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Restaurant Ce La Vi

Ce La Vi

Restaurant, $$$$, Asian, Japanese, Central
This 3-storey Lan Kwai Fong hotspot promises attentive service and a sweet ending, despite a great need for improvement in food in general
  • ReservationYes
  • Private RoomYes
  • Accept Credit CardYes
  • Dress CodeSmart Casual
  • Vegetarian DishMore than 5
  • Bring Your Own BottleNo
  • BuffetNo
  • Car ValetNo

Review

After much delay and an unceremonious name change, Ce La Vi opened in Lan Kwai Fong, occupying the top three stories of the newly refurbished California Tower. Guests arrive at the 25th floor for the lounge, where a private elevator will take you downstairs for dining and upstairs for its signature rooftop bar. The restaurant space, a square room with an open kitchen, distracts guests from the panoramic view of the bustling cityscape of the business district.

Ce La Vi serves contemporary Asian cuisine, with heavy influence in Japanese and some South-East Asian elements. The starters section is filled with Japanese staples such as tempura, sashimi and rolls for sharing while mains are more Western-cuisine based and individually portioned. Our suggestion is to go for the simple, straightforward dishes and skip the frou-frou options. Squid tempura arrives, fresh and hot with a chilli-spiked dipping sauce. Pork belly skewers feature tender chunks of meat, wrapped in shiso leaves and sandwiching a thin slice of pineapple, whose tartness cuts the richness of the belly. Hamachi nahm prick takes neatly fanned-out slices of tender yellowtail resting on a bed of green chilli and coriander sauce, reminding us of a Peruvian ceviche done well.

We did not have much luck with other dishes from the menu. The brioche in Foie gras French toast, a signature dish at Ce La Vi, is miniscule and at the time of serving, soaked up all the fat from the foie gras and turned into a soggy sponge. Shrimp tempura roll is loosely rolled-up, unevenly cut, and served lukewarm. Individually sized mains are not much better. The Fluke was over-seasoned with overcooked with mismatched basil oil, but the cauliflower puree and charred cherry tomatoes were sweet and done well. Lamb, featuring a trio of sides, was well-executed at medium rare, but the green tea and pistachio crust is burnt while the shitake mushroom relish is unfittingly paired with tomatoes and finely-diced coconut flesh.

Despite a mixed experience with starters and mains, desserts are reliable at Ce La Vi, where pastry chef Jason Licker delights each table with inspiring flavour combinations and contrast in textures. Follow the ‘order simple’ rule and have the Matcha, the star in the menu and likely the most Instagrammed dessert in the city for the past month. Smooth Varlhona 64% Manjari chocolate ice cream graces the creamy matcha filling inside a short butter tart. White chocolate junmai cream pairs white chocolate with sake, where the latter takes out the excessive sweetness of white chocolate and replaces it with complexity of the sake, which pairs well with a shiso jelly and mixed berries. The best element in the Cherry dessert is the yuzu-cherry sorbet, a quenelle of deep puce that is good on its own, rather than pairing with a limp spiced cake and crispy filo.

The wine list is comprehensive with a fine selection of reds and whites and fittingly Japanese, with a collection of sakes and popular Japanese whiskies. Ce La Vi prides on its Asian-inspired cocktails featuring ingredients that may need some explaining and experimenting. We were particularly impressed with Sweet Dream, where grapefruit and floral notes from elderflower matches well with the restaurant’s own brand of sake. Osaka Noodle House, garnished with a slice each of ginger and cucumber brings more resemblance to a pickle-juice slush than an inspiring, complex cocktail it promises.

Service is friendly and attentive, where dishes are introduced with occasional hiccups on explaining dishes and ingredients.

Dinner for two with one cocktail each and desserts will amount to $2,000 for two. Based on the issue that Ce La Vi is not fine dining, the experience is not value for money you spend especially with the inconsistency in the quality of dishes served. There is certainly some room for improvement. 

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