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