By the time the waiter set down a metal bowl puffing with liquid nitrogen, I half-expected him to pass around some laboratory glasses as well.
After all, the night had been fraught with culinary encounters that were almost scientific: Wine poured from a conical flask onto dry ice; smoked salmon sprayed with bourbon mist from a nozzle. Who was to say that there wouldn’t be an explosion next?
Of course it was all in my over-imaginative mind. However, from start to finish, dining at The Garden of Eden does feel like a big experiment. There are hits and misses, but it is always exciting.
The name of the semi-fine dining restaurant-bar has connotations of homely, traditional food, but it’s difficult to categorise Chef-founder Tim Ross-Watson’s progressive fare.
First, head up to the bar on the second floor for some unusual cocktails, to help set the mood for the night. The psychedelic décor of the bar should already set some alarm bells ringing. Rock music thumps, and disco balls – remnants from the previous occupants, a KTV lounge – glitter as you take in the heady artwork. Chef Tim's friend, British artist Mister Batlow, is responsible for the vibrant graffiti swirls.
The psychedelic décor of the bar on the second floor
Cocktails that fly are the Pisco Punch In The Face ($19) and the more intriguing Christmas In A Glass ($18). The Pisco Punch is a smooth, straight-forward lemon-brandy tipple that hits the spot. This is thanks to the innovative use of a dried lemongrass stem as a straw, which gives an added zest to the drink.
For Christmas In A Glass, spiced fruit and cinnamon arrive in a wineglass with dry ice rocks. Watch as red wine from a conical flask is precisely poured onto the mix to create a smoking, mulled wine that smells wickedly festive. The Apple Strudel ($19), however, was left wanting – there was just the barest hint of the fruit in the rum-based drink.
Christmas In A Glass
After cocktails, head down to the main restaurant on the first level, which is bathed in darker, monochrome hues. If you’re looking to tuck into hearty, standard fare, then get ready to be surprised, or more accurately, confused. The flavours are strong when least expected and subdued when you expect it to hit you, a result of Chef Tim’s emphasis on natural flavours.
For example, order the BLT ($21) for starters and think that you’ll be getting the classic bacon-lettuce-tomato combination. But what arrives is a deconstructed dish meant to be studied, not wolfed down. The BLT is an amalgam of fresh and air-dried tomato, cured and dehydrated bacon, and a garlic sponge to replace the bread.
The Bourbon Salmon ($26) is also another unusual starter – thin smoked salmon slices, topped with beetroot crisps and greens, are lightly sprayed with bourbon mist before serving. Like the BLT, the flavours are surprisingly gentle and clean.
The mains continue the texture experiments where the starters left off. For instance, the sous vide Pork Belly ($36) is a highly unlikely marriage of crispy pork fat and creamy apple pie. The very tender Beef Cheek ($38), also cooked sous vide for 48 hours, is paired with crunchy re-hydrated potatoes with gravy, peas and carrots.
The closest brush with molecular gastronomy would be the Jelly ‘n’ Ice Cream ($15), another seemingly innocuous dish – that is, until it arrives at the table in full dramatic glory. Pieces of chocolate mousse are dropped into a bowl of steaming liquid nitrogen, frozen and then laid on a sandy bed of pop rocks, jelly cubes and spongy chocolate bits.
Jelly 'n' Ice Cream
Hang around long enough and you might just spot the dishy Chef Tim. The London-born, model-turned-chef lives right above the bar and is often running about the place, but he’s a rather private character. Trained in French cuisine, Chef Tim’s resumé includes a stint at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and most recently, chef de cuisine at French bistro Garage.
Here’s another incentive to visit The Garden of Eden: There’s no service charge. Instead, Chef Tim encourages customers to tip for good service. Although it’s a relatively new establishment with its fair share of teething problems – for instance, the young staff took longer than usual to prepare the cocktails – it’s a good place to go to, if you’re in the mood for some gastronomic adventures.
The Garden of Eden is located at 148 Neil Road, opposite The Pinnacle @ Duxton. Dinner is served from 6pm until late, from Tuesday to Saturday. The Garden of Eden is closed on Sunday and Monday. For enquiries or reservations, please call 6222-2119 or visit www.thegardenofedenrestaurant.com