The intersection between Possession Street and Hollywood Road is slowly becoming one of the hippest areas in town, thanks to restaurants like 208 and Wagyu Kaiseki Den as well as event venue and gallery, The Space. Sêrénade is located just before all these hotspots, opposite Hollywood Road Park. The space itself is small and bar-like: enter the glass folding doors and the only objects of interest in this simple, industrial space are the hanging lights from the high ceiling. Otherwise, the cramped tables, wooden chairs and long exposed metallic bar that serves as a seafood bar are nothing to write home about.
While the name suggests French, the pasta section of the menu indicates Italian, resulting in an extensive pan-European menu, ambitious for the tiny kitchen just visible behind the seafood bar. We start with a Japanese scallop tartar with caviar salad and a lobster bisque. The scallops are sweet and fresh, but too aggressively salted, taking away from the natural sweet flavour of the shellfish. Also, the caviar salad was nowhere to be seen. The lobster bisque is good, but the tiny portion and absence of any chunks of lobster meat makes the price (HK$88) a bit steep. For mains, we ordered a geoduck clam linguine and an Australian M9 Kobe rib-eye. The linguine has a nice texture but is under-seasoned and bland and tastes very much like something one could easily replicate at home. The rib-eye has the opposite problem: the steak itself is of good quality, but unfortunately it comes smothered in a thick, over-reduced sauce, which overpowers what should have been a good, clean and high-quality piece of beef. There are other problems: the steak came black and blue, rather than medium-rare as requested and although rib-eye is usually a fattier cut of meat, fully one-third of our steak was fat. Since it was HK$498 for 150 grams, you are actually paying five hundred dollars for a hundred grams of edible beef. To top it off, when we asked for mustard with our steak, our waitress came back proffering French’s hot dog mustard as the only option. Finally, for dessert, two out of the five desserts on the menu were unavailable, so we settled for the 72% Weiss chocolate flan, which like most of the dishes at Sêrénade, was adequately executed but not unmemorable.
Considering that a high percentage of a restaurant’s profits comes from drinks, it is surprising to come across waiters that are so unenthusiastic about wines as they are at Sêrénade. There are only two white wines by the glass, a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay, and when we asked our waitress which varietal would go better with the scallop and the clam linguine, she merely shrugged and replied, “Well, there are only two to choose from, so . . .” It is a shame as the selection of wines by the bottle isn’t bad with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Chateau Pouilly-Fuisse La Cuvee, a Rioja Reserva and an Amarone Classico DOC, all priced quite reasonably.
The wait staff here are diligent and friendly, but need to be better trained. Our waitress was not able to tell us where our caviar came from, a contentious issue that most diners are aware of these days. Even more surprising was when we noted that the caviar was actually nowhere to be seen on our scallop appetiser, she agreed that that was strange and then walked off without offering to investigate any further.
Dinner for two with wine will cost about HK$1,200. Considering the small portion sizes, the inadequately trained staff and cramped atmosphere, this is expensive, even for Soho.