At Aera, local talents bring creative spins on Nordic cooking, delivering pleasant surprises
Amongst the many new eateries that have opened post-COVID, Aera is one we truly appreciate. Drawing inspiration from the Nordic emphasis on sustainability and ecological awareness, the young, local culinary team led by Chef Chevalier Yau seeks to provide a unique fine-dining experience by applying traditional Nordic cooking techniques such as pickling, smoking and air-drying to fresh, seasonal, local ingredients.
Situated in a quiet corner of the bustling Wanchai district, Aera has an open kitchen and modern, rustic decor. We felt relaxed in the restaurant’s Nordic, minimalist vibe. What’s in store is a 10-course tasting menu (HK$1,188/person; +HK$798 for wine pairings).
The names of the dishes at Aera boil down to their elements, again reflecting the restaurant’s simplicity. The innovative amuse-bouches are pleasant surprises. Honey Pea/Gardenia/Pear showcases jade-green local peas in a tart. One can savour the freshness of the summer peas enhanced with sweet pear gel when the peas pop in the mouth.
Mussels/Panna/Caviar is a savoury panna cotta made with mussels and caviar, topped with flower petals. The fresh, salty taste of the seafood complements the panna cotta’s rich, creamy texture, taking sophisticated palates to another level.
Disguised as a cup of green tea, Spring Onion/Egg/Corn surprised us with layerings of different flavours and aromas. Chopped Japanese scallop, egg and sweetcorn are hidden by the spring onion foam. The gentle kick from the foam boosts the flavours of the other ingredients, creating a delightful blend of flavours. It’s served with delicious sourdough with horseradish butter on the side; the bread is crispy on the outside and soft inside, with a umami hint of soy sauce. This unpretentiously tasty amuse-bouche was our favourite.
A standout starter is Rice/Urchin/Garlic. Here, rice is covered in the richness of Japanese sea urchin and clam-soup foam. The vital ingredient that makes this dish unforgettable is Japanese red shiso vinegar, which gives that unexpected sour punch amidst the background of smooth, creamy flavours.
The following courses – fish, chicken and beef – cover virtually all preferences. Fish/ Cucumber/Roe features a piece of cobia (fish) sitting on a beautiful bed of cucumber sauce, garnished with salmon roe and caviar. The chef adds mint and duck oils to the dish to further enhance the wonderful mix of fresh flavours.
Pattes/Malt/Lemon is a mouth-watering signature dish of local yellow chicken feet that are meticulously prepared for three days by soaking the chicken feet in maltose and herbs, followed by air-drying and then grilling to perfection. The chef adds a final dash of lemon juice before serving, further elevating the incredible flavours of this dish. For those who are a bit sceptical about chicken feet, rest assured that a juicy chicken thigh is served alongside.
For the main course, there’s a choice of chicken and beef – Chicken/Sansai/Dashi or A3 Wagyu/Truffle/Beef Jus (+HK$248). We tried both and were immediately won over by the chicken roll, which was a pleasant surprise. The tenderness of the chicken cooked with Japanese dashi is hands down one of the best chicken rolls we have ever eaten, and the accompanying Japanese kale and local choi sum soak up all the flavours of the meat. The Wagyu dish shines too; it’s super tender, and its richness is enhanced by a delicious truffle and mushroom sauce. But if we were forced to choose between these two dishes, it was the chicken that truly stole our hearts.
The tasting menu concludes with a pre-dessert, dessert and petits fours. The dessert is a refreshing grape mousse with French olive oil ice cream, topped elegantly with a bay leaf – a perfect balance of savoury undertones and fruity sweetness to end a very memorable dining experience.
Aera is a promising new player in Hong Kong’s casual fine-dining scene. The sumptuous menu is unfettered by its organic and rustic presentation, a reflection of the restaurant’s core emphasis on cooking techniques and quality ingredients. We enjoyed all the courses, with the chicken dishes (chicken roll and chicken feet) being our clear winners. We congratulate Aera on its unpretentiously delicious food. A simpler set lunch menu (from HK$200/person) is also available.
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.