Modern Asian cuisine at the trendiest Central spot!
Amongst the most anticipated openings of this year was the world-famous nightclub and restaurant group, KU DE TA. After keeping us waiting with bated breath for the better part of a year, the group, now owned by Asian private equity firm L Capital, rebranded as CÉ LA VI and finally opened its doors this August.
This sleek lifestyle, dining and entertainment venue takes up the top three floors of the new California Tower in Lan Kwai Fong. Starting at the top is the SkyBar, which has a beautiful rooftop with tropical gardens, a water feature (that is definitely not to be confused with a Jacuzzi!) and a good view of our city’s dazzling skyline.
Take the curving staircase one floor down and you’re at the Club Lounge, a sophisticated bar and nightclub with a stunning vertical live garden, featuring daily DJs and club nights.
Lastly, one floor down is the restaurant, which continues the theme of the tropical rainforest through the use of natural materials such as porous lava stone, raw ship wood and live plants overflowing from chandeliers.
The menu features modern Asian cuisine prepared in a huge open kitchen where a band of celebrated international and local chefs prepare their magic. I had feared that the menu would be overwhelmingly large, but it was actually relatively concise, which meant that we could (and did) try pretty much everything on it!
The first dish to appear was a stunningly presented toro tartare, served with thick slices of crispy brioche and dollops of yuzu truffle vinaigrette. The fish itself was wonderfully fresh and light, allowing room for the rich sauce to take charge. A few bites of this and we knew we were already off to a good start.
From the raw section, we also sampled the fluke usuzukuri with momiji ponzu and the Hamachi nahm prick with cilantro vinaigrette, both of which were incredibly fresh and flavoursome.
After sampling an excellent chicken salad (that dressing…) and a selection of sushi rolls (the spicy tuna roll being my favourite), we thought we were finished with the starters, yet it seemed we were only just getting started.
The foie gras French toast that followed was heavenly. The rich, buttery foie gras was topped with an umeshu maple glaze, creating a lovely balance of salty and sweet flavours. It was, however, a seriously heavy dish, meaning most of us could barely manage more than a quarter.
Of the three skewers we tried – chicken and scallion, salmon and pork belly – the latter, glazed in mustard and cooked alongside chunks of sweet pineapple, was the winner. And to think I used to object to cooked pineapple!
Instead of being served with the generic dashi soy dipping sauce, each selection of tempura came with its own unique accompaniment. I particularly enjoyed the pumpkin tempura which was paired with a delicious rocoto dip. Rocoto is a flavour I associate with Peruvian cuisine, so it was a welcome surprise to find it in an Asian restaurant.
Whilst I enjoyed the mangosteen and calamansi broth in which the grouper was cooked, the fish itself was a little overcooked and bland. The baby back ribs, however, were cooked to perfection, falling beautifully off the bone.
Last but by no means least of our main courses, came the short ribs with wild mushroom ravioli.The beef was amazingly tender and paired nicely with the flavoursome ravioli, but I did feel it could have had just a touch more seasoning.
CÉ LA VI is very proud to have Jason Licker as its executive pastry chef, and quite rightly too. Chef Jason has worked at a number of top restaurants around the world and was crowned champion of desserts at Iron Chef Thailand. He insisted on preparing not just one or two of his desserts, but five of them, all of which looked like a piece of art.
My personal favourites were the slightly alcoholic Hong Kong Cappuccino, the refreshingly light toasted almond cake with calamansi cream, and, best of all, the molten matcha tart. Once everyone had taken photos of it, the tart was no longer all that molten, but it still tasted divine, paired with a scoop of 64% Valrhona manjari ice cream.
It would be naïve to think that a meal at CÉ LA VI would be cheap. Consider the setting, the décor and of course the quality of the food and drinks, and expect to pay close to $1,000 per person. CÉ LA VI is a one-stop-shop for an excellent night out in HK – start by having a cocktail at the SkyBar, head down for dinner in the restaurant, head back up for a digestif overlooking the city and then party into the early hours at the Club Lounge. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’ve never been impressed by the clubs in this city, so perhaps CÉ LA VI is here to change that opinion…
CÉ LA VI, 25-28/F, California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, 3700 2300, hk.celavi.com