Tried & Tested

Restaurant review: Le Rêve

27 Mar 2019 by Michael Allen

Background

Le Rêve (“The Dream” in French) is a French-Japanese fine dining restaurant (and, erm, late night shisha lounge) in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay area. It’s been around since 2016 but is introducing new seasonal menus from February to April, featuring ingredients like foie gras, lamb rack and sea cucumbers.

The new menus are the latest iteration of the restaurant’s “Dream” menu concept (introduced last year), which encourages diners to “allow their imaginations to run wild, and embrace new dishes – many of which challenge pre-conceptions, offering interesting flavors that have never been tasted before.” The menu is available in four, six or eight courses.

I was invited to sample the eight-course menu.

Where is it?

Inside a commercial building in Causeway Bay called “Zing!” It’s a couple of minutes’ walk from Causeway Bay MTR Exit A, the exit beneath Times Square.

What's it like?

The lifts open directly onto the restaurant. As you step out, you will see the bar. To your left are all the tables. Some have just chairs and others are a mix of chairs and sofa seating. My dining companion and I were seated on one of the sofa seats.

In classic Hong Kong fashion, many of the tables are right up against each other, ensuring most of the conversation during your business dinner or beautiful anniversary date is bound to be overheard by the diners next to you. The restaurant wasn’t busy when I dined, however, and we were consequently afforded a good deal of privacy.

The lighting is dimmed, giving the restaurant a relaxing atmosphere. I did feel a little odd being here amid this setting; the last time I had been to this venue had been to attend a Finnair promotional event featuring a Santa Claus flown in all the way from Lapland.

The food

I started off the meal with a rather diminutive, but fine tasting, amuse bouche of tomato and cheese.

The first dish was razor clam with Hokkaido uni, miso creme brulee, mussel cream sauce and salmon roe.

“Speaking of rubber,” said my dining companion, apropos of a reference to rubber in the conversation we were having, “don’t be too kind about the razor clams”.

I didn’t disagree, though the uni with miso creme brulee was nice.

The salt decorating the base of the bowl containing the uni seemed like a clever idea, until some of the salt managed to sneak its way onto my razor clams. The extremely salty taste caused me to grimace and I was worried my companion would think I was grimacing at him.

Next up was the pan seared foie gras with chestnut puree, Japanese mushroom and yoghurt ice cream. The yoghurt ice cream was a delicious accompaniment to the foie gras, though my companion argued that there was a bit too much going on with the dish and he could have done without the chestnut puree in the middle.

The third dish was slow cooked lobster tail with truffle oil. This came with a kombu mango tofu sauce. The lobster’s head had been invited to join the party, for those who enjoy gazing into the eyes of the creature they’re devouring. Nothing to complain about with the sauce, which was tasty.

The fourth course was tuna cheek with cabbage pesto, edible flour and Japanese gravy. This was dramatically set on fire table-side, for what purpose beyond satisfying Instagrammers I don’t know. The cheek was delicious, however.

I should note here that the menu included two surprise dishes, which are prepared each day by Le Rêve’s head chef, and are available exclusively on the eight-course menu. Of course, they do check with you first if you have any food allergies or intolerances.

The first was the Amadai,  served with natto kambu soup, spring onion oil and edible flower.

The second was rather unusual, and certainly more surprising than the fish. This was a sorbet with what appeared to be liquid nitrogen poured over it. As with the immolated tuna cheek, this seemed to be another nod to the Instagrammers. I would just have happily taken the sorbet without the liquid nitrogen, which made it a bit too cold. This was meant to be a palate cleanser, but was more effective at inducing a brain freeze.

For the fifth (non-secret) dish, I had the New Zealand Lamb Rack with cauliflower puree, red wine pear and homemade mint jelly.

My companion had the A4 Kagoshima tenderloin, with seasonal veggies, chanterelle mushroom and truffle wagyu beef jus.

We actually shared both dishes. I preferred the Kagoshima tenderloin, which was deliciously tender. The lamb was also nice, but less flavoursome and tender.

For dessert, I had the sesame ball with ice cream, black and white sesame crackers and cherry chocolate rock. The ice cream was nice, though the dish as a whole was a bit sparse. Also, popcorn and fine dining should never intermingle. It just tastes like the cinema.

Verdict

Le Rêve is trying hard to create something very special here, and it partly succeeds. I certainly can’t claim to have felt bored during the meal, though my jet-lagged companion who had flown into Hong Kong from England the night before started to show signs of wear towards the end of our circa three-hour repast. The beef, foie gras and tuna cheek were great; the other dishes were nice, but have room for improvement.

When we got the bill (disclaimer: the meal was comped), which came to more than HK$1,000 each (US$127.40), I asked my companion, who mostly recenly worked as head of department for a university in London, if he would have been happy to pay that sum out of his own pocket for such a feed.

“No,” he scoffed.

If you’re really going to splurge this on a meal, you may wish to pay a bit more and go somewhere like Ecriture or Roganic, which have better food, a better setting (including spread-out and therefore more private seating) and more charismatic waitstaff. You can get a ten-course taster menu at Roganic (also in Causeway Bay) for a similar price to our meal at Le Rêve, and you’ll probably enjoy the former more.

Another aspect of Le Rêve that I found a tad bizarre is that after dinner the restaurant converts into a shisha lounge. This starts on the balcony (fine), but the waiter readily admitted to me that they let people smoke shisha indoors when the patio gets full.

In Hong Kong, where space is at a premium and retail rents astronomical, one can hardly blame restaurants for trying to maximise their available space. But smoking up your dining area with shisha every Friday and Saturday night probably isn’t a wise move if you want to maintain an image of exclusivity and sophistication.

Still, if the restaurant can get rid of the shisha and tweak some of the dishes, it has a very interesting offering.

Fact file

  • Hours: 12pm-3am every day
  • Price: HK$590 (US$75) for the 4 Shades of Flavour menu; HK$890 (US$113) for the 6 Shades of Flavour menu; HK$1190 (US$152) for the 8 Shades of Flavour menu.
  • Location: 10/F ZING!, 38 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
  • Contact: lereve.com.hk
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