The West Kowloon Cultural District hit Hong Kong’s foodie headlines this month with the opening of Pano. Gayatri Bhaumik finds out if it’s worth the journey.
Dining at Pano in West Kowloon.
The West Kowloon Art Park may seem like an unlikely spot for a stellar dining experience. Nevertheless, I made the journey over from Central on a midweek night to try Pano, a recently opened ‘Asian French’ fine dining space.
The new restaurant, helmed by chef Ken Lau, rewarded me well for my efforts.
Inside, Pano marries modern aesthetics with atmospheric, ‘jazz age’ touches. It’s thoroughly transportive – you could almost fool yourself into believing you’ve entered a time warp and been sent back to the roaring ‘20s for a fancy dinner.
The surprisingly generous space is dark, sexy, and glamorous. Dim lighting gleams from design-forward light fixtures, revealing rich coloured furnishings, from the royal blue carpet on the floor and the forest green seating, to the black marble tables.
Commanding the entire back wall is a standalone bar, dominated by a floor-to-ceiling wine rack packed with high-end tipples; it’s a lavish tribute to Art Deco design. The whole time-travel effect is carried off with soothing instrumental jazz that’s just loud enough to enjoy but not too loud that it interrupts conversation.
Pano’s outdoor patio area (where you’ll find a great happy hour offering) packs in an incredible panorama across Victoria Harbour. If you’re lucky enough to score the right table, you can enjoy the views from the restaurant’s main indoor dining room, too.
Thanks to the social distancing rules, this media tasting required all attendees to sit at their own table. It could have so easily gone wrong. But, thanks to the restaurant’s spacing and design, friendly staff, and relaxed vibe, it didn’t feel awkward to be here by myself.
Chef Ken Lau may be a local product of Hong Kong’s dining scene, but his extensive experience (over 20 years) at The Peninsula Hong Kong’s infamous restaurants – think Felix, Gaddi’s, and Chesa – means he has a firm grip on Italian and French culinary traditions. His menus at Pano are a creative, modern blending of east and west.
I sampled the ten-course ‘Celebrity Tasting Menu’ (HK$1,188, or HK$888 for seven courses), and was pleasantly surprised by the symphony of flavours and textures in each dish.
In the applewood-smoked organic broccoli royale with Hokkaido sea urchin, the urchin’s rich saltiness was perfectly balanced by the broccoli’s milder flavour; the coconut fish maw, abalone & chicken bisque with slow-cooked chicken breast married European culinary techniques with local Asian flavours in a surprisingly modern take on a local classic. A real highlight, though, was the spaghetti with clams & chilli. Deceptively simple, it paired that comfort-food feeling with punchy Sichuan spices to create a thoroughly enjoyable dish.
It may have been ten courses, but each one was well-portioned, so it didn’t overwhelm. Plus, this is the kind of place where it’s encouraged to linger for longer over a meal. And with views like these, what’s the rush?
If there’s one thing to critique about Pano, it’s the location. I’ll admit that it was a bit of a challenge – the nearest MTR is Kowloon Station and then it’s a ten-minute walk through deserted roads and construction areas; a taxi would be advisable. But, with such a treat awaiting – stunning views, a design-forward space and delicious food – you’ll leave thinking it was worth it.
Where: Unit 1F, 1/F and Rooftop, 24-26 Museum Drive, Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District, Kowloon.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, lunch & dinner
Bookings: +852 2361 9600
Asia Family Traveller was a guest of Pano.