Liberty Private Works

26/F Stanley 11, 11 Stanley Street, Central , Hong Kong, China

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Liberty Private Works was opened in mid 2009 by Canadian chef Mokoto Ono, moving to its current premises in September 2011. It offers a tasting menu only format, the current head chef being another (male) Canadian, Vicky Cheng, who had worked for some years at Daniel in New York. It is on the 26th floor of a nondescript building; luckily there is a lift, though no air conditioning until you get into the dining room (so for example the bathroom was sweltering). The format is very reminiscent of eating in Japan, but with French food: you sit on a bar stool at a counter, and are served a no-choice menu by chefs working in front of you in an open kitchen. There were around 25 seats in all, and you keep your knives and forks between courses. There was free wi-fi in the dining room, which was a nice touch.

The wine list was modestly priced in places, especially by the usually egregious standards of Hong Kong. Example wines were Brancott Estate 2010 Pinot Noir at HK$390 for a wine that you can find in a shop for HK$118, Finca Sandoval Manchuela 2005 at HK$945 compared to a retail price of HK$409, and Chateau Palmer 2002 at HK$2,200 for a wine that will set you back HK$1,726 in a shop. A wine pairing was provided with the tasting menu for HK$480, which is not very much, and in reality the measures of wine were pretty tiny if you are used to European wine tasting measures. Next time I will just buy a bottle. To be fair the wines were well chosen to match the dishes.

Nibbles consisted of watermelon in assorted forms, such as compressed watermelon and watermelon jelly, with buffalo Mozzarella, caviar and blobs of both lychee and yuzu sauce. This was pleasant if unexceptional (15/20). The first formal course really launched the meal: tuna, sea urchin and espelette (French chilli pepper) with a crab roll on a bed of puffed rice, with garnishes of cucumber jelly and grapes. This was a clever dish, as it was well balanced in many ways: the richness of the sea urchin and natural fattiness often tuna was balanced by the grapes, the chilli lifted the dish without overpowering it, and the puffed rice provided a firm textural contrast (18/20).

Next was a scallop with Iberico ham, dashi and egg white with lemon confit and lemon creme fraiche. The scallop was correctly cooked but did not have the natural sweetness that the very freshest scallops possess, and the lemon confit did not have as much acidity as one might expect. This dish seemed to me less balanced the dashi and ham with lemon introduced too many flavours to mix in with the delicacy of the scallops (15/20).

This was followed by a thick-skinned local white fish which seemingly has no English translation, served with pea puree and pea foam, vanilla and chanterelles. The fish was nicely timed and the pea purée had plenty of intensity of flavour, and fortunately the potentially overpowering vanilla was kept carefully in check (16/20). Egg and spinach raviolo was flavoured with Parmesan cheese foam and truffle, garnished with caviar, and was a rich but enjoyable dish, the pasta delicate, the liquid egg yolk comforting and balanced by the spinach and the saltiness of the caviar (17/20).

Pigeon was seared and served as both loin and pigeon confit, with beetroot purée and a risotto of barley, foie gras and a sauce of the cooking juices thickened with chocolate. The pigeon was carefully cooked, the beetroot adding an earthy note, the barley giving a contrast to the richness of the sauce (17/20). This was followed by pork with cauliflower, rhubarb and Macadamia nuts, with mustard greens and carrot. The pork was served as loin, and also belly cooked sous-vide with crackling. The belly in particular was precisely cooked, the crackling firm but not too hard, and the rhubarb provided welcome acidic balance to the fattiness of the pork, the mustard greens giving a nice hint of spice (18/20).

Olive oil ice cream accompanied pineapple in various forms, with coconut mousse, braised coconut and mochi (Japanese rice cake). I am not a fan of olive oil ice cream, though the pineapple and coconut were refreshing enough (15/20). Better was chocolate with honeycomb, creme fraiche and chocolate powder and a little salt, the chocolate rich but balanced by the creme fraiche, the powder providing an additional textural dimension to the dish (16/20).

The service was friendly, with each dish explained individually. The bill came to HK$ 1,540 (£127) per head with the wine pairing. This seemed to me fair value for the quality of food delivered. Overall this was a very enjoyable experience, the food carefully prepared and with flavour combinations that generally worked well.

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