Le Bistro Winebeast remains a beloved French restaurant in Hong Kong’s dining scene amongst both locals and expats (read our latest review). The restaurant’s new home on Johnson Street continues to serve seasonal French dishes with a fine-dining twist at very affordable prices.
Winebeast’s head chef, Johan Ducroquet, spoke with us about his inspirations and the food served at his bistro.
The food at Winebeast is phenomenal. I did a review when the bistro was on Thompson Road, and I love this new location just as much. What can guests expect from the newer location?
We continue to keep our bestsellers and present ourselves as a traditional French bistro. Our menu is lighter and spontaneous, increasing our use of fresh, organic products and focusing on sustainability.
Guests can expect seasonal products being used all year-round. I speak to local and global suppliers. For example, we can have the freshest Mediterranean tuna and green asparagus from Provence. I’ll take these ingredients, create a new recipe and place it as one of our new specials.
The menu is a symphony of flavours with well-balanced dishes. Of course, the visual aesthetic is very important for Hong Kong foodies’ pictures! To have these seasonal products all the time allows us to create new dishes for regulars and new clients who are surprised by these discoveries.
Who are you biggest influences?
Hôtel de Crillon is where I learned to be meticulous while understanding the foundations of French cooking techniques. My greatest inspiration comes from Chef William Ledeuil from Ze Kitchen Galerie, a one-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris. He loves working with Asian produce and incorporates his travelling experiences into his dishes. My cuisine showcases my travels in Asia and other places that have impacted my life.
You were in Paris and now you’re here. Why Hong Kong?
I began cooking at the age of 14 and left Paris when I was 23 to go to Spain and South America. We moved to Hong Kong because it’s one of the most exciting food hubs in Asia, with a mixture of cultures, languages, colours and flavours. It’s difficult to find another city in Asia that has all these advantages and variety!
Where do you find inspiration for both the food served and the decor at Winebeast?
The streets of Hong Kong. To be surrounded by stalls and grocers, I can first-handedly experience the exoticism of products and observe how fresh ingredients are. During my daily walks, I try to adapt most of these products into my kitchen.
We wanted to create the venue to feel open so that people are surrounded by the streets of Hong Kong. We’ve installed wide windows like a Parisian bistro. We want customers to experience the bustle of Hong Kong streets while enjoying the French food created.
What is your favourite ingredient and why?
Fresh herbs. They give a twist to all dishes while bringing complexity and freshness. They’re simple, humble, and if you use herbs wisely, they bring a lot of power to a recipe.
Your wife, Cristina, is the sommelier at Winebeast. Do you help her to find wines for the restaurant and how does she source the bottles you currently have?
Cristina is a fantastic sommelier. Her contacts with winemakers and suppliers, as well as her negotiation skills, have helped me to learn a lot, and I continue to learn from her every day. I chose her as my sommelier as she understands the cuisine style at Winebeast.
I handle the tasks within the restaurant, and she at the front sourcing wines. We work together for wine selections during events such as tastings and wine-pairing dinners. Communication is key for the success and reputation of our wine selection.
What has been your most memorable meal and why?
Dinner with Cristina at Mugaritz in San Sebastián, Spain, was unforgettable. The dishes respected the ingredients used and came together as the perfect symphony. It was a magical moment.
Your top-three favourite restaurants and bars in Hong Kong?
A very difficult question! I work a lot during the week, so there’s little time to try new restaurants and bars, and I enjoy eating at home with my family.
For drinks, I recommend Red Sugar [Kerry Hotel]. The bar has spectacular views of the harbour and a laid-back atmosphere.
For family brunch, we like to head to Zuma as the seafood is fresh, and they have a great champagne selection.
Regarding restaurants, Caprice is one of my favourites for a meeting and/or romantic lunch/dinner. I also like ÉPURE and Rech if I’m in TST. Finally, one of my most recent discoveries is BELON. The menu has fresh, innovative ideas.
Le Bistro Winebeast, G/F, Newman House, 35–45 Johnston Road, Wanchai, 2782 6689, book online
For more interviews like this, like Foodie on Facebook