Foodies of 2015 are much more difficult to impress than they used to be. No longer can a chef just slap some food on a plate and expect to wow foodies; presentation, these days, is almost as important as taste, to the extent that food has begun to be synonymous with art. Nowhere is this more true than at The Popsy Room in Sheung Wan.
Tucked away behind the antiques vendors on Upper Lascar Row (Cat Street), The Popsy Room is an art gallery by day, and offers an exploratory dining adventure by night. Every three months or so, the gallery welcomes a new artist to exhibit their work, using various mediums including sounds, sights, tastes and aromas. Chef Kaze Lo (formerly at Caprice and Cépage) and her team then work together with the artist and The Popsy Room’s owner Jennifer Chung to create a unique and interesting menu that reflects elements of the artwork.
I visited during the solo exhibition of renowned Hong Kong fashion designer Ranee K, known by her ‘art name’ Zai Zai. Through five powerful art installations, Zai Zai’s exhibition weaves social observations with topical issues to create drawings, paintings and videos that aim to raise questions about the self and its relationship with society.
Although a few explanations were needed to fully understand exactly what Zai Zai was getting at, I appreciated that it was all related to current issues that we are all familiar with and could therefore relate to, such as the changes in Hong Kong post-97, the “umbrella revolution” and the multiple layers of a woman.
The six-course menu that accompanied the exhibition was carefully put together so that, although again a little explanation was often required, you could see the thought process behind each dish.
The first dish was balik salmon with curried quinoa, salmon roe and lemon crème fraiche, which had lovely, clean and fresh flavours. This dish, with its square of salmon upon a square of quinoa, represents The Altar of Zai Zai, a collection of vintage objects in frames that aim to inspire a sense of reminiscence for the past.
Next came a delcious orange ginger corn soup with piquillo purée and baby corn, which represented Circus We Have All Watched Together. On these painted silk installations, Zai Zai encourages people to think about identity, and what it means to be in Hong Kong post-97, with the overlap of mainland culture. I’m not entirely sure what the soup had to do with this, but it was definitely tasty at least!
The pan-seared slow-cooked sole with pomelo salad, fresh micro herbs and hollandaise sauce was one of my favourite dishes of the evening. The fish was perfectly cooked and flavoursome, pairing nicely with the charred pomelo and buttery hollandaise sauce. This apparently represented Women, and in particular ‘water’, which supposedly makes up one of the many layers we women have…?
I was also a big fan of the perfectly bouncy seared scallops with lobster cream, asparagus risotto and truffle oil caviar, which represented Looking Back At The Fireworks in 2046. This was an interesting duo of videos – one with fireworks in slow motion, the other with the tear gas from the umbrella revolution – reminding us of a day we won’t ever forget, and encouraging us to imagine what society will be like in 2046.
Possibly my favourite course of the evening was the chicken roll with savoy cabbage and seasonal vegetables. Here, a whole de-boned baby chicken was used to make this succulent roll, which represented Searching for Zai Zai, another video that follows Zai Zai on her life journey. In the video Zai Zai cuts out a circle for each part of her journey, collects them and strings them together, so the chicken roll quite literally represents this long string of circles.
Dessert, which I couldn’t eat, as I was still off the sugar, was a (supposedly very tasty) chiffon cake with mixed fresh berries, lemon cream and strawberry sorbet, which again represented Women and our many layers.
Dinner at The Popsy Room starts at $988 per person. If it were for the food alone, I’d probably say this is somewhat ridiculous, but at The Popsy Room you get more than just a dining experience – you get a complete multi-sensory experience that is truly unique and memorable. The space can be rented out for private dinners of up to 20 guests, or it makes the perfect setting for a date à deux, particularly if you appreciate art. The next exhibition is starting soon and Jennifer proudly told us it’s going to be a very exciting and colourful one – I look forward to seeing what’s to come!
The Popsy Room
G/F Upper Lascar Row
Tel: +852 2234 6711