Amidst all the restaurant closures that happen regularly in Hong Kong, I love it when a restaurant that truly deserves to do well not only manages to do so, but does so well that it is able to expand its offering. Le Bistro Winebeast, which was previously housed in a tiny space off Queen’s Road East (read previous review here), has recently moved to a 2,000 square foot two-storey venue on Wan Chai’s Thomson Road.
When the new space opened, the actual Winebeast wine shop closed and now shares its home with the restaurant. The ground floor sells the more affordable bottles of wine for casual, every day consumption. Something I’ve always liked about Winebeast is that it categorises the bottles by what foods they are most suited to, so if you’re having chicken for dinner, for example, you can find a bottle of wine with a “chicken” tag on it and know that it’ll be a good match.
Upstairs, you can find more fine wines and Champagnes, stacked from floor to ceiling. I could definitely get very carried away here. The restaurant now seats 60 diners in a much more spacious setting. The shared tables where you can’t help but overhear the conversation of the group next to you are no longer, yet the cosy, casual, unpretentious charm that Le Bistro Winebeast has always been famous for has been transported to the new location.
We started with a beautiful glass of Pierre Moncuit rosé Champagne to accompany our “frapas” – Le Bistro Winebeast’s interpretation of French-style tapas that allow diners to enjoy lighter bites that are ideal for sharing. First we enjoyed an incredible oyster topped with confit shallot and red wine vinegar granita, after which followed a mini beef tartare each. I remember thinking that Le Bistro Winebeast’s beef tartare was one of the best I have ever had, and this remains the case. With smoked chilli, red onion pickles and basil oil, this tartare has beautiful flavours that complement the hand-cut chunks of high quality beef.
The wine that followed was one from Alsace – Audrey et Christian Binner, Hinterberg, Pinot Gris 2008. This was quite a sweet, yet smooth wine that paired nicely with the foie gras terrine. Whilst foie gras can often be considered rich and heavy, this one was nothing of the sort. It was incredibly smooth and light, topped with a wine jelly and served with finely diced green apple to balance it all out. I thought three cubes of foie gras would be too much for me, but I polished it off without difficulty!
The ravioli of sea bream served in a bouillabaisse broth was absolutely divine. The ravioli themselves were sizable and full of flavour, topped with confit lemon and nori seaweed to bring out the flavours of the fish. This was expertly paired with a glass of Pouilly-Fuissé ‘Le Clos de Monsieur Noly’ Domaine Baptiste Valette 2003.
My favourite dish of the night was the stuffed cabbage with quail and pan-fried foie gras. Similar in a way to a Wellington, yet with delicate, house-made filo pastry, this dish was rich and heavenly without feeling too heavy. The addition of the black truffle shavings and touch of veal jus added to its decadence, whilst a side of diced fruit cut through the richness. This was paired with a glass of Gevrey-Chambertin Domaine Jean-Claude Rateau 2012, a medium-bodied Pinot Noir that was silky and expressive, yet subtle enough to allow the quail to shine.
My sweet-toothed father demolished his Gran Marnier soufflé with a content smile upon his face. Since I have yet again given up sugar for Lent, I enjoyed a beautiful cheese platter – you just cannot go wrong with French cheese. Both dessert options were paired with a glass of Véda Monbazillac 2013, a sweet yet smooth dessert wine.
Service at the new Le Bistro Winebeast was excellent, with personal recommendations and suggestions from sommelier Cristina Carranco Ducroquet and personal appearances from her husband, Chef Johan Ducroquet. Despite the bigger venue, the prices have remained the same, allowing for an excellent French meal without paying the earth for it. I will continue to highly recommend this restaurant and hope that it continues to go from strength to strength.
Le Bistro Winebeast
G/F & 1/F Tai Yip Building
141 Thomson Road
Tel: +852 2782 6689
Closed on Sundays