Slow-cooked salmon on quinoa gateau
The food that reaches restaurant tables in Hong Kong may have the highest carbon footprint in the world as so many gourmets here love to consume exclusive ‘jet fresh’ produce every day. But IPC++ Foodlab is dedicated to turning this environmentally unsound concept on its head. It’s the new branch of IPC Foodlab, which was pioneered by green-fingered Vian Li more than a year ago and uses produce grown in Li’s own vertical farm in Fanling. That original IPC is actually based in the same industrial building which houses the farm, with French chef Louis-Antoine Giroud at the helm. But now, with IPC++, the concept, the restaurateur and the chef have spread their green wings into Central.
On entering the new venue, the greenhouse effect – that’s what we’re calling it – hits you in the face as the high glass windows, decorated with all manner of green plants, create an ambience not dissimilar to what we’d imagine it’s like in that vertical farm in the New Territories. It’s a breath of fresh air, quite literally. IPC++ offers food to-go as well as groceries-to-buy – with more organic produce from the vertical farm hitting the shelves soon, we’re told – but we’re here to enjoy the restaurant experience.
We plump for the signature dishes. First up is ‘Louis’ signature salad’ ($98), which exemplifies the IPC philosophy of delivering fresh Hong Kong farm produce straight to the table. It looks like a generic mesclun mixed salad with figs, bell peppers, lettuce, beetroot and pine nuts – but due to the freshness of the ingredients, there’s an instant crunch and an organic earthiness to the greens which we rarely get from our ‘jet fresh’ goods. It bursts with flavour, starting our experience on a high note.
Next up is a dish which uses the ABM – or Agaricus Blazei Murill – mushroom to maximum effect. This fungus is grown at Li’s vertical farm and is known for its nutritional and medicinal properties due to the high protein and carbohydrate contents which help build the immune system. The beneficial mushy is served in a simple bouillon ($98) – however, the broth’s presentation is pretty underwhelming. It looks like weak tea with a few pieces of the ABM floating in the middle. But it does make up for it in taste – the liquid is clean and infused well with the flavours of the mushroom.
Then the mains: the slow-cooked salmon on quinoa gateau ($208) and the free-range chicken with potato and Provençale tomatoes ($208). We’re told the meat and fish have been raised organically, just like the veg. The salmon is certainly of superior quality – the flesh is silky smooth and pink without being undercooked – but the seasoning is kept to a minimum, sadly creating a blandness which is only saved by the strong vegetable flavours in the gateau. It’s a shame as a better-seasoned fish would have made this a star dish. And, sadly, the same could be said for the chicken. It lacks a juicy texture and even the flavourful acidity of the tomatoes and the smooth potato can’t save the meat from being poorly seasoned and bland.
After those disappointments, though, our desserts allow us to end on a sweet note. The chocolate fondant ($68) is dreamy. Rich, sweet choccy sauce oozes from the perfectly textured cake as soon as we cut in and the dish is fresh, filling and hugely satisfying. The cheesecake with basil and strawberry ($68) similarly delights – although the texture of the cake is a little too solid. However, despite IPC’s dedication to not using white sugar in dishes, it’s nevertheless sweet and dense. And the deus ex machina in both desserts? The basil and strawberry sauce – particularly the lashings of it on the cheesecake. It’s obviously as fresh as all the other ingredients in here and the fruity strawberry flavour demands attention due to its sweet intensity.
So, the verdict. We want to give IPC++ a glowing review because we love the concept of bringing ingredients from Li’s vertical farm, as well as from other local organic producers, into Central and creating some top dishes. But the fact is there’s no real culinary ground being broken – and the fact our mains are just too bland – means we can’t. However, the ingredients are fresher than most you’ll find in the city and you do leave satisfied that you’ve helped lessen Hong Kong’s carbon footprint. And that’s something good for the soul as well as the body. Lisa Cam
IPC++ Foodlab Shop A, Gramercy, 28 Caine Rd, Mid-Levels, 2810 6083; ipcfoodlab.com.
|Venue name:||IPC++ Foodlab|
Shop A, Gramercy, 28 Caine Rd, Mid-Levels