Ankoma Chameleon: Intimate bistro meets refined izakaya at the fine-dining counter manned by local chef Frankie Wong

Exceptional chefs are like chameleons. They may be acknowledged for their mastery of a certain dish or their own cooking style, but what really distinguishes them from their contemporaries is their capacity to transfer and modify their refined method from one culinary endeavour to the next. A range of vast and varied experiences is also often necessary, as well as humility, patience and innate talent. Such is the case for Hong Kong’s very own culinary rising star, Chef Frankie Wong, who is making a breakthrough performance via Ankôma.

“My inspiration comes from all channels – sometimes it is through suppliers explaining ingredients, or me casually browsing on Instagram, and sometimes in my dreams!” laughs Wong of his French-Japanese cuisine. “Each creation goes through much trial and error and many versions.”

A juxtaposition if ever there was one, the fact that fine-dining haven Ankôma is located in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui’s bustle has amplified just how versatile Wong is and has pronounced the range in his unrestrained perspective. Unlike the busy scenes on the streets below, the fifth-floor restaurant’s eight-seat marble counter, elegantly set with linen napkins, handsome wine glasses and no-fuss flatware, looks into a modern kitchen of the latest chef’s toys and gadgets. The scene is complemented by Wong’s fabulous talent and a menu focusing on local ingredients.

“Fine dining usually has an image of being very proper, not very commonly accessible and can be quite intimidating for some guests,” says the chef. “In Ankôma, guests can enjoy fine-dining-quality dishes but in a casual environment, like a bistro or izakaya. For those who frequent fine-dining restaurants, it can be a change of scene, a different and refreshing experience from what they are used to.”

Each plate is easy on the eye and tasty on the palate. As Wong personally explains each dish – an essential component of the Ankôma experience – diners will discover that the restraint and simplicity which appear to be the defining characteristics of his cuisine may be more colourful and complex than they first thought.

Our tasting parade begins with zuwaigani, a snow crab tartlet with sherry vinegar sheet and battera kombu floss. The unagi course showcases smoked eel with foie-gras mousse on brioche French toast, while saba, a fatty mackerel cured with apple cider vinegar, kombu and mirin, is complemented by a zesty green apple and jellyfish salad, finished with a kick of wasabi emulsion. 

The seasonal hokkigai, a lightly torched surf clam with homemade fish cake, is accompanied by ratatouille consommé, chipolata sausage and coriander. The scallop dish consisting of a buttery pan-fried Hokkaido scallop paired with a cool French bean purée, eggplant purée and vadouvan sauce is the chef’s French take on Indian masala. 

The standout dish comes in the form of a roasted piece of the most tender three yellow chicken. Inspired by his Hong Kong upbringing, the local poultry is artistically served with bannonegi (scallion), ikura (salmon roe), creamy vin jaune (yellow wine) sauce and Hokkaido Nanatsuboshi rice.

Other revelations of this tasting menu include how well angel hair pasta pairs with wakame, shiso blossoms and caviar when it has been flavoured with white truffle paste. The next dish presents butter-aged lobster tails cooked over lava stones and topped with daikon oden (simmered radish stew), handmade chilli oil and a sauce of sakura-ebi (shrimp) and kabocha (winter squash). 

The dessert of pistachio almond crunch, ganache, mochi and ice cream, as well as offerings of seasonal fruit, make the perfect ending to this sumptuous dinner.

 Ankôma’s tasteful contemporary French-Japanese approach proves that striking a balance between revolutionising traditional cuisine and creating an inviting restaurant is a worthwhile pursuit. A collaboration among generations helps heaps, but it’s a collective passion for serving a unique, delicious experience that lights the match. 

Ankoma, 5/F, Kam Lung Commercial Centre, 2 Hart Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Photos: Ankoma  Video: Jack Fontanilla