One of the most decorated French chefs in the world is Pierre Gagnaire. Aside from his signature restaurant in Paris (recently named the 16th best restaurant in the world during San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards in April), Chef Gagnaire has a number of restaurants in other parts of the world. One of those happens to be the Michelin two-starred Pierre located inside the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.
After enjoying an over-the-top culinary adventure at Mandarin Grill + Bar in January, we were eager to try additional dining options at the Mandarin Oriental, however, we needed some help in choosing between Man Wah and Pierre as we didn’t have time to eat at both this trip. In chatting with one of our favorite chefs, Angelo Agliano from L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Taipei, he mentioned that Pierre was an excellent option as well.
Pierre it was then. Geoff Wu, fellow food blogger and the Social Media and E-Commerce Manager for the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, was able to secure a Monday afternoon lunch reservation for us — pretty impressive given it was a holiday!
Located on the 25th floor, adjacent to the cool and chic M Bar, Pierre provides a front row seat for sought after views of the Kowloon peninsula. Despite the dreary, foggy days that are common this time of year, the ambiance of Pierre easily makes up for it. The restaurant is intimate, only seating around 60 people. The decor is simple, yet strikingly elegant.
Mandarin Grill + Bar has an olive cart that comes around at the beginning of the meal. Well, Pierre has a Champagne cart! The champagnes offered include:
- NV Ruinart “R” Brut
- NV Ruinart “Blanc de Blancs” Brut
- NV Ruinart “Rose” Brut
- NV Krug “Grande Cuvee” Brut
- NV Comte Audoin de Dampierre, Cuvee des Ambassadors, Brut Premier Cru
Any restaurant that starts off with a selection of Champagnes like this is quickly winning my support.
While enjoying a glass of bubbly, we found ourselves a bit overwhelmed at the menu options. There were a surprising number of choices available at lunch — multi-course “Express Lunch” options, four and seven course tasting menus, and the a la carte menu as well. Brett went with the seven course tasting menu (food $1,488 HK and with wine pairings $2,188 HK) and I opted for the four course one (food $788 HK, $1,128 HK with wine), each paired with a different selection of wines. The Spring tasting menus just went into service, so we were among the first ones to sample them.
We were instantly greeted with a variety of amuse bouche which set the tone for the rest of the meal — everything Chef Gagnaire does is big and bold. There is a creative use of ingredients and a selection of multiple dishes for each course. Geoff warned us that dinner can be up to 4-6 dishes per course! Mental note: don’t eat for a day before if we plan to try any of Pierre’s restaurants for dinner.
The amuse bouche presented to us included:
- Seaweed Salad
- Herring + Apple
- Goat Milk Cheese with Colombo
- Beetroot Chutney
- Radish + Celery
The Goat Milk Cheese with Colombo was definitely my favorite. There was a very subtle curry flavor that came through the goat milk cheese — an unexpected surprise.
After the amuse bouche, we were graced with a selection of freshly made breads. Like so many other good French restaurants, Pierre could easily turn me into a carb lover. The smell, the softness, and the varied textures were like stepping in a Parisian bakery. A basket to go please?
The first course of our meals was the Duck liver foie gras, glazed pigeon fillets, marmalade of apple and shallots with cinnamon; gellified infusion of artichoke with star anise; tree tomato iced pulp. Despite my initial fears about the tree tomato iced pulp — this dish tantalized every taste bud. The combination of spices, sweet acidity of the tree tomato and the umami goodness from the foie gras were sublime.
Brett and I had completely different styles of wine paired with the foie gras course. Pierre’s sommelier, Hubert Chabot, helps emphasize that wine pairing is not black and white. Same dish, yet two completely different wines. Trying side by side was an interesting experiment — both brought out the depth and complexity of the flavors in the dish, yet imparted subtle differences since the Sauvignon Blanc was more acidic over the slightly sweeter dry Tokaji.
My wine pairing: 09 Sauvignon Blanc, Te Muna Road, Craggy Range, New Zealand
Brett’s wine pairing: 09 Furmint Dry, Hetzolo Imperial Estate, Tokaji, Hungary
The next course was sole fish cooked in the pan with butter then dried; watercress salad, leek stalks, green pepper. Mariniere of razor clams with seaweed.
I was a bit nervous about the leeks as we had just had a bad experience with leeks and wine on Saturday night at the Ritz-Carlton’s Tosca, so I was not 100% sold on eating them with wine only two days later. The butter helped soften all the flavors and this combination of leeks and wine was matched perfectly. I had the Austrian wine paired with my dish and I tried a sip of Brett’s Gavi di Gavi, a wine we previously tried in Mandarin Grill + Bar and loved.
Wine pairing: 2008 Gruner Veltliner, Federspiel, Emmerich Knoll, Wachau, Austria
Wine pairing: 2009 Gavi di Gavi, Batasiolo, Piedmonte, Italy
For Brett, the next dish in the seven course tasting menu was lobster fricassee with fresh ginger, endive fondue with white balsamic vinegar, curry creamy bisque and black forbidden rice.
