When yet another family-sized pho down Rat Alley just won’t do, you might want to head to The Royal Garden’s Le Soleil, in Tsim Sha Tsui. Since its chef shares the spotlight with swanky neighbours Inagiku and Sabatini, he has higher standards to live up to. The menu is also priced accordingly.
But if you don’t mind spending a bit more on what is usually inexpensive food, here you’ll get more than just the traditional fare, in an unusual terrace-style setting. Nestled under a corrugated-iron arch, comfy sofas look out onto fountains, marble, and the hotel atrium’s greenery. Its mezzanine acoustics add to the illusion that Le Soleil is on a Mediterranean terrace. Or, with the fairy-lit hotel lifts zooming up and down nearby, the illusion that it’s on a cruise ship.
Either way, there are some interesting flavours to sample.
We started off with the Vietnamese cooler ($55), not quite sure what we were in for. When questioned about the drink’s contents, our waitress explained it was “like a Chinese sweet soup.” We dove in headfirst, finding a martini glass full of barley, longan, and seaweed. The overall result was full of obstacles to dodge while we sipped, but also refreshing, and a relief from the day’s real soleil. We also plumped for the salty plum lemonade ($70), salty being the operative word (it tasted like seawater).
On our plates, the imperial rolls ($78) were crispy, their taste spot-on. The accompanying salad was fresh, thanks mainly to the mint, but the chicken was sweet, the cabbage crunchy, and the ensemble perfectly suited to the outdoor feel. The food did look a little lost on the plate, but it beats badly prepared oily rolls on a week-old piece of lettuce any day.
For our main course, the dull seafood tomato vermicelli soup ($90) dropped the bar a little. In fact the egg (as opposed to rice) vermicelli reminded us of alphabet soup. Even accompanying chillies and shrimp paste couldn’t lift it up. The Hainan beef noodle soup ($90) on the other hand was beautifully prepared, the beef thinly sliced, and its ingredients came together to create the perfect pho. And although this particular pho costs three times what it would in any other Vietnamese restaurant, it might just be worth the extra dollars.
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3/F, The Royal Garden Hotel, 69 Mody Rd, TST
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