Tate Dining Room & Bar
Tate’s main woman behind the kitchen counter, Vicky Lau (a former Cépage chef de cuisine), seems to be a fan of those Food Network competition reality shows where contestants have to create a dish under a certain theme name. At least that could explain why the restaurant’s two set menus feature dishes like ‘beet it!’ and ‘ice cream on hot summer days’. As lovers of words and cute quirks, we appreciate the eccentric detail but as lovers of food, we wish the success in Lau’s whimsical wordplay translated better on the plate.
On the night of our visit, we are befuddled by the pretty but seemingly random popcorn, sweetcorn and marinated scallop presentation on our second course only to realise it’s to fit the dish’s name, ‘seaside shack’, and not to blend together in a way that would tickle our tastebuds. Also confusing is the hot potato croquette and potato ice cream combo. These make for good enough small bites on their own – the croquette crunchy on the outside yet buttery on the inside and the potato ice cream fluffy and light and well-meshed with the slivers of tuna and sprinkles of caviar – but they leave no lasting impression as a duo.
Though the restaurant recently launched an à la carte menu, we opt for the ambitious nine-course summer gastronomy set ($980) and the six-course summer sensualist set ($680). Both sets share only one dish in common and that’s the Kagoshima beef tenderloin, which is also the restaurant’s crowning glory. Served with miso butter and a simple side of green asparagus, the tenderloin is obviously a perfected labour of love packaged as a four-inch slab of meat. Juicy and supple, each bite melts deliciously in the mouth. Some other simple delights from the gastronomy set are a mushroom and vegetable broth reminiscent of miso soup – which makes for a great, refreshing palate cleanser during the middle of the meal – and the blocks of foie gras terrine and sauternes gelée swiped over a flaky flat pastry. Last but most definitely not least on the nine-courser is the ‘zen garden’, a serene presentation with a piece of rich black sesame panna cotta shaped as grey boulders, matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse blended in a stone bowl, with crushed peanuts which have been swiped generously across the plate. This is certainly one dish where the name, the presentation and the tastes all come together in perfect harmony.
After nine dishes, it is understandable that we eagerly await our grand finale. For some reason though, the kitchen staff take an especially long time rolling out Tate’s mini dessert cart as well as our coffees and teas. When the trolley does arrive, though, the truffles crackle and melt in our mouths but, sadly, the brownies are a touch on the dry side. It’s a good thing that the ‘zen garden’ is so charming – otherwise we could have left feeling more than a little unimpressed. Tate’s cosy and comfortable ambience and enthusiastic staff make it worth a second visit – but we do hope that the menu stops feeling like some sort of theme party. Janice Jann
59 Elgin St, Soho, 2555 2172; tate.com.hk. Mon-Sat, 6pm-10pm. Closed Sun.
Nine-course summer gastronomy set $980
Six-course summer sensualist set $680
10 percent service charge $166
Total (for two) $1,826