Hidden away on the far end of Star Street, The Principal is the latest addition to the Press Room Group’s extensive repertoire. Sitting snuggly where Cinecitta used to be, the establishment is led by a former Aman Resorts chef, Jonay Armas from the Canary Islands bringing together an ingredients-led concept to the menu.
Atmosphere: Being welcomed by a smiling doorman is rare, let alone the delivery of impeccable service — of course, we would expect no less from a restaurant of this class. Equally professional, the interior is clean and uncluttered. The white walls provide an uncommon spacious feeling coupled with the understated neutral colour palette for a collegiate ambience.
We particularly liked the booth seating; cosy and homely with it’s terracotta brick finishing and gently arranged plaid cushions but if that’s not for you, regular seating and private function rooms with 10 and 16 capacity are also available.
Food and drink: The Principal serves set lunches of two, three or four courses (priced at HK$250, HK$330 and HK$420 respectively) but a la carte selections are also available. If you’re looking for something different and innovative, we recommend the crab and calamari starters. The crab was a delectable mouthful, resembling dainty little ice cream sandwiches, are creatively choreographed into a masterpiece of colours, topped with a generous amount of tobiko. The seared calamari is curiously different; like udon noodles assembled neatly within a bacon wrapping and painted with lemon puree and soy sauce.
When it comes to wine, the Press Room Group’s wine director, Kavita Devi Faiella, has literally created a handpicked ‘atlas’ of 750 labels. It may be daunting at first, but it gives diners and opportunity to go beyond their comfort zone and try something from far ends of the globe. If you’re not sure, professional help is on hand! We also tried the line caught sea bass (HK$340), beautifully pan-fried sitting on a bed of sweet peas, salsa verde, white asparagus and clams. The flesh was tender and the freshness well complemented by the slight sweetness of the peas ensuring that the fish’s natural flavours were not overpowered.
Dessert, on the other hand, is a much more reserved affair. Banana and caramel (HK$115) was a deconstructed plate of caramelised banana coupled with a scoop of miso ice cream, toffee rice krispies and cherry coulis while chocolate-lovers will appreciate the three-way crumble, mousse and comb (HK$115) variation, touched off with lemon puree on a black plate. The sweet offerings were a bit of a let down compared to the mains but creative in their own right.
Must-try: For something spectacular for your tastebuds, we recommend the 63 degree egg which sits delicately on a glass dish atop ceps and layered gently with truffle. A single prick of the slow cooked, silken bauble leaves the wonderfully golden, gooey yolk running out slowly. Its rich, warm taste is complemented well with the subtle flavour of the truffle sheets. If you’re after something more substantial and solid, you can’t go past the grilled Kobe sirloin (HK$540), which is plated beautifully like artwork, and adorned with foie royal and a carefully constructed tower of sauteed baby carrots, black garlic and turnip. Each bite is juicy with a sweet fatty aroma — well worth the price tag.
Verdict: By far the most high-end of the Press Room Group’s ventures, The Principal has proven itself to be a worthy contender in the restaurant scene. With an excellent and creative menu, faultless service and an expansive wine list, we’ll definitely be recommending this and making our own return trip!
The Principal, 9 Star Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2563 3444, www.principal.com.hk
This post was originally published on Lifestyle Asia, Review: The Principal on 17th May, 2012