Laris [Hong Kong]
The openings in HK come thick and fast and dining concepts the owners of Laris really put a spurt on at the back end of 2012: Laris must have been last new opening of the year it was so close to Christmas.
I had read on a few blogs and review sites that the chef David Laris was “bringing Australian Greek food to HK” and I was really looking forward to trying it (I am a real fan of this style of food having been a regular at Peter Conistis’s restaurant Eleni’s in East Sydney). However, it isn’t modern Greek, ancient Greek or any form of Greek - it is simply excellent contemporary food – so don’t believe all you read in pre-publicity articles.
The room has a wonderfully clubby “Mad Men” feel to it, its quite small facing a busy open kitchen. The service just clicks in when you arrive and you instantly feel good about the place. They have an interesting wine list with some good (cheapish) Australian choices. But I start by testing their Negroni skills - they use a very special vermouth and it shows - it is a very fine cocktail indeed.
We start with “House tinned tuna with caper, onion, lemon, dill and gherkin relish” and “Ocean trout tataki with slow cooked egg, XO sauce and keta caviar”, both dishes are really good, the tinned tuna , a wonderful oily combination of tuna and herbs, the trout is perfectly undercooked with a well balanced combination of flavours. We look at each and grin the food is that good, so we order another entrée, this time the “Beef Carpaccio with Pecorino cheese, lemon, anchovy and caper marinade” this comes with a crispy cheese wafer sitting on some good beef, so good we order another entrée. “Forest mushrooms, olive oil powders, truffle, carrot & mascarpone” is a cornucopia of different mushrooms married together with the cheese and dressings. Again: superb.
Next the mains: “Australian lamb loin with pistachio crust and black garlic purée” and “Veal loin with herb and Parmesan crust, carrot, lemon oil potatoes and garlic jus” and this is were the wheels come off. These are not great dishes (when compared to the entrees): the plating is overcrowded and the sauces are a bit jammy. The lamb lacks flavor and texture (much of the meat is sous vide), and the veal is too salty. We struggle through half the dishes and give up. The maitre’d is very apologetic, then chef arrives at the table and apologises - he is still bring the kitchen brigade up to speed and the dishes are not up to his standard. Without asking they take them from the bill then comp us two deserts – a “Lime curd meringue tart with passion fruit” and wonderfully dense “Dark chocolate flour less cake with raspberry and cassis”. Things do go wrong in restaurants and the best restaurants recover well – which puts Laris firmly in this category.
Looking back at 2012 we had relatively few great meals and we never revisited many of the new places we tried. Laris will be different, it is very good food and despite the mis-steps we are going back as soon as we can. I predict this will be a tough table to book as it gets known and the cooking settles.