The second birthday celebration for J was at VEA Restaurant & Lounge - the brainchild of Chef Vicky Cheng from Liberty Private Works and famed mixologist Antonio Lai! The restaurant is split into two floors with the 30/F as the fine dining restaurant and the 29/F as the more casual lounge with different decor and offerings. I had been to the VEA lounge before where I really enjoyed the creative cocktails and snacks (especially the Parmesan Truffle Fries!) so I was looking forward to trying the real restaurant with J this time. A tasting menu of 8 courses is offered at $1280 per person with an optional cocktail or wine pairing for $680. Just like LPW, most of the seats are at the counter where you can see the live action in the open kitchen but they also have a few sit-down tables too for those who prefer it.
I still remember the first time I saw this ensemble of water and napkin (where you pour the water into the napkin) was at LPW which was cool in the beginning but since then, a lot of restaurants in HK have been doing this too.
A few edible table decorations had been placed in front of us on the counter already including a cute ladybug on a basil cracker and a yellow cream flower on a twig.
A few more snacks continued to come including this rendition of "garlic bread" with Parmesan cream in a cannoli and topped with shiso leafs.
This Cantonese style steamed fish with soy sauce powder was simply amazing as it managed to combine all the flavors in the traditional and classic dish onto a crispy fish skin!
The Applewood-smoked quail egg seemed to pay homage to another classic Shanghainese dish tea smoked egg, and it was packed with flavors.
The first cocktail pairing was this Dashi Cucumber with lemon and vodka which was light and refreshing to drink while the dashi gave it a very unique taste.
Our meal got off to a fantastic start with this beautifully constructed signature dish Tuna with Hokkaido uni, espelette, and burnt cucumber jelly. While the uni could have been more fresh but the combination of flavors and texture was absolutely divine.
A piece of longan was provided on the side as a palate cleanser of some sort.
Basil with gin, yuzu, and egg white
Spanish Sardine with trout roe, micro tomato and avocado
Blood Orange with apple and elderflower
I never thought that I would be served a Sea Cucumber stuffed with langoustine at a French restaurant but this was just another great example of how the chef managed to fuse French and Chinese cuisine together seamlessly.
The Shitake with whisky and consomme reminded me of a juice pairing I had at Florilege in Tokyo using shitake mushrooms with houjicha. I think the drink here could have worked better with less consomme as it was almost like drinking broth which took away the unique flavors of whisky with shitake. The bartender told me that some people thought the whisky was too strong so maybe having the consomme on the side to add by ourselves could be a solution.
The signature dish Egg with truffle, Parmesan and caviar was a dish that I loved at LPW and it was good to be reunited with a new addition of Chinese fried dough with truffle!
Tofu Almond with gin and ginger
I loved the Earl Grey Goose with "lo sui" goose breast, foie gras, taro puff and cherry with its intricate plating as I saw it being painstakingly assembled right in front of me. The use of "lo sui" (Chinese marinade) goose here was just genius and not at all out of place at a French restaurant.
Chinese Rice with calvados and dark vinegar
The Pork Belly with girolle, "mui choy" and asparagus was another home run as the pork belly was super tender and simply melted in the mouth. "Mui Choy" refers to preserved mustard greens which is used in a very classic Chinese dish with braised pork belly.
The only blemish of the night was the Australian Wagyu beef they sold as an upgrade to the pork belly dish at the start of the meal. We were curious so J got it for an additional $390 but it turned out to be a big disappointment. Not only was the portion tiny for the price (like two tiny pieces), the beef was a bit chewy and the execution of the dish was not that creative compared to all other dishes that we had throughout the night. Granted it didn't help that we just had the best steak of our lives at Shima in Tokyo but even for a normal non-Japanese Wagyu, it wasn't that great to be honest. The staff happened to ask us what we thought when we were eating the beef so we gave him the honest feedback and they were courteous enough to remove the supplement fee from our final bill.
The last cocktail pairing was a beautiful Fung Lei with pineapple black tea and rum which I though was a bit too sweet, but overall I thought Antonio and team had put a lot of thought into the cocktail pairing which is definitely worth a try if you dine here!
The first of our two desserts was Pineapple with osmanthus, yogurt and wild walnut which was a modern twist of the classic Taiwanese pineapple cake complete with a theatrical smoking yogurt on the side.
The second dessert was a whimsical Honeycomb with a bold combination of miso and edamame. I've never had edamame in a dessert before and I thought the fusion of sweet and savory flavors was certainly very interesting.
In Chinese culture, a whole roasted pig is a symbol of celebration so we were served this cute chocolate piggy as a birthday dessert to J!
Lastly to round off our meal, we had petit fours in a sphere jar with condensed milk mochi, hazelnut biscuit truffle, grilled corn & coconut macaron, and orange & earl grey madeleine. And just like at LPW, we also had a marshmallow and lychee rosewater that looked like the water and napkin we had in the beginning to come full circle with our meal.
Verdict - VEA is definitely one of my top favorite restaurant in Hong Kong while the cocktail pairing is also one of a kind! The flavors of the dishes will tastes great to anyone but I think it is best appreciated by those who have an understanding of Chinese cuisine to fully realize the ingenuity of the food here. The menu changes one dish per week and I look forward to coming back to try the chef's new creations in due time!
VEA Restaurant & Lounge
29/F-30/F, The Wellington
198 Wellington Street, CentralTel: +852 2711 8639
Follow me on Facebook! www.facebook.com/supertastermel
Follow me on Instagram! www.instagram.com/supertastermel