It’s easy to be blasé about celebrity chefs opening restaurants in Hong Kong – there are so many of them, and often, their outposts here are disappointing.
Not so with Mercato – the Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong. My guest loved the meal so much she booked a table for the week after our visit.
High praise for the service: it took just one query from us about whether a dish contained cheese, and a few minutes later, a manager came over to ask if we were avoiding dairy products. My guest is, so the manager warned us off the meatballs that we had already ordered, and volunteered to put the cheese on the side for another dish.
Crispy octopus with potatoes, fennel-herb salad and lemon caper emulsion (HK$178) was a delicious combination. The octopus was tender and had an intense flavour from the high heat of the oven.
Capellini with golden garlic, jalapenos and herbs (HK$158), served with the ricotta on the side, was a little bland – we couldn’t detect the jalapenos. But the smooth, creamy ricotta was fantastic – the best I’ve ever tasted.
We loved both the mains. Seared scallops with Sorrento lemon cauliflower sauce, fried onions and capers (HK$268) had complex flavours that combined well. Even the golden raisins – not mentioned on the menu, possibly because they would sound out of place – worked well in this mix of ingredients.
Crispy beef short rib with smoked Chianti glaze (HK$488) was excellent. The beef was crisp but not dry, and the glaze was very well balanced.
I was so enthusiastic about the dessert of salted caramel ice cream sundae with candied peanuts, popcorn, whipped cream and hot fudge (HK$78) that my guest kept sneaking bites of it, even though she was supposed to avoid dairy products. Her white wine apricot sorbet (HK$68) paled by comparison.
Mercato, 8/F California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, tel: 3706 8567. About HK$550 without drinks or the service charge.