Very few of us are fortunate enough to have the space in our Hong Kong apartments to host a dinner party for ten guests. Fortunately private kitchens abound and I’m on a mission to try them all. Ta Pantry, a gem of a private kitchen tucked away in the up and coming neighbourhood that is Star Street, did not disappoint.
Esther ‘Tata’ Sham, a model-turned-chef, has a beautiful set-up in a converted apartment that looks and feels like it really could be someone’s dining room. On warmer evenings, guests can enjoy a drink on the balcony whilst they wait for the food to be ready, or gather round the open kitchen watching Chef Tata prepare their dinner.
Esther’s dishes all reflect influences from her childhood, combined with western cooking techniques she has experienced and developed whilst working at two Michelin starred restaurant Amber and now three Michelin starred L’atelier de Joel Robuchon. Menu options include Japanese, Shanghainese, New American, Indochine and Deluxe (all priced at $600 per person, bar the Deluxe which is $850).
Our choice of the Shanghainese menu began with a “Kor Fu” hand roll (a crepe filled with tofu and mushroom) and a ‘Drunken egg’. The shelled, jelly-like egg seemed a strange idea but tasted delicious and the yolk was still comfortingly runny.
The “Not so Shanghainese” foie gras wontons, served in a mushroom broth, were incredible; the dough thin and delicate, just as it should be, and the filling rich and smooth, all topped off with beautifully decorative ‘egg knots’ and presented in a cute clay pot.
Esther treated us to a complimentary dish of Melting Onion Duck, a dish so divine that there is usually a $150 surcharge per head. The duck, smothered in a decadent onion jus, melted in the mouth and was perfectly complemented by deep fried aubergine pieces to soak up the sauce.
Perfectly tender Kobe beef accompanied by spicy mushrooms, fried Chinese doughnut and sesame gai lan (a Chinese vegetable similar to choi sum) followed and again every plate was licked clean. I was particularly fond of the sesame vegetables, but thought the doughnut pieces added little value to the dish.
The first few mouthfuls of the crispy scallop black truffle mian (creamy noodles with crabmeat and black truffle) were delicious, although the flavour of the truffle did become a little overpowering after a while.
After five such delectable savoury courses, unfortunately we were all a little disappointed by the dessert. Po Po’s Red bean dumplings on rice wine jelly and osmanthus honey, an adaptation of Esther’s favourite childhood dessert, looked pretty, but taste-wise just did not match the high standard set by the previous dishes. The flavour was a little unusual and rather bland. However, we had all eaten more than enough and quaffed ample glasses of fantastic wine. Esther shares the space with her brother Andrew’s wine cellar, so we were surrounded by bottle upon bottle of wine priced so reasonably that it would have been rude not to tuck in, even if we were all still recovering from New Year’s Eve!
Ta Pantry seats a maximum of ten diners per night and requires a deposit to be paid in advance. It doesn’t come cheap (and is one of the few private kitchens that adds service charge), but you can certainly see the passion that goes into creating every single dish. It is a rather special place and one I would definitely consider going back to in order to try the other menus. Although before I do, I have quite a number of other private kitchens to tick off on my list first. I can already tell that my proposed detox to kickstart the year is going nowhere…
Flat 1C Moonstar Court
2D Star Street
Tel: +852 9403 6430
Closed on Sundays