Hungry Lawyer: Terroir Parisien, a casual French bistro in the heart of Central

The sea scallops over pilaf rice at Terroir Parisien.

Terroir Parisien, the casual bistro by multiple Michelin-starred Chef Yannick Alleno, recently launched its first Asian location in the center of Hong Kong’s business district. After two years of anticipation, the restaurant finally opened its doors on the mezzanine level of the Prince’s Building, in the windowless space formerly occupied by Maxim’s cavernous Canteen.

The concept at Terroir Parisien is to use top quality ingredients to produce the simple bistro-style food of Paris at a high standard. On this front, the restaurant is mostly successful. The menu has the normal mix of soups, starters, mains, sides, and desserts as well as a section titled “mes amis” to be shared among friends. At lunch, a set menu complements the usual offerings. I have been three times since the opening this summer and found the straightforward food – particularly the desserts — to be prepared to a high level of expertise, though there are occasional misses.

For starters, the Escargots (HK$158) are baked in a mushroom cap with minced parsley and garlic butter. The mushroom was perfectly cooked, flavorful and juicy, and slathered with the mix of snail, parsley and thick melted garlic butter. The texture and even the taste of the snail somehow seemed to get lost in this mix, leaving me to think that perhaps a larger snail or less sauce would have worked better.

The pig snout terrine at Terroir Parisien.

The Pig Snout Terrine (HK$138) was a simply presented plate with three large, thin slices of the jellied terrine that was cool and savory on the tongue. It was coupled with a sharp and tangy shallot and parsley dressing over half the width of the sliced terrine that I found overwhelmingly strong for the subtler taste of the terrine itself. The sauce might be better served on the side.

The frisée and watercress salad at Terroir Parisien.

My favorite starter was a basic salad of Frisée and Watercress (HK$128), which was served with a warm soft-boiled egg, delicious pork belly lardons and delightfully crispy garlic croutons. The mix of the soft egg, fresh greens, crispy bread and succulent pork was completely satisfying.

The “mes amis” offerings are indeed excellent for sharing as a starter. Two of us split the Croque Monsieur (HK$155), which came beautifully browned and pressed, stuffed with ham and rich melted Comte cheese. A simple dish, prepared with high quality ingredients; this is what you should expect from Terroir Parisien.

The croque monsier at Terroir Parisien.

For mains, I tried the Sea Scallops Over Rice Pilaf (HK$288, pictured above), the Beef Tartar (HK$330) and the Black Pudding (HK$248). The sea scallops are served in a skillet and cooked over rice simmered in a broth with fresh herbs. The rice was delicious; just barely stuck to the bottom of the skillet for that familiar taste and crispy texture of rice scraped off the bottom of a pot. The scallops themselves, though flavorful, were undersized and overcooked.

The steak tartar was also good but not excellent. The beef, a reasonably generous portion, is thickly minced and lightly seasoned, and served with tasty but thick fries. It was good but not cheap at HK$330 for a simple dish. I have to admit that I still prefer the creamy and delicious better-valued, well-minced steak tartar at the venerable Pastis on Wyndham Street with its thin, crispy frites.

The black pudding at Terroir Parisien.

My favorite main thus far at Terroir Parisien was the boudin noir, or black pudding. Also served on a skillet, the circular mound of skinless blood sausage is comfortably warm, rich and flecked with pieces of shredded pork. It is served on top of a delicious creamy potato purée and accompanied by a half lemon for a bit of citrus to squeeze on top and counterbalance the pudding’s rich taste. This is pure decadence.

Speaking of which, the desserts at Terroir Parisien have been uniformly excellent and space should be saved for them. The Brioche French Toast and Vanilla Ice Cream (HK$98) was delicious. The toast itself is thick, creamy and sweet without being too eggy or cloying, and the ice cream is home-made and dotted with vanilla bean. A must try for chocolate lovers and doubters alike is the Tarte au Chocolat (HK$88). This triangular wedge of cake consists of dark chocolate ganache, a flavorless sponge and a scrumptious cocoa cookie base that is one of the better chocolate desserts I can remember having recently. It was excellent execution of underlying goodness.

The tarte au chocolat at Terroir Parisien.

And that is the hallmark of Terroir Parisien at its best. Befitting the business location in the heart of Central District, Terroir Parisien doesn’t feel like a mom and pop bistro you might happen upon somewhere in a back alley. Like a complicated business deal, the food has been thought through, planned and executed by experts and designed to produce a particular outcome time and time again. When the formula works, impeccable renditions of classic dishes are delivered to your table; when it goes a bit off, it’s not as easy to forgive as mom or pop would be.

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