Environment: TBLS is situated in a old nondescript building on Hollywood Road (near the escalator). You even have to punch in a secret code at main door to get into the building...haha. Anyway, once you're inside the restaurant is a complete 180 in terms of atmosphere since the decor is modern with a homey feel. I love how it's an open kitchen setting. If you exclude the outside seating (it rained earlier in the day it was closed off) you probably have about 12-16 seats inside. The place was definitely on the 'cozy' side but the seating didn't feel too cramped. The space between tables was a tad more tighter since the waitstaff at times looked a little awkward serving the food.
Service: My experience at TBLS was unique relative to most of it's usual customers. One of our friends was over an hour late due to work so the waitstaff checked with us every 15-20 minutes to see if she was coming. From a customer's perspective this was a little annoying but to be completely fair we were more at fault here. Also there was a slight incident when we first got there since the waitstaff were 100% positive we cancelled our reservations (we didn't). After some back and forth they seated us. Outside of these 2 things...the waitstaff was friendly and attentive. I particularly liked how Chef Que would come by each table to explain each course and it was being served. Nice touch.
The menu is set at TBLS so everyone eats the same 6 courses for $480. If you have certain allergies or preferences let them know beforehand and they'll work hard to serve you something slightly different. Now onto the food:
Short Rib Cube With Pickled Daikon - This was their amuse bouche. If you didn't know an amuse bouche basically is a bite sized appetizer that when literally translated in French means "mouth pleaser". Anyway, this amuse served on a silver spoon and was Chef Que's take on Vietnamese bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwich served on French baguette). The rib cube was very 'beefy' in flavor and the pickled daikon provided a nice contrast both in terms of flavor and texture. With that said I felt the cube was slightly on the dry side (probably from overcooking) and texturally it felt a little like meatloaf in my mouth which was a little strange. Still quite decent.
Fried Fish Cake Sandwich and Chilled Cucumber Consomme With Tomato Pearls - This was Chef Que's take on a soup and sandwich combo. The mini fish cake sandwich (made of Halibut) was his ode to MacDonald's Fillet O' Fish and delighted me visually. The consomme was quite refreshing and decent. The tomato pearls at the bottom of the consomme was interesting texturally (reminded me of sago). The mini sandwich was clearly the star. Fish was crisp and had a meaty bite even though it was so small. The tartar sauce provided a nice cooling sensation against the deep fried fish. Someone give me a while plate of these please...yum.
Fresh Green Pea and Mint Risotto - This was their summer risotto. Risotto itself was quite creamy and intense which I liked. Maybe just a personal preference thing but I found the mint flavor overpowering and pretty much masked up any potential flavor I would have gotten from the fresh peas. Not bad.
Braised Octopus with New Potatoes, Okra in Chipotle Brown Sauce - This looked quite awesome visually. A large braised octopus tentacle sitting on a bed of new potatoes/okra and sauced with this golden brown chipotle sauce. Sadly execution was a problem here since the octopus was very tough and overcooked. The potatoes were ok but I quite liked the okra since it reminds me of American food from the South. The sauce was excellent and had nice heat to it. Furthermore, there was some caviar inside the sauce which provided a nice textural interplay. Really such a shame that octopus was overcooked.
Pan Roasted Pork Loin with White Bean Puree and Purple Cabbage Slaw - This was a play off traditional pork and beans. The pork itself was flavored nicely but again a little overcooked for my tastes. The white bean puree was really nice and super smooth texturally. The slaw was also quite refreshing. Could have been a really nice dish if the pork wasn't overcooked.
Pomegranate Sorbet Infused with Yakult - This was the palette cleanser and to me was a home run. If you didn't know Yakult is a Japanese milk-like product that tastes a little sweet and sour (it's really quite hard to describe). I've had pomegranate sorbet quite a few times before but the tangy sourness from the Yakult really made this quite a different experience for me. My friend asked for seconds...haha.
Lemon and Thyme Tart with Candied Lemon - I liked the fact that this smelt so lemony-fresh. Although with that said I found the taste a little too lemony for me. I've been eating pretty clean lately and my taste buds in turn have become quite sensitive so that may have played a part. What was also quite nice was the marriage of the crumbly tart and the lemon flavored meringue. Quite nice.
Macaroon Sandwich - A signature item of Chef Que's menu. Even though he changes his menu monthly there is always a macaroon to end the meal. For this specific macaroon he got his inspiration from a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. Chef Que's interpretation had hazelnut ice cream, milk chocolate wafers and chopped hazelnuts sandwiched between 2 macaroon halves which when eaten together tastes very much like the flavor profile of a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. This I quite liked. A bit messy to eat since it was slightly larger than a mouthful (ice cream not easy to eat in bites). Tasty.
The most memorable part of the meal (besides hanging out with friends) was our chat with Chef Que. Consider he's from New York City and I lived there for about 7 years until recently I think we bonded quickly. Few interesting things I found out about Chef Que:
1) The food he misses most from NYC is actually a proper Vietnamese bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwich served on French baguette). He's tried a few places in Hong Kong but they don't quite stack up. Second thing (as every New Yorker misses) is New York style pizza...*sigh*...
2) I found out he misses the dirty tacos (authentic kind) as much as I do. Once we started talking about that neither of us could stop talking about it...haha.
Please note: Apparently when your bill comes the "service charge" goes completely back to Chef Que. So the waitstaff asked that we leave a separate tip for them. Kind of strange.
So overall I can say that I see good potential in Chef Que and his food strikes a cord with me but unfortunately the execution last night didn't quite live up to the billing. Even without wine my meal ended up at $600 and for that price tag...I can honestly say I expected a little more. With that said I definitely do plan to give TBLS another try sometime in the near future so fingers crossed next time the execution is better!
Recommended Dish(es): Fried Fish Cake Sandwich,Pomegranate Sorbet & Macaroon Sandwich
Date of Visit: Jul 29, 2010
Spending per head: Approximately HKD600
Value for Money3
Keep it up!