There's been a buzz of activity in Central recently, with the recent opening of Harvey Nichols (my fave dept store in London) and the boutique MO in The Landmark, and the upcoming launch of Four Seasons Hotel... not forgetting of course, the DisneyLand euphoria. Knowing that there will be plenty of interesting new restaurants to try out in the area soon, we made a little detour to Causeway Bay for Opia, the fine-dining restaurant located in the hip boutique hotel Jia in Causeway Bay.

We liked the stylish and sophisticated feel of the resturant (designed by Andre Fu), and settled down comfortably at the leather upholstered sofabeds quickly. Opia's menu was devised by one of Australia's most celebrated chefs, Teage Ezard, who has won many awards for his cooking at his own namesake back in Melbourne - ezard. His speciality, I read, is "Australian free style cuisine with influences from Asia"~ how interesting. We opted for the a la carte menu instead of the six-course tasting menu, which was priced at HK$500 per head.

The waiter suggested us dipping our bread into some seasoning in addition to the olive oil for a fusion experience - we liked the peppery tasting salt and the one mixed with the seaweed, but the slightly sweet one in the middle of the plate did not go down too well. It just felt plain weird.

We started off with the Japanese inspired oyster shooter with mirin, wasabi, tamari and seaweed, green tea soba rolls (each HK$35), a signature dish that is frequently quoted in the press. While we liked the fresh tasty oyster, we unanimously agreed that the shooter did not pose a good balance. It had a strange sweet (from the mirin probably) but choking taste that did not enhance the flavour. We'd very much have preferred the oyster plain and simple. The green tea soba rolls were not that interesting - just soba wrapped in seaweed - a feeble attempt at fusion.

While we were tempted by the gratinated potato gnocchi with taieggio cheese, shaved pear and toasted walnuts (HK$120), but opted for the steamed scallop tortelini with verjuice and citrus butter sauce, yarra valley salmon eggs, crispy leek and taro salad (HK$150) instead. This was a much tastier dish with the ingredients working well together.

Next came our three mains - Roasted snapper with smashed green mango salad chili jam, coconut cream and crispy shallots (HK$260), Sumac spiced lamb cutlets with eggplant two ways, soft herbs and persian fetta salad with sweet and sour pomegranate (HK$280), and Crispy fried pork hock with chilli caramel, thai basil and marinated beanshoots (HK$220). These were all attractively presented to us and I particularly liked the delicious Chinese-style pock hock. The lamb cutlet, although most interesting sounding, was the most average of the three. The tasty snapper also surprised me with a good kick from the chili jam, deviating nicely from the normal roasted snapper dish.

After a quick glance at the dessert menu, we all agreed on trying the dessert tasting plate (HK$200), as the waiter told us that it contained all the desserts on offer. 

It arrived on a big round plate including such yummy creations as:
 - Honeycrunch ice cream with toasted gingerbread, cinnamon oil and sugar swirls
 - Five spiced pannacotta with spiced quince and persian fairy floss
 - Callebaut bitter chocolate tart with rasberry-chilli caramel and mint sorbet
 - Palm sugar caramelised rice pudding, with otasted coconut ice cream and lime syrup, creme brulee favoured with jerusalem artichockes and truffle oil
 - Pink grapefruit gin and coriander sorbet with citrus fruit salad and pistachio water

The honeycrunch ice cream got top score from me, and I also liked the subtly flavoured five spiced pannacotta. The rest were less interesting.

A meal for three worked out at around HK$500 per head, definitely on the expensive side. The quality of the dishes varied widely, with a couple of misses (like the oysters and the dessert), while some were exemplary of what a good fusion could mean. I think Opia needs to stop trying so hard to impress its diners - take the menu for example. Yes I understand that Ezard is a renowned chef and that fusion cuisine sometimes require a more detailed description on the menu - but does he really need to go to such extraordinary length and describe every single ingredient that was employed (apart from salt and pepper)? "Sumac spiced lamb cutlets with eggplant two ways, soft herbs and persian fetta salad with sweet and sour pomegranate" and "Palm sugar caramelised rice pudding, with otasted coconut ice cream and lime syrup, creme brulee favoured with jerusalem artichockes and truffle oil" make for cumbersome (and ridiculous) reading, in my opinion, and kills the element of surprise. Also, just because you pitch your cuisine as a creative Australian free style fused with Asian influence does not mean you should just group ingredients together and hope for the best... (apologies if this sounds like an attack, but I dislike "weird" fusion with a passion).

While it has managed to pull in the crowds since its opening earlier this year (we spotted a few starlets and socialites on our visit), I think it could be harder for Opia to keep its popularity going forward with the opening of a number of high-end restaurants. I like the decor and the ambience, but will likely revisit the bar for now and not the restaurant, until the menu gets sorted out.

1F Jia Hotel, 1-5 Irving Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong


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