Meat and potatoes is not an uncommon theme amongst our city’s restaurants these days. Most have gone down the more traditional, simplistic route of steak and chips, or steak frites. Ship Street newcomer Atelier Vivanda, however, helmed by Two-Michelin-starred chef Akrame Benallal (owner of eponymous restaurant Akrame, also on Ship Street), has taken a different, somewhat more creative route.
Unlike its sister restaurant, which is rather fancy and veering on the pretentious, Atelier Vivanda is a casual French bistrot à viande – basically a bistro specialising in all things meat. It is the first international outlet of this successful concept, of which there are three in Paris.
The minimalistic interior is representative of a butcher’s studio, with rustic concrete walls, stainless steel and leather, alongside wooden tables that are reminiscent of butcher’s blocks.
The menu, though wider than what you might find in other French steakhouses, follows a set menu formula whereby you choose three courses, with unlimited sides, for $448 per person. Since we’re greedy and apparently three-courses aren’t enough for us, we also ordered some charcuterie to complement the freshly baked bread and Akrame’s own branded pepper-infused olive oil. The thinly-sliced smoked beef, which had been matured for 50 days, was absolutely beautiful, almost like a super tender yet fresh pastrami, if that’s possible. The Pata Negra Bellota ham was also clearly of the best quality and utterly delicious.
For starters, we sampled the duck leg terrine, which carried an intense yet lovely flavour and interesting texture.
The soft-boiled egg with spinach purée wasn’t actually on the menu, but came highly recommended by our waiter. Here, each of the flavours were subtle on their own, yet came together beautifully to create a truly comforting dish.
Moving onto the mains, the Iberian pork rib was expertly cooked to a perfect, juicy texture and carried its own delicious flavour.
The Persillé Black Angus steak was heavily marbled, making it fattier than other cuts of beef, yet in a satisfying way that melted in the mouth. Out of a slot in the ‘butcher’s block’ table, came two weapon-like knives that made this steak even more of a pleasure to eat.
Other than a mixed green salad, sides at Atelier Vivanda consist of potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes, cooked in traditional styles, yet never as chips. You can enjoy unlimited sides, giving you the chance to sample a few. We loved the pommes darphin, which was like a kind of hash brown slash rösti, and also enjoyed the wonderfully cheesy gratin dauphinois.
My personal favourite of the sides, however, were the pommes dauphines – basically balls of crispy yet fluffy potatoey goodness. With these on the menu, there’s definitely no need for chips.
I have never been particularly excited by profiteroles or éclairs. Yet I always make the mistake of being convinced by staff who claim that their profiterole (or éclair) will change my opinion. Whilst Atelier Vivanda’s caramel profitoclaire was better than others (since it was filled with ice cream instead of cream) technically it was still an éclair and still didn’t really do it for me.
The traditional moelleux, however, made with 100% chocolate and sprinkled with lime zest, served on a bed of vanilla custard, was my kind of dessert. Although people say that chocolate fondants are so passé, for me there are few things more satisfying than breaking open a perfectly-cooked chocolate fondant and watching the middle ooze out, and then of course devouring it. The chocolate itself was intensely rich, yet the touch of citrus and sweet vanilla custard nicely balanced it out.
Service was excellent and I think you definitely get value for money at Atelier Vivanda. It’s a fun alternative to all the steak frites spots in town and seems to already be gaining a steady following. I wonder what Akrame will bring to HK next…
9A Ship Street
Tel: +852 2109 1768