Le Chef, located on the Mezzanine Level of the Metropark Hotel Wanchai Hong Kong, is a very unique fusion restaurant, characterized by a chic yet creative décor, towering throne-like chairs around the central tables of the dining room, elegant decorative decanters to remind patrons that wine is a central theme at the restaurant, and a bright pink glow, which adds a sense of mischief to the place. Carefully designed wine pairing dinners, meant to showcase both the cuisine of talented Chef de Cuisine Rick Kwan and the restaurant’s ample wine selection, are rotated every 2 months, depending on the trends in customer preferences and seasonality of ingredients. As a hotel restaurant, Le Chef pays close attention and caters to the needs of hotel guests, regularly asking for feedback and recommendations and considering these when varying the cuisine and wine.
I sat down with Revenue and Marketing Manager, Pauline Ho to discuss the cuisine and concept of Le Chef in a bit more detail. During our conversation, I learned about the wonderful wine pairing dinners, which focus on a different wine region every other month. Ms. Pauline let me in on some of the trends she has noticed in how Le Chef customers tend to order their wine, and how these trends affect the composition of the wine list. When asked to recommend a signature dish and wine pairing, she chose the Pan Fried King Prawn in Maggie Sauce and Pan Fried New Zealand Rib Eye in Herb Garlic Sauce with the 2006 Vignobles David Côtes du Rhône Prieuré la Clastre, a wonderful representation of Le Chef’s East-meets-West fusion cuisine.
Our interview follows:
My name is Pauline Ho and I am the Revenue & Marketing Manager at the Metropark Hotel Wanchai Hong Kong. I came on board in early 2010. My roles include online business development and implementing programs/promotions for branding & product positioning to all customer segments of the industry including consumers, travel agents and industry partners. I work closely with all of them in creating cross-promotions and revitalize our company brand resulting in distinctive and competitive positioning.
Please give me some background on Le Chef and its cuisine. How was it originally conceived?
Le Chef opened in the June of 2011, around one year ago. It used to be called Café de Metropark and the food served was a buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner. When the hotel’s current General Manager transferred here 3-4 years ago, he decided to transform the Metropark Hotel Wanchai Hong Kong into a business hotel, starting with the renovation and refurbishment of the rooms and then also re-designing the lobby, to bring it into a new, modern era. The last step was re-designing the restaurant, which was carried out last year in June. We transformed the traditional cuisine available back then to a fusion cuisine, combining Eastern and Western flavors into one concept in terms of ingredients and cooking methods. The oysters, for example, are prepared in a traditional Chinese way in the wintertime, using local herbs. The Cream of Roasted Artichoke and Scallop is another example of this fusion, because we use a Hokkaido scallop from Japan but the preparation is French, a creamy broth. During the wintertime we focus more on Chinese ingredients. For example, last winter we focused on ginger as an ingredient, which is meant to keep you warm. In the summertime, we focus more on the Western side, with French elements in particular.
Please tell me a bit about the composition of the wine list. Is it mostly New or Old World? What ideas went into the selection process?
The wine list is mostly composed of Old World wines, but every time we have a wine pairing dinner we try to focus on a new region. This time it is France; in June and July it was Australia and New Zealand. So every two months, we select 6 wines from one particular region to pair with our dishes. The wine list is also based on the feedback from guests who attend these wine tasting dinners. All together we have organized 12 different wine pairing dinners and have collected comments, which has helped us compose a wine list. It’s actually a very international selection. We have appointed a sommelier and wine consultant, who works with our general manager who is also a big food and wine lover.
The Metropark Hotel also has its own private label, a Cabernet Merlot and a Chardonnay, produced in France. We have had this label for more than 6 years now.
What dishes do you usually pair these wines with?
We do not normally pair restaurant dishes to these wines. They are more for easy drinking, so we usually encourage our guests to try them on their own, or maybe sometimes with some light tapas in The Parlor. We so sometimes recommend the Chardonnay with the oysters and the Cabernet Merlot with our lamb tapas. But usually, we prefer our guests try these wines without food. We used to sell these wines in our lobby lounge, the parlor, so they would also be great souvenirs to take home after staying at the Metropark Hotel.
