|Upper Modern Bistro - beauty without the pretence|
The restaurant world (well in fact, the world itself) seems much more predictable when you see it in terms of evolution à la Darwin. El Bulli spawned a bunch of modernist, Spanish-inflected avant-garde-ists, Noma has led to a clutch of clean-lined, new Nordic, locavore philosophers in kitchens around the world.
Looking at Hong Kong - in the 1990s and early 2000s, we had hotels and groups importing good chefs from around the world - Bombana at the old Ritz, L'Atelier de JR (owned by Lisboa), and the various chefs coming through Gaddi's and Petrus, and to this day, I'd say hotels are still the ones with enough muscle and hiring expertise to bring the right people into Hong Kong.
For a long time, Hong Kong was just a point of transit - come for two, three, five years, get your "Asian" experience, and move on, but recently, there have been people who have decided to stay after their contract with their corporate sponsors had ended (or left the role on their own accord). The reasons for this are beyond the scope of this blog and I've waffled on long enough, but suffice to say that because of this "trend", Hong Kong is getting quite a few new independent restaurants helmed by foreign chefs, usually of hotel or similar pedigree, which means dining is becoming more diverse and hopefully/eventually we're going to get higher quality outside the hotel bubble (not that I don't love hotels - I do).
I still hedge with silly words like "hopefully" and "eventually" because I've recently been to a number of modern French restaurants with ex-hotel chefs and none of them have been truly, consistently enjoyable. I'm not asking for perfection (here's a tangent to go off on later - do customers demand perfection in food?), but throughout the meal, I couldn't help but think it wasn't quite there yet.
|Marinated Japanese saba, crab, zucchini rolls|
|Pork terrine "a l'ancienne", pickles, brioche toast|
|Mushroom tagliatelle, 63 degree egg, cheese sauce and Parma ham|
|Broccoli soup, hazelnut emulsion, smoked salmon toast|
|Quail and foie gras pie|
|Chargrilled 40-day aged, US grass fed sirlion|
|Wild seabass, green asparagus, scallops, octopus|
A note about the service. Once you've sat down, it's fine, but they've got to get the bookings situation sorted. I've been there twice now - once for dinner and once for brunch, and both times, I wasn't able to get my table (which were booked, by the way) when I arrived. At dinner, I waited probably 20 mins, at brunch, half an hour. Sure, they gave us a free drink each at the bar, apologised, looked really stressed, but hey, if it's not ok for me to be late for my restaurant booking, then I can only say that it's not ok the other way round either. Tell your guests when they book how long they have the table for. Kick them off when their time is up. It doesn't have to be rude - it's a pre-arranged act of mutual consent, just execute it nicely.
By the end of the main courses at the pictured dinner (didn't take any pics at brunch), we were a little exhausted, so we didn't give their dessert or even the famous cheeses any thought. Plus, a busy Friday night meant we were seated on the low coffee tables (of which they informed me when I booked, so not their fault at all, we just underestimated the effort it would take to crouch over food and squeeze into little chairs). Anyway, I'll definitely be back for some cheese and a light dinner, with good friends who won't chastise me under their breath for having to wait - for me it seems to work best as that kind of place.
I hear they're opening in Central soon, so I hope they're not stretching themselves too thin, too fast, because this could be the beginning of something great.
Upper Modern Bistro [map]
6-14 Upper Station Street
+852 2517 0977
Lunch & dinner daily, closed Sunday