Top 5 Chef’s Tables
Back in April, Asia Tatler Dining ran a Top 5 on the best private dining rooms in Soho, which is great for hosting an informal dinner party for close friends. However, if you really want to push the boat out this summer, nothing will beat a chef's table. Traditionally, a chef's table is located in the kitchen of a fine-dining restaurant, and diners will not only be amidst the hustle and bustle of a working kitchen, but will also be able to taste dishes that the chef has prepared just for the table. The idea of a chef's table is not only does it give you inside access to the world of cooking, but also that it is personalised. The chef will not only cook the dishes just for the table, but will also usually serve it to the guests with introduction and explanations for what he has created. In this Top 5 list, we round up our favourite chef's tables here in Hong Kong, from the oldest one at The Peninsula, to Alvin Leung's thoroughly 21st-century version at Bo Innovation.
For many restaurants, having a chef's table is an additional perk. For the Krug Room at the Mandarin Oriental, it is the raison d'etre. Most traditional chef's tables are located in a corner of a busy kitchen, with perhaps just a white tablecloth to indicate that it is a dining table rather than say, the expeditor's station. The Krug Room is different in that while it is still located on the first floor kitchen of the hotel, the private space is enclosed from kitchen and the hustle and bustle of the chefs are only visible through the large windows lining one wall.
The table seats twelve guests and the menu is cooked by executive chef Uwe Opocensky. Chef Opocensky's cuisine is thoroughly modern, creative and playful and his menu descriptions can be brief. For example, one of his signature items is "a la Francais", whose ingredients are pea, ham and mysteriously, pillow. As it is called the Krug Room, this chef's table also has access to the largest collection of Krug Champagne outside of France and prices range from HK$1,988 per guest, which includes two glasses of Krug Grand Cuvee; to HK$3,188, which includes four different types of Champagne per guest, including one from 1998. Bookings are required two weeks in advance.
1/F, Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road, Central. Tel: +852 2825-4014.
One Harbour Road
Although a chef's table is traditionally more of a Western concept, One Harbour Road, the Cantonese restaurant at the Grand Hyatt in Wan Chai, has adopted it with aplomb. A Cantonese kitchen tends to be even hotter and the air even more oil saturated, thanks to the use of steamers for dim sum and woks for everything else. One Harbour Road's chef's table is located in the Chinese restaurant's kitchen, but like the Krug Room, it is partitioned off and has a TV, which allows you to watch the close-up action in the woks without actually being in the heat of the kitchen and getting oil splatters while dressed in your finest. The room with the chef's table is designed by architect John Morford and seats 12.
There is a minimum charge of HK$3,500 for lunch and HK$7,500 for dinner. Guests can opt to have a surprise menu prepared by chef Tim, or they can be more specific and let the chef know about their dietary preferences. We took a look at some of the Grand Hyatt's sample menus and the eight-course menus range from HK$1,180 to HK$2,780 per person and includes modern Chinese dishes such as lobster with black truffle and cream as well as more traditional classics such as beggar's chicken. Reservations must be made two weeks in advance.
7/F, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Rd., Wan Chai. Tel: +852 2584-7722.
A more modern take on Chinese cuisine is available at Alvin Leung's Bo Innovation in Wan Chai. Chef Leung is also known as the Demon Chef, one of the first chefs to take molecular gastronomy into the Chinese kitchen. Some dishes are based around a typical Chinese ingredient such as dried shrimp, while others literally take a classic Chinese dish such as xiao long bao and turn it inside out. At the chef's table, there is a sixteen-course tasting menu which consists of some of Bo Innovation's classic dishes such as the oyster with spring onion lime and ginger snow or the pineapple bun.
The menu is HK$1,680 per person, with an additional HK$600 for wine pairings. If you'd like to go on a weekend, the restaurant suggests booking at least a week in advance.
Shop 13, 2/F J Residences, 60 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai. Tel: +852 2850-8371.
Gaddi's at The Peninsula is an exceptional restaurant in many ways: it was the first true fine dining French restaurant in Hong Kong, having been opened since 1953 and they have also maintained the same high standards for over half a century, remaining one of the only restaurants in Hong Kong with a strict dress code that prohibits jeans for women and require a jacket for men at dinner. Another interesting fact about Gaddi's is that it is also home to the city's first chef's table.
Located directly in front of Gaddi's kitchen, Gaddi's chef's table seats four, although they will serve a table of two guests minimum. There is no set menu, rather the chef comes out to discuss the guests' likes and dislikes, before going to whip a menu of haute French cuisine. A three-course lunch is HK$728 while for dinner, there is a five-course option for HK$1,688 or a full ten-course menu for HK$2,388. Bookings are required at least 24 hours in advance.
The Peninsula, Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: +852 2315-3171.
One of the most intimate chef's table in Hong Kong has to be in Alain Ducasse's Spoon at the InterContinental Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui. This chef's table seats six and only a pane of glass separates it from the open kitchen.
The menu is tailor-made and presented by executive chef Philippe Duc and the six-course menu will showcase the best of seasonal ingredients. There is a minimum spending of HK$6,000 for the table, with HK$1,888 spent on food per person (the rest of the amount applies to beverages). Guests can either make use of the sommelier's expertise to create a wine-paired menu, or choose from Spoon's own extensive wine list. Bookings should be made up to a month in advance.
Lobby Level, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: +852 2313-2256.