One of this year’s most highly anticipated openings in Lan Kwai Fong, this restaurant, lounge and club (dubbed the ‘adult playground’ of Singapore in its home city) has been making headlines for the legal fracas surrounding its name. However, following a swift rebranding from Ku De Ta to Cé La Vi (CLV), the seductive brand has opened on the top two floors of LKF's California Tower. Like its Singaporean sister on the 55th floor of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, this Hong Kong outpost is one of hottest addresses in town. The rooftop bar features a central Jacuzzi (not quite Singapore’s 150m infinity pool) and still a pretty impressive view over Central and Mid-Levels that leaves you feeling like still in the city rather than above it.
International comparisons aside, as you step off the elevators the interiors are so sleek it seems like dust would spontaneously combust as soon as it touches the walls. The shimmering dark panelling and red lighting matches the pulsating house mix that reverberates throughout the whole establishment. The elevators open on to the club space where the DJs spin their beats. A staircase leads you either up to the rooftop lounge or down to the restaurant below, where we’re headed.
At our table, the music’s volume is only a notch lower than on the dance floor. Still, for those who enjoy an energetic ambience, the room is definitely buzzing. Service is extremely attentive. Our table is personally attended to by a waitress who introduces herself before explaining to us that the concept is modern Asian with plates designed for sharing.
We kick-off with a toro tartare ($295) and foie gras French toast ($220). The former is served with brioche on the side. The toro is blended so it’s more of a paste than a tartare, and the infusion of yuzu truffle vinaigrette is so strong that the fatty flavours all but disappear and all we’re left with is the coppery taste of tuna. The French toast in our next dish is made with excellent bread and rests below a slice of pan-fried foie gras. There’s a dollop of what seems like maple butter, even if they call it a glaze, which is strong for such an already rich dish.
The mains fare better. We pick the short rib ($270) that’s cooked in a teriyaki beef jus and sits on a bed of mushroom ravioli. While the teriyaki sauce goes fine with the pasta, a little more panache wouldn’t hurt. We do like the grouper ($235) that’s cooked in a mangosteen, Asian pear and calamansi broth. The soup is zesty and bright and would’ve been great if the fish weren’t overcooked.
However, it’s the dessert that really steals the show. The molten matcha tart ($118) is heavenly. The bittersweet paper-thin topside gives way to a lusciously decadent green tea filling sitting above the crunchy base. The Hong Kong cappuccino ($118) is also exceptional, arriving like a parfait in a coffee cup, with a layer of passionfruit cream sunk below milk tea ice cream, topped with Macallan whisky foam. The froth is smooth and fragrant and concludes with a refreshing fruity backend.
There are definitely are reasons to visit CLV other than the food – the view, vibe and buzzing atmosphere alone are almost enough to make you happy to be there. The food is creative and boasts top-notch ingredients, but if you block out the noise, your palate will tell you to go straight for dessert.
Image: Callaghan Walsh