It’s hard not to get caught up in the celebrity chef craze here in Hong Kong. Tables at Jamie’s Italian are harder to get than Eason Chan tickets and there were screaming fans outside Bread Street Kitchen when Gordon Ramsay was in town. It’s enough excitement to revive The Beatles. And then, celebrities aside, there’s the Michelin Guide, whose annual announcement of who’s hot and who’s not is an event in itself. The problem is: with all this hype, it’s easy to forget about the important aspects of a restaurant – the food and the service.
Long before our city was sucked into celebrity chef-mania, there were restaurateurs who didn’t live in a world of hype. All they did was focus on the food, the atmosphere and the personal service – and they did it well. And one of these people is still excelling today. In fact, Patrick Goubier, of Chez Patrick fame, is still expanding his portfolio. In 2006, three years before the first Michelin Guide launched in Hong Kong, the talented chef opened his first Chez Patrick restaurant on Peel Street in Central. Specialising in cuisine bourgeoise – home-style French cooking – and with signature dishes like the foie gras trio and the baba au rhum, this fine dining establishment garnered a positive following. But, alas, the harsh reality of rising rents pushed Chez Patrick to relocate all over town. From a two-storey maison-like premise on Sun Street to the first floor of the Garden East building, life became tough for Goubier.
But, in 2010, the chef and his team did stumble upon a winning formula that flung Chez Patrick back into serious business. The all-day dining eatery – or, as you probably know it, Chez Patrick Deli. It’s been a massive success, with branches in Wan Chai and Stanley. However, all the while, the flagship Chez Patrick was closed last year. What was once a fine dining haven that focused on quality French cooking – despite the lack of Michelin stars – was gone. Until now. Goubier has just opened La Table de Patrick, a revival of sorts of the old fine dining restaurant, but with new tweaks.
Situated on the sixth floor of a not-so-glamourous commercial building in Soho, the 28-seat dining room at La Table is quaint compared to the old Chez Patrick. Fire engine red walls and an exposed ceiling set a stark contrast to the classic French interiors of Chez. And Goubier himself comes to the door to greet us when we arrive, so we ask why he chose to open another fine dining restaurant this year instead of a fourth addition to his successful chain of delis. He simply replies: “I miss the intimacy. I like cooking and talking to my diners.” And it’s true. From Peel Street to Sun Street to Garden East, Goubier is always personally looking after his diners. It’s no change at La Table.
Foie gras trio
We start our meal with a classic Patrick throwback – the fois gras trio ($218). Basically, it’s the same ingredient cooked three ways: the duck liver is served as a terrine, as pan-seared and sandwiched between a profiterole and, lastly, as an ice cream garnished with orange and chocolate sauce. It’s divine – especially the ice cream. The salty tones of the foie gras bring out the cocoa flavours in the sauce and the orange mutes the gaminess of the liver, creating a trinity of flavours that cycles around the palate. This is, as it always was, a delight.
For our mains, we plump for the roast rack of lamb ($248) and venison filet ($258). The lamb is cooked to a fall-apart tee and there’s a hint of anchovies in the accompanying polenta sticks that acts as a conduit between the garlic sauce and the juicy meat, meshing the satisfying flavours together in a wonderfully Gallic symphony. And the venison medallions are so tender that our knife cuts through them like butter. The flesh also works fantastically well with the side of comté gratin that adds a little touch of intensity to the mild game.
We round off the meal with a chestnut and cognac tiramisu ($98) and another Goubier classic – baba au rhum ($108). The replacement of coffee liqueur with cognac in the tiramisu elevates this humble dessert to a new level. The creamy chestnut takes away the bite from the alcohol, leaving an aromatic bouquet in the mascarpone. Served tableside, rum is set alight while poured on the baba. Even after the evaporation, the rum is strong, but we power through because the alcohol-drenched cake fragrantly melts in our mouths.
At the end of the day, La Table isn’t reaching for any new culinary heights. If anything, it’s a slightly rustic rehash of Chez Patrick – but that doesn’t really matter because there are some truly hearty French dishes here. So, next time you find yourself chasing celebrity chefs around town or giggling at the latest Twitter feed from a culinary star who’s just shaved his head ‘for charity’, just remember what dining is really about. It’s about places like La Table. It’s about the chef going round to each table to ask who’s enjoyed their dinner and who’s coming back next time. To us, that’s what really makes a star. Lisa Cam
La Table de Patrick 6/F, Cheung Hing Commercial Bldg, 37-43 Cochrane St, Central, 2541 1401; chezpatrick.hk.
Fois gras trio - $218
Roast rack of lamb - $248
Venison filet - $258
Baba au rhum - $108
Chestnut tiramisu - $98
Service charge - $93
Total (for two) - $1,023
|Venue name:||La Table de Patrick|
6/F, Cheung Hing Commercial Bldg, 37-43 Cochrane St, Central