Hidden away on the 38th floor of the newly opened Hotel Panorama, the Santa Lucia Restaurant and Lounge is going through a quiet and dignified identity crisis.
Sure, the floor-to-ceiling view of Victoria Harbour, touted as one of Santa Lucia's best assets, is impressive, but is it a lounge? Is it a restaurant? The trendy music and extensive cocktail list seem to point towards the former, but the crisp white tablecloth and detailed menu lean towards the latter. As to the lighting, is it trying to be intimate or functional? The candles, overpowered by neon lights, can't seem to decide. And then there's the menu...
Although billed as 'modern European', some Asian classics have still managed to squeeze themselves among the impressive list of dishes (which was unfortunately also full of typos). However modern the cuisine, any restaurant presenting its menu as European would have a hard time justifying Santa Lucia's Japanese Kurobuta pork, cold soba noodles, coconut ceviche and lemongrass sorbet.
But thankfully, chef Nathan Hogan – of Hotel LKF/Azure fame – knows what he's doing. Our starter of cornmeal crusted foie gras on potato rosti was just melt-in-the-mouth enough to match the crunch of the accompanying root vegetable crisps, and the raisin compote presented in the belly of a small toasted brioche provided just enough sweetness to counterbalance the liver's intensity. Deciding to stay within the limits of European cuisine, we also opted for the classic lobster bisque with cognac and tarragon crème fraîche, which was thick and creamy, with hidden chunks of lobster creating a pleasant textural surprise.
Our waiter had recommended we try the rib-eye tenderloin beef and we soon understood why – the meat was tender and its jus flavoursome, while the soft squash gratin and crunchy asparagus made the perfect plate pals. We also tried the lamb, which was perfectly rosy and offered us some much awaited Mediterranean flavour in the form of mint risotto, tomato confit and lemon crumb crust.
Each of the meal's flavours was given the respect it deserved, each texture preserved, and on the whole the food picked up the slack for the clueless waiters and confused atmosphere. And although the lemon meringue pie's meringue was a little too much on the foamy side, the overall culinary experience was good enough to make us just want to sit back and enjoy the intensity of the ingredients while the ambience, view, and menu tried to figure out who they really wanted to be. Jessica Morris
38/F, Hotel Panorama, 8A Hart Ave, Tsim Sha Tsui, 3550 0262. Daily 6.30-11pm. Meal for two: around $900.
|Venue name:||Santa Lucia Restaurant and Lounge (CLOSED)|
38/F, Hotel Panorama, 8A Hart Ave, Tsim Sha Tsui