Skye: Charming vibes and solid food (8.0)

Due to something of a misunderstanding from both sides of the family who I assume were both thinking of compromising for the other family, we ended up being uninvited to dinner anywhere on the night of Mid-Autumn festival this year and spent the evening at Skye. Because it’s a popular day to dine at home or at least have Chinese food outside, it was easy for us to secure a booking on this night for the Restaurant Week menu, a bargain relative to the usual à la carte or set ($500/person for a four-course dinner today versus ~$980/person for a six-course typically). It was my first time here, and I was always a little nervous about picking something that would totally disappoint, especially if it was an off-the-beaten-track kind of place (or one that serves western food primarily to a local audience), but that’s a risk we take to find our next favorite hangout.

Skye is meant to serve French cuisine, and it seems to have more of a playful approach that combines both Nouvelle and Haute cuisine styles for maximum versatility. But it does occur to me that many non-Chinese restaurants at luxury hotels in Hong Kong design their menus with a conscious attempt to cater to locals and an international audience. Their ways are not unauthentic but there’s always a generic touch and a global twist. That applies to Skye as well, and if there is a suggestion that I can make (other than to serve genuine continental bread or at least bread that doesn’t smell like airplane bread) it would be to diversify away from conservative choices of meat. Most diners are unable to appreciate the subtle differences between sourcing organic or from exotic locations, but if an unconventional choice pops up on the menu, that generates excitement and makes the meal unforgettable.

Either way, I appreciated Skye for its voguish decor and ambience that are all quirkily chic within the context of a classic hotel that still delivers on hospitality and professionalism. Certain dishes are just OK, but there were many others that went above expectations (for the bargain price we had today), and that was all I needed to enjoy a quiet evening on a rooftop restaurant with a gorgeous view.

Food Rundown

Normandy No. 2 oysters with organic tomato consommé granité and smoked pimento oil
Superb. Creamy, quite fleshy and incredibly fresh and refreshing. I could skip the consommé and condiments because the oysters really were just fresh enough to stand up for themselves.

Maldivian Tuna tartare ceviche with warm aubergine ragout, smoked bonito mayonnaise and chives
The mayo was eclipsing the whole dish and was a little overpowering and salty for what is typically a lighter, tangier appetizer. Was this tuna from the Maldives? Or a Maldivian interpretation for tuna tartare? Either way, it wasn’t very ceviche-like.

Seared Hokkaido scallops with sauce diplomat fregola, salmon skin furikake and micro blood sorrel
The scallops were particularly worth commending. They were seared in a pan hot enough to generate a caramelized crust that I love and the flesh was on point without being either slightly undercooked with a raw tenderness or overcooked with a touch of tough chewiness.
The sauce was earthy and savory, and the whole dish was quite perfect. I think that searing scallops is at once one of the simplest things to prepare but also the hardest to master with consistency. And having a refreshingly different sauce and side to go with it was nice.
People tend to disparage restaurants if they feel that the cooked seafood was once frozen, and I’m sure these scallops were quite likely frozen and have been criticized for such, but I tend to point out that seafood that are properly frozen and thawed could not be differentiated from live seafood by gourmets in blind taste tests, so I wouldn’t worry too much about frozen, especially as it gives us access to the best seafood from so much further away which should more than compensate for any differences arising from liveness – if at all.

Seared “Castaing” foie gras with parsnip pancakes, caramelized apple, Madeira apple jus and snipped chives
Foie gras was fine. Beefy and buttery flavors there, as expected. Also a little gamy. The parsnip pancake and apples were more of the highlight as complements to the foie gras than the foie gras itself. I really liked the mild sweetness of the fluffy parsnip pancake with the intensity of the foie gras, and the apples were still crunchy rather than overcooked. A lot of restaurants like to use berries which tend to be a bit mushy.

Roast rack of Australian lamb with globe artichoke purée and charred braised lettuce heart
Despite being a big fan of lamb whenever I see lamb rack on a menu in Hong Kong I’m not keen, because so many restaurants serve tasteless, fatty lamb cutlets (and call them rack) that rarely satisfy me. The roast rack here was a pleasant surprise, even for my partner who doesn’t typically enjoy lamb. The roast wasn’t just tender; it was also sizeable and meaty. The sweet artichoke mash is mild enough so that the rack, which is typically a lighter cut with a weaker flavor, gets the spotlight. The heirloom baby carrots and pistachio gremolata were also nice.

200-day grain fed beef striploin with watercress emulsion, creamed 5-spice-roasted parsnips, baby watercress and parsnip crisps
Well, the steak was really nothing more than average. So average and lacking in flavor that I won’t have it again. But the watercress emulsion was gentle and silky, and its mellow pepperiness complemented with the striploin in a way that exceeded my imagination. Parsnip crisps were also a joy to munch on.

Banoffee semifreddo and banana cream mousse with crystallized white chocolate and caramelized hazelnuts
Semifreddos seem to have fallen out of fashion, as I haven’t seen it offered in restaurants for a while. Before I bought my heavy duty ice cream machine at home, semifreddos were what I made occasionally to replace my almost daily craving for ice cream. This brought back fond memories with a banana twist. Except it was just slightly hard and dense, and wasn’t quite there for a creamy-airy texture in the mouth. Was the mixture overwhipped this time?

Anëo 34% white chocolate and Oscietre caviar millefeuille
One of the primary cuisines that the French have perfected is pastries. As Skye’s specialty was French, this was going to be a good test, I thought. The millefeuille was put together on order so had great crisp and flakiness. The filling was decadent: velvety and vanilla-ish but not too sweet at all. Yet the real highlight was having savory caviar with white chocolate. I revelled in the resulting balance of flavors before knowing there was caviar at all, so it wasn’t just gimmicky. I love salted desserts. But this was definitely taking the ordinary ones several levels up.

Mooncake-flavored ice cream, complimentary
Okay, this was the showstopper, and the reason why I may remember this restaurant for a long time. When I had just put one tenth of a teaspoon of the ice cream in my mouth, I thought I was eating a literal mooncake (the traditional, white-lotus kind). The experience was pretty unbelievable and sensational. One nibble turned into a dozen. It reminded me of Willy Wonka’s magic chewing gum. This was off the menu and entirely a voluntary move by the kitchen, which really made me think that the team and the Head Chef are running this place with quite some passion.