I’ve always loved the restaurant Bibo in Sheung Wan and used to go with girlfriends for cocktails when it first opened back in 2016. Fast forward to 2019, and I am a food photographer lucky enough to be going back to shoot some dishes for Taste of HK. This is when I discovered the team at Le Comptoir Group were set to open a new spot in LKF Tower, Silencio. This blog is how we made some noise for their opening.
The guys at Le Comptoir Group had developed 4 dishes for Taste: one creation each from Bibo, The Ocean and Silencio. The fourth delight from the group was a 6-hand special across all 3 restaurants. All dishes demonstrated beautiful artistic creativity as would be expected from the Group. You can find the dish featured here in Time Out HK. The single dish from Silencio was making me hungry for more and I was excited to meet the Culinary Director: Mutaro
Mutaro is special. A cool character. We met him at Lily in LKF Tower as he worked away looking unassuming in the corner of the restaurant. Thinking he was already aware of Dishtag and what we are about, we launched right into a detailed overview of Dishtag, what we do, and how we work with restaurants. To our surprise, he had no idea what we were talking about. This was a great lesson. Even if someone in a group is familiar with your work, don’t assume everyone is. We started from the beginning, and explained what we do. And luckily for us, Mutaro liked it.
Le Comptoir Group
Mutaro told us the philosophy he is trying to bring to the Group. And we told him the plans for Dishtag. Their purpose inspired us. Art & Food. And Mutaro was inspired by our purpose: to inspire people through food photography. Search & Social. Mutaro told us his vision: to one day open a training school for hospitality in Africa, similar to EHL in Switzerland. We told him our vision to develop an Instagram for food. He gave us a tour of the new restaurant, Silencio. We loved it. We showed him the Dishtag app. He loved it. We showed him the photos for Taste of HK, and he agreed we could shoot Silencio and their next new concept in LKF Tower when ready.
Planning the dish list
I felt under pressure. The Group was all about art. The Executive Chef was inspirational. And had high expectations. I knew I had to plan well for the shoot. And I knew it was going to be dark. With a capital D. Usually a photographer’s worst nightmare! But for this one I was actually happy as dark and moody goes perfectly with Japanese aesthetic: minimal, no frills, with full attention to the food itself. For most initial 10 dish shoots I don’t require a dish list. For this one I made sure I had it.
Carbonara udon was one of the most challenging. The bonito flakes would not stop moving!
The Sando with its delicious wagyu katsu tenderloin with kewpie mayo and katsu sauce was a pleasure to shoot (and eat afterwards).
Tempura is always tough to photograph but with the colourful sichuan alioli there was some nice balance to the dish. I would say the Kim Jun – kinmedai with asian pear and kimchi salsa – was the most photogenic of the dishes. And with the colourful pink fish and green pear, made to complement the dish, it’s pleasing both flavour-wise and visually.
The foie gras was a challenge, as its served on a house bao and on straw. It was hard to get the foie gras to stand out as its colour is very neutral. So instead I made good use of the garnish and made the green “pop” to bring some colour to the shot.
The yakisoba with pork again was a delight to eat with its colours and boldness; I made a cool “spinning dish” GIF out of a series of pictures I took of that too.
Oh, and did I mention the Sando? That’s just perfection for both the eye and the tastebuds.
Editing is the easy part if you have a vision whilst shooting. A vision can come from the photographer, although if the restaurant and the food have a concept and a vision behind it, the photographer has a much easier job. This is definitely the case for Silencio where everything goes back to a very defined concept and a clear vision. So I just had to adjust the contrast making sure the blacks looked jet black and deep and the colours looked bright and full.
We don’t offer to interview the chef at every restaurant. But Chef Sean, former Chef of Nobu (Intercontinental HK) needed to be interviewed. And it was fast! But if you can get the job done in 5 minutes, then why take 20? These guys are busy, but they also know what they want and how to get to the point. Don’t add questions to the list just because the chef responds quickly. Get in and out, and this is the result.