It’s not unusual for a restaurant to hire a new head chef, but it is rather unusual for two restaurants to swap theirs. Heads turned earlier this year when Fabrice Vulin left two-Michelin-starred Caprice earlier this year to join The Tasting Room at City of Dreams in Macau, another two-star restaurant. Luckily, it ended up being a trade of sorts: The Tasting Room’s former head chef, Guillaume Galliot, recently filled the Chef de Cuisine post at Caprice, and it’s already looking like the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the French fine-dining institution inside the Four Seasons Hotel.
Galliot’s career began from an early age with training under the twin brothers Chef Jacques and Laurent Pourcel at three-Michelin-starred Jardin des Sens, a restaurant in Montpellier, France, which shuttered last year after a long history of training some of the world’s best chefs. It was there that he picked up excellent pastry skills as well as a lighter influence from working with fresh Mediterranean produce.
From there, Galliot moved on to stints in New York, Saint Barthélemy in the Caribbean, Singapore, and Beijing before arriving in Macau. His experience has spanned decades and continents, but each move was calculated precisely for the right reason at the right time, he tells us, in an effort to further his culinary repertoire. He lived in India for awhile to learn how to work with spices, moved to Singapore to become the youngest sous chef at the age of 23 in the history of the iconic Raffles Hotel, and then transferred to Raffles Beijing — at a fortuitous time during the 2008 Olympic Games — to learn about the tastes and techniques of Chinese cuisine. During his six-year tenure at the Tasting Room, Galliot led the restaurant up the Michelin ladder to its current two-star ranking.
Now at Caprice, Galliot has adopted the restaurant’s core tenets of fine technique, top-notch ingredients, and classical French flavours, blending in his own influences from working around the world. The result is a new menu that’s intriguing and exciting — a step in the right direction for fine dining in a city that’s recently leaned more towards communal wooden tables over white-tablecloth meals.
We recently had the pleasure of sampling chef Galliot’s new menu, and were deeply impressed by the meticulously thought-out creations that utilise Asian ingredients to enhance, rather than overpower, classical French flavours.
A trio of amuse-bouches was an inviting welcome to the meal: salmon roe huddling like brilliant ocean jewels inside a wafer-thin pastry tart, creamy sea urchin atop a bell-pepper-and-cauliflower mousse, and mini pita bread puffs which burst with an intricately spiced curry mousse. More caviar and sea urchin arrived in the next dish, offset by a concentrated shot of seafood jelly and a cooling dill cream which filled the edges of the sea urchin shell it was served in, like a tantalising benediction from the sea.
Beef tartare was equally sublime — made without the traditional horseradish or capers in order to highlight the natural flavour of the beef. Fresh snow peas lent a bit of crunch, while droplets of egg confit and parsley gel created a colourful ring around the plate. Not content with stopping there, chef Galliot covered the tartare in a layer of caviar, nearly half a centimetre thick, topped with sheets of gold leaf for added visual pizazz.
The most distinct difference that regulars of Caprice will observe with Galliot’s new menu is the infusion of Asian flavours, which effortlessly coexist with the classical French ingredients and techniques. This is most evident in the crab laksa with confit eggs, leeks, coriander, and hazelnut — perfumed with a dusting of grated lime zest that hits you as soon as the plate arrives. Pale yellow, the colour of churned butter, the rich and creamy sauce bears the concentrated flavour of laksa, while showcasing an elegant and clean taste that’s characteristic of French cuisine. Fresh snow crab, succulent lobster, and chopped hazelnuts top off this elegant creation.
The next few plates followed the same exacting standards: Mediterranean sea bream with crispy fennel in a sea urchin bouillabaisse, seasoned with the natural salinity of the sea urchin in place of salt; and blood pigeon rounded out with beetroot three ways — natural, pureed, and thickened into a gel. A drift of Australian winter truffles went hand-in-hand with the earthiness of the beetroot.
For dessert, a chocolate and banana creation from pastry chef Nicolas Lambert was a sophisticated end to the exemplary meal: five layers composed of banana cake, crispy wafer, fresh bananas, chocolate mousse, and a razor-thin sheet of tempered chocolate, topped with a quenelle of cocoa sorbet.
From our recent meal at Caprice, it’s clear that the restaurant is aiming to set the bar even higher with the change in leadership, debuting a new menu that’s informed by the full breadth of chef Galliot’s prior experiences and travels. Combined with Caprice’s classic Chinoiserie décor and crystal chandeliers, panoramic views of Victoria Harbour, and of course the sensational cheese and wine cellar, this Michelin-starred restaurant is entering a new era that promises to be even more exciting than the last.
Caprice, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 3196 8690