I have been making the treacherous journey to the ‘dark side’ fairly frequently recently and have begun to think that it isn’t actually all that dark.

On Wednesday evening I was invited to represent Sassy HK at a media preview for the launch of Azure Restaurant Slash Bar’s little sister, AVA Restaurant Slash Bar, which will officially be ‘born’ on 1st September.

The whole experience, from travelling in the dangerously named ‘bullet lift’, watching the Hong Kong harbour get smaller and smaller; to arriving at the 38th floor of Hotel Panorama by Rhombus, admiring the spectacular 270° view; to eating Chef Mike Boyle’s incredible creations, is like no other.

With floor to ceiling windows and warm décor, AVA invites you to feast on international modern cuisine in true style, taking in the amazing skyline that our wonderful city has to offer.

Start the night with one of AVA’s signature cocktails, made by a highly trained mixologist before your very eyes. The AVA-tini is quite something; a blend of Absolut mandarin, Belvedere raspberry and Malibu with fresh fruit juices, topped off with liquid nitrogen, served actually smoking to the table – a feast for all the senses!

After the cocktail, move on to one of AVA’s high quality wines from the extensive wine list, with selections to perfectly match your chosen dishes. The Auntsfield Marlborough Chardonnay (2009), with only a subtle oakiness to complement the citrus notes is very good, or for an amazing red wine, try the MI Terruno Mayacaba Malbec (2007) from Mendoza, Argentina – a full-bodied wine made from 100 year old vines.

Crab salad on the beach

Each meal commences with a complimentary amuse bouche: Crab salad on the beach – a multi-tiered crab salad served atop a mini edible beach. From the moment I saw how much effort Chef Boyle had put into even his amuse bouche, I knew this was going to be a very special meal indeed.

The AVA team put together a tasting menu of about 8 signature dishes for us, including meat, seafood and vegetarian options to show the full range of their talent.

Boston lobster

The Boston lobster, served inside an ice crystal was sensational: layers of crab, avocado and tropical fruits with seriously tender lobster. The presentation was like nothing I have ever seen before, keeping the lobster both looking and tasting as cool as a cucumber.

Red pepper soup

Next came a red pepper and tomato soup with black garlic, served inside a beautiful little iron pot. I had never even heard of black garlic, let alone tasted it, so was surprised to notice the sweetness of the flavour, created by fermenting garlic at a very high temperature. Garlic is one of my favourite foods, and I think I fell in love all over again.

Duck foie gras

To follow came Duck foie gras with foie gras ‘pebbles’ served on a citrus-spiced waffle with orange vanilla gel. I have never been the biggest foie gras fan, but I think Chef Boyle’s dish may well have converted me.

The pan-roasted red snapper with orange ginger sauce, baby fennel and heirloom carrots on a bed of cauliflower risotto, showed Chef Boyle’s insistence on making the vegetables an integral part of any dish, rather than simply fading into the background. He likes his dishes to be colourful and aesthetically pleasing, hence his decision to use purple, yellow, white and orange carrots.

Salt-marsh lamb

The same was indicated in his Salt-marsh lamb from the Rhug Estate in Wales. Even though the lamb was hands-down the star of this dish, the carefully selected vegetables (Brussels sprouts, celery roots, potatoes, carrots and beans) served on a ribbon of beetroot purée, were also major players in this sensational dish.

As a special surprise not originally intended to be a part of our menu tasting, the butternut squash tortellini with light cinnamon butter and a fennel and orange salad was divine.

The Cap

Also from the Rhug Estate in Wales, the grilled Cap served with rosemary carrots and chunky smashed potatoes was possibly one of the best cuts of meat I have ever eaten. With absolutely no need for any kind of condiment, this tender, perfectly pink steak was a slice of heaven on earth.

Rosewater and raspberry ice cream

Knowing AVA’s dessert would not disappoint, we desperately located the special dessert space in our stomachs. Chef Boyle prepared a rose water and raspberry ice cream right in front of us, using liquid nitrogen. Paired with a berry compote, and served in a little shortbread basket, this dessert exceeded expectations.

AVA’s contemporary Sky Bar, with a live DJ from 10pm to 2am every Thursday to Saturday is the perfect place to relax and dance away the stress from a long week at work. For me, going to the same bars every weekend in Central is starting to lose its appeal, so a change of scenery is always appreciated. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more chilled out, take the lift up to the 40th floor to the open-air Sky Garden to admire the view and relax with another of AVA’s amazing cocktails.

If you need a reason to brave your fears and visit the ‘dark side’, AVA is it. Once you get over the panic of stepping outside your comfort zone, you’ll realise that, sometimes, change can be a very wonderful thing.

AVA Restaurant Slash Bar

38/F Hotel Panorama by Rhombus
8A Hart Avenue
Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong

Tel: +852 3550 0262

Date visited: Wednesday 24th August 2011

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