Date of review: January 3, 2013 | Reviewed by:
From the floor-to-ceiling glass door to the private elevator and an admirable wine cellar, the Les Amis Group-owned restaurant takes pride in the exclusivity and bespoke Japanese-inspired interior it offers – the three-level Cepage literally feels like a refuge. Tucked away unassumingly in the relatively quiet part of Wan Chai, Cépage’s main dining area is located on the second floor where only 42 seats are set out, while a private dining room that seats 14 people is located on the third level. With high ceilings, velvet chairs and, on the day we were there, an almost art-like ham in the centre of the room, it sets the mood for a beautiful fine dining experience.
After some delicate, Japanese-inspired amuse bouches, we quite naturally have built up a high expectation for the quality of food. The appetiser L’œuf did not disappoint. It was a beautiful blend of Okinawa shitake mushrooms and a perfectly timed poached egg that, when punctured, mixed flawlessly with the lightly seasoned and fried mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and cheese. This is a dish we will order on our return, but unfortunately the only dish that thoroughly impressed us that day. The grilled wagyu beef over natural Japanese charcoal paired nicely with fresh asparagus and gave off, as described, an appetising scent of charcoal, but one we found overpowering, muting the flavour of the not-so-tender beef. The poultry dish la Caille performed better and came with tender quail with bone intact and foie gras and mildly flavoured chicken over a creamy, sauce of green asparagus. We liked that the dish had balanced flavours with the chicken and tender quail both lightly seasoned, but lacked a wow factor that its presentation had suggested. For desserts, we tried one of Cépage’s four desserts: la cerise, a modern take on tiramisu with a poached cherry half submerged in the tiramisu, layered with light mascarpone cream. Again a beautiful visual display here, but we thought it could’ve used more ladyfingers as every spoonful of the dessert translated to a mouthful of cream. The chocolate-coated almonds, however, did give that the dish an extra dimension of flavour and texture.
Named after the French word for “grape variety”, Cépage treats its wine list very seriously. In fact, wine is one of the reasons why we will return - not only is the wine list exhaustive, and diverse, but a knowledgeable in-house sommelier is always at the ready, even at lunch hours. We were told the restaurant is home to over 2,400 wine labels, and about 8,000 if you include various vintages. Thumb through the massive list, you’ll find half bottles that cost a mere HK$150 to magnums that will set you back for over HK$250,000 a bottle.
We find the staff at Cépage to be very attentive and extremely knowledgeable. Recommendations on both wine and food were made confidently without sounding rehearsed. During the course of our meal, our server was always just steps away without being intrusive; he also thoughtfully brought in extra plates for sharing. Dishes were taken away swiftly, and crumbs scraped off professionally. But be sure to alert your server if you’re in a hurry - we suspect the wait between courses has to do with the intricate, artistic presentations.
A four-course meal from the a la carte menu, with a glass of wine, will come to about HK$1,200 per person. To get truly good value for money, we recommend visiting during lunch hours for its four-course lunch set, priced at a mere HK$560.