BLT Steak review date: Jan 27, 2015
Posting date, March 25, 2015
60 seconds chef, so no score
In common with most of Hong Kong, when a restaurant called BLT Steak opened a few years back I assumed its signature dish would reflect its name and involve a sandwich featuring three famous ingredients. It didn’t then and it doesn’t now, but instead celebrates the name of its founder Bistrot Laurent Tourondel. So now you know.
Unusually for a classically-trained French chef, the affable and relaxed Tourondel veered away from the world of haute cuisine to concentrate instead on concepts including his version of the modern American steakhouse. His life story explains why, but make no mistake that he still carries with him serious culinary chops.
His first post came as chef to an Admiral in the French Navy before his career then took him around the world from the Gentleman’s Club (not that sort of club) Boodle’s to the Intercon in Moscow, Beau Geste in Manhattan to the legendary venues Ledoyen and Chateau Troisgros, true temples of gastronomie.
The stint that stands out most however is arguably his time as a private chef to Paul Simon, Woody Allen, Michael Douglas and The Kennedys. Just not all at once.
Here’s a quick look at lunch at his Harbour City branch of BLT Steak – the one where you need to bag an outside table for that kick-ass view, pollution permitting – before he tells me about his journey to becoming one of the most well known chefs in the US:
Lunch at BLT always starts with Tourondel’s signature giant ‘popovers’ covered with crisp melted Gruyère. Butter is optional, in case they were too healthy. To an English palate, they’re not unlike a thin Yorkshire Pudding, but they make for good grazing while perusing the menu of steakhouse favorites.
A starter of a stack of Tuna Tartare with Avocado and Soy-Lime dressing is a pretty simple dish but one that is well-executed and, crucially, well-balanced, the flavours and textures clearly mastered and honed over years of practice. Potato waffle chips accompany but seem a bit superfluous with half a giant popover still staring up at me.
That All-American knowhow and flair emerges most in the main, a beautiful cut, perfectly seared and sealed. It’s aged, even if not as much as this 150 day bad boy.
Steakhouse favorites in petite cast-iron pans accompany, Bacon BBQ Creamed Corn and some Onion Rings. The Black Truffle Mac & Cheese option will have to wait.
Steaks come in between $300-450, while most sides and starters are under $100.
Ocean Terminal Main Concourse, Harbour City, Hong Kong Tel: +852 2730 3508 http://www.diningconcepts.com/blt/
So, were you always destined to be a chef?
Well my great grandfather was a chef and I was raised in The Auvergne by my grandmother and we’d always cook together. Everything was seasonal, everything was local, we were surrounded by great food.
What’s your kitchen philosophy?
It’s pretty simple, not to get bored! When I get bored I want to do something else. I went from fine dining to steak, to burgers, to fish and seafood, sushi bars, now I’m doing Italian – so I always have to reinvent myself and learn something new.
Which cookery writers do you like to read?
I’m always referring to Larousse, L’Escoffier and I love to buy books from different chefs, reading about their different style and influences.
Which one utensil do you use most?
Who would you dine with at your last supper and what would you eat?
My family – and of course we’d have a popover from my restaurant and a steak!
Where did you have your most memorable meal?
Wow, so many. At Pierre Gagnaire in the 1990’s, Masa in New York, Ferran Adria, Michel Bras.
What did you have for dinner last night?
I went to Bread St Kitchen and we had some great short ribs with a kale salad.
What’s your kitchen management style?
It changes over time and age, I get tired more quickly now ! It can still be difficult in the kitchen but when you’re successful, you have to be demanding.
Ever feel intimidated cooking for someone?
When I cooked for the Queen at Buckingham Palace and at The White House (Under George Bush Junior) I cooked for 32 world Presidents at the same time.
What are your favorite restaurants and foods here in HK?
The China Club, it’s really an institution – and a place we went to last time I was here and loved, Java Rd wet market.
What’s the first dish you cooked for a paying customer?
A salad! When I was working in a Spanish restaurant.
Who was your main mentor?
Keith, a chef at the gentlemen’s club Boodles in London.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
An egg, bacon and American cheese sandwich on a soft Kaiser roll with a dash of Tabasco. Failing that, a hot Krispy Kreme donut straight out of the machine.
If you had one ingredient to cook with for eternity, what would it be?