Luxury Brands developing a more affordable line of clothing or accessories seems like a good way to expand its market, or target audience, After all, fashion magazines are becoming more popular among audience at increasingly younger age groups, 'Style at every age' is finally being realized, and while trendsetters may not want to admit, it's great to see that those who think they can create styles, or influence their change with details and trends, are developing variations or alternatives to reach a larger mass. It doesn't just happen in fashion, clearly, to food as well.
Lei Bistro is the latest line for the Lei Garden Restaurant chains. With affordability and casual atmosphere in mind, the first establishment opened in Causeway Bay, right at the basement of Times Square, where the hungry traffic is huge throughout the day. If there is one thing about Lei Bistro that goes hand in hand with its luxury counterparts, it's the need for reservations. You need one to get in, unless you don't mind waiting outside. But then if you don't mind waiting, there are a few things you shouldn't mind when you get there -- the ambience, service, and food quality, three of the most obvious elements in a restaurant's visit.
Without further judgment, Lei Bistro is more laid-back, but that also involves the owners trying to maximize their already narrow dining space with more tables, each closer to each other. The lack of elbow room also evolves into having your next table neighbors eavesdropping into your conversation, or not, because the place is a hub of noise -- you may not be able to hear what the others are talking about, or for that matter, the person right opposite you.
The menu is decidedly mixed -- and much similar to the case in many restaurants trying to be more than they can be, no matter what brand the restaurant's developed from, Lei Bistro is trying very hard to change that. It's signature 冰燒三層肉
can be sold out early afternoon. The quality wasn't bad, but for a signature product to be in such short supply is an alarming fact -- were they trying to make it look more popular than it does? 油炆筍尖
are not very thin bamboo shoots, braised in plenty of brown sauce which is overseasoned and over-glazed. The slim bamboo shoots went from crunchy to soggy, with what may be an overdose of oyster sauce in the marinade they're cooked in. 蜜汁火方 (配蝴蝶包)
is a failed attempt for a well established brand to redeem itself. The ham, despite softened through repeated steaming, was soft with bits of fat still clinging on each slice, the honey sauce it's cooked in was truly too sweet, almost like biting into a hunk of ham followed by 10 repeated licks of an artificial-sweetener-laden lollipop. It's so sweet it tasted fake. The "butterfly buns" were soft, and what's up with the deep-fried soybean sheets that went with? Can they be any less generous about it? (despite them being crunchy throughout)
The only thing 'dirty' about 荷香蒸污糟雞
is its name. Bony chunks of marinated chicken steamed inside a lotus leaf parcel with red jujubes, shreds of preserved mustard tubers, and dried shiitaki mushrooms were tender and juicy, with a strong welcoming aroma of lotus leaf in every bite of the chicken, if only the dish could be less oily -- the chicken was sitting in a shallow pool of oil. 故鄉濃茶燻釜米鴨
came from the barbecued department. It fell right into the deadly mistake as the smoky flavour overrode everything else. The duck no longer took on any flavour other than a slightly burnt taste. If you try to tell me the duck was smoked to death, I would've believe you too -- the smokiness truly was too much, even for someone who loves tea dearly!韭黃炒鱔糊
came in a small portion, but that usually didn't matter, but instead you can find more chives than eel, which came in dark miniature curls that were slightly too tough. The chives were too tough though and grassy to taste. 飄香荷葉飯
is the only dish we couldn't complain -- the full lotus leaf parcel was packed with moist rice granules, while bits of dried shiitaki mushrooms and chicken bits were perfectly diced and moist. The aroma of lotus leaf was strong but not too dominating. If there was anything, the serving portion was way too big for this one, as a group of three each had 2 bowls full. Desserts are not a strong suit here, but claiming originality is Lei Bistro's 楊枝甘露
. Being original is one thing, being up to par is another. This concoction was too thin and too sweet. Despite featuring chunks of mangoes with translucent pearls of tapioca, the shreds of pomelo were too tough and bitter to taste. It was truly disappointing to think that the restaurant which created the same dessert could differ so much from the original restaurant, is it what restaurants are trying to do -- toning down the prices by lowering the quality of their food?
Food quality aside, for any brand intending to keep its reputation, a keen eye on the management is important. It took forever for anyone to get their teacups refilled, to a point that diners wanted to refill by themselves. The service staff seemed to be in a rush walking around trying to be accomodating instead of actually doing it. It's equally a pain to see that despite the placemats are artfully designed, some of the plates and bowls were already chipped (please see image) despite the restaurant has opened for no more than a few weeks. To claim that a restaurant group is trying to reach a wider target audience by lowering the prices is fine, but to lower the quality of anything that goes out of the kitchen isn't. The food isn't all bad, but it's the careless bits here and there that makes diners wish that they'd been in the original Lei Garden Restaurants instead, as one couldn't help but wonder, when the new Lei Garden opens later this year in the same building, will the bistro be as popular as now?
Tidy Placement Settings
Bamboo Shoots too soft (lack a snapping crunch)
Tightly wrapped Lotus Leaf Parcel
Filled to the top, with good lotus leaf aroma
Chicken and Rice both Moist
Tough Chives and miniature eel pieces
Honey glaze simply too sweet (a little fake)
Buns (white) warm and light
Tea-smoked Duck: Smoky aroma too pungent
Another lotus leaf dish: tender chicken but too oily
Disappointingly thin concoction
A quality with Class?
Table Wait Time: 15 minute(s)
Value for Money 2