You may have been lucky enough to try Ta Pantry’s old location – a homely private kitchen in a converted apartment in Wan Chai. Alas, neither Rach nor I had (Ale reviewed it here), so we were excited to hear that model-turned-chef Esther ‘Tata’ Sham had teamed up with Hip Cellar to move Ta Pantry into a bigger and more impressive space in North Point!
We may have had our doubts riding up the cargo lift in the industrial building where Ta Pantry has now set up shop, but all our fears subsided as soon as doors opened! Stepped into a welcoming, dimly lit lobby with a wall made up of wooden wine crates, the space is so gorgeous that it’s worth a visit just for that reason alone. It’s contemporary, but with a romantic European flair, and I really appreciated the acute attention to detail – from the fragrance in the hallway to French music playing in the restrooms!
Ta Pantry’s new concept is all about marrying wine collecting and fine dining – great for collectors who can enjoy their own wines, along with an excellent meal, in the comfort of this beautiful space… After all, wine is best when paired with food! The Hip Cellar x Ta Pantry collaboration lets members have the best of both worlds so that they neither have to pay marked-up wine prices at restaurants, nor pay corkage fees if they wish to drink from their own collection. There’s a comfortable bar and lounge area for members, and an intensely secure wine locker room; we’re talking face recognition technology here… I felt like I was in a Mission Impossible film!
Ta Pantry’s dining room is actually one large room that can be divided into three separate VIP rooms using folding doors. If divided, each room can hold up to 14 people and has its own theme reflected in its décor. The first room has a tea theme, the second a wine and golf one, and the last room a rooster theme (Chef Esther’s Chinese Zodiac sign). The dining room has a very relaxing, open atmosphere, thanks to the spacious balcony running along the length of the dining room and its magnificent view of Victoria Harbour.
Ta Pantry still offers the same menu themes as the old location (Japanese, Shanghainese, New American, Deluxe, Old Hong Kong and Indochinese) albeit at slightly higher prices. These five-course menus are priced from $750 to $950 per person, whilst we got to try a new menu theme – Korean. As with the other menus, “Le Coréen” is inspired by a country’s cuisine but mainly employs the French culinary style Chef Esther developed during her career at various Michelin-starred restaurants.
Our menu started with a daurade carpaccio served with korean bean sprout “banchan”, sprinkled with yuzu soy sauce gelée and lime sorbet. I absolutely loved this dish. The carpaccio was lovely and light, the lime sorbet sounded strange but complemented the dish amazingly well, and I liked the idea of incorporating “banchan” (small side dishes) in the spirit of a true Korean meal.
Next was the foie gras frog leg, which was deboned, topped with sweet garlic and soy scallions, and accompanied by cauliflower purée and champignon shavings. It definitely tasted better than it looks in our photos, but was a tad too salty for me, and I felt the Asian flavours overpowered those of the foie gras and frog leg.
The main course was crispy taro tiger prawns served alongside a Wagyu beef cheek lasagne. The tiger prawns were awesome – fat, juicy prawns wrapped in a crispy taro shell, dipped in what the menu called “sauce crustacés kimchee hachée”. That’s a lot of fancy foreign words for what I gather is spicy kimchee and seafood sauce! Meanwhile, the lasagne was great in theory, having been slow-cooked for 24 hours with spicy tomato kochuchang (fermented Korean condiment) and layered with melted Gruyère. It tasted good, but with big chunks of meat in only a small open lasagne, it was too dense and difficult to cut into it without it completely falling apart.
For dessert, it was Korean rice cake fritters coated with brown sugar, served with caramelised Korean pear and Yakult soju sorbet. Man, that Yakult sorbet! If you’re anything like me and grew up drinking the stuff, you’ll fall in love with this dessert. My only wish was for a better sorbet to rice cake ratio, as the rice cakes were tasty but very dense for dessert.
We were all just about stuffed when the petit fours came out… but who can’t make room for an airy, moist macaron after a meal… and Ta Pantry makes some very decent ones!
I really enjoyed the whole experience at Ta Pantry, from the decadent and creative meal, to the wine parings, and just the gorgeous ambience of the place. Considering the fact that you need to book a room of up to 14 people with a bill of at least $7-8,000, the new Ta Pantry is definitely a little more exclusive than the previous set-up. But for special occasions, you could definitely throw a dinner party people will remember, and if you’re on that wine collector status (which sadly, I am not!) Ta Pantry & Hip Cellar is a match made in heaven. I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy my imaginary cases of Bordeaux!
Ta Pantry & Hip Cellar 5/F, Block C, Sea View Estate, No. 8 Watson Road, North Point
2521 8121 www.ta-pantry.com
Iris blogs about clean living and her cooking adventures figuring out a HK-sized kitchen at Eating Clean In The Dirty City