Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chocolate Library in the Sky in Hong Kong

This is part of a series of reports on my recent gastronomical vacation in Hong Kong. Return every Monday and Tuesday to see some of the things I ate at this major Asian city on the other side of the Pacific.

One thing I’ve learned about this city is that it’s always looking forward, never backwards. That’s why there’s always construction going on and towers reaching to the heavens.

Hong Kong residents also love anything new, which is why new stores or restaurants get packed by curious onlookers. During my vacation, the new Ritz-Carlton hotel opened its doors. A hotel opening doesn’t sound like anything unusual, but this was atop the International Commerce Center (ICC), a gleaming skyscraper that towers 490 meters high (supposedly the fourth tallest building in the world) on the Kowloon side of this city.

With the hotel taking up the 102nd to 118th floors, the new Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong has an undisputed view of the city. The ICC, which also houses business offices and a high-end shopping mall called Elements on the ground levels, has been opening in phases over the last few years and the hotel is the final stage of construction.

The Ritz, which opened only three days before I arrived, boasts a Chinese seafood restaurant, an Italian restaurant, and a lounge and bar. I didn’t want to deal with the hassles of getting reservations at the new restaurants, so I decided to just drop in on an afternoon hoping to get some afternoon tea at the bar. But the flurry of activity prompted the well-dressed hotel staff to politely turn people away.

Undeterred, I asked if I could get tea at the Chocolate Library, which I’d also read about but wasn’t necessarily in a chocolate mood. But I came for the view, so I followed my escort (every guest is escorted onto the elevators and guided to the right place in case you start wandering around areas you’re not supposed to) who eventually turned me over to the host at the Chocolate Library.

After being seated at a table in what seemed like a mezzanine area overlooking the Italian restaurant, my host promptly told me they were out of the chocolate tasting menu. In these early days of the hotel, the kitchen was doing just a limited amount of food. (I guess they’re just getting adjusted to the crowds.)

So I ordered a pot of Earl Grey tea and reviewed the dessert menu, deciding on the chocolate gateau with bourbon vanilla ice cream and macerated strawberries (HK$110 or $15).

Side note: As you can imagine, the Ritz-Carlton was on the pricey side. When they ask if you want sparkling or still water, they mean from the bottle that they'll charge you for later. The total I spent for the chocolate gateau, pot of tea, and bottled water was HK$283 (including 10% service charge) or $36.

The setting was serene and the service friendly, and the d├ęcor was typical Hong Kong flashy metals and chandeliers. From where I sat, I had an awkward view of the city because the windows were decorated with some stenciling that blocked the view from my level (of course the people at the Italian restaurant below had an unobstructed view).

No matter, I just sat back and sipped away at my tea, poured in beautiful and delicate China. When my chocolate gateau arrived, my server was quick to tell me that cocoa crisps were sprinkled on the top.

The gateau was like a cross between a cake and a mousse. (Wikipedia says it’s a fancy word for cake.) It was extremely moist and decadent, and crispy bits on the top were a nice contrast in texture.

Funny though, the view from so high didn’t seem that much different from below. The city still seemed to be massive and overwhelming, even from the top. But the chance to step away and find a bit of peace in the afternoon did replenish me as I headed back downstairs to the MTR, back among the crush of people and the sounds of humanity.

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong. (Nearest MTR: Kowloon station) PH: 852.2263.2263. Website


agent713 said...

Sounds like whatever you saved on your macaroni soup was spent on this dessert! It looks yummy though. Interesting place to visit too.

Kim said...

What a lovely indulgence!