Chef Olivier Elzer provides basic French meals an off-the-cuff spin at Clarence

The beautiful dishes at Olivier Elzer’s newly opened Clarence is unmistakably French, however you’ll discover some Asian influences too — a results of Elzer’s long-time culinary journey round Asia. But no, it’s not fusion, it’s simply basic French meals, redefined.

A number of first issues to notice of chef Olivier Elzer’s new H Code opening, Clarence: it’s of Elzer’s personal ideation solely, from the idea to the decor, right down to the menu,; second, it continues Elzer’s distinct fashion of refined French cooking, with the introduction of his unique, patented idea “Yakifrenchy“, and lastly, it’s fully, solely totally different from any of his different eating places, notably L’Envol.

“[Clarence] serves French cuisine in a casual way which is outside of the common bistro or brasserie mould, and in lieu of fine dining,” Elzer explains of the idea. “We turn French cuisine on its head by making classic French dishes lighter through Asian cooking methods to allow gusts to discover French food in a new way.”

Chef Olivier Elzer (proper) with chef Simon So (left) at Clarence.

You can contemplate Clarence — named after one in every of Elzer’s favorite wines — the present pin-point in Elzer’s path by a star-studded profession — 23 Michelin stars, in reality, with 27 years of cooking alongside famend cooks together with Jean Yves Leuranguer, Pierre Gagnaire and, as he speaks fondly of, Joël Robuchon. Clarence units a renewed stage for Elzer to showcase an developed fashion of French cooking, one thing that’s past the neat, subtle setting you’d usually count on from conventional white-tablecloth institutions, however somewhat one in every of his personal making: a boundary-breaking take of French delicacies developed in his inventive fashion.

Finding a cooking fashion of your personal in an business already crammed with infinite remakes on particular cuisines, particularly one as prevalent as French meals, is very tough. But Elzer manages to carve out a nook of his personal with the invention of “Yakifrenchy”, a hybridised idea of Japanese yakitori with basic French components. He credit the inspiration to mentor Jöel Robuchon, who equally outlined his area of interest with L’Atelier, becoming a member of French cooking with Japanese components and small Spanish tapas parts.

And by some miracle, Clarence, at present helmed by protegé, chef Simon So, gracefully opened its doorways within the midst of the fifth — Hong Kong’s worst — wave of the pandemic, minus just a few anticipated blunders in provide chains, and braved, with immense success, by the lunch-only, two-per-table restrictions.

A New Face of French Food

Step out of the elevator and also you’re welcomed right into a spacious eating room of soothing tones of browns, beiges and lotions, together with streams of pure mild from the floor-to-ceiling home windows that appears over the Tai Kwun courtyard. Come summertime, the home windows additionally swing open — a singular characteristic of the constructing — for a breezy, alfresco eating expertise.

Like the interiors, the house — which spans throughout the whole twenty fifth ground — at Clarence just isn’t marked by austerity, however somewhat a snug casualness that’s cut up over 4 totally different areas, every a special side of Elzer’s renewed French-style cooking. Further again is The Lounge and Raw & Wine Bar, consciously designed to imitate a basic sushi bar expertise, and from there, The Main Dining Room and Elzer’s favorite a part of the house: Sommelier Room. A personal tasting room — and passage strategy to a hidden again cellar reserved for the restaurant’s prime spenders — anchored by a colossal 14-seater black marble desk and fitted with vaulted brick ceilings, stepped pink brick partitions and infinite racks of wine fridges alongside the partitions to evoke a conventional French wine cellar.

“I wanted wine lovers like myself to discover lesser known labels and vintages at reasonable prices,” Elzer explains. “The wine fridges encapsulate a world of fine wine, housing the best of old and new world wines, as well as lesser known vintages to be discover from iconic producers and rising stars alike — some of which cannot be found elsewhere in Hong Kong.”

Skate Wing / Teppan / Brown Butter / Spices (HK$698)
Challans Duck Breast / Charcoal / Caramel Spices (HK$688)

The menu is an intrinsically French affair, completed with distinct Asian influences that Elzer has grown notably fond and acquainted of throughout his a few years of residency in Asia, together with charcoal-grilling, steaming and teppan. Elzer does makes sure to make clear that whereas Clarence takes from Asian-style cooking, it’s not fusion that he’s serving, however somewhat a brand new face of French delicacies, absolutely reinterpreted but nonetheless staying true to conventional French components, flavours and methods.

“Our dishes are constantly changing as a continue to learn new things,” he shares. “Clarence combines my experience of working 13 years in Hong Kong, with the soul, heritage and traditions of French cuisine and at the same time, tied in with my lifestyle.”

Other than the choice of one-biter Yakifrenchy skewers that’ll encourage a vibrant journey by totally different provinces in France, the a la carte vary is comparable assortment of hearty, healthful French fare, served in enormous parts as an homage to native eating tradition of shared meals. It spotlights produce not generally obtainable in Hong Kong, with present signatures together with the Skate Wing — Elzer’s private favorite — cooked entire over teppan and seasoned with French meuniere sauce with added brown butter, Elzer’s secret spice mix and garlic confit and the charcoal-grilled 2kg Challans Duck breast brushed with a spiced-caramel glaze.

Yakifrenchy Skewers served in three variation: Veggie, Meat and Fish (from HK$42)

Compelled by an unwavering ardour, Elzer not solely has an entire financial institution of Yakifrenchy concepts ready to materialise, however a choice of extensively well-thought out dishes that’ll assume their place on the menu because the seasons change. “20 percent of the menu will showcase daily and seasonal features,” Elzer unveils. “The plan for the next six months is to have a weekly rotation of new dishes.”

As I kind this, Elzer already has a spring-appropriate lamb dish within the works: a whole-cooked child lamb seared over charcoal — it’d even already be on menus.

But generally issues don’t at all times go as deliberate, even for a Michelin-recognised chef. With present provide chain points, Elzer is met with the troubles of securing contemporary components from France. However, one magical a part of being a Michelin-recognised chef is adaptability, mixed with Elzer’s drive to constantly search new inspiration. He’s already moved on to scouring native markets for hidden gems. “Freshness is the most important thing to me,” he provides.

“We were at Aberdeen Fish Market where I found some beautiful fresh sea snails, and we came back to Clarence where I tried some new recipes and they were phenomenal — my guests loved it,” Elzer remembers. “Next week, I’ll visit Ap Lei Chau to see what I can find.”

Black Prawn / Tonka Bean / Lemon Peel (HK$238)
Cooked Octopus / Uni Foam/ Fresh Tomato/ Lime (HK$288)

Come to Clarence for a pattern of Elzer’s favorite wine or a taster of his ingenious creation that’s Yakifrenchy — Elzer recommends the Ratatouille, a basic French veggie dish skewered and brushed over with pesto — then, make your method by each scrumptious factor else, together with must-orders of black prawns with tonka bean and lemon peel and smoked trout.

Don’t count on Clarence to be a very dignified setting both; it’s informal French fine-dine.

“Of course the food will still taste and look good, but here we want you to be a bit raucous,” says Elzer with amusing. “If you end the night dancing on the table, we won’t mind!”

Best go to together with your dancing sneakers, then.

Clarence is open Monday to Sunday from 12 to 6pm. Last seating is at 4:30pm. Reservations might be made right here.

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