Restaurant review: VEA by Chef Vicky Cheng, Hong Kong (1 Michelin star)
Very indulgent French x Chinese food
It’s hard to believe VEA’s been around for three years now. Mostly because I’ve wanted to try it since day one and only just managed to go. My sister was in town, her first trip as an adult, and I wanted to book one indulgent dining experience for us to share together. While there are many outstanding restaurants in Hong Kong, VEA has always stood out for me as a must try because of its Chinese x French style. I don’t think I’ve ever had this combination before.
VEA is a two story place, with a lounge on the 29th floor and a restaurant on the 30th floor of a tall building in Sheung Wan. It’s named after chef Vicky Cheng and mixologist Antonio Lai (Vicky et Antonio = VEA), both renowned in their respective fields. Before starting VEA, Vicky had worked at various top restaurants including the Michelin-starred Restaurant Daniel in New York, and Antonio is the co-founder of Tastings Group which is behind top Hong Kong bars such as Quinary and the Envoy. Naturally, this is one spot where the cocktails are as carefully made as the food. They were awarded one Michelin star within a year of opening.
If you’re interested in visiting, note that VEA (the restaurant) is only open for dinner, only offers a tasting menu, and reservations only open 28 days in advance. What’s cool about the tasting menu is that guests will never have the same experience twice as one dish is rotated out of the menu every two weeks. But say you are lucky enough to go twice within the two weeks? (Somehow this happened to me, the second time with CitySuper and Bellota-Bellota, and the addition of the latter’s ham in VEA dishes was awesome.) The restaurant will create a different menu just for you. They also keep track of your experience including your server and where you sat in addition to what you ate so they can give you a different experience the next time.
On the night that we went, highlights included:
Threadfin “Ma Yau” fish served with a Sichuan chili oil, fermented cabbage, and crispy fried rice. The various contrasts (wet, dry, chewy, crunchy, sour, spicy) in this dish were lovely.
Mantis shrimp with smoked cauliflower mousse, uni, pistachio, pickled onions and shiso leaf. Creamy and complex.
Fresh clams and heirloom mushrooms. Super juicy with a smokey feel.
Kagoshima Wagyu with xo chili jam fried rice. Just moreish.
Taiyouran Egg with truffle, parmesan, and caviar, with a piece of black truffle youtiao. An indulgent dish from first bite to last, and one of VEA’s signature dishes for a reason.
My alcohol tolerance is quite light but I enjoyed trying the cocktail pairing. All are created by Antonio and they were definitely some of the most inventive (in a good way) cocktails I’ve ever had, and went very well with their respective dishes. They introduced a new aspect of flavour without overpowering the dish. My favourite cocktail was served hot, had a whiskey and shitake cordial base, and mushroom tea to finish it off.
The Vibe and the Decor
The vibe is energetic as most of the guests sit around the huge open kitchen. When we asked our server what the ratio of guests to chefs was, they said about two to one! That’s a lot of power in the kitchen. The service is also top notch; each dish is explained carefully and often come with little mementos like poems on mini scrolls, and the servers are happy to assist with requests. As for the decor, it’s polished glam with architectural accents. Think marble countertops, sleek brass lighting fixtures, and studded cream-coloured high chairs.
VEA was definitely a special occasion restaurant for us, and one that we’d happily save up for again. The food was memorable, creative, and indulgent; I also liked their focus on cooking with seasonal, local ingredients where possible. I imagine we ate over a day’s worth of calories in one meal. Guests who prefer lighter foods may wish to indicate this to the restaurant ahead of time as the majority of the dishes are quite heavy (they can suggest alternative dishes). Delicious, but heavy.
29 & 30/F, 198 Wellington Street, Central, 2711 8639