When California Tower opened, we knew the restaurant that sat on the top would be the jewel of this metaphorical crown. CÉ LA VI's restaurant combines award winning mixology, chic interiors, a charming view and some very tasty and uncomplicated Japanese-ish food.
When Hong Kong utilises the phrase "Asian hospitality" we've come to be weary. Too often we notice a lack of passion and warmth that is central to any type of hospitality, especially one that purports to reflect the region that is most known for kindness and generosity. That being said, the phrase is entirely appropriate here, where waitrons have learned their menu well and are accommodating of every request.
Are for the most part very balanced. If you are more inclined toward sweet drinks there wouldn't be any discrepancies, but even with the request of less sugar drinks err on the sugary side. This being said, the waiters know the makeup of most tipples and are willing to point in the right direction. We recommend the Bloody Old Fashioned ($118) which is a CÉ LA VI take on a classic with Michter’s rye bourbon, Frangelico, dash of aromatic bitters, chilli and cashew syrup, topped with freshly squeezed blood orange; the Kyoto Cooler ($98) which is a light and delicate number, made with CÉ LA VI saké, peach liqueur and lime juice; and the Hong Kong Express ($118) made with Ocho silver tequila, sherry manzanilla dry, lemon juice, fig jam and blackcurrant liqueur, for some standout cocktails.
Bloody Old Fashioned
We were very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. Japanese cuisine that isn't overdone (a feat given the opulent surroundings) with well executed flavours. It's the kind of menu where everything seems to call out to you; resolutely Asian ingredients powered by seasoning and garnishes we know will fly.
Highlights from the small plates included the asparagus tempura ($90) with truffle soy and edamame puree, pumpkin tempura ($75) with yuzu kosho, green chili and rocoto (a type of capsicum/pepper) and salmon skewers ($140) with shiso and a Japanese seasoning called yuzu kosho which is a paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt which is then left to ferment.
Pumpkin tempura with yuzu kosho, green chilli, rocoto
Sea bream ceviche ($140) with young coconut and pomegranate amazu (a light dressing usually used on cucumber salads that is sweet and salty) is amaz-ung, as is a successfully chunky Blue Fin tuna tataki ($260) with caramelised shallots, wakame, maitake mushrooms and tosazu.
Blue Fin tuna tataki with caramelised shallots, wakame, maitake mushrooms
On to the more meaty dishes, the strip loin ($1200) is A-5 grade Ohmi, and served with assorted salts and sauces. The short ribs ($270) are USDA prime, served by way of kabocha wild mushroom ravioli with teriyaki veal jus.
Short ribs are USDA prime, kabocha wild mushroom ravioli, teriyaki veal jus
All the vegetables are the opposite of boring, with added flair being piled on to what are already premium ingredients such as the baby corn ($70) with aged manchego and dried miso; King Trumpet & Maitake mushrooms ($70) with extra virgin olive oil, sake and soy; snow peas ($65) with house-infused soy and itogaki (similar to a bonito or katsuobushi), and the broccolini ($80) with almond and black vinegar.
King Trumpet & Maitake mushrooms, extra virgin olive oil, sake, soy
The desserts are neither life-changing nor are they worthy of a letter home, but there is one standout that merits an order, and that is the matcha ($118); an elegant molten green tea tart, served with 64% valrhona manjari ice cream. Matcha and chocolate is something we are seeing more and more of recently, and this is one of the better interpretations of the flavour combination we have thus encountered.
Matcha, 64% valrhona manjari ice cream
This Hong Kong version of the Singaporean dependable exceeds expectations. However, this largely depends on one's expectations. Go in with a forecast of dazzling views, tight service, unusual and easily imbibed cocktails and flavoursome Asian food and there won't be any tears. Plan to spend, but only as much as the average restaurant in Hong Kong charges (and for far lesser quality and experience), despite the the fact you are on top of the middle of Hong Kong, living the life.
25/F California Tower, 32 D'Aguilar Street Central District
Tel. 3700 2300