Mandarin Grill, an all-time classic (9.0)

With both local and international F&B conglomerates blossoming and renowned chefs flocking to the city, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern the excellent from the commercialized when selecting one’s next dining destination. The ease with which companies are able to pay internet celebrities and “foodies” to write stuff online adds to the woes.

While I do make an effort to stay abreast of the newest happenings on the restaurant scene in Hong Kong, at some point or another I would be tempted to (re)visit an old classic; restaurants that have weathered many economic crises and still live up to their reputation over the years. Mandarin Grill–with its seasoned culinary team, five-star professionalism and genuine hospitality–remains without doubt among one of the few authentic and pleasurable dining experiences we have left in the city.

Dining at Mandarin Grill certainly isn’t about checking it off your list. It’s expensive, and worth it. But you already know that. The décor is an understated elegance–beige carpets and walls, white armchairs and tablecloths, clear floor-to-ceiling windows and a beautifully patterned ceiling. The menu features seasonal produce and the very best ingredients; the selection of meat and seafood is exhaustive; the choice of starters and sides is more conservative, but nevertheless consistently solid. Artistically presented dishes and special tasting courses with a dash of creativity are also occasionally available for limited periods of time. Servers pay attention to ensure your meal glides along smoothly without being fussy and intrusive. Perhaps more importantly, the dining room is laid out to give diners ample space and privacy, making your stop perfectly comfortable for any occasion.

Food Rundown

We came as two couples and the boys both chose scallop carpaccio to start and shared a 32oz rib-steak. The girl and I started with a vegetarian appetizer and we both decided on salt-baked sea bass as our mains (coincidence!). We brought our own red wine and were reminded that a corkage of $500 would be applied to each bottle.

Once our orders were taken, servers brought over some bread and fancy flavored butter to go with them. Today’s amuse-bouches were raw salmon with pea purée and crispy langoustine roll with chives and mayo.

Japanese Scallop Carpaccio, $398
Carpaccio was accompanied by cherry radish and refreshing yuzu, and perhaps less conventionally Kaviari dark brown caviar. The caviar was plump and briny, its flavor lifting and brightening the dish.

Cauliflower, ‘Textures’, $238
The humble ingredient was subjected to creative treatment, possibly inspired by Agnar Sverrisson’s original recipe: small chunks of cauliflower were prepared in different ways for maximum contrast and then placed in a circle around cauliflower cream and purée. Beautiful.

Caesar, Baby Gem, Egg, Anchovy, Pancetta, $248
This was my starter. It was fresh and all good. Nothing revolutionary though.

U.S. ‘Linz Heritage Angus’ 45 Day Dry-aged Rib-Steak, 32oz, $1488
A hefty steak with crisp and char, and a pink and juicy inside that’s neither chewy nor dry. Timing, flavor, texture profile and presentation were all top-notch.

Salt-baked French Sea Bass, $648
I watched in anticipation as the two blocks of salt arrived in a trolley. Two servers rapped the crust sharply to crack open the blocks from the middle to expose a neatly squared fish wrapped in banana leaf. The sea bass was really moist, and perfectly seasoned. I liked that there was a slight earthiness to it, too. The baby squid and caviar cream on the side made the dish taste like the ocean in a pleasant way. This may not be the best sea bass, but I appreciated that they offered seafood at all, and better yet, something from the oven.

Spinach, steamed, $108 / Spinach, creamed, $98
Vegetables on the side were definitely appreciated by everyone to save us from the ridiculous excess that will certainly ensue once the savory dishes are done.

Apple Tarte Tatin, Caramel Ice Cream, $148
Mandarin Grill is famous for its desserts, so we couldn’t go without. The flavor combination of the tart and caramelized apple was amazing and the crunch and softness make it irresistible. Ice cream was no doubt a must to accompany any tart. I would have chosen a less treacly flavor if I could though.

Soufflé, Vanilla, $228
The soufflé was light and foamy, and possibly the most delightful way to end a scrumptious meal. The vanilla aromas were deep and dense, but overall on the sweet and buttery side.

Soufflé, Lemon, $228
If you fancy a more citrusy flavor profile to your dessert, the lemon flavor would be a lighter way to enjoy Mandarin Grill’s soufflé.

Mandarin Mousse Cake, complimentary
The mousse cake was beautifully glazed and the fruity notes added a playful tang to it. Very pleasing if mousse cakes are your thing.