Date of review: April 7, 2016 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
We may have broke the news of Belon’s opening, followed him through a farm to table visit, and even hosted the restaurant’s #FirstSupper, but the opening of James Henry’s bistro’s neo-Parisian bistro leaves the chef’s culinary prowess for all to examine. Many have been anxious to find out what Henry’s move to Hong Kong from Paris has brought, and the result is a new bistro, located on Elgin Street.
You cannot miss its exterior, mostly wood with a full view of the brass-laden interior, exuding a slightly understated glamour. The simple, square-shaped dining room features mirrored walls to make the space look much bigger, and the tables are relatively small but well spaced apart. We recommend a banquette table over the ones in the middle, as the former seems more spacious with more elbow room for guests.
The menu offers a modest selection of different courses, with some items available per serving as well.
While it is unusual to charge for bread, Belon’s country style bread is made in house, naturally leavened and well-worth the extra cost. Arriving hot, the aroma imparts hints of sweet honey and the taste of dried tangerine peel, best on its own but equally impressive with salted Normandy butter.
Sea urchin on sweet potato waffle with smoked bacon cream is the piece de resistance, where miniature triangles of sweet waffle are topped with creamy Canadian sea urchin and a smoky bacon cream, a well thought out dish imparting flavours and textures in each layer. The tiny comte gougere came up short after the uni, but on its own the sweet top crust and whipped cheese filling burst with sweet and savoury contrasts.
Entrees such as the steak tartare, at HK$228, seemed meagre in serving size. Hand-chopped beef with creamed horseradish, spread on crisscrossing potato gaufrettes, is simple but great in texture between the crunchy potato and creamy tartare. Shima aji with pomelo and avocado is a refreshing dish, with carefully fanned out slices of fish alternating with avocado, the lightness of pomelo offering lightness with a citrus zing.
Roast chicken with pommes Anna is a showstopper. Arriving stuffed with herbs, you get to see the whole golden-brown bird before it’s whisked away for carving. Upon return, the breast, stuffed with a mixture of spring peas and spinach, has been deboned and carved into manageable portions, while the pieces are lightly dressed in its own jus. The brined local bird is tender throughout, but perhaps a tad over seasoned. The pommes Anna, or gratineed potato slices, was as perfect as it should be: thin rounds of overlapping potatoes arranged on a dish with butter and baked until golden. The caramelised edges crisped and the rest yielded to the bite – a simple dish flawlessly executed..
Save room for desserts, as should you be ordering more than one – start with a lighter choice such as the lavender and whey granita, where the deceptively boring layers of white bring surprises that work wonders, from floral lavender granita, to citrus espuma and lemon meringue at the top. The miso ice cream offers just a tinge of savoury and umami to a seemingly esoteric but excellently constructed dessert. The millefeuille is served with an amaretto caramel. Three layers of flaky puff pastry sandwiches two layers of crème patisserie, or pastry cream, which is sweet enough to bring out the buttery lightness of the crisp puff, its intricate layers shattering to golden shards on contact with the fork.
Belon takes pride in its wine list that showcases mostly natural and biodynamic wines. The sommelier is quick and knowledgable about every label from the selection. The by-the-glass option is equally impressive as well, but ask for recommendations as some bottles may offer special by-the-glass option as well, but you will need to ask the sommelier about them. Take Les Enfants Sauvages, Nicolaus and Carolin Bantlin “Cool Moon” 2014 for example, it is a creamy white that goes hand in hand with the richness of uni and the gougeres. The Pithon Paille “Grololo” may seem like an unlikely match to roast chicken but this by-the-bottle red is more than just a funny name, bearing peppery and gamey notes that make it the perfect fit for buttery pommes Anna and rich roast chicken.
Belon offers seamless service that is just about flawless, from a friendly greeting, to a personal touch of appropriate humour to lighten the mood and make the service impressive to round up the dining experience as one of the most remarkable ones we have in months. The staff earn extra points with comprehensive knowledge over the preparation of dishes and familiarity with the ingredients’ origins.
A full dinner for two includes wine and service amounts to HK$1,700. With remarkable service and simple but well-executed dishes, Belon is in the running to be one of the season’s best openings to date.