Epicure - - FOOD FEATURE -

By day, there is a con­stant stream of taxis and vans zip­ping past Stanley Street in Hong Kong. The fa­mil­iar din is turned off once you en­ter the bou­tique Pot­tinger Ho­tel where the el­e­gantly aus­tere Ta Vie is lo­cated. Hideaki Sato is the owner-chef of this two Miche­lin-starred mod­ern French restau­rant, whose name in Ja­panese means “jour­ney” His wife, Hiromi, works the floor as the som­me­lier.

In­deed, Sato’s eight-course tast­ing menu re­flects a culi­nary jour­ney that in­cludes six fruit­ful years at Ryugin, with the last three years as the ex­ec­u­tive chef of its first over­seas restau­rant, Tenku Ryugin in Hong Kong, which snagged two Miche­lin stars within six months of its open­ing. Ta Vie’s dishes are a bril­liant show­case of Ja­panese and Chi­nese in­gre­di­ents; sim­mered aka abalone in 20-year aged Shaox­ing wine, and sweet corn puffed mousse with aburi botan shrimp in shrimp con­somme jelly are some of the menu high­lights.

An­other out­stand­ing dish is his take on the clas­sic French cake, Baba au Rhum. Here, it comes in the form of a mirin soaked brioche, which is paired with ripened per­sim­mons from the lo­cal mar­ket. In­stead of raisins, Sata uses goji berries from Ningxia, China , which are freeze-dried for a crunchy tex­ture and added as a fi­nal flour­ish.

Like most tra­di­tional Ja­panese mentee-men­tor re­la­tion­ships, the Nagano Pre­fec­ture na­tive demon­strates un­flinch­ing sup­port for Ya­mamoto whom he cred­its for his suc­cess. “Ja­panese cui­sine is usu­ally very clas­sic. It is un­be­liev­able that such tal­ent ex­ists in Ja­pan,” Sato quipped, re­fer­ring to the first time when he saw pho­tos of Ya­mamoto’s dishes. Sato was al­ready the chef of a French restau­rant, but he was so blown away that he de­cided to quit to train at Ryugin.

“His ap­proach is to­tally dif­fer­ent. He would al­ways ask us, “What do you think?” He takes the log­i­cal ap­proach and re­spects the unique­ness of in­gre­di­ents. If we re­ceived five eels, he would in­di­cate al­pha­bets on each eel, slice the end part, grill, and tastes them so that he could un­der­stand the char­ac­ter of each eel and use dif­fer­ent tech­niques to cook them,”

Sato adopts the same work­ing phi­los­o­phy to his own restau­rant. He adds, “What I learnt from Ya­mamoto is to never com­pro­mise and al­ways push the stan­dard higher each day.”

“Tarte au cit­ron” Meringue ice cream, lemon cream, sugar crys­tallised tarte

Ja­panese hairy crab cock­tail with Chi­nese black vine­gar sauce cov­ered with chrysan­the­mum jelly

Char­coal grilled pi­geon Smoked with Rose­mary With pi­geon liver tap­nard

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