The perennial question – Where did you have the best meal in Hong Kong? My answer – Liberty Private Works.
I am sure that at the back of your mind you must be thinking, “Glenn, you have to be kidding”. But I kid you not, Liberty Private Works, hereinafter referred to as LPW, was where I had the best meal in my two recent trips to Hong Kong. Michelin starred it is not, but step into the 12 seater kitchen (and mind you, a kitchen is the appropriate word and not a restaurant per-se), and you can sense the passion of Chef Makoto and the humble albeit homely service of his crew of his girlfriend/wife and a wait staff.
So what is it like, dining at Liberty Private Works?
First and foremost, I apologise for the lack of a photograph of the restaurant interior as the restaurant was full that night and I did not want to photograph the diners there. Imagine a 12 seater bar top counter surrounding a bar and kitchen. Te entire restaurant takes up, probably somewhere in the region of 400 sq feet, tops. I dare say that the kitchen with came equipped with 3 stoves, an oven and an electric grill is no larger than a kitchen of a 5-room HDB flat. To put it simply, Chef was literally squeezed into a corner.
There is no menu to speak of; the menu, which is remarkably changed on a daily basis, (Boy, how does one even do that!) is written in chalk on the blackboard. Excluding the amuse bouche, a standard dinner would consist of 5 to 7 courses . Now, this is where reservations come in handy – you are allowed to set certain parameters for your dinner (e.g. the avoidance of all meats). By the way, the menu only states the main ingredient in the dish, in this dinner – Scallop, Salmon etc. So in truth, you only get to know what the dish really encompasses when it arrives onto the table; Almost omakase like.
That said, Chef himself will come around explaining each dish to the customers in a really soft voice – something that I did not quite expect from someone of his built. But in that humble voice of his, lies a man full of passion and eagerness to introduce his diners to a world of joy through his cooking. And that, I fell in love with.
P.s. I stole a sneak peek into the fridge and it did seem that he does not pre stock the next day’s ingredients. Heck, but at least you know what you’re getting is the freshest available in the market! In truth, he does own another restaurant – LEX, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt!
On a side note, it did sound like 70% of the diners on the evening that I was there, were Singaporeans. And trust me, it is not difficult spotting a Singaporean regardless of where they are, the moment they open their mouths to utter a word.
Please, allow me to relive my experience at LPW with you, as I introduce briefly the courses that I had.
The amuse bouche was interesting (for lack of a better word). It was a green curry and pumpkin soup, topped with a spicy ginger foam.
As interesting as it sounded, it tastes unique. Unique, in a good way thankfully. Somehow the green curry and pumpkin soup complemented the flavours of one another in complete unison and the ginger foam helped to add that bit of spicyness to cut through the puree.
I knew that the meal was going to be good.
So with high hopes, I was looking forward to the first course. The first course was a lightly seared scallop dish.
It was okay, unfortunately. It was not mind blowing in any way. I was thankful for the sprinkling of coarse sea salt and dried olive on top of each scallop as they added the flavours to the otherwise, boring, scallops.
Boy, the salmon was awesome. It was slowly poached in pure butter. The joy of having such a small private kitchen is that you get to see Chef painstakingly controlling the temperature of the heat and the time to poach each and every single slab of salmon.
This was oh-so-good, I tell you. It was cooked perfectly, pink in the middle and moist throughout.
I am no fan of the earthy flavours of beetroot, but admittedly the beetroot salsa at the bottom served as a wonderful partner to the naturally oily fish. But what was most interesting for me – was the inclusion of the wasabi (seen above in green) and that helped to counteract upon some of the fishy-ness of the salmon.
Next up, was a pan fried snapper fillet.
Frankly, I opine that this was the best dish of the evening. The snapper was pan fried perfectly – the skin was crispy yet the fish was really moist. I thoroughly enjoyed the fish.
The cous cous was mixed with zucchinis and tomatoes somehow worked with the flavours of the fish. But highlight has to be given to the eggplant puree and parsley oil mixture that was served beside the fish. It was really a joy (yes, I know I have a penchant of repeating the word, joy) to savour.
The pan roasted duck was good, but I had one of the best roasted ducks the lunch before this, so this really pales in comparison. Yes, before you start slamming me saying that they are completely different dishes and the cooking techniques are completely different (Just an example, In French cooking – Pink is okay, in Cantonese, Pink is a definite no.), but you have to admit, duck tastes a lot better, roasted in any Chinese method – Peking or Cantonese.
So enough blabber.
The duck was tender and credit has to be given to Chef was perfectly timing the cooking times of the duck meat. By the way, he made no use of a meat thermometer – laser or traditional. He stuck a metal rod into the meat and used his fingers as a gauge. Now – that is true culinary finesse.
I do like the roasted potatoes though – but indulgent they were. They were covered in pure duck fat which lent this unique flavour to otherwise, just potatoes.
Before desserts was officially served, we were offered a simple sorbet as a palate cleanser.
The mango was light and refreshing, as a palate cleanser is designed to be; Sorbet, that I later learnt, was also most in-house. Talk about being a jack of all trades!
Lastly, the dessert was served – a rich and indulgent (Oh and did I say, overwhelmingly sweet) sabayon with green apple slices and walnuts.
The slightly sour green apple slices and bitter walnuts helped to cut through the sweetness of the sabayon, but it was too little, too late.
Frankly – I could have done without my dessert in this very case and would have preferred to leave my case at the sorbet!
Another link that may be of interest can be found here: http://www.theworlds50best.com/regional-spotlights/hong-kong/liberty-private-works
So what’s stopping you – if you’re in Hong Kong and you need a restaurant recommendation, LPW has my definite stamp of approval! Best of all, a dinner at LPW is inexpensive – for the experience and passion, there is only one seating each night that starts at 8pm start and costs HKD500 per head not including drinks or tips. Do note that, this being a private kitchen, only cold hard cash in accepted!
Liberty Private Works
# 3/F12 Wellington Street, 3rd Floor, Central
Telephone: (852) 5186 3282
Website # http://www.libertypw.com/