Is there one wine region on your list that goes particularly well with most of your food?
Yes, wines from the Rhône Valley seem to pair very nicely with a wide selection of our dishes and there are many value choices in different price categories.
Please tell me a bit about the décor at Le Chef.
We have a few tables in the middle of the dining room with these regal, almost throne-like chairs, which echo an Eastern theme. We also have comfortable window seating around this centerpiece. We have an open buffet bar near the entrance, from which we serve food during breakfast and lunch. And we also have these beautiful designer decanters on the center tables, which are just decorative but add a lot of style to the place as well as reminding the guest that wine is a central theme at Le Chef.
And what is this Ladies Only Floor I’ve heard about here at the Metropark Hotel Wanchai Hong Kong and how do you cater to these guests here at Le Chef?
We have a floor, which is exclusively for female guests. It is a new concept, which we have branded SHE by Metropark, for female travelers looking for a unique, comfortable room designed with feminine appeal in mind. The rooms come decorated with two major layouts, floral and ballet, with a mostly pink-red-purple color scheme. We used to offer guests of these rooms a free glass of rose, as a feminine touch. We also had a lighter “green menu” last year for guests of those rooms.
How would you describe the composition of your clientele?
I would say around 30-40% of our clientele is made up of in-house guests, around 40% is local and 20% are local foreigners, expats. The majority, I would say around 60%, of our hotel guests are Caucasian, from Europe and the U.S. as well as Australia and New Zealand. The rest of them are from Southeast Asia and China. We cater to our overseas guests by offering fusion cuisine, a mix of Eastern and Western. During the summertime, overseas guests of the hotel from Australia, New Zealand and UK, for example, are on vacation and not on business in Hong Kong. So, during the summertime, we focus more on our Southeast Asian guests as well as local guests, serving Eastern, Japanese and Thai food, which is very popular. Thai food is especially popular here among the locals, strong flavors easily paired with unique wines.
And what are some of the consumption trends you have noticed among your customers here? Is there any particular region whose wines seem to be especially popular among them?
Among our diners, customers who don’t have much wine knowledge and aren’t very big wine lovers tend to choose wines from the U.S., mostly Californian wines. They are sweeter and easier to drink. More experienced wine lovers usually choose French wines. We do include many U.S. wines on the list though, because they seemed to be very popular among our diners in the past year, and our wine list is designed to reflect our guests’ preferences.
And what about varieties, are there any trends in what your customers tend to order the most?
Our clients usually choose the food first. So, for example, for the oysters, we have a selection of white wines apart from the recommended wine from which the customers can choose based on their preference of fruity vs. dry, etc. We haven’t really noticed any varietal being more popular than others.
If you could pick a signature dish that best represents Le Chef, what would it be and what wine would be paired with it?
I would choose the Pan Fried King Prawn in Maggie Sauce and Pan Fried New Zealand Rib Eye in Herb Garlic Sauce, which is on the August-September wine pairing dinner menu. The rib eye is from New Zealand, overseas, while the king prawn is pan fried in soy sauce and oil, a very traditionally Chinese preparation. It’s a great example of our fusion cuisine. In this case, our wine consultant chose to pair it with a 2006 Vignobles David Côtes du Rhône Prieuré la Clastre. Even though the dish contains a seafood element, the prawn, which would traditionally be paired with white wine (a Sauvignon Blanc for instance), the flavors of the dish are quite full and so the red does not defeat these flavors, but complements them instead. Black fruits and licorice essences are very prevalent in the wine. Pairing with a Côtes du Rhône, which is an Old World wine, also plays into that idea of fusion of Eastern and Western which characterizes Le Chef.
Well it certainly is wonderful. Thank you, Pauline.
Address: Metropark Hotel Wanchai Hong Kong, Mezzanine Floor, 41-49 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Phone: 2863 7344
Online Booking: www.MetroarkHotelWanchai.com
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7a.m. – 11p.m.