US chef Mike Boyle returns to Dining Concepts with contemporary dishes that pop with colour and sing with flavour.
*Featured in Crave’s September 2016 issue
Text by Cherrie Yu, food photos by Samantha Sin
American chef Mike Boyle has left some culinary footprints in Hong Kong. After helming Dining Concepts’ Bistecca Italian Steakhouse, the chef ran his own paleo-centric restaurant The Awakening in Sai Ying Pun for one year and has now re-joined the restaurant group as the executive chef of Alto Bar & Grill.
Excited to be back with the group, Boyle says the grill-centric menu comprises of classic dishes with a twist. The chef pairs French techniques with Asian flavours in dishes such as roasted branzino with buttery, aromatic beurre blanc, and a spicy mango purée made with Thai mangoes and chillies served with ahi tuna.
“It took forever to design the menu,” says Boyle. “Causeway Bay has a good mix of local Chinese customers. We have to make sure there are relatable items, such as duck and different kinds of fish, to make an all-rounded menu and not just grilled items.”
Boyle’s original take on classic dishes offers diverse flavours, textures and colours. “When creating each dish, I work with those components to make sure they are balanced in flavour yet still interesting to look at. For example, foie gras: how do I make it not boring?”
Boyle’s solution was to incorporate ingredients to cut through the richness of the fatty liver, including sweet grilled peaches and peach vanilla purée, sour shallots and bay leaves, and subtly bitter Sasebo peppers.
“For texture, you need something crunchy, so we created a waffle from almond extract, coriander, lime and orange zest, and – boom!” he says.
Diners can expect thoughtful and well-executed dishes with a medley of flavours and textures. Even the complimentary bread was exceptional: crispy on the outside, buttery and fluffy inside. With the dazzling Victoria Harbour as a backdrop and flickering candles to set the mood, Alto has won our hearts.
1. Ahi Tuna
This large and rather filling appetiser sees slices of ahi tuna served with a stack of tuna tartare topped with avocado paste and cubes of young coconut. An artfully drawn dash of mango purée pops vividly off the plate. The crunchy coconut and smooth avocado added extra mouthfeel, while the sweet and spicy purée added much-needed flavour to the rather bland tuna.
2. Crispy Pig Skin
We were impressed with the contrasting textures in one of the most memorable dishes of the evening. The pig skin is boiled for at least 18 hours, then dried and deep-fried without any starch coating and dusted with a Thai-inspired spice made from cumin, coconut and other ingredients. It was simultaneously light, fluffy, crispy and spicy. Served with a zesty Thai dipping sauce, it was delicious.
3. Roasted Cauliflower
One of Boyle’s creative takes on cauliflower sees it coated with homemade Parmesan paste after it is roasted, tossed with crispy shallots and parsley and finished quickly in the oven. The cauliflower was deeply savoury, with umami from the Parmesan, a hint of smokiness, and a good kick of flavour from garlic and lime in the paste.
4. USDA Prime Beef Tenderloin
The steak was presented on a heavy serving board that looks like granite but turned out to be a Hawaiian salt board, which lends a subtle and natural saltiness to the meat. Slicing into the tenderloin reveals a rosy interior with tender, juicy meat and charred crust that some diners might find bitter. However, we found it added a nice smokiness to the overall flavours and a crispiness that added to the texture. Diners can choose one dipping sauce. We loved the chimichurri and cumin-garlic mustard.
5. Black Truffle Pappardelle
Another memorable dish was black truffle pappardelle. We thought we would find the creamy pasta impossible to finish, but it was lighter than we expected. Boyle used the acid from reduced white wine to thicken the cream, creating a smooth creamy sauce that was slightly sweet and not heavy at all. The truffles elevated the dish and created a lovely aroma. Roasted asparagus and white- button, shiitake and shimeji mushrooms added extra texture to the pasta.
Alto Bar & Grill
31/F V Point, 18 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay
Tel: 2603 7181