If you are going to position yourself as the first steakhouse to deserve a Michelin star, then you better be prepared to take some punches.
Exec chef Adam Levin takes the helm of the new 80-seater poshery by Chris Au and Gerald Li, the guys who brought us Privé. And although they’ve taken away the bling and door ropes, they haven’t forgotten their loyal banker clientèle or their love for a great sound system.
Billed as “anti-steakhouse”, the décor stays well away from the stuffy, wood-panelled feel of traditional steakeries. Instead, the designer has used a non-offensive cream and beige palette, making the place so non-descript you could be in any city in the world, eating any sort of cuisine. It makes you wonder which came first: the design, or the cuisine?
But in the quest to become the first Michelin-starred steakhouse in Hong Kong, the guys behind Dakota Prime have checked all the boxes: there’s no freezer, so everything is used or tossed within its natural expiration date; ingredients are sourced from the same farms as other Michelin-starred restaurants (Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges to name a few); and Levin is a graduate of Jean-Louis Palladin’s Michelin kitchen. There’s some muscle behind the cockiness.
They also boast 13 wines that bear the Robert Parker rating of 100 (that’s 100 out of 100), including a Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2005 going for $488,000. The entire wine closet is worth over $10m… Is now, in this see-saw market, the best time to open up such a restaurant? It will be interesting to see how Hong Kong reacts. That said, we do love that there are other choices than the usual Moët and Veuve on the menu, including a rare opportunity to have Perrier Jouët by the glass.
The menu is ambitious, including over 50 dishes. And it’s not just beef: there’s tiger prawn, live Maine lobster, and the easy option and lady’s favourite, roast salmon. The list is adventurous, and also very expensive, but you won’t leave hungry. They don’t bring out a great big old platter with a dot of food. The portions are generally big, shareable for the most part.
The chilled seafood mountain ($570) arrived on an elevated tray of shaved ice. A fresh selection of mild ceviche, jumbo shrimp, king crab legs, yabbies, oysters, and clams was served with a classic cocktail sauce and a shallot-vinegar minuette. Dare we say it? This really is the best in town, even better than the one served at Levin’s previous employer, The Press Room. The king crab was so sweet it didn’t need any sauce, which many frozen ones do in Hong Kong. And the fresh yabbies were a fun way to make a mess on expensive white linen. Unfortunately the ceviche, a showcase of freshness in seafood, could have used a bit more heat and marinade, as the flavour was a little light on the tongue.
The triple blue cheese salad of stilton, roquefort, and King Island Roaring ‘40s bleu ($145) was delicious, but excessive as a salad. The cheeses were great on their own, but they would’ve been better eaten individually, and not mixed together. They need to rethink this one.
The tofu foam on the lobster bisque ($80) was unexpected: unlike other lobster bisque we’ve had, this one doesn’t have a funny aftertaste, and isn’t disguised with a ton of cognac. Partly because Levin makes his stock with lobster bodies, and not discarded shrimp shells like many other restaurants. The nuggets of fresh lobster meat swimming in the soup were plump (plus), but the soup tasted a bit like a thinned out lobster sauce meant to dress a nice piece of fish, rather than soup alone (minus).
Five primary imports of meats are listed on the menu: USDA prime, Meyer’s Angus (from Nebraska), American Kobe, Japanese Wagyu, and porterhouse from Dakota. They weren’t kidding when they took the oath to import the gold label stuff. We choose the USDA, grain-fed New York strip ($495). The 14oz steak came gorgeously seared on a larger platter surrounded with steamed vegetables, mash, and a small copper pot of béarnaise. Strangely though, our server didn’t ask us how we would like the steak, but it appeared perfectly medium rare: the center was blush pink, while the crust had been seared to a nice black-brown. One cut of the thick steak showed off a big bulge in the belly of the meat, which tasted of full-flavoured flesh and blood. This is one great steak.
At a steak house, the sides are as important as the mains. The mac and cheese with truffles ($60) was a great play food for grown-ups, and thumbs up for using the same shape of pasta as the Kraft variety. The truffles immediately came wafting up before the first taste. The creamed spinach ($60) on the other hand, was a total disappointment. Cream and spinach doesn’t make it creamed spinach. There was no flavour, not even salt, and even the diced mushrooms embedded throughout couldn’t lift it up. Pass.
Although successfully playing with the finest of elements (the ingredients, the service, the décor, and the wines), these guys need to make some adjustments on the recipes to get this place in prime position for the well-tailored clientèle it is aiming for – even if diners don’t want the same old steakhouse any more, they’ll still want a little of the flavour of it.
7/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St, Central, 2526 2366. Daily noon- 2.30pm, 6.30pm-11pm.
|Venue name:||Dakota Prime (CLOSED)|
7/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St, Central