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Wednesday 3 April 2013

A Rose Amongst the Wyndham Thorns: Laris

A new opening on Wyndham probably brings to mind a chain bar clone, competing to pump out Lady Gaga that bit louder than its neighbour. A neon lit spot that specialises in serving trays of Jaeger bombs to the crowds of revved up Gweilos spilling out onto the pavement. 

Push those preconceptions to one side though, this time hovering just above all that Wyndham chaos is a little bubble of calm and elegance - David Laris' eponymous brand new dining spot.

The dining room decor is a sultry mix of cognac leather sixties-esque seating, gently glowing goldfish bowl pendant lights and starched white table cloths. The music is low and the lighting's moody with a generous helping of flattering, flickering candlelight. The open kitchen is the Crystal Carrington to the dining space's Don Draper. With a riot of eighties marble and stainless steel it forms a contrasting backdrop but it just seems to work.

In a city full of restaurants that are good but not great, one element often so sorely lacking is service. There's a general lack of attentiveness, no ability to answer questions about dishes on the menu, a misunderstanding of when it's ok to remove an empty plate (tip: it's not when others are still eating) and so many other small things which add up to a thick black mark. Not so at Laris. From the moment we arrived, I was impressed. 

At first I couldn't put my finger on what was different, and then it dawned. After we turned down a polite enquiry as to whether we'd like a drink at the bar, we were whisked straight to our table where we were immediately presented with our menus. After a few minutes we were asked if we'd like drinks and if we had any questions about the menu. Our drinks order was placed and fulfilled in minutes and our questions were answered fully and competently. The service is slick and seamless without being obsequious or overbearing. But while poor service can ruin a perfectly good meal, service alone cannot make a great meal. I was eager to see whether the food could deliver...

To kick things off we ordered the crab with avocado salsa and lemongrass gazpacho and the seared scallops, green pea, mint and pancetta.

Both were beautifully presented and gobbled with great gusto. The crab was sweet and juicy, perfectly complemented by the creamy avocado and given a nice little shake-up with the fragrantly exotic gazpacho. My gold star went to the scallops though. One of my all time favourite combos, this isn't really rocket science in the recipe stakes, but my God is it good and those scallops were cooked to absolute perfection.

Moving on to the main courses, I plumped for the veal loin. The meat was flavourful and succulent and lifted to other worldliness by a crispy generous topping of cheesy, herby amazingness. The rich, garlicky gravy was so great that it had me twitching to ask for more bread to mop the plate clean.

Despite this, I still had food envy when the char-grilled New Zealand grass fed ocean beef ribeye was whisked out... A hunk of perfectly cooked steak topped with triple fried potato chips stacked jenga-style, all garnished with a knob of truffle butter and a scattering of morel mushrooms. The finishing touch and a lovely little bit of dining room drama came courtesy of the waiter wielding a small vinegar spray bottle from which he delivered a last minute garnish before leaving us to dig in... 

Having scraped our plates clean we decided something sweet was essential to round off the evening. We opted for the carrot cake, coffee crumble, chocolate ganache, and cardamom anglaise with a sprinkle of sea salt. Words can not do this deliciousness justice, I'll leave it at absolute heaven on a plate.

Contemporary European Fine Dining brings to mind minuscule portions; lots of fiddly garnish, jus, foam and very little substance. Thankfully this really isn't the case at Laris. Portions aren't jumbo but this isn't the sort of food that you want by the kilo. This is beautifully executed cooking designed to bring out the very best in the top quality ingredients. You want to savour each delicious forkful, before moving onto the next course and doing the same and finishing with room for something sweet and naughty with two spoons.

The Laris PR spin is that this is an elegant yet unpretentious dining spot. For once, the hype is spot on. The food is sublime but it's also comforting and almost homey. It's all our favourite things with a little innovative twist. It may be a little pricier than other Wyndham Street restaurants (although the set lunch menu is an absolute steal), but its more than worth it. We thoroughly enjoyed Laris and can't wait to return if only for a second helping of that ambrosial dessert...

2/F, 77 Wyndham Street,
Central, Hong Kong.

Tel: +852 2530 1600

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