The One With La Cantoche – Smashing Party Menu

Just like my first time to La Cantoche, I was lost again. I blame it for the lack of the sign board that used to signal the entry to the Wa Lane, where La Cantoche is located at. But my feet hurried the hungry self in anticipation of the “party menu” that was just launched at the popular French-Vietnamese restaurant.

You see, the restaurant has just launched a “group menu” that allows you to book dinner for a large group, anything from a rather intimate table of eight to a rowdy party of thirty. Depending on the group size, the chef will fire up the kitchen to cook up various dishes from the menu, so all you need to do is to sit back and let the food and drinks – choose from red, white or rose – flow endlessly throughout the night.

And so the feasting began, and I am happy to report that La Cantoche hasn’t lost its charm since the last time I visited. If the dishes served to the table for the night was anything to go by, it seems like the kitchen got better since they opened more than one year ago. Here were some winners from the night:

La Cantoche

Just like my first visit, the signature Rice Krispies lettuce wrap was easily the best dish for the night. Mixed with bits of pork, shiso leaf and spices, the Rice Krispies is devoured wrapped with lettuce leaves. The result was a refreshing combination of fresh greens with spices and puffed up rice (of which I kinda learned how to cook that night). It was a secret recipe of the owner’s mom. When asked if she ever did try the version at La Cantoche, the owner cheekily told us that she gave it a 90% rating. That made me wondered what was the 10% missing ingredient, coz to me this was already close to perfect on its own!

La Cantoche

The sardines in escabeche marinade also won many new fans for the night. Combined with capers and sun-dried tomatoes, the whole dish was very salty but in a nice way. I suspect that dash of lemon and pepper did a world of difference to the sardine, of which the skin was rather crisp but the meat tender. Every bite was a burst of contrasting flavor. I am not a fan of overly salty dishes, but this won my vote.

La Cantoche

The kitchen seems to work its magic best when they venture out of the norm – you know, like, generic dishes – and this plate of fresh beef tartare (some would call it beef tartare instead) was a stellar example of what the chef could do. The tartare was so rich, so flavourful… just think about the difference between eating a grilled salmon fillet with the same amount of salmon sashimi. I don’t know about you, but I love experimenting with raw food and testing the limit of my stomach. Not that one could eat a lot of this, but it was definitely worth a try for those adventurous with their food.

La Cantoche

Adding a bit of a Moroccan twist for the night was the raisin & lamb tajine with couscous. Though the lamb wasn’t as juicy as I like mine to be, it was suitably tender and tasted sweet, which when paired when the accompanying belacan, it went perfectly well. Tasting this made me think that there is more to this yin-and-yang eating theory – that eating food of opposite texture or taste often proven to be delicious and well worth the adventure.

La Cantoche

Once you start, you can’t stop. That’s what happened with this delicious row of merguez beef and lam sausages. It was a juicy, rich bite of lamb sausage after sausage, and it paired off rather well with the stellar mashed potatoes, which was heavy with cream but light in texture. Despite the mount of sausages between the few of us we polished off the plate.

Of course, like any other dinner, there will bound to be some disappointment. Perhaps the kitchen could do better with:

La Cantoche

The goat cheese spring rolls in big salad was too much of a mix of flavour to me. The cheese spring roll was rather good – light cheese with crispy skin, always a good combination. But the overly sour salad did little to enhance the experience, and the heavy hand of sliced onions made the salad quite a chore to enjoy.

La Cantoche

I might be biased here, since I am not a fan of carrots, so the glazed carrot never really did it for me. Is this a French thing, to have their vege sweet? After a few of the other dishes, I can’t help but wonder how much improvement it would have made to some of the dishes if less sugar is used. Ah well, I might be bias here, since I am not a fan of sugar… oh, I see what I did there.

La Cantoche

Probably the biggest disappointment for the night was the ham & reblochon cheese chicken cordon bleu. The cheese used were way too pungent, and the meat was cooked too dry. Combined it took me several sips of wine to finish half a slice. Now, this was one of those “generic food” I was talking about, and for some reason La Cantoche wasn’t very good at them.

Now, I am going to finish off this post with the best thing that happened tonight!

La Cantoche

Dessert! It was easy to see why the homemade nougat ice cream with crushed M&Ms remains the most popular dessert at the restaurant. It was creamy and crunchy at the same time, and it was all we can do to pace ourselves so that every last bit of this heavenly beauty receives the attention it deserved.

La Cantoche

La Cantoche certainly was of great value for money if you are looking for great fusion food that is down-to-earth and not pretentious. The whole restaurant gives off a very casual vibe, what with its multi-coloured chair, projected movie on its brick walls, and foosball table. It was like… a playground for boys.

Now, this whole set menu (there were more food, but I thought I’ll just highlight a couple of them) was priced at a reasonable $450. So if you got a table of eight or more, call ahead and tell the chef you want to go for the “party menu”. And if it’s a birthday party, the chef will even throw in a homemade birthday cake!

Note: This was an invited tasting session.

La Cantoche
G/F, 5 Wa Lane
227 Hollywood Road
Sheung Wan
2426 0880
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