Yesterday smartly-dressed office workers and ladies who lunch gave me the once-over when I entered Cafe Des Artistes in Lan Kwai Fong. Not that they have a dress code or anything, but I was in my summer best- spaghetti-strap top, capris and slippers! Plus I was all alone. Anyway I didn't care and set my butt on a corner table. I wanted to try their braised Wagyu beef cheek, simmered for hours in a red wine-rich sauce with potatoes, carrots and cubes of chewy bacon. It was served on hot plate with turned green and yellow zucchini, baby turnip, broccoli and snow peas set on a splash of jus.
For starters I had their fish soup served with grated parmesan and rouille (olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic). I placed some cheese and rouille in the soup, and used the rest of the garlicky mustard yellow rouille on the crisp tiny baguette slices that came with the soup. I thought the soup would be chunky and thick, but it was slightly watery and came with no chunks of anything- more broth than soup, really. I was disappointed and thought about ordering the endive salad with citrus fruits and honey dressing but I was starting to get full. A bread basket came while I was halfway through my soup. There were 3 kinds of bread, 2 slightly too sweet and all 3 not as warm or fresh as I would have wanted.
I was starting to regret my decision to spend lunch here when the beef dish arrived, set in a white soup bowl and concealed by a golden brown, crumbly, thin pastry sheet dotted with poppy seeds. Intrepid me was poised to shatter this delicate sheet with my fork and as soon as I broke the surface the hot, fragrant steam billowed out. I inhaled deeply then dug in. The beef is meltingly tender, and slides like silk on the tongue. Rarely can you swallow a chunk of beef without chewing but it is a possibility here. I broke off pieces of bread -the one that wasn't sweet, and dipped it in the sauce. Was this proper or not? Again I didn't care. The sauce was there, the bread was there, a spoon wasn't. So what's a girl to do? Enjoy her meal any way she can.
Washed down with a glass of plain water, my entire bill came out to HKD 379.50. Expensive for lunch, yes. And I could've done without the soup. I highy recommend the beef cheek though. But share it. And order their other regional specials like the cassoulet and snails.