K11 MUSEA continues to impress us with their new openings and offerings. The thought of dining in a mall does not usually conjure up images of fine dining, tranquil settings or state-of-the-art design. However, K11 MUSEA now houses a multitude of exciting dining concepts, both super casual and ultra high end. Although I’ve been visiting and dining at the MUSEA for over a year now, every time I visit one of their high-end restaurants I am truly surprised. However, no restaurant could have surprised me as much as Tirpse did.
The name “Tirpse” – which is esprit (French for “spirit”) spelled backwards – confuses me. Not easy to say, it sounds more like a dive bar (anyone want to get tirpse-y?) than an immaculate fine-dining establishment. The name is meant to symbolise the free spirit of the restaurant’s cuisine, which combines French and Japanese ingredients and techniques.
Tirpse first opened in Tokyo in 2015 and became the fastest restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star, within just two months of opening. Tirpse Hong Kong opened earlier this year at K11 MUSEA, but perhaps owing to the sheer craziness of 2020, we hadn’t yet heard too much about it.
I recently visited Tirpse with no real preconceptions or expectations – knowing only of the Tokyo branch’s Michelin achievement and that the name was perplexing. Immediately upon entering, I was impressed by the restaurant’s design. From the outside, it looks small and cosy, with a sleek, gold-accented bar and a small sofa area. However, the interior of the restaurant, which cannot be seen from the entrance, is quite expansive. It’s a stunning restaurant, with sophisticated black marble and copper accents, minimalist modern art, wooden features and expansive views of Victoria Harbour.
I visited on a Thursday and found the large restaurant to be rather busy for lunchtime. The service was slightly slow, waiting half an hour for a drink and over 45 minutes for the amuse-bouche. However, once the first course was out, the timing was reasonable and the staff were all very polite and attentive, explaining each dish in detail. The dishes are designed by talented chef Shimizu Yuta, who worked previously at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
I sampled items from the five-course Selected lunch menu ($498) and the six-course
Executive lunch menu ($698).
The amuse-bouche came in the form of two positively delightful bite-sized tartlets – one filled with creamy foie gras, the other with fresh ikura and salmon – already highlighting the duet between French and Japanese cuisines.
The stone bream sashimi starter is available as part of the Selected lunch menu and is an exquisite showcase of umami flavours. The light white fish is perfectly complemented by sweet and smoky fermented tomato and green caviar.
Our pretty-in-pink cover star is the Executive lunch set starter: beetroot carpaccio with crabmeat and hazelnut. At this stage, I was blown away by the artistic presentation of the dishes and had enjoyed every mouthful of everything I had sampled. The only fault I could find with this dish was the beetroot dusting. While beautiful, it was rather bitter and chalky in texture (although perhaps that was my fault for trying to lick the plate).
Moving on to the main course, I was served kinmedai, lemongrass and avocado. On both lunch menus, this is usually lobster (+$168), but the kinmedai is available on the dinner menu and was substituted owing to an allergy. The Japanese fish was cooked to perfection, with a wonderful crunchy and salty skin. The lemongrass foam was fragrant and added even more flavour to the potato with avocado underneath, which was rich and buttery.
For a little carb interlude, we were served ciabatta with sour cream butter. There is nothing more satisfying than butter that melts into warm and airy bread – except maybe the act of eating it.
Another main course option, the pigeon, alpine garlic and ginkgo was by far the best pigeon dish I have ever had. Not usually a huge fan of the often gamy meat, I’m always a bit nervous when I see it on a menu. However, this pigeon was utterly delicious – rich and succulent on the inside, crisp on the outside and garnished with gorgeous mushrooms, truffle, garlic and gingko beans.
The first of the desserts was this “mini dessert” of walnut, red miso and caramel ice cream, which comes with the Selected lunch menu. This bite-sized dessert had just the right combination of sweet, savoury, crunchy and creamy elements.
For the next (not so mini) dessert, I would like everyone to take a moment to appreciate the absolute perfection that is that dollop of bay leaf ice cream. One of those desserts that’s almost too pretty to eat but too delicious not to, the mandarin orange with white bean paste and laurel was an exciting mix of flavours and textures.
The stunning cakes are designed by head patisserie chef Rin Horiuchi and are both delicate yet striking in appearance. The Forest cake is so shiny that, if you look carefully, you’ll see my reflection. While both cakes are on the sweeter side, they contain tart fruits to cut the sweetness. The Cloud cake is flavoured with damask rose, Tahitian vanilla, lychee and raspbery atop a crisp coconut base. The Forest is Chef Horiuchi’s take on a traditional Black Forest cake, elevated with sakura cherry kirsch liqueur, cherry blossom syrup and hand-crafted cherry compote. The chocolate casing uses the finest Valrhona chocolate along with aromatic spices such as anise, clove and cinnamon. These cakes are certainly a treat for all the senses.
Tirpse has also recently launched an afternoon tea set ($228/1 or $438/2), available from Monday–Thursday, 2:30–5pm, and from Friday–Sunday, 3–5pm. Guests can choose between the Forest (dark chocolate) and Cloud (white chocolate) cakes alongside a glass of Henri Giraud Esprit Nature Brut champagne and a cup of organic hanami floral tea or coffee.
After a slow start, Tirpse absolutely blew me away with the exquisite presentation, high- quality ingredients and delectable dishes that tasted as good as they looked. Every dish was served with pride, highlighting each individual element on the plate. With Tirpse’s high price point (although justified) and slower service, it is not a restaurant I would recommend for a casual weekday lunch but, instead, for the most special of occasions. My meal at Tirpse was definitely a big surprise and, quite possibly, my favourite meal of the year so far.
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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