Madam Sixty Ate has received a lot of hype since its opening in the summer and I have been desperate to see what all the fuss is about. The answer is that it is a different species of restaurant to what we are used to seeing in Hong Kong, where the two Australian chefs, Chris Woodyard, formerly culinary director at W Hotel, and Andrew Braham, formerly Tom Aiken’s sous chef in London, carefully present European-inspired cuisine with that all important ‘twist’.
Knowing that everyone has been going crazy about this place, I expected it to be heaving and difficult to obtain a reservation, particularly given its ideal location in J Senses, just next to the Pawn; it was however not even a quarter full. Perhaps this is because it was a Monday night, or perhaps the buzz has died down and Hong Kongers have moved on to pastures new. I wouldn’t say this hugely affected our experience of the restaurant, as Madam Sixty Ate offers enough of its own quirky character to fill the space. For example, surreal paintings abound, offering images of things like a huge woolly pig or a lady holding what should be a bunch of flowers but happens to be a fish… Strange to say the least.
Being three indecisive food-lovers who were intrigued by almost every item on the menu, I would say it took us a good twenty minutes of reading and re-reading the menu before coming to a final decision. It isn’t a complicated menu per se (you can select a seven- or eight-course tasting menu or choose a la carte) but we had to pick carefully to make sure Food Envy didn’t turn up and ruin our meal.
‘Joseph the duck’, which consists of cured duck ham similar to Parma ham, thin slices of juicy melon and quail’s eggs, at first sight seemed the least exciting dish on the table, but at first bite proved otherwise.
The Scallop Bourguignon, delicious seared scallops with mushrooms and a bone marrow dumpling, was also a highlight, although a little heavy on the seasoning.
Moving on to the mains, surprisingly each of them arrived verging on cold, which for a near-empty restaurant was just a little disenchanting. Thankfully, for the most part, the taste made up for this. My ‘For Stanley’, which was poached halibut on a bed of cauliflower, smoked bacon and squid ink was both delicious and aesthetically pleasing given the beautiful contrast between the whiter-than-white fish and the black squid ink.
The twice-cooked lamb loin was succulent and tasty, although it would definitely have benefitted from being a touch warmer.
The first of the disappointing dishes was the Wagyu short rib steak with spinach and horseradish foam. Visually it was perfect: amazing colour contrasts between the pink meat and the rich green spinach puree. However, the steak was chewy and there just wasn’t nearly enough flavour. After adding some seasoning and a scoop of truffle from the yummy Kipfler potatoes with melted parmesan and truffle oil it was better, but this shouldn’t have been necessary.
The second disappointment was the second side dish: young carrots, sauternes vinaigrette and sorrel leaves, which was more of a far-too-overly-dressed carrot salad and completely not what we were expecting.
The desserts were most certainly the stars of the show. We ordered two to share between us, one Gingerbread and apples and one Honey parfait. The gingerbread and apples consisted of a comforting cinnamon parfait, made the more exciting by a sharp green apple sorbet which I could have happily eaten a whole tub of. The honey parfait was served with salted caramel honeycomb, a creamy chocolate mousse and, rather strangely, popcorn. The combination of textures was once again amazing.
The service was notable; the waiters at Madam Sixty Ate actually know what they are talking about and aren’t afraid to offer advice, which is quite often a rarity in Hong Kong.
Apart from a few hiccups, it was a very enjoyable meal, paired with beautiful wine – although this certainly does not come cheap. In fact not a lot does come cheap at Madam Sixty Ate. It is, however, a unique experience and one I would most likely consider trying again, as I’d quite like to try some of Joseph, Stanley and Pedro’s friends. Hopefully by the next time, the hiccups will have gone.
Madam Sixty Ate
Shop 8, 1/F The Podium, J Senses
60 Johnston Road
Tel: +852 2527 2558
Date visited: Monday 7th November 2011