I was recently asked by Timeout HK to do a review of a new French-Italian fusion restaurant in western Mid-Levels called Le Chéri. It’s one of those restaurants, like many others in Hong Kong, that has all the right ideas and has the potential to be a real success, but still has a lot to learn.
To begin with, the décor screams neither French nor Italian to me. The seats are red velvet and fake leather, the walls are painted a glittery black and there is one of those truly classy shiny mirror and tile mosaics behind the bar. With a couple of huge chandeliers, it would be the perfect Chinese restaurant.
Our first choice of white wine was sold out and apparently our second choice was not expected to be drunk as it was room temperature and only arrived at our table after we had already been served our starters.
Although we had each chosen one starter and one main for ourselves, each dish was served one at a time in the centre of the table, to be eaten in true Chinese fashion, shared between the two of us. I personally love sharing food as it means you get to taste everyone else’s food, leaving less chance of the evil food envy, but I know that not everyone is of this same mentality. What if, for example, one of the diners was a vegetarian?
The first of our shared starters, baked pumpkin cannelloni with pesto, was a complete disappointment. The pasta was certainly not fresh as it was rather chewy, and the pumpkin and pesto had no flavour at all.
The second starter, however, Italian style calamari and broccoli salad with lemon vinaigrette, made up for the poor cannelloni. This was a really simple dish but all the flavours were so fresh and light, leaving us with the promise that this could actually turn out to be quite a decent meal.
The pan-fried black cod fillet with eggplant cream sauce pasta was very good, although only after I had added a pinch of salt and some pepper. I particularly liked the creamy pasta sauce although the eggplant was not entirely evident.
The pan-fried Netherlands veal tenderloin with shallot cream sauce could have been the perfect dish except for the fact that the veal was slightly overcooked and chewy. Wrapped in courgette and bacon, and served with mashed potato, the great flavour almost made up for the fact that it was overcooked, but not quite.
For dessert, we had the choice of crème brulée… or crème brulée (I think they need to work on their dessert menu to incorporate some chocolate options), so we asked for one to share. As we were the only people actually paying full price for our food (everyone else seemed to have pre-bought vouchers from Groupon), we were given an extra dessert free of charge. The top had a good crunch to it, but the actual crème part was stone cold, although still pretty tasty so I was grateful to have my own portion!
Service was a little slow: we were offered neither the wine list nor if we wanted a dessert, both of which we had to ask for. Nevertheless, the waiters are all very friendly and Terence, one of the founding partners, had a long conversation with us about his passion for European food and thus desire to open Le Chéri. It’s always refreshing to hear someone talk with such passion, especially about food!
Terence particularly loves oysters, and so has incorporated a raw oyster bar. Although we didn’t try the oysters, the other diners seemed to be thoroughly enjoying them.
The total bill came to $1027, rather expensive for what it was, and this perhaps could be one of the things they need to rethink if they really want to get this restaurant off the ground. Its now rather hidden location will soon be a highly sought after spot once the Centre Street escalator is completed, so perhaps by that time the kinks will have been ironed out and they’ll be herding in guests to try their hopefully perfectly cooked veal tenderloin.
Shop 6, G/F Wah Fai Court
Ying Wa Terrace
Sai Ying Pun
Tel: +852 3480 0717
Date visited: Friday 19th August 2011