Opened in December 2016, Bizou offers Danish-born chef Magnus Hansson’s fresh interpretation of the classic American brasserie tradition. Hansson has created the menu and visits the restaurant on a monthly basis, while head chef Todd Williams oversees the kitchen and comes with a résumé that includes Porterhouse by Laris.
The menu is farm-to-table in style, with the vegan Hanssen insisting on no GM foodstuffs and organic produce as the rule.
Location and layout
The restaurant is located on the ground floor of Pacific Place mall in Admiralty, where the longtime Italian favourite Grappa’s once stood. Neri & Hu Design has created a cool but comfortable area split into a few rooms, with seating for 130 and tables and benches well spaced apart. In front of the main entrance there’s also a cordoned off “alfresco” area in the mall itself. Natural wood finishes, dark leather and wood chairs, white tiling on the walls and warm lighting from attractive hanging lamps combine to form a relaxed, informal setting – and the bar in the section to the right of the doorway is a nice place to wait if you’re early for your table booking.
A varied selection of seven starters included butternut squash soup, pan-roasted sweet prawns, gravlax and pork belly dishes, but we chose fried camembert cheese with cloudberry preserves, fried parsley and toasted sourdough; and grilled octopus with crispy potatoes, olives, young celery, mint hummus, sumac, extra virgin olive oil and lemon.
The camembert was rich and provided the perfect combination of crusty skin and melting centre, the fried parsley garnish adding an unusual but well-judged flavour (the only minor complaint came from my partner, who thought the sourdough was slightly oily). The octopus was a fascinating mix of flavours that constantly surprised the taste buds but worked perfectly in unison.
The menu listing was what I consider a perfect size: there were four salads each with an interesting array of ingredients; two pasta, two chicken and two fish dishes, and five red meat dishes. Portions were substantial but thankfully not supersized the American way. We tried the slow-braised boneless short ribs in red wine with potato purée, gailan green vegetables and fresh horseradish; and the pan-seared Icelandic cod fillet with butter, soft-boiled egg, cauliflower purée, sautéed kale and fresh horseradish. The ribs were cooked beautifully, the meat shredding easily and filled with juicy flavour. The fish was also excellent, the egg adding a nice soft touch along with the cauliflower, while the crispy kale and horseradish were a piquant injection into the otherwise mild, creamy dish.
From seven side order options we were tempted by the baked purple yam but plumped for fried lemon potatoes with chipotle aioli – a standard brasserie side dish but, in line with this restaurant’s culinary theme of adding subtle twists, offering a slightly new flavour through the lemon. It was way too much food for two, really, but the eager eye was bigger than the bulging stomach.
A selection of six appealing desserts included gooey chocolate cake with lemon-cumquat marmalade, whipped ricotta and fried sage, and lemon yoghurt Bundt cake with Greek yoghurt, lemon syrup and honeycomb. Though sorely tempted, we ordered just the latter between the two of us; the Greek yoghurt alternative to the more obvious cream garnish was inspired, and the cake itself moist, rich and textured.
This was a reasonable size, strong on Italian but with a good global spread. My partner’s Marlborough sauvignon blanc was fresh and crispy, while my merlot was one of the smoothest I’ve ever tasted, almost creamy in flavour. Though many I’m sure would prefer a more robust texture and longer finish (my partner for one), I enjoyed it immensely.
The highly creative cocktails menu at the bar comes from celebrated mixologist Joseph Boroski. Although we did not try any, they looked fascinating and very tempting – for example, a “Multi-Coastal” comprises Arabica coffee-infused tequila, curry leaf syrup and egg whites…
Prior to my arrival, my partner also had a gin and tonic – choosing from a wide selection (the current trend in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia sees diverse gin types and bottles lined up for perusal); the gin was served with ice in a glass, with a small carafe placed next to it containing the tonic water.
We had an early evening booking, and were one of the first diners in the restaurant. As such, we were treated wonderfully, with attentive, friendly staff who were happy to give recommendations and answer questions. By the time we left it was busier, with more than a third of the tables taken, but looking around I didn’t see anyone having to call the waiting staff, who were bustling about with purpose.
I stopped head chef Todd Williams on one of his walkabouts to see all was running smoothly, and he was happy to expand on some of the interesting ingredient combinations that I was enjoying.
The atmosphere is a nice mix between modern and traditional, the (early evening) service was excellent and, most importantly, the food was consistently delicious, managing to be both familiar in its fundamentals but surprising in its details. The drink options are also of a high class for this type of establishment.
I was impressed; we left the restaurant full to bursting – as you’d expect from any American brasserie dinner stop – and enthusiastically discussing the differing merits and pleasures of our meal… always a good sign.
Expect to pay HK$1,500-$2,000 for a three-course meal for two with wine accompaniments and coffee.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, 11.30am-10.30pm; Shop 132, L1, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty; tel: 2871 0775; diningconcepts.com/restaurants/bizou