The clue’s in the name: Le Bistro Wine Beast is not Le Café Wine Beast. Although both are in Wan Chai, within about 5 minutes walk from one another, if you head for dinner at Le Café and your wife is in Le Bistro, you’ll end up like the line from Istanbul, not Constantinople, a 1950’s ditty subsequently used by the irritatingly catchy They Might Be Giants.
Luckily my inability to check exactly where I was going was the only snafu in an otherwise excellent evening from Chef Johan Ducroquet and team, serving up arguably one of the best value wine paired dinners in the city at $558.
This value proposition comes, in part, because Le Bistro Wine Beast also have a shop selling more than 600 wines at amazingly fair prices, deals which also remind you how shamelessly you get fleeced in so many restaurants around town. The beauty is that they also serve you these wines at the same price in the bistro – no 3 or 4 times mark-up here.
The dining room is simply decorated with some nice wood motifs, blending partly into the wine shop part of the business. A diverse mix of languages shows an international crowd filling every seat on a Saturday night.
Some great sourdough sets the tone, served with a sculpted butter cone and a spoon of dainty creamy tuna rillettes on the side.
From the set, cracked pepper is lined up Tony Montana style, delineating the dainty cubes of foie gras, a green apple jelly, triangles of fig, with diced apple. So much more thoughtful than a slab of foie gras, the sweet-sour apple perfectly cuts through the voluptuous pâté. The brioche to accompany it was good even by itself, while the 2008 Pinot Gris was the perfect match.
In common with a number of restaurants, both in hong Kong and elsewhere, the soundtrack to dinner featured a number of 90’s classics acapella style, delivering a whole new rendition of the Friends theme tune. No one told me the raviolo of sea bream was gonna be this way, but it was certainly there for me, a really well-executed and multi-layered dish. Confit lemon, strips of nori seaweed and coriander were in the mix but the main star was the aniseed-rich bouillabaisse jus that had clearly had been happily bubbling away for hours. This is seriously inventive and accomplished cooking, with plating you’d expect at a price point well beyond $550.
More confit action again, this time on the beef in an unusual cut known as Paleron, essentially a long-braised shoulder cut. Which I only found out by Googling it. Regardless it was tender and rich with more wine appearing in the form of a very good Malbec jus.
Celery and carrot and brussels joined it on the plate, but the accompanying side dish was an absolute beauty. A French macaroni cheese with ham, Comté (The king of cheeses) and black truffle. With those ingredients, nothing should go wrong – and nothing does. Comfort food of the very highest order, taken to even greater heights by a 2011 Pomerol Chateau La Croix Des Templiers.
The only slight mis-step at dinner came at dessert. While the chocolate dome was good and the cardamom emulsion particularly so, the ensemble was just texturally and architecturally a bit awkward once the vanilla milk was poured:
Maybe my grapes were just a bit sour, however, as across the table was all blue flames and ooohs following some faultless flambeé fireworks:
In common with my review of La Table de Chez Patrick, Le Bistro Wine Beast reminds that technically-accomplished French cooking, full of quality ingredients and innovative touches, needn’t cost the earth in Hong Kong. Throw in top-drawer wine at retail prices and you can absolutely understand why those tables are full.