Date of review: January 28, 2016 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
Occupying two floors at The Wellington, the lounge is located on the 29th floor, while the main dining space on the 30th floor of Vea is a narrow space with a dining bar placed along an open kitchen. The interior invokes a sense of modern glamour with abundant use of black and bronze, complete with marbled counters spread throughout the dining space. Guests can settle on high chairs, which may be difficult to manoeuvre but are evenly spaced.
Vea serves only one eight-course degustation menu and an optional wine or cocktail pairing created by Antonio Lai. The menu, designed by Liberty Private Works alumnus Vicky Cheng, is prepared at the open-kitchen where guests can see all the culinary action. A nearly four-hour dinner began with an array of snacks similar to amuse bouche. The clams with black bean tartlets are inspired by local stir-fried clams with preserved black beans and chillies. The clams are tender but the olive oil tartlets were strangely dry and brittle. The smoked quail eggs, however are tender with just the right smoky notes.
The tasting menu begins with light seafood dishes that slowly move towards heavier meaty mains. Meat from the langoustine course magically pairs with lime-marinated custard apple, a refreshing fennel foam and chewy duck fat-roasted salsify. The texture and flavours both offer surprises.
Vea’s signature egg is disappointing, with an over-poached Taiyouran egg yolk atop tough pasta filled with cheese. The truffle foam, however, is pleasantly creamy.
Guinea fowl roulade with smoked foie gras as filling is great with smooth celeriac puree but the truffled sauce was too dominating. Beef is served two ways: tamarind-braised short rib and seared A4 wagyu striploin, served alongside caramelised gingko nuts and crisp yuba sheets.
The addition of beetroot is the surprise in a dessert of strawberry married with yoghurt. The liquid nitrogen demo brings a theatrical element to preparation. Don’t miss the petit fours, as the condensed milk mochi is perfectly light and chewy, while ginger-milk macaron evokes a nostalgic local dessert memory.
It is important to note that Vea takes its drinks seriously, with renowned mixologist Antonio Lai has designing cocktails for each course of the degustation menu. Lai’s creativity matches dashi with cucumber and vodka, pears with lemon and truffle oil, longan with oolong tea and rum, and even a warm cocktail made with shiitake mushroom, whisky, and mushroom consommé. The cocktail pairing is a smart way to enhance the Vea experience, as the cocktails are part of the dish itself, enhancing each to its full potential. A wine-pairing option is also available, but we prefer the effect house cocktails can make for the menu. There is also a good selection of wines by the glass as well as wide selection of bottles and some rare labels.
Service at Vea is attentive without being intrusive. Each server bears full comprehensive knowledge of everything on the menu, from origin of ingredients to the best ways to enjoy the dish. The eight-course dinner may last up to four hours, but each dish is well executed and somehow the meal did not feel as long as it was.
A dinner for two with respective wine cocktail pairings sums up to a little over $4,300 including gratuity. Pricing is on the upper end, but we hope it translates into more plated surprises from chef Cheng. With the current fine execution on offer, matching cocktails, and flawless service, Vea sets a bar rather high for fine dining of the same calibre