[HK] baby café @ iSQUARE

Friday, May 03, 2013

The name 'Angelababy' should be a familiar luminary in the social media, being a Hong Kong-based Chinese artist that shot to fame years back and even earned the title of 'Hong Kong Goddess' in Japan. Label me prejudiced, somehow, I am not quite exactly a fan of celebrity cafes. They came across to me more as a proposition for awareness and marketing rather than an avenue of fine gourmet in most instances. On that basis, I do admit that we carried a great sense of scepticism prior to our visit at iSQUARE. Will our perception change after this visit?

Quite naturally, a pretty face is paramount when it comes to the world of modelling. It would be difficult to miss the eatery with a full blown picture of 'Angelababy' donning the facade of the restaurant. As we arrived early before the dining peak period at about 6pm, there were no problems for a table for two as we were promptly ushered to our seats.

The first thing that came to our mind upon being shown to our table was that the adjacent tables beside were uncomfortably close and quite frankly, any gossips or chatter could be easily picked up. The set dinner came at $128/person for a two course meal and a free 'drink of the day' though you have the option to top up for a smoothie or one of their speciality drinks. For the two courses, you choose from between a salad or soup of the day (from the A option) and a main course from the B option. The formula is pretty much option A + B = 'Angelababy'. Right..let us move on to the food proper!

Salad of the Day

The salad of the day was plain, simple and honest. Spotting the usual rocket leaves, leafy vegetables, sliced boiled eggs and cherry tomatoes, it was the balsamic dressing that deserved the attention. The salad was crisp and fresh but the balance in complex flavours from the balsamic vinegar was sublime, maintaining the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of wood from the casks. The balsamic vinegar was rich, glossy and deep brown in colour, which was more than acceptable by our standards. Despite the outstanding dressing, the salad could do with a touch of grated cheese just to enrich the flavours.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Soup of the Day

With a tantalizing teaser from the salad, we were expecting a creamy soup to nourish our taste buds. We were however left largely disappointed with their rendition of mushroom truffle soup. First up, there was a lack of any truffle taste not to mention fragrance. The mushroom soup tasted mediocre and quite frankly, I would draw comparison with Campbell soup. While the croutons were a good touch to the soup, it was sparing and few. What was not captured in the photo was the excessive fingerprints and marks on the plate which was quite a stark eye-sore under the spotlight (which seemed like the only lighting at the restaurant) It was one of those rare occasions where we did not finish food served on our plates, and this was unfortunately so.

Verdict: 5.0/10

Bread roll with butter

The serving of bread rolls was a pleasant gesture. It was not stated on the menu but the warm black sesame bread rolls tasted fresh. I have my reservations whether they were freshly baked or rather just reheated and served. Nonetheless, it went well with a dash of the slightly salted butter or just on its own with a strong lingering aroma of the black sesame.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Angela Tasting Platter

Seared salmon fillet tartare
Tartare in general means in finely chopped portions and to be eaten raw. We enjoyed the salmon fillet the way it was prepared, where the surface was lightly seared yet not overly done while the raw inside was tender and 'melt-in-your-mouth'. The freshness of the fish was prime and it had a mildly sweet tangerine sauce that served to please the palate rather than overwhelm.

Japanese scrambled eggs with truffle
While the eggs were perfectly cooked remaining moist, slightly runny and creamy, it also had a strong 'eggy' fragrance. The toast was sharply crisp but the bread was dull and pedestrian to say the least. The taste of the truffle was present but sorely lacking as a dominating flavour of the taster.
Spaghetti with tomato sauce
It flawed severely, presentation wise, with the tomato sauce splashed onto the sides of the plate. The portion of grated cheese atop the spaghetti could certainly be more. Quite frankly, the pasta was passable and similar to what a home-made version would taste like, nothing too surprising.

Overall Verdict: 7.0/10

Poisson en Papillote Lemon Sole in a Spring Vegetable Nage, Oolong Tea

Poisson en Papillote refers to 'fish in parchment' as seen in the pictures. The lemon sole was contained in the paper parchment before being baked on a cast iron skillet. Within the paper parchment is a spring vegetable flavoured broth used for poaching the lemon sole, where the broth is then reduced and thickened with butter. It is a brilliant technique to cook a tender fish like lemon sole where both steaming and braising are used to ensure that the fish is perfectly cooked and tender. Apart from being health-conscious where it is generally low in fat, cooking by this method infuses the entire packet with the herbs and additions like white wine and vegetables. Where the cooking is done internally within the parchment through steaming, it prevents the fish from drying itself out.

Enough rave over the technique employed, the lemon sole was delicate, tender and moist. Coupled with the mashy sliced yellow courgettes and peas (probably slightly overcooked), the overall texture of the dish was 'soft'. While the fish was beautifully cooked, the reduced broth was too salty for our palate. It required some washing down with a drink after every two servings or so. Even though some oolong tea leaves were in the broth and spotted on the fillet, we could barely taste or smell the fragrance of the tea. Great technique, but the flavours certainly need some tweaking.

Verdict: 7.0/10

Mulberry leaf and camomile tea with honey

This was the free drink of the day, and served warm, it was an especially pleasing drink for the lady for she was having a bad throat. It was a beautiful blend in terms of fragrance and the mild sweetness from the honey made it a surprisingly good drink.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Strawberry, grapefruit and pineapple smoothie (additional $19 top up over the free drink)

This drink offered a refreshing twist to the meal and the fruits worked in unison to create a naturally sweet smoothie which felt 'healthy'. The blended ice was smooth and for some reason, it kept luring me back for a second sip and it was not too long that we emptied it!

Verdict: 8.0/10

With black and white as the two primary colours to set the tone of the restaurant, it was clean, chic and mesmerizing in a peculiarly good fashion. The photographs within the frames shown above would change periodically which instil a feeling of motion and 'life' within the restaurant. 

We believe reservations are a must if you wish to get one of these 'comfy-looking' armchairs or within the spherical dome, which seemed like a good catch-up spot with friends or for the ladies over some afternoon tea. 

The waiting staffs were attentive and quick to respond. Some hits and misses on the food tried though the two fish dishes tried were done beautifully and memorable. The interior of the restaurant was actually pretty small but the clever usage of mirrors helped amplify the space available. Overall, the ambiance was good but I would avoid visiting during peak dining periods for the close proximity between the tables was quite a deterring factor to say the least. This Western and Japanese fusion themed cafe did prove us wrong to a certain extent for surprisingly, we enjoyed our dinner fare pretty much.

baby cafe (iSQUARE)
Shop 301, 3/F, iSQUARE,
63 Nathan Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: 3583 4333

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