A champagne-filled culinary journey
The Krug Room really is a hidden gem. The progressive and playful restaurant inside the storied Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, on the edge of the bustling Central district, can’t be found by chance. Guests with reservations (and these are a must, with wait times stretching longer than a month) are instructed to present themselves at the host stand of Mandarin Grill + Bar. A black-suited server — with whom you’ll get very comfortable, as he proves to be your only server for the duration of the three-hour experience — then shows you across the landing, through the warm-wooded Chinnery bar, past a swinging door with a porthole, into the kitchen hallway lined with pillar candles, and only then into the snug gilded space, with just enough room for 12 diners at a time.
The intimate restaurant brings to mind the captain’s table of a bygone luxury liner, with a long communal white marble dining table, sparkling chandeliers hanging above and gilt-framed rounded windows that look onto the bustling main kitchen of the hotel. The setting is all about two things: champagne and chefs. Bottle after bottle of Krug lines the mirrored shelves at the entrance to the Hong Kong restaurant, and you are served a welcome glass of Krug Grande Cuvée upon arrival. The bubbles are poured into custom-made Riedel stemware with a wider mouth typically meant for a dessert wine; this, staff explains, allows the champagne to breathe over the long course of the meal.
In between sips, admire the pale wooden wall at one end of the room, carved with the trademark Krug seal, or watch all the activity in the kitchen beyond. The atmosphere is relaxed, vibrant and exclusive, with a feeling of stepping into a chef’s private playground. This is, of course, helped by the iPod plugged into the corner, playing a roulette of music ranging from instrumental jazz to ’90s pop. The Krug Room, after all, is meant to surprise and delight.
Under the stewardship of Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong executive chef Robin Zavou, the kitchen in front of the restaurant churns out a magnanimous and imaginative sequence of 10 to 14 courses, influenced by European cuisine and local ingredients. The set menu is written as a word puzzle on a chalkboard in the corner, but the enigmatic one-word descriptions barely offer an inkling of what’s to come.
With a front row seat to top chefs, The Krug Room is a place to escape for gastronomic pleasure or gild a special occasion. And it’s one of the most opulent chef’s tables in Hong Kong.