(Refiles to fix headline)
By Cathy Yang
HONG KONG Feb 26 David Laris, who made a name
for himself at the iconic Mezzo in London, is now bent on making
his mark in Hong Kong by convincing the city's discerning diners
that they can do fine cuisine without pretensions and a stiff
The Australian-born Laris, who has opened restaurants in
Beijing and Shanghai, is best known for LARIS at Three on the
Bund, which has picked up top ratings in local food guides such
as the Miele Guide.
Reuters spoke with Laris on how his ethnic influences shaped
his cooking style, and why he thinks Hong Kong is fertile ground
for nurturing his own culinary philosophy with his new
restaurant, LARIS Contemporary Dining in Hong Kong.
Q: You've spent much of your childhood in Greece and took on
a classic French apprenticeship in Sydney. How did these early
influences shape your life as a chef?
A: I lived in a small village in Greece from the age of six
till ten so it was an age when a boy is taking in a lot of the
world around him in. It definitely gave me a love of adventure.
I liken it to a Greek version of Huckleberry Finn, I joke to
myself, running around the country village, and spending summers
by the sea with my extended Greek family ... Being part of the
olive harvest, fishing with my grandfather, uncle and father in
the Mediterranean with our little boat, growing watermelons,
seeing the tomatoes drying on the side of the road that would be
later turned into tomato paste, seeing all the ladies in the
family gather for full days of cooking, the killing of the lamb
for Easter in the farmhouse courtyard, stomping grapes for wine,
tenderising giant octopus on the side of the road with a stick
and water and whole days that seemed to be surrounded by eating,
drinking and family are memories that will stay with me and
become part of my life's story.
Perhaps with such strong imagery, taste and smell connecting
me to these early years, it was destined that I would develop a
long love affair with food and cooking. I believe everything we
do and see in life somehow influences and shapes our perception
of the world. Then stumbling into a French apprenticeship began
to further shape and define all those influences into a solid
approach to cooking.
Q: How did you come up with the concept of LARIS in Hong
Kong, cuisine described as "modern dining with an Australian
flair and global approach"?
A: It is an evolution of a lifetime of cooking and styling
plates in fashion and approach that is my own. Many of the
dishes are from the original Laris or new dishes I have been
working on over the last year or so. What I constantly do is
evaluate and evolve them to be relevant in today's approach to
cooking or at least as I see it. This is a simple way of saying
let's not box in or define what can and can't be used in the
Laris kitchen. I like to keep my menu vibrant and fresh. I like
to surprise and delight, have moments of playfulness while still
being grounded in solid cooking techniques and I also like to
use the most up to date approaches that are out there while
continually creating new ideas.
Q: You've mentioned of a "long love affair" with "elegant
unpretentious dining". How does that all come together at Laris?
A: It is about the way I hope you feel when dining in Laris,
I want the food to feel elegant, the service to feel elegant and
set the diner at ease so we can be there to create an experience
for them, it should always be about the guest and not about our
ego. I hope people get that there is refinement without the need
to be arrogant or pretentious.
Q: What have you learned about the Chinese palate for fine
cuisine from LARIS at Three on the Bund in Shanghai? And how
are you seeing their taste evolve with LARIS in Hong Kong?
A: I really don't look at it that way, so it is a hard
question to answer. To be honest, perhaps if apart from what I
have already have said I can add the following, I think mainland
customers have become increasingly adventurous in their desire
to try new global as well as innovative cuisine. I have never
written my Laris menu for one market or another; otherwise it
would not be possible to be honest in the creative process. You
have to be first true to the food and the nature of the food in
the concept and if you are truly honest then this will come
through to the palate.
Q: You've traveled extensively, such as Macau, Hong Kong and
Hanoi. How did these travels influence your way of cooking?
A: Very much so. Everywhere I have been, travelled, eaten
and seen influences my own evolution as a chef, how could it
not? Asia is a such a vibrant, rich and diverse set of cultures
and flavours, once you have opened the door to the flavors in
this part of the world it is impossible to go back, and who
would want to? ... We are the sum of our parts after all and a
big part of me is my time in Asia with the food, the culture and
the people playing into everything I do, as with my earlier
influences, these are important and continue to shape me. I
still discover new dishes and ingredients all the time and think
of how I can interpret or use them in my own style.
Ocean Trout Tataki
400 g ocean trout filet, skin off
10 g (2 t) sake
30 g (2 T) Japanese vinegar
5 g (1 t) sea salt
2 each eggs
40 g (2.7 T) XO sauce
40 g (1.4 oz) Keta (Russian) caviar
1. Boil the eggs for eight minutes to get a soft-boiled
2. Peel and separate the yolks from the whites. Discard the
whites and mix the yolks together and reserve.
3. Marinate the trout in sake, Japanese vinegar and sea salt
for 20 minutes.
4. Cut the trout into four portions and lightly season with
5. With a blow torch, sear the outside of the fish until you
have a nice crust and the centre is raw but still warm. (If you
don't have access to a blow torch, the fish can be seared very
quickly on all sides in a very hot pan with some cooking oil.)
6. Cut each portion into 4 pieces and place on the plate.
Garnish with XO sauce and the caviar. Pipe the egg around the
(Reporting by Cathy Yang, editing by Elaine Lies)