With a vast selection of local and international cuisine styles readily available, and a huge variety of new restaurants seemingly opening every month, Hong Kong is now one of the world’s true gastronomic capitals. While any aspiring – and affluent – gourmand is likely to be spoilt for choice at the more expensive end of the spectrum, there also a number of more budget-friendly dineries just waiting to be discovered.
One such establishment can be found on the third floor of number 18 On Lan Street. Jostling for notice among several other aspirant eateries is Arcane. As its name might imply to the more lexicographically-minded, this 2,000 square feet restaurant is a well-kept secret, much-loved by true initiates.
Expertly serving modern European dishes at their very best, its prime location sees it set just far enough away from the bustle of LKF to make it a highly-desirable dining destination. The restaurant is the first Hong Kong solo venture by Shane Osborn, the multi-award winning Australian chef, who has already notched up two Michelin stars for Pied-a-Terre, his prestigious London establishment. For Hong Kongers, though, he may better known for his impressive run at St Betty, the IFC’s much-missed European style eatery.
Originally opened back in November 2014, Osborn’s 32-seater restaurant, boasts a uniquely warm and inviting atmosphere. With its dark brown oak decor ubiquitous throughout, high table seating, cushioned armchairs and a striking selection of contemporary artworks, courtesy of a number of London and New York’s finest galleries, its ambience is simply unmatchable.
Ideally, opt for a spot by the open kitchen, securing yourself a ringside seat to watch a truly great chef at work. It would be a shame, though, if you were too distracted to appreciate Arcane’s crisp white linen tablecloths, fine glassware and its selection of the most remarkable cutlery Bernadaud, Zalto and David Mellor have to offer.
That is even before you begin to peruse Arcane’s comprehensively globally-sourced wine list. Drawn from the restaurant’s generously-stocked 1,200-bottle wine cellar – and with a highly experienced sommelier on hand to lend an expert assessment – you are virtually assured of finding the ideal wine pairing for your meal of choice.
The Arcane food menu, itself, is both simple and concise, offering a selection of a mere six appetizers and main courses. There is, however, an additional list of four decidedly vegetarian-friendly dishes.
While waiting for your designated starters, a serving of fresh warm, brown sourdough bread with butter proves an eminently-palatable distraction. Of our appetizers, the first to put in an appearance was the Japanese tomato with homemade ricotta, pine nuts, rocket and sherry vinegar dressing. The deep red tomatoes proved fresh and succulent, while the green pesto style dressing, black sesame topping and pine nuts complimented it just wonderfully.
The Hamachi carpaccio, ably assisted by a salad of jicama, confit fennel, soy and a ginger dressing, proved another remarkable appetizer. Light, refreshing and with a truly magnificent citrus tinge, it benefitted from the extra texture and crunch bestowed by a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds.
For the main course, it just had to be the roasted baby Monkfish with green lentils, diced French morteau sausage and seasonal vegetables. Snowy and cooked pretty much to perfection, the monkfish was every bit as fresh as it was firm, with the lentils and sausage giving the dish an unexpected depth.
Continuing our exploration of the main courses and another long-time favourite was next up – cup-shaped Tortellini stuffed with braised chicken leg and topped with fresh morel mushrooms, broad beans, wild garlic and thyme, all topped with a generous drizzle of sublimely creamy leek broth.
Our dining experience was rounded off by an enchanting odyssey through Arcane’s wickedly tempting dessert menu. First to delight both the palate and the eyes was the yuzu and lemon posset, fresh tangerine, mandarin and yoghurt ice cream, memorably finished with a crispy glass-served white chocolate tuile. The combination of tangerines, ice cream, posset and orange foam crescendoed with a refreshing sweet citrus flavor, with just a hint of a residually mild sour note.
Very different – but equally satisfying – was the warm chocolate tart, fetchingly smothered in whipped hokkaido cream, macadamia nuts and Guinness ice cream. Reminiscent of the finest truffles, its rich dark bittersweet interior, covered over with a thin layer of pastry and adorned with slivered macadamia nuts, maintained a shiny glaze worthy of the finest patent leather. Simple, classic yet undeniably amazing.
Despite the temptation, make sure you leave a little room for Shane’s specialty petit fours. With their soft and tender custardy center and dark, thick caramelized crispy crust, it would be almost criminal to head home without a little indulgence in their direction.
Arcane will surely charm even the most discriminating palate. The play of ingredients on offer is season-focused, unpretentious, highly-refined and particularly fresh. It’s assertion that it jets in its ingredients from Japan, France and the UK as required clearly needs no gainsaying. While innovation is at the core of every dish, presentation is never overlooked.
In terms of service, the utmost is done to ensure every guest feels welcome, with each member of staff – including the open kitchen- embedded chef – greeting diners as they arrive. This high standard is maintained throughout the evening, with the servers ever attentive to your requirements and never short of a smile.
At present, the restaurant has no food or drinks service on the outdoor terrace, though it plans to do so in due course. You are, however, free to order your drinks and then take them outside.
In terms of specials, a selection of dessert wines and a number of limited edition cigars are always available.
The restaurant is open from Monday to Friday for lunch, with two or three course set business menus on offer. For dinner, Arcane is open every day except Sunday and reservations are highly recommended, though you might get lucky with the occasional walk-in.
Address: 3rd Floor, 18 On Lan Street, Central, Hong Kong
Reservation: (852) 2728 0178