Essential Macau | Ode to femininity

Sheung Wan is a buzzing district in Hong Kong where unique boutiques and restaurants present themselves in quaint spaces. On Hollywood Road, it is impossible to miss the entrance to Tate Dining Room & Bar, as its pastel colours exude an air of soft elegance. Established in 2012, Tate is a fine-dining restaurant serving an eclectic mix of French and Chinese cuisine presented in what they call “Edible Stories,” an exploration into culinary expressionism.

By Irene Sam

Founded by chef and owner Vicky Lau, who has always been a creative spirit, the restaurant first opened in the heart of Soho, then moved to a new home on Hollywood Road in 2016. The undisputed queen of innovative FrenchChinese fine dining in Hong Kong, Lau takes pride in her talent for visual artistry from her previous life as a graphic designer. Her innate creativity is evident in the seasonally evolving tasting menu, with each course designed to evoke emotions and stir the imagination with an intriguing play on flavours and textures.

Having worked as a creative director in the realm of design for a number of years, she was inspired to tap into an extra dimension to her creative vision  her lifelong passion for food  and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu to obtain her Grand Diplôme. Following her stint at the prestigious cooking school, chef Lau officially made her maverick move from design to embark on her culinary career and was working at one of the most acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong.

After gaining invaluable first-hand experience, she brought her vision to life by combining the best of her instincts and talents in design and food into a space where guests are invited to share and experience her passion, at Tate Dining Room & Bar. Her culinary skill and artistic talent earned the restaurant’s first Michelin star in 2013, successfully maintaining its star in the years that followed. In 2015, she was named Asia’s Best Female Chef by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. During the same year, she was also named Veuve Clicquot Asia’s Best Female Chef.

The talented team at Tate creates dishes with not only the freshest and the most vibrant ingredients possible, but also the utmost attention to quality and every intricate detail, serving up wholesome yet tantalising dishes. In a comfortable and intimate atmosphere that appeals as much to the sophisticated as it does to the adventurous, restaurant manager François Ferrand starts the gastronomic journey by introducing the menu.

A quirky take on culinary expressionism to stimulate the sense of smell, taste, touch and sight is characterised by presenting some dishes on antique Chinese porcelain of various sizes and shapes. But modern contemporary china is also incorporated into the visual feast. Highlighting the poetic essence of gastronomy, each course is considered to be an “ode” to a specific ingredient.

Conch, cuttlefish, and Kinmedai mark the beginning of the first three courses. A beautiful seaweed jelly with cauliflower purée and conch is covered with a layer of Ossetra caviar decorated with tiny edible flowers. Paired with Matsunotsuka Junmai Ginjo Raku from Japan’s Shiga Prefecture, sweet and floral elements of the dish are delicately enhanced. Cuttlefish noodles with Chinoise Sauce and egg confit combine the vibrant umami flavour of the sea with the rich texture of egg yolk. The Kinmedai with black bean hollandaise sauce is cooked to perfection, with the fish’s crispy scales exuberating a fresh, orange hue.

The indulgence continues with warm sea scallop with aged kumquat Grenobloise-style sauce exemplifying chef Lau’s savoirfaire in merging Chinese ingredients with French culinary know-how. Jade Vineyard’s “Jade Vintage,” a chardonnay from Ningxia, China, is perfectly paired with this creation. Aromas of ripe mango, yellow peaches and juicy apricots fill the mouth as the liquid seduces the palate with a balanced acidity. Next up, the langoustine with carrot, red bean curd sauce and pineapple lends its bright colour to hand-printed antique porcelain with a matching tint.

“This vivid and bold dish is best enjoyed with the Lebrun Pouilly-Fume Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, as its mango and passion fruit notes pair well with the langoustine and its sauce,” says François Ferrand, who is an expert on wine pairing.For the main course, the Iberico pork pluma with jus and seasonal vegetables on the side offers the meat’s original taste and textures at their best. The shoulder flank steaks are nicknamed pluma in Spain, as the plume-shaped cut is popular in the country.

Chestnut and Sago soufflé with Pu-erh ice cream is again a melange of east and west. Soft, pearl-like structures are embedded into a fluffy, cloud-like sensation. Laying low at the bottom are intricately diced chestnuts. Discerning diners are encouraged to put the cold Pu-erh ice cream into the soufflé, so the icy and creamy spheroid can slowly melt into a thick liquid that layers on top.

But “Ode to chestnut” is not the ultimate finale of the meal. To surprise her diners at the very end of dinner, chef Lau spoils them with a mignardises trolley, where the bite-sized desserts are presented in a cabinet-like structure. Inside, chocolates are filled with date and ginseng, and lollipops are shaped into goldfish and fans.

In the ever-changing and highly competitive world of gastronomy, being a female chef makes Lau stand out, as a play on femininity is evidently displayed in all her creations. Every little detail in the interior, from the rosy light bulbs to the blush-toned sofas and spacious bathroom, expresses her approach to enjoying life with utmost elegance. In a dining room where feathers are placed in a laissez-faire manner next to bottles of Dom Pérignon champagne, extravagance is expressed tastefully. Guests are even challenged to put their phones aside, in designated spaces available under the tables, to cherish moments with their loved ones. Indeed, a visit to Tate Dining Room & Bar is an exploration into Vicky Lau’s way of living.