on the plate look slightly unusual amidst the otherwise beautiful presentation, but the delicious crispy skin and moist meat of the leg makes up in flavour what may appear strange in presentation. The Australian Wagyu Beef Sirloin is unfortunately overcooked but the meat quality is good, flavourful with good fat marbling and served with roasted vegetables, and a rich pepper puree. Cristal appears in some of the dishes, including the signature John Dory, but also in an additional pre-dessert dish comprising a sweet blueberry puree, champagne crushed ice and a 2007 Cristal. For dessert, the soufflé is disappointing, missing the lightness of soufflé and tasting more like rice pudding with an overly floral peach puree. Petit fours to close also fall short with a soggy shortbread biscuit among them.
As to be expected in a Cristal-branded restaurant, the list of champagnes on offer is extensive, with Louis Roederer of every kind and vintage available, priced from HK$1,880 up to HK$780,000 (for a six litre 1990 Cristal, millennium edition limited edition), as well as a broad range of other champagnes. For the wines, bottles are mainly French but there is great variety within this nation of producers, while Europe and the new world also have token representation. There's a special selection of wines produced by women too, celebrating the growing influence of women in the wine industry. Most bottles lean towards the higher end and there are just a handful that come in under HK$590, and nothing French in this price bracket. Wine service is excellent and the sommelier goes off the standard by-the-glass menu to ensure a glass that pairs well with the food choices.
Service is impressive. Every care is taken to explain and introduce dishes and recommendations are forthcoming from staff members. Despite the design of the restaurant that means staff are usually far away, it is nevertheless easy to garner their attention and all members are consistently polite and accommodating.
A three-course dinner for two with two glasses of wine will push $2,800. It’s not cheap, but considering that it’s designed for special occasions and includes high quality ingredients and a number of extra dishes between courses, may be worth splashing out on. The set menus offer better value.