Afterthoughts – TBLS Private Kitchen
I love private kitchens in Hong Kong, they always feel so secretive, like dining in an underground supper club, minus the snobbery. I make it a goal to discover new kitchens tucked into hidden corners of the city, although no private kitchen has yet surpassed my benchmark favourite – TBLS.
To get a coveted spot at TBLS usually means calling months in advance to make a booking – they’re not snobby, they’re simply in high demand. The menu runs around 5 courses, and are changed monthly based on seasonal ingredients. This little 20-seater is the brainchild of Chef Que Vinh Dang, who comes from a Vietnamese-American heritage and has trained and worked in top kitchens in New York before making the big move to Fragrant Harbour. Que is young, innovative, and like all great chefs, uncompromisingly dedicated to his cuisine. He bases his menu ideas on comfort food, but executes them with creative, immaculate precision. I’ve never left his restaurant feeling unsatisfied, and really, who could after eating his classic ice-cream macaroon sandwich?
We’ve recently returned to TBLS for their November menu, and again, were pleasantly satiated.
Our welcome amuse bouche. I was so hungry at this point that I practically inhaled it! All I could remember was the morsel being an incredibly tender, aromatic piece of slow roasted pork nestled in a sweet, buttery mash.
Chef Que always serves the first course as a soup and sandwich combo, but reinvents the content each month. It’s a great example of comfort food turned sophisticated. For this particular menu, he paired a maple glazed ham hock sandwich with pumpkin and sage soup. The ham hock was melt-in-your-mouth buttery, and further enhanced with sweet apple jam and fragrant cloves. The pumpkin soup was deliciously silky, and crowned with a ingenious froth of goat cheese. This was an absolute bangin’ pairing of flavours!
Next up was a beef pot pie, but not just ANY old pie. The hearty concoction of beef, porcini, bacon and root vegetables was covered with the most buttery, light pie crust I’ve ever had, thus far, in Hong Kong. This cozy pie will thaw even the frostiest of critics. I had to refrain myself from licking the bowl clean.
Now, on to the seafood course, a delightful assemblage of poached ocean trout over shrimp and crab chowder, topped with crispy fish skin. The trout was cooked perfectly to a blushing rosy orange.
As if the pot pie and seafood assemble weren’t filling enough, next, arrived Que’s rendition of the turducken. A traditional turducken is the ultimate glutton’s feast – a deboned chicken stuffed into a duck and then into a turkey. This frightful (yet also awe-inspiring) mesh mashing of poultry was invented for the French royal family, where it has been recorded in history that 16 birds were stuffed into each other during a royal feast for Louis XVI. What will the French come up with next? This lovely little cooking technique was brought over by the Acadian French to the American South, and subsequently, morphed into the modern day turducken.
My ramblings aside, Que’s rendition is on the more sophisticated side, and is composed of sous vide turkey breast, duck foie gras, and crispy chicken confit paired with roasted garlic mash and cranberry sauce. The turkey breast was very tender and the foie gras savoury and silky. I wasn’t too crazy about the chicken confit though, as I felt it lacked the delicate contrast of tender meat and crisp skin, which is what comes to mind whenever I think of confit.
Dessert time! But not before we were treated to a palate cleanser of mulled wine sorbet. Very Christmas-y and refreshing!
There was not one, but two, desserts on the menu! First up, a dense roasted chestnut cake topped with a generous dollop of Irish coffee ice cream. I loved the fresh chestnuts baked into the cake, and the Irish coffee ice cream was a zingy surprise.
Finally, what I always look forward to at the end of a meal at TBLS – the giant macaroon ice-cream sandwich! This time, the delicate macaroons were filled with a very R-rated bourbon and rum eggnog ice-cream. Que was incredibly thoughtful after hearing us talk about our recent big news, and sent over beautifully decorated plates with “congrats!” written in chocolate. It was a lovely gesture and a great finish to our amazing dinner.
Verdict: Yes!!! Definitely my top choice for private kitchens in Hong Kong. The menu is ever-changing and always full of surprises. Que is a passionate chef and a great innovator in pairing together contrasting, and also complimenting, flavours. I am always looking forward to my next meal at TBLS! But make sure to book well in advance to avoid any disappointment!
31 Hollywood Road, Central
Tel: 2544 3433