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Right now, Corner 18 is #1 of 12,379 restaurants in Hong Kong on Tripadvisor, with 143 reviews. Michelin-starred Mandarin Grill + Bar at Mandarin Oriental is #2, with 920 reviews.
Why is it called “Corner 18”? No one we asked seemed to know what was behind the name, but we like it – it’s mysterious. We were welcomed to the restaurant and took some time to be shown around. The windows go double height, a fortress tall, but they are coated with something to ensure that the day outside didn’t look nearly as hot as it felt when we were actually out there.
We were visiting for the chef’s signature set lunch ($268 or $348, depending on the main course), not the buffet. It’s a little more pricey than a quick, get-away-from-the-desk lunch, and we didn’t really know what to expect.
The bread basket arrived first, and it was pretty standard – no big number-one Tripadvisor surprises here. The pesto that came with it is the chef’s speciality, and it was fresh, light and flavourful. But, still, this is a tiny part of the meal, so surely that couldn’t be it? So far, so good... so what?
Then the three starter options from the set lunch menu were placed before us, and they were stunning.
At Corner 18, there is plenty of light coming through the enormous windows, and the chef will provide you with spectacularly beautiful dishes. Armed only with a phone camera and no special props, we felt like pro photographers. Absolutely full marks for presentation, but did they taste good?
Our favourite starter was the seared scallop on pumpkin and lentils, which came with a spoonful of salmon roe for pops of flavour. The star of this dish, however, was the tiny, tomato-like fruit that bursts in the mouth with a spicy explosion. The chef told us they are baby bell peppers imported from Italy.
Parma ham, tomato and mozzarella cheese came with crispy crostini with a balsamic drizzle. There was a selection of herbs and leaves that were all as zesty and fresh as the day they had been picked. The mozzarella was plentiful, soft and creamy. The edible flowers didn’t taste like much, but they did look super pretty.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the smoked salmon and baby greens with citrus lime vinaigrette – except that it had the misfortune to be served alongside these two other dishes.
Now, we were interested. Where did this chef come from? What’s he been doing? Why haven’t we been here before?
Chef Cody Kui has been at Corner 18 for about a year, he told us, and was previously a European menu specialist at The Hong Kong Club and Alto 88 at Regal Hongkong Hotel in Causeway Bay. He spent some time learning Italian cuisine in Genoa, Italy, at Zeffirino. We snooped around and found out that the Italian restaurant is famous for its fresh pesto, which we enjoyed with the bread basket. Chef Kui has kindly brought the Zeffirino pesto recipe back with him to Hong Kong, and he uses it to create a green minestrone soup (wait for it).
In the foreground above, the green minestrone is made with the chef’s pesto. Green minestrone – we like it, although we’re not sure the Italians would approve (have you seen this hilarious 2010 clip with Chef Gino D’Acampo taking recipe advice badly?).
We loved the lobster bisque, swayed by the generous helpings of sweet lobster meat.
We tried three of the seven available mains and would have been satisfied with any one of them.
The braised beef cheek ragu with homemade pappardelle (part of the $268 lunch set) was our must-try of the day – slow-cooked, fall-apart beef in a deeply satisfying sauce in perfect proportion to the pappardelle (if you like a high sauce to pasta ratio like we do). Chef Kui makes all the pasta himself.
Lobster with homemade tagliolini (part of the $348 lunch set) – a thin, square-cut, noodle-like pasta coated in a tomato- and bisque-flavoured sauce, with lotsa lobsta included!
For those who are keen on a lower-carb option, we tried a small portion of the grilled US Prime rib-eye (part of the $348 lunch set), which was served with a rocket and Parmesan salad. The steak was a little fatty, as rib-eye is wont to be, and had a slightly sweet, blackened coating. We wondered if the whole piece would be a bit heavy, but we would be willing to find out next time because it just was so tasty.
The set menu comes with a daily dessert, and on the day we visited, it was cherry soufflé crème brûlée with vanilla ice cream. The top had been caramelised into a hardened but broken and crispy layer. Beneath that was nested a scoop of vanilla ice cream, then the soufflé and, at the bottom of the bowl, a layer of cherry reduction. This didn’t feel like a classic soufflé because of the variety of layers and flavours going on, but for us, that was a good thing.
It will come as no surprise that we wholeheartedly recommend booking a visit to Corner 18 soon. It really does seem like a hidden gem, Tripadvisor popularity aside. The staff are attentive and welcoming, the venue is bright and spacious and the food is wonderful. The location is convenient, not in the hustle of Causeway Bay proper and directly across from Tin Hau MTR station.
If afternoon tea is your thing, they have a Valrhona chocolate afternoon tea set too, a collaboration with the French chocolate brand that includes sweets and savouries.
Put a couple of hours aside to visit and don’t forget to submit your Tripadvisor review...
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.
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