On a sunny afternoon the view from Hotel ICON’s 28th floor restaurant Above & Beyond is picture postcard perfect. Boats of every shape and size hurry through the harbor, and frenzied Hong Kong city life carries on below. Up here, however, time seems to be moving at a much more relaxed pace. Muted colors, dark timber walls and floor-to-ceiling windows make for an intimate, sophisticated space – somewhere I might visit on a lunch date with friends. But as I browse through the traditional fare listed on the menu – “double-boiled imperial bird’s nest” and “superior vegetables” – I start to have second thoughts. Maybe it’s more of a place to take my Chinese grandparents.
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Dim sum and main dishes arrive and my first few bites prove me wrong. These are Hong Kong classics with a kick. Savory truffle on the creamy yolk of egg braised in oolong tea, and sweet bursts of mango in the deep fried shrimp rolls add a hint of something special without detracting from the authentic flavor of the dishes. The crispy sweet and sour kagoshima pork with Bordeaux red wine vinegar is soft and succulent, perfectly balanced with crunchy slices of pear.
Ingredients like wagyu beef, wolfberry, kurobuta pork, sea urchin and goose liver jazz up the gourmet dim sum menu, along with staples like bird’s nest and abalone. These flavors certainly add something unique, but it’s the quality and great technique that really make the dishes stand out.
Executive chef Joseph Tse, formerly the chef de cuisine at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, isn’t experimenting for the sake of it. Staying true to the fundamentals of authentic Cantonese cuisine, he adds only the ingredients that best complement the original dishes and maximize flavor. He also knows that staying authentic doesn’t mean shying away from change. For more than 20 years he has opted for no MSG, low sodium and low fat, and also offers up an organic veggie section in the menu.
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Dessert is simple and unpretentious, with options such as citron honey coated egg twists with marmalade, and a choice of wolfberry and white sesame ice cream or a more potent chocolate version infused with wu liang ye Chinese spirit.
Looking back over the menu, I regret that I don’t have enough room to test out the summery pear with osmanthus, served with Chinese petit fours, or the smoked bresse pigeon cooked in a chiu chow marinate with oolong tea leaves. Looks like I’ll have to start planning that lunch date after all.
Above & Beyond is housed in Hotel ICON, an innovative new design hotel in East Tsim Sha Tsui. The hotel also offers patrons a more casual dining experience at The Market, which has gourmet food stations that offer tastes of cuisines from around the world.