Date of review: September 1, 2015 | Reviewed by: Janice Leung Hayes
Despite a skyline dominated by industrial buildings, Kwun Tong is experiencing a revival, and riding that wave is L’hotel élan, a boutique hotel popular with business travellers and more intrepid travellers. Forte is the hotel’s only restaurant. Clad in black and slate grey, with mood lighting, the dining room is expansive and contemporary, but form gives way to function with the oversized buffet island, which has an exaggerated clearance of floor space to accommodate peak periods like breakfast-time. At dinner, though, the area can look deserted.
Forte is a buffet-oriented restaurant, with semi-buffets offered at lunch and dinner, where diners choose a main à la carte and other courses from the buffet.
We choose from just the à la carte menu, starting with the 36-month Iberico ham with figs, charmingly presented on a slate platter, with edible flowers dotting the dish. You can’t go far wrong with this classic combination, and here, the quality ingredients shine without distraction.
The menu is incredibly diverse in its offerings, even more so than the typical hotel lobby lounge; you’ll find everything from sushi to steak, quesadillas to fried rice. It also has a good range of vegetarian offerings.
For mains we try the surf and turf – buttered baked lobster with lamb cutlets. It’s served with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. The lobster is unfortunately overcooked and dry, but the lamb is cooked to a perfect medium rare, and well rested. The sides remind us a little too much of school dinners, with a grainy mash and tough broccoli.
The Hainan chicken rice is much better executed and a prime example of this classic dish. The chicken is cooked in an intense broth, giving it a moreish depth of flavour, and it’s also perfectly tender and juicy all round, from the breast to the drumstick. We could hardly get enough of the accompanying rice, each grain rich and seasoned with the layered fragrance of aromatics like ginger and scallions.
For dessert, the drunken affogato – ice-cream, coffee and a dash of liquor, is a nice way to improve on basic ice-cream service and ends the meal with just a little something sweet.
The wine selection is minimal, with little to offer the vinophile, but for a casual drop with your meal, the few wines by the glass are sufficient. Like the menu, the wine list is presented on a tablet, but despite the potential to provide as much information about the wines as one would like, it only lists the name and price. Unfortunately the servers’ rudimentary knowledge doesn’t make up for the list’s lack of information.
The restaurant is quiet at dinner service, and as a result, few staff are on duty. This is only an issue because of the extremely large dining room – it takes a few minutes of waiting and waving at staff from the entrance before we are seated, and it can be similarly hard to get a staff member’s attention when seated. Once we do, however, staff are friendly and eager to please.
A full three-course meal for two with wine comes to around $1100, which seems a little pricey for this level of cooking and service. The semi-buffet dinner costs $498 per person (plus 10% service charge), and may be better value in terms of quantity.