Japanese and French cuisine have some notable similarities. For example, seasonal ingredients play a huge role in both menus, interchanging courses based on the time of year to enhance freshness. Simplicity is another—it's all in the details, without any over-the-top gimmicks. And the shared value of presentation; sushi is one of the most refined arts while French fine dining is renowned for its tribute to artistic fare. So when TIRPSE launched last year, we were delighted to hear its Japanese-French cuisine focus, and, no surprise, the restaurant gained its first Michelin star following its Tokyo flagship within months of opening. Since its inception, TIRPSE has rotated its menu seasonally, offering set menus from lunch to dinner. We tried the restaurant's set dinner collaboration with sister property Takano, divine ramen specialists, for a decadent evening on the town.
When we first visited TIRPSE last year, restaurant restrictions were limited to day-time dine-ins. Luckily this time, we were able to attend the evening round, showcasing the splendid harbourview in its moonlit glory. Starting the experience with a pop, we toasted to the welcome champagne. The crossover menu debuts Takano, a name that has appeared in Le Guide Michelin for four consecutive years, and its next-door-neighbour Tirpse, recently voted one of the top 100 restaurants by the South China Morning Post. For 22 days, the menu will succinctly imbue French and Japanese flavours for a unique menu available for a limited time.
"Both restaurants are well known for their culinary excellence,” explains Tirpse Chef Yuta Shimizu. “Unfortunately, both restaurants are also sharing a similar struggle as a result of the pandemic. When you’re struggling with something in life, there is no better remedy than the support of a friend. That’s why the crossover makes so much sense. Diners will get the absolutely perfect noodles that Takano is known for the world over, and the playful, internationally-inspired ingredients that have made Tirpse a culinary powerhouse.”
The Takano x Tirpse special promotion dinner set menu is available until 30 May 2021—so reserve a table while you can. First, on the menu, the amuse-bouche, a cold cherry tomato soup topped with creamy ricotta cheese and pistachio for a nutty crunch. Paired with the champagne, it was the perfect way to begin the menu.
I opted for the wine pairing during the tasting while my partner tried the new cocktail, the minty mojito. One of the most memorable elements of dining at TIRPSE (besides the incredible view) was the wine pairing. Curated by expert sommeliers, the added beverages make an elegant touch while complementing the food in a way that I couldn't decipher myself without an expert's opinion.
A delicate plate of homemade truffle-infused buckwheat pasta arrived first. Paying homage to the flavours of the sea, the caviar perched atop the pasta was drizzled in ginger oil and leek oil for an inquisitive uplift. The sliced sea urchin added a fresh, unctuous touch to the indulgent plate while celebrating one of Takano's most prized techniques found in the warm buckwheat pasta.
Innovative fare is part of the experience at Tirpse—and it extends to the alcoholic pairings which go beyond wine and champagne. Interestingly, our sommelier chose the HeavenSake, a Franco-Japanese concoction from the most premium grade of sakes, to match the next dish. As an avid drinker of the sophisticated sake, I was pleased to find that the pairing went hand-in-hand with the predominantly Japanese menu.
Extending our seafood palette, the second starter on the menu arrived in a beautiful presentation synonymous with Tirpse's reputation for an artistic fare. Chef Shimizu left Japan to fortify his culinary experience from the Tokyo flagship, to Hong Kong, bringing an inventive elevation inspired by international influences—including exotic Szechuan flavours. The fresh spring butter-basted Boston lobster was coddled in a sous-vide bath for a quick moment to help offset the earthy flavours of the land with the sea. Added into the mix, canola blossoms, shallots and a light dusting of broccoli powder, the dish is finalised with the aforementioned Szechuan flavour, made present in a tonguesearing pepper oil from seeping down from the top. A moment of appreciation here for the supremely tender lobster, offset by a brief taste of timid spice from the Szechuan drizzle.
There are three options to choose from for the main course—seafood, beef or lamb. We tried the kinmedai with clam and Japanese butterbur first, an endearing dish merging aromatic sea flavours, in my case, unknown to the senses. The kinmedai refers to the Japanese fish known for its delicate white flesh and fatty meat, best devoured in spring when it is at its richest flavour. Steamed in sake and kombu, the fish was served with butterbur, a healthful herb long used for medicinal purposes and bringing an earthy touch to the dish. Rounding up the fresh catch flavours, the bitter-tasting butterbur bud oil was complemented by the pickled taste of the seasonal bamboo shoots and savoury Japanese celery, soaked in clam sauce to complete the profile. The rich soup base brought a nostalgic impression reminiscent of traditional Asian health broths.
Another main which we tried, the Australian wagyu flank, further showcased Chef Shimizu's intrigue for experimental cuisine. The soy-glazed steak, although not as tender as we had hoped, offered more than its meaty appeal (paired with an expected pinot noir, no less, and in this case, the Domaine Duroche Gevrey-Chambertin 'Champ')—it was the unexpected Guinness beer jus that took us by a pleasant surprise, complementing the succulent flavours from the beef. The flavours were further enhanced with a side trickle of black garlic-infused veal au jus. On the side, a crisp and subtle sweet potato tempura and watercress were the perfect accents to match the rich meatiness of the centrepiece wagyu.
We were also invited to try specials from the lunch menu. Taking inspiration from the world-famous lobster pasta at Joel Robuchon’s eponymous restaurants, Takano's buckwheat pasta showcases the restaurant's expertise in the transcendent dish. The serve was an ode to premium seafood, using luscious lobster and tomato espuma sauce to soak up the nutty pasta. Alongside the lobster pasta, we also experienced the second Takano x Tirpse pasta concoction, comprising a carbonara-like consistency using morille and onsen egg to ensure creaminess.
Desserts at Tirpse are never overwhelming. Instead, there's more focus on delicate flavours and less sweetness. The signature Tahitian vanilla rice pudding from the lunch menu left me in absolute awe—a neat, sumptuously smooth and mildly sweet dessert complemented by its salty counterpart, soy sauce, for an intriguing flavour. A unique feat using a subtle mix of western and eastern influences, the dish is also commendable for its intricate balance between sweet and savoury.
Back to the dinner menu, desserts here are just as noteworthy, with the meringue topping our dessert dinner list. Chef Rin is the brains behind the sweet treats at Tirpse, known for his unique take on classic flavours. Surprising the palate with a sancho pepper meringue, every bite was perfectly soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, showing an expert consistency. A slight spiciness was offset by the sweet condensed milk espuma, raspberry-syrup marinated strawberries and a rhubarb along with a bright coconut, lemon, lime, and orange scented custard which awakens the senses. We also tried the Hyuganatsu, a light, citrus-based dessert complemented by a turmeric-scented tuille cookie to lend an elegant pop of honey colour to the dish.
If you have room for it—and there's always room for dessert—the Tirpse petit fours are the perfect way to top off the experience and any final sweet tooth cravings.
There's not much to criticise on the dishes at Tirpse, which are further amplified by the divine setting, quality service and top-notch K11 MUSEA location of the venue. An impressive showcase of Chef Shimizu's ode to Japanese-meets-French fare, Tirpse, for the second time around, has proved to us that the menu is not afraid to experiment. The seasonal menus typically start from HK$798, but the Takano x Tirpse menu starts from HK$488 which makes it ample time to try the venue. Another element often overlooked is the stunning terrace, perfect for post-work drinks or a weekend cocktail. It's the ideal spot for all-day indulgence in the heart of Hong Kong—plus, the views certainly don't hurt.
TIRPSE, Unit #219, 18 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2333 0031, tirpse.com.hk