High expectations | Frantzén’s Kitchen
The Hong Kong food scene was abuzz with excitement when Swedish chef Björn Frantzén unveiled Frantzén’s Kitchen, a tiny outpost of his award-winning restaurant in Sheung Wan. Food critics clamoured for a table, pen poised to savour and appraise the Scandinavian flavours that passed through their lips. There was a lot of hype. After all, just this year Frantzén was the first Swedish chef to be awarded with three Michelin stars and he also has a string of other Michelin-starred restaurants under his belt.
Laid-back fine dining
I arrived at Frantzén’s Kitchen on a Thursday evening and the little place was humming with a mix of lively chatter and pop hits. The first impression is definitely more of a laid-back feel than the original fine-dining restaurant I had been to in Stockholm. And I liked that straight away. I’ve never understood the need for rigid formality in fine dining, with its hushed tones and inoffensive lounge music. It could be so stuffy and bland.
I had a coveted seat at the bar, giving me a great view of all the theatrics as the chefs went about their work. The first bites, tucking into the Swedish sushi, immediately transported me back to the Nordics. Frantzén’s interpretation of the Japanese national dish has layers of venison, foie gras and mushroom mayonnaise sitting atop crispy white moss. The venison melted in my mouth, and the foie gras and velvety cep mayonnaise added a creaminess that had me begging for more. The mouthful was smooth and crunchy (hello, white moss!), showcasing the culinary magic at work in the kitchen.
The French toast was another sigh-out-loud moment. I am a glutton for truffle, and this little creation sees the good stuff paired with generous shavings of matured cheese and balsamic vinegar. The sharp balsamic vinegar cuts nicely through the richness of the truffle and cheese, providing a subtle tanginess to the dish.
A signature dish at the Stockholm Frantzén is a garden salad made up of over 100 different herbs, leaves and flowers. The components of the salad change every day depending on what is picked from the restaurant’s garden that day. It’s presented with aplomb and as much fanfare as the Nordic coolness would allowed. The diners receive a beautifully printed card with a long list of all the ingredients, because growing that many varieties of salad leaves is a remarkable achievement in the cold north.
Here in Hong Kong, though, it’s not much to write home about. So the twist is “Seven Gardens”. The emphasis is not on the number of ingredients but on the source of the produce, with the seasonal vegetables coming from seven organic farms in the local area. These vegetables are then prepared in eight different ways to highlight the varying taste and texture, and it certainly came through in the dish.
THE best dish of the
night month year
The other courses sailed by in a mouth-watering haze. If this were a blockbuster film, I would want to refrain from giving away all the plot twists, but I do recommend that you try the Norwegian salmon, veal tartare, skrei and lamb hot pot. Whatever you do, you have to order the show-stopping velouté, an onion soup that is specially prepared in Sweden and flown all the way to Hong Kong to guarantee that the flavours are just right. This was my favourite dish of an evening with many delectable contenders. Sure, some of the other dishes beat the velouté hands down in the presentation stakes, but what it lacked in visual spectacle it more than made up for in flavour. It was creamy, sweet, comforting and simply sublime. I might just pop by Frantzén’s Kitchen right now to have that dish and that dish alone.
To finish, I had the thyme ice cream served with a tomato marmalade and birch tree oil. This was refreshing enough but it paled in comparison next to the smoked ice cream “3.0”. Why 3.0? The dish has been through a few transformations and the chefs have now settled on enveloping the smoked ice cream with a full chocolate dome, whereas it had taken on varying forms in its previous incarnations. At the table, hot fudge is poured over the dome, melting it and revealing the smoked ice cream beneath. It’s captivating to watch. The flavours are at once smoky (ice cream), sweet (tar syrup – yep, you read that right – and chocolate) and salty (fudge) at the same time.
What to drink?
The sommeliers know their stuff here and can recommend fantastic wine pairings with the dishes. I started with a glass of the Chartogne-Taillet St Anne, a non-vintage champagne that is fresh and vibrant. To accompany the Seven Gardens and the Norwegian salmon, the sommelier poured me some light and citrusy Dena Dela Blanc from French winemaker EgiaTegia, famous for their subsea winemaking process in the Bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. I drank Vingt-Neuf from Bertin-Delatte with my velouté, but if I am honest, I was too consumed by the exquisite velouté to pay much attention to this wine. I adored the medium-bodied Benjamin Leroux Bourgogne and Chateau Simard St-Emilion. Both were mellow reds, the bourgogne bursting with berries and the St-Emilion had hints of spice.
The Travel Nova’s verdict
The food is phenomenal and this was the best meal I’ve had in Hong Kong. Yes, it’s not cheap and you’re probably looking at HK$ 1,000 per person for food alone. But it’s worth it because this will be a meal you’ll remember.
Frantzén’s Kitchen (website)
11 Upper Station St |Sheung Wan