Date of review: July 20, 2017 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
First opened in 2010 in Paris by chef Frederic Vardon, Paris’ popular French restaurant has launched its first Hong Kong outpost at the ICC. Operated by the same team that runs Inakaya next door, the French restaurant is a handsome space along a scenic strip of the Victoria harbour. The décor is intimate and lit dimly enough to create a romantic ambiance. Guests passing by a cellar will be led towards the main dining area at the front of the restaurant, where tables are slightly closer together than we anticipated they would be. The bar is located in the middle of the restaurant, set facing the semi-open kitchen. The best seat in the house must be one of the tables by the window, as even on a gloomy day guests can still see the bright city lights from afar.
Le 39V’s menu offering spans across a wide range of items with classic French execution. Guests can see its opening spring/summer menu laden with micro-herbs and young vegetables, as most of the seasonal menu’s dishes coincide with those from the a la carte menu.
We began our meal with Nicoise style red mullet. This particular style adds anchovies and black olives, both enhancing the oceanic freshness of this first course. The butterflied red mullet is seared and firm to the touch. A vibrant array of tomatoes, from concasse to wedges of heirloom tomatoes offer complexity to the dish, from crisp green Zebra, creamy Coeur de Boeuf (beefsteak) tomatoes, to sweet Pineapple tomato. The colours are summery and the dish tastes as refreshing as it looks.
We couldn’t resist sharing the oven-grilled macaroni with truffle ragout as a starter, although it’s the main course. Shavings of truffles embellished a crusty macaroni tower, bound by a cheese-filled mornay sauce with truffle ragout; it’s creamy and earthy but not t overpoweringly so. We felt this dish to be a wonderful course to share.
While blue lobster ravioli and a ‘French style’ roasted pigeon were tempting, we opted for the restaurant’s signature farmhouse lamb, served two ways. The confit lamb shoulder was tender throughout, though some parts drier than others. The rack of lamb was tender with a beautiful crust. The highlights, however, were the bulghur wheat-stuffed bell pepper and the sauce, made with lamb jus and a colourful melange of dried fruits such as apricots and raisins, accented with cardamom, anise, and cinnamon, recreating the flavours of a tagine, refined with Western touches.
The monkfish with shellfish arrived showcasing two large medallions of monkfish, a rather mealy main with tender razor clams baked with a panko topping and meat from fresh cockles.
Le 39V’s dessert menu is a true French affair, and our Grand Marnier soufflé with verbena sorbet is one of the best soufflés in town – boasting great height, a golden-brown top, and fluffy interior. The verbena sorbet is herbaceous with just the right hint of tanginess to it. The Paris-Brest, served partially covered with a caramel case, was light with just a contrast in texture from the smooth praline cream and caramel underneath.
The wine selection is proper, divided by regions and with a humble list of reasonably priced labels and a few fine ones beyond thousands per bottle. The by-the-glass selection ranges from crisp Chablis to spicy Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2014 Chablis ‘Saint-Pierre’ from Le Domaine d’Henri is a fresh, crisp white from Burgundy. Its buttery texture on the palate ensures a perfect match to fresh starters and a great accompaniment to seafood such as monkfish and even lobster ravioli. The 2013 Marsannay ‘Longeroies’ – Domaine Rene is complex in flavour and aroma, fruity resembling tart berries and savoury herbs, another great recommendation from the team for pairing with a fruit-filled main course of roasted lamb.
Service at Le 39V is superb, as the staff is friendly and keen to introduce the restaurant to guests and answer questions. The staff is knowledgeable about the menu with keen with wine pairing as well. The service team also checks in with the guests throughout dinner on progress and relay feedback to the kitchen team.
A three-course dinner for two including one glass of wine each amounts to HK$2,800. Le 39V keeps the finesse of classic French cuisine in its Asian outpost, with a well-rounded consistency when it comes to wine and service with an impressive standard that can measure up to some of the most esteemed fine dining establishments in the city.