Still a fairly new addition to the Causeway Bay fine dining scene, Le Rêve‘s raison d‘être is to present sophisticated, seasonal French-Japanese fusion cuisine in an appropriately elegant setting, without the lofty airs that would make one feel put out. It is in this quiet, thoughtful atmosphere, surrounded by engaging, caring waitstaff, that we sampled a six-course dinner menu that made its mark as one of the best meals we‘ve had this summer.
Le Rêve is a dream started by five friends who travelled across Europe to indulge in its plentiful regional cuisines before settling on the idea of combining premium Japanese ingredients with reliable and traditional French cooking techniques. Following that idea of fusion fine dining, the team at Le Rêve, led by Chef Israel “Isy” de Freitas, laid before us a menu of immersive dining, divided into sections of exploration.
Zaru soba à la chef
Fresh bread, soft and creamy butter and savoury amuse-bouche of perfectly cooked beef cube aside, the starters were something fierce to behold. Kicking off the meal with what was possibly one of our favourite courses of the day, a traditional Japanese soba was dished up, with diced fish marinated in white miso and a side of delicate, spicy wasabi-infused foam. Add a pleasantly biting sauce of soy and miso to the zaru soba à la chef, and we had a winning combination of flavours that pleasantly tingled the tongue. A “sensation” indeed, if we are to follow the naming convention of the tasting menu.
The “colour” of our meal arrived elegantly in a shallow bowl filled with rocks, a bed of kombu and a large, iridescent shell carrying a sliced Australian jade abalone. Green Ocean raised hesitation in those of us unfamiliar with abalone, or unfriendly toward its rubbery flesh, though thankfully all fears were allayed with the first bite of thoroughly meaty and flavourful chunks. Whodathunk – Chef Isy‘s Western preparation of this popular Asian mollusc has made abalone fans of us all.
“Strong tradition” came in the form of the rich and creamy Nihon risotto, a red king prawn and rice dish cooked in a broth of its own juices. Risotto can be risky to serve; a time-consuming recipe to cook, the slightest deviation from the strict preparation method can make or break this dish, and we‘ve seen and tasted some hair-raisingly bad ones in the past. But we needn‘t have worried here: Le Rêve‘s risotto, with its smooth, velvety Arborio rice soaked in rich prawn juice, made the cut – stepped above it, even. And the meaty grilled king prawn provided savoury flavours galore.
Chou farci aux volailles
The “perfection” course was aptly named; Chef Isy‘s nodoguro (black-throat sea perch) was flawlessly executed, a buttery, light sliver of fish topped with Japanese saffron and a side of homemade hollandaise sauce and cubed sous-vide watermelon that immediately sparked a lively conversation about the unlikely preparation method. The question of whether sous-viding an already watery fruit provides any benefits to its flavour was quickly drowned out by soulful mmm‘s and Oh, this is really good as we tasted our first bite.
We explored Chef Isy‘s childhood with the “discovery” course of chou farci aux volailles, a neat little parcel of cabbage stuffed with poultry, smoked porcini and sweet Hokkaido pumpkin, a family recipe passed on by the chef‘s mother. The stirring backstory behind the cabbage chicken proved to be more interesting than the dish itself; despite a hint of earthiness from the mushrooms, no particular flavour took centre stage, leaving us with a fairly homogenous-tasting chicken that we didn't feel one way or another about. We did hear tell that the dry-aged strip loin that some of our dining mates opted for was unexpectedly delicious.
The dessert, Beau Paris, put us on an entirely different planet. The homemade crème brûlée ice cream with lychee mint jelly spheres and crunchy caramelised orange peel was so heart-wrenchingly delicious that we scraped our plates clean and immediately lamented for a commercial alternative that was friendlier on our wallets.
Le Rêve‘s six-course dinner menu is priced at $790 + 10% service charge – not the easiest price to swallow, but the meal left us with the satisfied feeling that we had absorbed a singular dining experience. Artfully elegant presentation and complex flavour combinations floated effortlessly out of Chef Isy‘s kitchen, or so he made it seem. We think that this is the place you‘d want to bring a culinary-minded date in order to witness Chef Isy create delicately balanced masterpieces for your dining pleasure.
10/F, ZING!, 38 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay, 2866 1010
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.