Charming Jersey boy (we love his booming Joisey accent) Chris Grare cut his culinary chops at Chef Daniel Boulud’s iconic Café Boulud in the Big Apple before making the move to Hong Kong. Since arriving in the 852, he’s worked at both Café Gray Deluxe at The Upper House and the American Club, overseeing the steakhouse’s kitchen. He’s arrived at Lily & Bloom with a bang, completely overhauling the à la carte menu (but don’t fear, L&B groupies, the lobster mac ’n’ cheese and Bloom burger are still there).
The New Menu
The first thing to note about the new dishes is that the presentation is beautiful, akin to a fine dining restaurant rather than a laid-back American brasserie. This ethos continues with the chef’s cooking techniques and flavour profiles. Divided into small, medium and large plates (along with sections for beef, seafood and pasta), we started small and ended humongous (read on for more about the epic dessert). Of the small plates, the area where the chef seems to take the most risks, the lentil-crusted lobster ($155) and cured salmon ($125) were the standouts. Uniquely coated in lentil, the meaty yet tender lobster cake sat atop a pool of Thai-inspired curry sauce – our only complaint was that there wasn’t more of the divine sauce, which we slathered on the lobster like butter on baguette. Visually stunning, the vibrantly red salmon shone owing to the well-thought-out accompaniments of paper-thin discs of tangy beetroot, horseradish cream and a generous mound of caviar.
The foie gras terrine ($210) – which is a bit like crack to us: we know it’s wrong, but we just can't stop eating it once we’ve had a taste – was our favourite of the medium plates while the steak tartare ($198) and sea urchin parfait ($185) were also worthy contenders. Classics with a twist, the foie gras was luxuriously smooth and savoury (the quail egg topper was an especially nice touch), and the steak tartare had the perfect texture and buttery mouthfeel, with the addition of black truffle and horseradish amping up the flavour profile. More innovative was the sea urchin parfait, again with a lovely smooth texture similar to custard, crowned with chunks of uni; ask for more of the accompanying black sesame crackers for dipping/spreading. The three or four we were given weren’t nearly enough for the generous amount of parfait.
Lily & Bloom’s steaks have long been favoured by carnivores around town, and Chef Grare’s 45-day dry-aged cowboy steak ($1,400 for 35 ounces; this could easily serve four hungry diners) was no exception. Sourced from Chicago’s famous butcher Meats by Linz, this hunk of meat was tender and well marbled, with an intense flavour from the dry ageing that was like beef in high definition. Beef reigned supreme for us during our tasting, and we also savoured the slow-braised short rib ($345), served on the bone. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious with its sticky, sweet red wine and port sauce – the accompanying salt-baked beetroot was a good, fresh foil. Not so successful was the steamed grouper ($315), deboned, with the flesh made into a hefty patty in the centre of the plate. I guess we’re traditionalists, but for us, nothing beats a steamed whole grouper at a Chinese restaurant, far more befitting of the fish’s delicate texture and flavour. We did enjoy the fragrant lemongrass broth, which was poured from a teapot over the fish upon serving, and the tempura prawns on the side.
Go big or go home must be Chef Grare’s motto, because we were presented with an enormous (read: a foot long) skillet-baked chocolate chip cookie for dessert, which could feed at least 8–10 people (note: this must be ordered in advance). Topped with drizzles of chocolate and caramel sauces and an assortment of sweets including M&M’s and Gummi Bears (which didn’t really work for us; the texture of these chewy candies becomes off-putting when melted), eating this made us feel like kids in a candy shop. Although we’ve had better chocolate chip cookies in our time (the cookie itself was on the dry side), this was a fun dessert experience.
We weren’t sure what to expect with Chef Grare’s new menu, but it was a resounding success. He’s taken popular American dishes and ingredients and brought them to loftier heights with inspired global flavour combinations (many distinctly Asian) and refined cooking techniques. The portion sizes and prices mean that dishes are meant to be shared, so go with a dining partner or more who are keen to explore the chef’s sophisticated takes on classic plates.
5/F and 6/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, 2810 6166