Wine pairing: 2008 Saint Joseph, Domain Bernard Gripa, Rhone Valley, France
The black forbidden rice Brett swore looked like the logo for Mandarin Oriental, although I didn’t quite catch that. I managed to snag a few bites and this was one of the best courses. The lobster was incredibly tender and cooked perfectly — the fresh ginger and creamy curry bisque were excellent touches. Even with such a diverse mix of flavors and textures, this dish was a definite hit.
For Brett, next was a palate cleanser course — pink champagne granita, burrata/cucumber flavored with lime, celery, snow peas, and sticky grapefruit juice. Cucumber and snow peas aren’t the first things that come to mind when you think palate cleanser, but don’t knock it — the flavors work. If my parents had fed me vegetables like this as a child, I would’ve been hooked!
Now, Brett and I were both set to get our main courses. Brett’s was end of veal loin with lime and honey, Vichy carrots. It was served with a tenderloin, caper/lemon/Cremona mustard, spring onions, and button mushroom.
Wine pairing: 1999 Chateaul’Arrosee, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France
My main course was similar, but was a French “Dordogne” pork shoulder with lime and honey, Vichy carrots. There was also a tenderloin, caper/lemon/Cremona mustard, button mushroom, and spring onions.
Wine pairing: 2005 Cotes du Rhone, Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Rhone Valley, France
The main dishes were more casual and homestyle cooking — reminded me of my Grandmother’s signature stew. We were pleased to enjoy a course that was more hearty, yet not as heavy as we expected based on the menu description. The wine pairings on these dishes were a welcome surprise as well. You don’t often find a 12 year old Grand Cru from Bordeaux included in many tasting menus outside of Europe! Thank you Hubert!
Brett had one more course before we moved on to dessert — cheese! It was three types of French goat cheese; ewe milk veloute, almond paste/green tea. The course was also served with pear sherbet with Roquefort blue cheese, and kaki fruit pulp. Each goat cheese was among the best we have tried — smooth and subtle in flavor.
For both of the tasting menus, the dessert just said “Pierre Grand Dessert”….it should’ve had an “s” on the end of it! For dessert connoisseurs, this was a sweet tooth nirvana. In the four course tasting menu, I had three desserts:
Vanilla milk jelly, sago, exotic fruit, pomegranate sorbet. I am used to sago in Asian style desserts so this was a welcome change and a wonderful combination of flavors. Not overly sweet or really tart. The creamy milk jelly against the pomegranate sorbet was clean and refreshing.
San Remo: Limoncello jelly, Lemon meringue, lemon parfait. Lemon meringue, Limoncello and parfait? How can you go wrong? This dessert was definitely one of my favorites. I was surprised — with the abundance of different lemon flavors, I feared that the dessert would just be like sucking on a lemon with some sugar sprinkled on top — it was anything but!
Coffee: Coffee ice cream and coffee mousseline. The only way to have coffee in my opinion!
Brett’s three desserts were different and just as incredible as those served with the four course tasting menu. His desserts included:
Preserved orange, orange ice cream, orange mousse, and orange sauce with Campari.
Parmesan cream tart, pear cooked in kumbawa syrup. This was my favorite of Brett’s dessert courses. You could get that Parmesan taste, but mixed with the natural sweetness from the cream and pear, it was hard to pinpoint the exact flavor without someone cluing you in. It’s such an unexpected taste that I might’ve been stumped had the server not said what it was during service.
Pierre Gagnaire chocolate: water chocolate, chocolate cream, crispy chocolate biscuit
If you haven’t gathered by now, there is a theme with Pierre’s cuisine (and I’ve heard this from a number of other Pierre Gagnaire fans) — his food is intellectual. It envelops all the senses and requires you to think, not just eat. Had Geoff not told me he could provide a list of all the dishes before we started, I would’ve needed a tape recorded to adequately relate what was in each course. Dining in a restaurant of this caliber should be a memorable experience — the food should evoke emotion, satisfy all your senses, be innovative, and challenge you to some degree. I’ve had French food that was complex for the sake of being complex, but complexity that elevates you to a higher culinary experience is a win.
Some helpful tips if you are considering a visit to Pierre at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong:
– Secure reservations early. Allow one to two weeks at a minimum if you can to ensure you don’t miss your desired date/time.
– Book for start of lunch or dinner seating if you plan to do one of the degustation menus. These take quite a bit of time and you don’t want to be the last ones in the restaurant after they close (like we always seem to be).
– Dress smart. Like many other premium restaurants in Hong Kong, people dress up for lunch and dinner. Don’t show up in jeans and tennis shoes — you will feel quite out of place.
– Bring the credit card. As you can gather from the prices listed in the beginning of the post, Pierre is not inexpensive. If you plan to do the degustation menu for two, splurge for the accompanied wine pairings — the experience is worth it.
We want to thank both Geoff Wu and the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong for hosting us at Pierre. We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon and look forward to a return visit.
Disclaimer: Although we were hosted by Geoff and the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, this review is an honest, and unbiased, interpretation of our dining experience. Had we felt there was anything negative to report, we would’ve included that as well. — Erin and Brett