At the helm of social hub Mercedes me Store on buzzing Queen’s Road Central is Head Chef Joaquin Elizondo, an Argentinian culinary talent who now calls Hong Kong home. His professional experience includes a stint at one-Michelin-starred Pur’ by Jean-François Rouquette at Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme. Chef Elizondo speaks fluent Spanish, French and English, and on the day we photographed the dishes for the visual menu on Dishtag, he also showed us his knack for Cantonese by telling some inside jokes that he and his team share. Jokes aside, we caught up with Chef Elizondo to discover more about his passion for curating a contemporary European menu with some Asian twists as well as his vision for the restaurant.
We know you recently moved to Hong Kong. How has it been for you taking on new challenges in a new environment?
I arrived in Hong Kong about a year ago and have since been adjusting to a completely different culture. The way to manage people, for instance, is not the same as in Europe. I have to be more caring and human in communication and ask for constructive comments from local people, which is key because now I have the best team in the world working closely together in the kitchen.
What’s special about Hong Kong people’s taste? And how do you cater to local preferences?
Hong Kong people are used to eating comfort food as much as good food, so they are always looking for something creative, nourishing and heart-warming. This is essentially what we offer at Mercedes me – an array of casual and modern dishes tailored to local flavours. One major adaptation I make here is to reduce the amount of salt used as the finishing touch, and we also source vegetables and a majority of the seafood in Asia to keep the freshness of the ingredients.
Let’s talk about some of the signature dishes you have here. What’s the inspiration behind these dishes?
- Homemade pretzels: Angela (Executive Pastry Chef) and I want to have a snack here at Mercedes me to pay homage to the brand’s German identity, which leads us to pretzels naturally. Still crafted in the traditional way but with a modern twist, our homemade pretzels are made easy to share in little buns, tying back to the relaxing and casual setting of the restaurant.
- Duck-fat-aged foie gras terrine: sourced from France, our foie gras is cured overnight with its own blend of spices (pepper, salt and Sichuan pepper) to deliver a tantalising blend of aromatic spiciness that lingers in your mouth after your first bite. It is then cooked at a low temperature in duck fat. We let it age for at least 3–5 days before serving it with sweet-and-sour homemade peach lavender jam and our own sourdough bread.
What was your most under-pressure moment?
It would be when I first arrived in France. I did not speak French at the time, which was hard. Eventually I learned it in the kitchen and, at the same time, learned a lot about the profession, the respect, the product and customers. No matter which language you speak, the hospitality is the same.
How do you promote your menu?
Mainly on social media, which is the easiest and fastest way. We are open 24/7 and offer an all-day food and drink menu, so whether you are looking for a quick breakfast, a couple of bites with friends or a nice, relaxed dinner, you are always welcome at Mercedes me.
What’s next for your restaurant?
We see Mercedes me as the rendezvous spot for everyone in Hong Kong – be it a business meeting or a casual, quick coffee, we want you to feel at home.
Address: Shop 38 and 40, G/F, Manning House, 38–48 Queen’s Road Central, Central
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 8AM–12AM
Dishtag favourites: Grilled Free-range Chicken Burger, Spanner Crab linguine, Brown Butter Cake