Review: VEA Restaurant & Lounge

Review: VEA Restaurant & Lounge

A Michelin-starred French-Chinese spot that’s still going strong three years on

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Jenni Lien  Jenni Lien  on 11 Jan '19


It’s hard to believe VEA’s been around for three years now – mostly because I’ve wanted to try it since day one and only just managed to go. My sister was in town, her first trip as an adult, and I wanted to book one indulgent dining experience for us to share together. While there are many outstanding restaurants in Hong Kong, VEA has always stood out for me as a must-try because of its French-Chinese style. I don’t think I’ve ever had this combination before.


The history

VEA is a two-storey place, with a lounge on the 29th floor and a restaurant on the 30th floor of a tall building in between Central and Sheung Wan. It’s named after Chef Vicky Cheng and mixologist Antonio Lai (Vicky et Antonio = VEA), both renowned in their respective fields. Before starting VEA, Vicky had worked at various top restaurants including Michelin-starred Restaurant DANIEL in New York, and Antonio is the co-founder of Tastings Group, which is behind top Hong Kong bars such as Quinary and The Envoy. Naturally, this is one spot where the cocktails are as carefully made as the food. VEA was awarded one Michelin star within a year of opening.


The vibe and decor

The vibe is energetic, with most of the guests sitting around the huge open kitchen. When we asked our server about the ratio of guests to chefs, they said about two to one! That’s a lot of power in the kitchen. The service is also top notch; each dish is carefully explained and often comes with small mementos like poems on mini scrolls, and the servers are happy to assist with requests. As for the decor, it’s polished glam with architectural accents. Think marble countertops, sleek brass lighting fixtures and studded cream-coloured high-backed chairs.


The food

If you’re interested in visiting, note that VEA (the restaurant) is only open for dinner, only offers a tasting menu ($1,480/person) and reservations open 28 days in advance. What’s cool about the tasting menu is that guests will never have the same experience twice as one dish is rotated out of the menu every two weeks. But say you are lucky enough to go twice within the two weeks? (Somehow this happened to me, the second time with city’super and Bellota-Bellota, and the addition of the latter’s ham in VEA’s dishes was awesome.) The restaurant will create a different menu just for you. They also keep track of your experiences, including your server and where you sat in addition to what you ate, so that they can give you a different experience each time.


On the night we went, highlights included:

Threadfin “ma yau” fish with Sichuan chilli oil, fermented cabbage and crispy fried rice

Threadfin “ma yau” fish with Sichuan chilli oil, fermented cabbage and crispy fried rice. The various contrasts (wet, dry, chewy, crunchy, sour, spicy) in this dish were lovely.


Mantis shrimp with smoked cauliflower mousse, sea urchin, pistachio, pickled onion and shiso leaf

Mantis shrimp with smoked cauliflower mousse, sea urchin, pistachio, pickled onion and shiso leaf. Creamy and complex.


Clams and heirloom mushrooms

Fresh clams and heirloom mushrooms. Super juicy with a smoky feel.


Kagoshima Wagyu with XO chilli jam fried rice

Kagoshima Wagyu with XO chilli jam fried rice. Simply moreish.


Taiyouran egg with truffle, Parmesan and caviar

Taiyouran egg with truffle, Parmesan and caviar. An indulgent dish from first bite to last, and one of VEA’s signature dishes for a reason.


The drinks

Cocktail pairings at VEA Restaurant & Lounge

My alcohol tolerance is not high, but I enjoyed trying the cocktail pairings ($680/person). All are created by Antonio, and they were definitely some of the most inventive (in a good way) cocktails I’ve ever had and went very well with their respective dishes; the drinks introduced a new aspect of flavour without overpowering each dish. My favourite cocktail was served hot, had a whisky and shiitake cordial base and mushroom tea to finish it off.


Verdict

VEA was definitely a special-occasion restaurant for us, and one that we’d happily save up for again. The food was memorable, creative and indulgent. I also liked their focus on cooking with seasonal, local ingredients where possible. I imagine we ate over a day’s worth of calories in one meal, so guests who prefer lighter dishes may wish to indicate this to the restaurant ahead of time as the majority of the dishes are quite rich (alternative dishes will be suggested).


29–30/F, 198 Wellington Street, Central, 2711 8639, book online


This write-up is based on an anonymous, independent visit. The meal was paid for by the author and no monetary compensation was provided in exchange.

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Jenni Lien

Jenni Lien

Will travel far for food. Blogs at www.jenniexplores.com.

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