One of Hong Kong's top restaurants, Liberty Private Works offers guests a stripped-down dining experience, where everything superfluous is eschewed. The simple focus here is food, and a respect for each and every ingredient. The restaurant has one seating a night, for around 14 guests. Diners watch the chefs at work, and interaction with them is strongly encouraged as they prepare the 7 or 8 course meal. The menu changes daily, based on the whims of the chefs and the seasonal availability of produce. The cuisine has a foundation in French cuisine, but is strongly influenced by the international travels of Canadian-born head chef, Makoto Ono, and his cohorts. Each night’s tasting menu, or omakase, begins with the lightest fare, proceeding to the richest, with every dish featuring one main component that’s complemented by several subcomponents. Liberty Private Works has set the bar high in the current trend for private dining. Be sure to reserve in advance to secure a seat in this highly sought after restaurant.
Luxos recently had the opportunity for a short chat with LPW owner, Gerald Li.
Luxos: I recently wrote an article about ‘gastronomic democratization’, and the rise of high-end street food, the bistronomique movement, pop-up restaurants, and secret supper clubs, as well as private dining restaurants like your own. Why do you believe these phenomena are so popular?
Li: I think with the relative ease that information flows now, with dedicated websites like Yelp in the states, OpenRice in HK, etc - restaurants and chefs have a harder time to hide, so the 'game', so to speak, needs to be on point every day, every service. Everyone sees everything, they are more educated and their expectations are getting harder to manage. So smaller places, value driven places, niche restaurants are able to stand apart quicker than ever before.
Chefs now need to be in the kitchen - as for me, I expect when I go out to a specific place to see the Chef in the kitchen. Celebrity Chefs and their many restaurants work obviously as they attract and retain the best talent - but normally, I wouldn't go more than once to a place where the head chef is out in the front more than he is in the back, especially during service. Obviously at the end of the night you got to come out, but if its Friday night, during mains and the head chef is at a table - there's something wrong. These taco trucks for example are authentic, the guy making your taco is the guy who owns it, is probably spent time in Mexico, he's doing this for a living and you know he'll make sure each one goes out properly.
Luxos: Why did you choose to open a private dining restaurant, rather than a more traditional venue?
Li: That's not to say that larger restaurants don't work. LPW has been open for a year and a half, and 5 months ago we opened Liberty Exchange (www.lex.hk), which is the complete opposite of LPW. It's 2 floors, 160 seats, private dining, with a menu of driven by comfort food. The main attraction is the large island bar opened to the outside podium area, appealing to a young and very chic after-work crowd. We tailored the concept to the space, which is located in the heart of the CBD, yet we retain some of our personality, which is young, casual and definitely not pretentious. Chef Makoto created the menu, and Chris Keung, who won the 2010 San Pellegrino Cup Chef of the Year, manages the kitchen. Whether it is large or small concepts, we start with the backbone of any restaurant which is the kitchen and that backbone needs to be strong.
We started with LPW first for every reason I listed in the first answer. It was small and we where able to manage expectations. If you go to Robuchon, you expect a certain standard, quality and level of service. When you come up to LPW, you think, what are we doing here - but then when the food comes out, you don't remember the lack of service, you forget the fact that we don't change cutlery after each course and you just focus on the food - people are amazed. We've essentially stripped the dining experience back to the core - each dish and the ingredients on each.
Luxos: Is there anything in particular our readers should know about booking during the holiday season…Christmas or Chinese New Years?
We are booked out at Liberty Private Works till January - we are running special days where we close LPW - for example on Dec 31 (NYE) and the chef will run a LPW menu at LEX for 70 guests - which we've done before due to over booking. These big days - we can do something different.