One of Hong Kong’s most elegant dining rooms is that of the Mandarin Grill + Bar. Located in the legendray Mandarin Oriental, it is the reign of chef Uwe Opocenski.
Few dining rooms in the world will see as many well-cut suits these days as the Mandarin Grill + Bar does. And that is part of what makes its atmosphere so special and unique. It attracts the city’s high-flyers. This is a place that doesn’t skimp: Manni olive oil is part of the selection of oils served with your bread, and the champagne selection by the glass leaves you spoilt for choices with a bit of Krug available most of the time.
Chef Opocenski has created a name for himself in Hong Kong, based on creative and innovative cooking. Whilst he is responsible for the food at the Mandarin Grill + Bar, he also oversees the Krug Room, and the MO’s other restaurants. That this is a demanding job in a hotel with as many restaurants as this would be putting it mildly.
When you meet the chef, it becomes evident why he is so famous in the city. Not unlike Richard Ekkebus at Amber, he seems approachable, easy-going and passionate. This is clearly someone who enjoys what he is doing, and knows that what he serves is of a certain standard.
Despite Opocensky’s reputation for creativity, and the restaurant’s name, it is best to come without any expectations with regards to grilled or innovative food.
A first course that has evolved a bit over time is that of langoustines served on a hot stone with sea urchin dip and seaweed salad. The langoustines are quickly seared, and served on the stone with a little bit of the sea urchin dip. The seaweed salad on the side is refreshing, and bursts with umami underlining the sweetness of the crustaceans. Whilst the langoustines don’t seem to have been bought in alive, this is a delicious, minimalist dish that works beautifully with a bit of champagne.
Despite not grilling a lot of things, the Mandarin Grill + Bar’s menu features a number of cuts of beef. Sirloin served with mushrooms is particularly tasty. The meet seems to have been cooked sous-vide, and comes with various preparations of mushrooms and other elements that mimic what you might find in a forest. This is a delicious dish, whose flavours are harmonious, and in balance.
There is very little to fault here: the service is charming, elegant, and attentive. The wine selection is remarkably good even by the glass, and the food is technically sound and hard to fault. What is less visible is the creativity, given that a lot of the processes and ideas seem to take inspiration from other restaurants’. If you accept that, a meal at the Mandarin Grill + Bar is like spending time in a place that could only exist in Hong Kong. It is its atmosphere gives it its very own identity.