This article originally appeared in the November Issue of Foodie: Hosting the Holidays. Read it here!
Welcome to The Event, a new running Foodie series telling you where to eat for what occasions. We strive to offer honest, quality recommendations to make life a little easier and a lot more delicious.
The Event: Second Date
What you want in a second date: to go somewhere nicer than the first date. That means we’re going to escalate in price, ambiance, and nudge the intimacy scale up a bit. You know you like your date – the way he smiles is charming, the way she laughs is infectious. Now it’s time to figure out if you like like the date. And where better than Serge et le phoque?
Nestled in Wan Chai, Serge et Le Phoque serves high-end food in a casual setting. For the second date, it’s not yet time to roll out the white tablecloths; the vibe we want is warm and inviting, like, “hey there, date, I’m a nice person you should get to know.” Dates, like good meals, escalate slowly. The interior of Serge is almost ‘50s diner-esque and you need to make sure to grab a booth where you might accidently graze hands a few times.
We asked the waitstaff what type of food it was and the answer came back, “things the chef likes.” Not very helpful. But we kicked into investigative foodie journalists and determined the food was, um, things the chef likes. Freshly flown in Japanese food with European sensibilities we settled on. We had the set menu. And my gosh, it was delicious:
Foccacia olive oil. Good bread, good oil. Let’s move on. Nobody wants to talk about bread. I'm not going to even give you guys a picture.
Mussel karachi and snapper tempura
This was a light, wonderful way to start the meal. The tempura was perfectly cooked and the mussels had a smoky yakitori flavour that came out when drizzled in lime juice. It was warm and helped us to forget about the rain outside.
Frozen coconut ceviche & cockles and mandarin
The coconut ceviche was cool and refreshing and the mandarin’s citrus flavour balanced out the cockles nicely. Overall, they were a little clammy but so were my hands at that point.
Raw yellowtail and peach
This dish was when things first started to feel sexy. The yellowtail and peach were sweet and light and the fish actually melted in your mouth. It was a great “mmmm” moment as my date and I made eye contact. It was like sharing a secret between the two of us.
Razor clam cauliflower and sea urchin and black truffle
If the previous dish was a secret, this would be an exclamation. The razor clams were cooked perfectly with a warm almost garlicky taste without all that guff of garlic flavour. The ones you get on Lamma can be chewy and over-seasoned; these had real texture without toughness and the truffle added the extra flourish you’d want. My date and I grazed hands. Accidentally, of course.
Mackerel and asparagus
This dish was another check plus. The asparagus was giant and crunchy and offered a nice crunch to it without any of the vegetable rubberiness I’ve come to find in Hong Kong. The mackerel had a warm, noshable fish flavour and with a little bit of salt went a long, long way. It was also a nice dish to reflect on the culinary (and romantic) journey to date – warm and breaded seafood; raw ceviche and yellowtail; truffled clams. We were like the foodie version of Under the Sea.
Presa hiberico corn chimichuri
The second main, as it was called. The sauce was divine – crunchy corn and chimichuri sauce that enhanced but didn’t overpower the dish, that provided a zest we’d discuss far past the dinner. The pork was not our favourite – it was cooked quickly for about 8 minutes to keep its red center but it also meant that it wasn’t as soft as others we had found. No matter. We were already in food coma and I think we sorta-maybe-held-hands.
Wow. It tasted better than it sounds and I liked the way that it sounded. It was curious and delightful (like my eyes, she said) and offered a nice cooling palate cleanser.
Brie de meaux. A surprising, nice choice. Can’t go wrong with brie. But I want to talk more about the next dishes:
Lemon cream daquoise and chocolate tart
This was AMAZING. We forced the kitchen to bring us more. If I had had a knife (oh wait I did...but they had sharper ones) I would have held up the restaurant for all of these. The crust was buttery and crunchy and the lemon cream was fresh and amazeballs. The choco tart had rich, get-lost-in-meditations-on-chocolate flavour and we felt warm and pleased.
Running out of space here but the sommelier at Serge is excellent. She can recommend a pairing wines with the food or some a la carte. Just say the time types of things you like and something different that you haven’t had will show up and you won’t be disappointed. We had some negronis (YES!) and the following:
-Bourgogne Vezelay 2012 Montanet Thoden
-Rose les terrasses d'Hortense 2014 Domaine Renouard – like a rose on steroids. That’s a good thing. Try it.
-Le cochet Anjou 2008 domaine FL
-Aphyllante 2012 Domaine de Triballe – Awesome Red / super light and drinkable. I’d buy this for my home and drink daily.
-L'or Blanc Bergheim 2010 Sylvie Spielmann
Serge et le Phoque is a trick. It’s a culinary journey disguised in a casual eatery. So perfect for a date since you don’t seem like you’re trying too hard when in reality you’re so trying hard. And that casual elegance is just what we look for early on in a partner: somebody who is wonderful but makes everything look effortless.
Price per person ~ HK$1,000
A: 3 Wan Chai Rd, Wan Chai
P: +852 5465 2000