Firstly, before I start, I shall issue a spoiler alert! Akrame is like a good movie that loses a bit of it’s charm if the movie trailer is just a bit too informative, or if there is too much expectation riding on it. I know the whole idea of a restaurant review is to give you an idea of what you’re going to be eating, and help you decide whether or not it’s worth shelling out some money for, but let me just stop you there and assure you – Akrame is worth it. Secondly, whilst all of the photos really do showcase the creative thought and attention to detail in each Akrame dish, the menu changes every two weeks, thus it may be that the dishes you see here will not be served when you visit.
As we sat down at our table, PB told me a little story about the chef Akrame Benallal, which I shall now tell to you. He had a very modest childhood and growing up without his father, he learned quickly to take care of himself. When Benallal was doing his restaurant apprenticeship at the tender age of 14, which was 25km away from his home, he used to hitch hike every day without other means to get there. In 2004, he wrote to Ferran Adrià explaining that he had a lot to learn, and he wanted to work under him at El Bulli. After a stint there and also working with Pierre Gagnaire (who Benallal calls “Beethoven in the kitchen”), at the age of 25 he opened a restaurant in Tours, but his food was so molecular, too complicated. One day, some of his regular customers walked in, and Benallal decided that instead of making his deconstructed molecular tomato dish, he plated a black Krim tomato with salt, pepper and some olive oil … and the customers said it was magnificent. Sadly it was too late as his restaurant went bankrupt, but so the story goes from there …
To read more about the inner workings of this dynamic young chef, this SCMP article is a good one.
There is no menu at Akrame, you are simply offered a choice of a four-course (HK$788) or six-course(HK$998) menu, with optional wine pairing for both (HK$368 and HK$528 respectively), making this the simplest ordering experience you will every have (even simpler than at The Principle).
After being served a yummy walnut and raisin bread with a tonka bean and lemon butter, we are given a selection of amuse bouches. The eel, served on the thinnest of thin wafers, and the turnip disks with anchovy sandwiched in between, were particularly memorable.
The serving of the soup always seems to follow the same protocol – the soup dish is brought to the table with flavour components on display – in this case, mandarin orange slices and those wonderful rye breadcrumbs. They really added a nice texture. The soup was served HOT, smooth and silken. The dish was really a sum of its parts, and would have fallen short had it not been for all of its ingredients.
The razor clams were tender and tasted of the sea on a sunny day! The spinach was so very fresh and the riesling was very well paired.
We felt like the passion fruit foam over-powered the taste of the oysters, and both agreed that this was our least favorite dish of the night. The chablis was very mineral-y and complemented the tartness of the passion fruit perfectly however.
At this point, the meal just kept getting better and better! Raw lobster tail poached at the table and served on a lightly-flavoured celery root purée, which really let the lobster shine. What a fantastic dish.
The 5th course was a tie for our favorite dish of the evening with the lobster, and I can’t believe I forgot to take a photo of it! The black cod was perfectly cooked and peeled off in large, moist flakes, whilst the lentils cooked in a cream reduction were fabulous and I can’t wait to try making it at home.
In between the fish and meat courses, a very tart sorbet was served in cute little star and heart shapes – and I am just a sucker for stars and hearts. The sorbet shocks the palate into submission, and whilst it neutralised the palate, I kinda missed the taste of the cod in my mouth.
Main courses usually fall short for me in tasting menus, because you can only be so inventive with a piece of meat. I asked why the chef doesn’t use New Zealand lamb, as one would think that this is the best lamb available. The waiter responded that the chef always uses Australian lamb, because in fact it has a stronger, more distinct flavour. And it was true, the flavour was intense, and the meat so tender it melted in your mouth. Serving bok choy along side it was a great idea, and adhered to the Chef’s motto of using fresh and seasonal produce.
This mushroom and comté mille feuille was a great substitute for a cheese course, and served warm.
I must say, I wasn’t a huge fan of the pineapple, and I’m probably one of the few that would say that. The edible charcoal taste was subtle, but just didn’t do it for me. The ice cream was creamy and wonderful, and ever so slightly reminiscent of black sesame.
On the other hand, I loved this chocolate mousse, paired ever so well with the tart raspberry coulis.
I turned my nose up at this initially as I have a huge aversion to liquorice, but in fact the liquorice flavour is hardly discernible, and the brown butter flan at the bottom is just so wonderful.
Service at Akrame is akin to a high school graduate – young, but full of potential. The guys are very nice, friendly and seem genuinely invested in your enjoyment of the meal. But their explanations of the dishes are simplified, and made without much flair. Also, I’m not sure if it was just the night that we went, but there was a woman at the door who we assumed to be perhaps affiliated with ownership – how else could one explain the high top sneakers, harem trousers and sweater with animal motifs??! It was so strange, and she stood out like a sore thumb.
In it’s review, Asia Tatler mentions Akrame in the same sentence as Serge et Le Phoque as a “hot Parisian import opened without much pre-event noise or fanfare”. True, I had never heard of it until PB took me there, but the dining experience can in now way be compared to Serge, which I find exceedingly over-rated.
I don’t think Akrame is trying to be a fancy restaurant. I love the decor, and way that the restaurant is separated into sections, giving you a more private dining experience. Their focus is on creative use of well-sourced ingredients, and the way that they serve the dishes makes it all quite fun. You’ll notice that the dessert was the 7th course, and together with the amuse bouche, the palate cleanser, the comte mille feuille and the petit fours, these extras add up to make you feel like every once in a while, you wouldn’t mind spending HK$1,750 on a meal. Perhaps if you are a larger group, then bringing your own wine is a good idea. Corkage per bottle is HK$300, and if you order one bottle from the restaurant, corkage for one bottle is free.
Akrame is also open for lunch and serve a 4 course (HK$380) or 6 course (HK$580) meal (they no longer offer a 3 course menu), with optional wine pairing at HK$268 or HK$ 358 respectively.. With my office a hop, skip and a jump away, I can’t wait to try it.
Address: 9 Ship Street, Wan Chai
Tel: 2528 5068
Open Monday – Saturday (closed on Sundays)
A sneak peak at the menu …