The grandeur of the massive entry hall to ifc mall’s newest restaurant, Chinesology, is pure luxury in this land of eye-watering real-estate prices, especially at one of Central’s most premium addresses. The plush interior of this opulently styled restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Victoria Harbour comes to us from Mira Dining, the same group that operates neighbouring Chinese restaurant Cuisine Cuisine.
Decked out in velvety, jewel-hued furnishings and subdued glimmers of brass, Chinesology pays homage to the golden age of China, the Tang Dynasty, with an exploratory menu that is a tribute to the great leaps in Chinese gastronomy made during this bygone era. Behind the culinary concept is Chef Saito Chau, who previously led the kitchens of John Anthony, Dim Sum Library and Hutong.
The main dining room is flanked by a curved bar, as well as several lavishly decorated private rooms.
The innovative cocktail list at Chinesology is inspired by the intricacies of traditional Chinese medicine and uses elements of Chinese herbology to enhance modern mixology. The Bamboo Punch ($128) is a curious blend of traditional Chinese chu yeh ching spirit stirred with homemade five-spice cordial and sparkling wine, while the Tietini ($128) is a smoky yet citrusy blend of Tieguanyin tea infused with gin, honey and tonic.
We sampled a few of the restaurant’s à-la-carte signatures before digging into the main tasting menu. Almost too pretty to eat, the multilayered pastry with roasted goose and mushroom ($78 for 2) has a deep, rosy hue thanks to an infusion of cherry juice. Made traditionally with a shredded turnip filling, Chinesology’s meatier version packs a lot more flavour and contrast in texture between the hearty goose meat and slippery mushroom.
The hue and shape of the steamed abalone dumplings ($88 for 3) reminded us of the actual mollusc. Each plump dumpling is filled with umami dices of abalone and mushroom.
The “Flavours of Life” degustation menu ($1,288/person) kicks off with a soft-shelled prawn encrusted in salted duck egg yolk and garnished with barley crisps. We’ve often encountered soft-shelled crab, but this soft-shelled prawn was a first for us. The hassle-free shellfish was a much-welcomed discovery, with the salted egg yolk making for an addictive, briny batter. We particularly enjoyed the umami richness of the prawn head, which we gobbled up with much delight.
The crispy spoon is a one-bite wonder that serves both flavour and function. Tiny pieces of A5 Kagoshima Wagyu, celery, root vegetables and pine nuts are wok-fried and dolloped onto a fried spring roll shell that’s been moulded into a spoon shape. The idea is to enjoy the crunch of the “spoon” alongside the menagerie of wok-fried goodies (also minimising the need to wash additional cutlery!).
Comfort in a bowl, the double-boiled fish maw soup with Japanese melon, chuanbei and almond is delicately sweet and creamy, packed with collagen. Revered for its honeyed sweetness, Japanese melon is usually eaten fresh, and this was the first time we tried this coveted fruit in cooked form. Its fragrance and sweetness pair exceptionally well with the fragrant almond and creamy fish maw.
The jumbo scallop features a perfectly caramelised exterior around a tender, bouncy centre. It’s a great match for the crunchy lotus root and green beans tossed in sergestid shrimp paste, topped with crispy sakura shrimp.
A palate cleanser of icy pineapple globes and preserved plum prepped us for the culinary journey ahead.
Another soothing dish, the lobster, crabmeat, egg white and young coconut stew has plenty of delicate sweetness from the shellfish, which is further accentuated by the sweetness of the coconut broth.
The crispy amadai showcases gorgeous, puffed-up scales and a delicious crunch, although we wished it had been a tad less fried so that we could fully enjoy the hearty texture of the fish flesh.
The chicken and oyster casserole is a decadent dish packed with umami notes, made even more luxurious with a splash of intoxicatingly aromatic moutai. Each morsel of protein is plump and juicy, tossed in an addictive “secret sauce”.
This whimsical crab-shaped clay dish hints at what’s to come. Inside, the flat green bean noodles topped with creamy crab roe, poached egg and pearls of vinegar are indulgently comforting.
In collaboration with HK-based distillery Fok Hing Gin, Chinesology has created its own bespoke gin made with red date, longan and hawthorn. We sampled this slightly sweet gin in traditional drinking vessels for the full “dynasty” experience.
A favourite childhood treat for many northern Chinese, the candied hawthorn skewer makes an appearance on Chinesology’s menu – with a twist. Preserved plum mousse is shaped into spheres and glazed in hawthorn jelly to resemble the much-loved snack, arriving at the table with theatrical flourish inside an elegant jewellery box. Soothing jujube tea and a creamy concoction of Baileys and vodka rounded off our meal.
Chinesology presents an extravagant tasting menu built on the bones of traditional culinary traditions but with innovative twists that define it as something much different from the fine-dining Chinese restaurants we’ve become accustomed to in Hong Kong. This trendy eatery would be a great spot for hosting a lavish gathering or after-work drinks with clients.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.