UPDATE: Laris is now closed and has been replaced by The Bellbrook – read our review of that here!
There seems to be no slowing down in 2013 for Dining Concepts! Hot on the heels of Sergi Arola’s Vi Cool and Mario Batali’s Lupa and Carnevino, they’ve now partnered with David Laris, Australian chef and entrepreneur, to bring Laris Contemporary Dining to Hong Kong. For years, Laris has dominated Shanghai, with his eateries Twelve Chairs, The Fat Olive and The Purple Onion regularly topping best restaurant lists – so we went to discover what his first joint in Hong Kong has to offer!
Laris’s prime location two floors above Wyndham Street overlooks the old Central Hong Kong Police Headquarters, whilst the stylish interiors and crooning jazz in the background instantly transported us to another world. The menu is grouped into themes for each course (e.g. salad, fish, meat, bird) and in true Laris style, the dishes merge many styles and approaches to dining rather than falling into one neat category.
The menu begins with a selection of pre-starters, for those feeling especially decadent who wish to add another course to their dining experience! We tried the Laris specialty – home smoked oysters perched on a tall pedestal dish, covered by a glass dome. Once the dome was removed, out wafted a wonderful genuine smokiness; the oyster itself was divine, accompanied by a dollop of mayonnaise and covered in a crunchy layer of toast and bacon. This dish was like nothing we had ever seen before – I’d describe it as a deconstructed Oysters Kilpatrick!
After another two pre-starters whizzed past, our first actual starter arrived – a visual feast of forest mushrooms, olive oil powder, truffle, carrot and mascarpone; this dish was picture perfect! We loved how the slightly melted lemon-infused mascarpone brought the vegetable medley to life. However, the strong woody nature of forest mushrooms is an acquired taste and the additional bed of mushroom paste was a touch overpowering for a dish that already had many flavours packing a punch.
Next up was the kombu poached lobster tail and sweetcorn soup. Served in a chic fine glass cup and stainless steel saucer, this thick foamy and very salty sweetcorn soup boasted large submerged pieces of lobster that took us (and our spoon!) by surprise. We weren’t huge fans of this dish, as the lobster’s delicate natural flavour was almost completely masked; in our humble opinion, seafood served simply is mostly always best! We much preferred the crab tartar served with avocado salsa and lemongrass gazpacho; here, the crabmeat stood out for being lovely, beautifully sweet and complemented by the other ingredients.
For mains, we sampled the chargrilled Rangers Valley Australian 300 days grain-fed ribeye beef, with triple fried potato, truffle butter, morel mushroom, and vinegar spray (spritzed on by your waiter at the table!). While this dish might not be waistline friendly, it is worth every single calorie! The juicy cut of ribeye was cooked to perfection and topped with a crunchy fat potato chip. The truffle butter melted its way into the red wine vinegar spray, adding a satisfyingly rich and creamy finish to every mouthful.
At this point, Rachel and I were just about bursting at the seams; however, being the dessert lovers we are, how could we deprive our sweet tooth (or should that be teeth!)? Our first sugar hit was the carrot cake, coffee crumble, chocolate ganache, and cardamom anglaise with a sprinkle of sea salt. The carrot cake was so sweet and dense, it looked and tasted almost more like orange; our favourite elements were the delicate crunch of the coffee crumble mixed with a spoonful of yummy cardamom anglaise and twist of sea salt. This is one decadent dessert – the velvety ganache is wickedly rich, so we recommend using it sparingly!
We finished with stewed fruits and crème brulee – a bowl of fresh mixed berries loosely set in jelly, set alongside a deconstructed poached pear crumble. The crème brulee was scrumptiously creamy with a contrasting fine layer of hard caramel; this unique take on a classic flavour combination will be a good option for a light sweet treat. Both desserts came in generous portions, making them ideal for sharing (so you can get away with ordering more than one, of course!).
Other than our desserts, the rest of our dishes were special smaller versions of those on the a la carte menu (so that we could fit in more!) – David is hoping to introduce similar degustation-style tasting menus in the future. What’s more, unlike many celeb chef franchises, you’ll often spot David himself at Hong Kong’s Laris, in the kitchen cooking, training staff and trialling more new ideas for the menu.
With starters around $150 and mains mostly between $250-400, Laris isn’t cheap – but with premium ingredients, innovative dishes, beautiful presentation and a highly classy atmosphere, we didn’t expect it to be. A couple of the dishes still need finessing, but if you’re looking for exciting dining, interesting techniques and special dishes that stand out from the crowd, Laris might just hit the spot.
Laris Contemporary Dining 2/F, Carfield Commercial Building, 77 Wyndham Street, Central