Chef Akrame Benallal — who once worked for Ferran Adrià at El Bulli and counts the legendary Pierre Gagnaire as his mentor — opened his first eponymous restaurant in Paris’ tony 16th arrondissement in 2011, and within one year earned the kind of accolades that chefs dedicate their entire career toward achieving.
For his Hong Kong outpost, Restaurant Akrame, which opened in late November 2013, he chose Ship Street in Wan Chai, where his noted neighbors include Jason Atherton’s 22 Ships and Ham & Sherry; Bo Innovation; and Yin Yang. The intimate, 25-seat restaurant is done in sleek gray and black, minimalist but for details such as Laguiole butter knives that cleverly stand vertical, mother-of-pearl bread plates and steak knives with gorgeous inlaid handles. Black leather seats pull up to black tabletops with rippled surfaces. It’s hushed with the exception of some cooking noise coming from the partially open kitchen.
As for Restaurant Akrame’s dinner menu, the only choice is between four or six courses, which, by the way, doesn’t count your amuse bouche or dessert. The menu changes every two weeks, but you can expect superb, contemporary French cooking that’s artfully presented. We had a velvety cauliflower soup garnished with tiny squares of Campari jelly, sweet hazelnut purée and broccoli crumbs; sweet clams in a passion fruit broth with a parsley-butter swirl; a cut of red snapper served with squid ink risotto and lightly caramelized endive; and a morsel of rare beef that was almost fork tender, served with roasted root vegetables and a spoonful of rich potato purée.
Benallal’s signature dessert is a wedge of roasted pineapple in a black cloak of charcoal sauce with crunchy black cookie crumbs. All but flavorless, the charcoal offers a mostly visual appeal (it joins squid ink on the short list of black foods), while the pineapple, slightly warm, is simply delicious.
The wine list is mostly French, and heavy on the Bordeaux, peppered with some interesting bottles such as a Saumur from Domaine des Roches Neuves and grower champagnes from Larmandier-Bernier.
Photos Courtesy of Akrame