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A hidden French bistro draws inspiration from Japanese seafood

By Rebecca Lo in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2014-02-16 08:36

A hidden French bistro draws inspiration from Japanese seafood

Squid soup with chestnuts, mandarins and chrysanthemums. [Photo by Rebecca Lo / for China Daily]

Despite living in Western District where there is a plethora of good grocers, temporary and permanent, I love Wanchai market.

Not the controversial historic building with a high-rise condominium grafted on top of it, but the stalls where fish swim merrily in circles and hawkers beckon shoppers by proclaiming their produce is the freshest.

If I am in the neighborhood, I will make a stop there to see what's seasonally available. Though the environment is less than posh, many restaurateurs share the same sentiment and have opened outlets or private kitchens to be as close to the competitively priced produce as possible.

The latest to arrive on the scene is Serge et le Phoque. It opened without any fanfare or publicity last summer, and even today the ground-level restaurant doesn't have any signage. Strictly through word of mouth, Serge has steadily gained a following for its inventive Gallic dishes made with fresh seafood and Japanese flourishes.

It would be wrong to call Serge fusion, as the French and Japanese components are distinctive and immediately recognizable. Ingredients are predominantly Asian: Razor clams, octopuses, yuzu and chrysanthemums are just a few. It's the presentation and attitude that distinguishes the restaurant as contemporary European.

I liked the full-height glass front of the restaurant, and its situation along Wanchai Road opposite the market stalls reassured me about its quality ingredients. There is a small counter with bar stools near the entry that appears popular with the local French crowd for chatting over a glass of wine. Behind it is the bar where drinks and cocktails are concocted.

The rest of the restaurant is devoted to an open dining room with a combination of banquet seating and individual tables and chairs. White globe pendant lamps give the rough stucco walls a cheerful glow. Orange and green upholstered seats against plywood furnishings are casually chic. To one side is a cheese table where fromage from Paris' renowned Alleosse is sliced for the cheese course in the four-course set menu.

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