Some days, I just have dessert for lunch (#sorrynotsorry). So if you’re as unhealthy as me and believe dessert is good enough to be a meal in itself, then ATUM Desserant might be your next sugar rush enabler.
Nestled on the 16th floor of a newly built commercial building in Causeway Bay, ATUM Desserant isn’t exactly the kind of location you just stumble upon – these are destination desserts, people! It’s basically a dessert bar set-up; although there are a couple of separate tables, most of the seats are arranged around the open kitchen, so you can watch the action table-side. And forget your humble Spotted Dick or sticky toffee pudding – this is some space-age dessert wizardry… Think The Jetsons crossed with Harry Potter by way of Heston Blumenthal and you’re somewhere in the right galaxy.
ATUM has quickly become famous for its “Improvisation” dish, which consists of various edible sweet things being painted/spilled/arranged artfully on your table – a concept seemingly “inspired” by a very similar dessert at The Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong’s Krug Room… which in turn seems heavily “inspired” by the creations of famous dessert restaurant Alinea. Otherwise, the menu is much like the place itself – small and sweet – with only seven set dishes, plus one ever-changing surprise special.
Setting the mood for the mad scientist vibe of the meal, you’re presented with a test tube amuse-bouche to start. The watermelon juice with sea salt tasted exactly how you’d expect watermelon juice with sea salt to taste, but it was still a cute touch; together with the similarly salty quinoa crisp, this was pretty much the last savoury thing I tasted until dinner!
My friend Sabrina and I are dessert sisters from another mister, and instantly hit upon sharing everything on the menu that involved the words chocolate or caramel – starting with the “Steak” brownie served with yoghurt ice-cream and pop rocks. This dish is worth ordering for the theatrics alone, as a chocolate brownie slab is put onto a metal grill then chilled with liquid nitrogen… cue “Tonight Matthew, I’m going to a be a steak!” plumes of smoke. After appropriate levels of cooing, it’s then plated with ice-cream, honeycomb and various garnishes that make it look even more like steak and veg if you squint, drizzled with chocolate sauce “gravy” (ha!) and served with a steak knife for carving (double ha!).
The brownie itself ended up being a slightly weird texture due to the liquid nitrogen – it wasn’t really moist or fudgey enough to be your typical brownie but the strong rich chocolate flavour had us hooked, despite the strangely dense-but-dry texture. The yoghurt ice-cream proved a perfect “steak” sparring partner, with a mellow tang that cut nicely through the chocolate, whilst the honeycomb added a crunchy, then chewy, contrast of textures. The other garnishes were honestly more for appearance’s sake, and although the menu proclaimed pop rocks, there was a distinct lack of popping and rocking going on in my mouth. Top points for creativity and the right flavours are all in place, but this dish was just missing a few “A”s to becoming the full “Abracadabra”.
Our next pick, the “Peanut”, was the highlight of our meal. The plating… well, if there was a dessert beauty pageant, this one would definitely win “Miss Photogenic”… it’s stunning. Consisting of a creamy peanut parfait drizzled with caramel then plated with shards of crisp meringue, this was one of those “close your eyes and make happy noises” type of desserts.
The whole dish was angels-tip-toeing-on-cotton-wool light, yet still rich with sexy smoky, nutty caramel flavours. The meringue was out of a pastry chef’s textbook – airily sweet, thin enough to shatter easily, and a perfect textural contrast to the silky smooth parfait. The flowers didn’t add much except extra pretty points, but make sure you hit those micro-seeds for a touch more crunch, and the beads of caramel sauce for extra indulgence. An incredibly well thought out, balanced and clever dessert… and by the power of Grayskull was it delicious too!
Even mid-way through tucking into our “Steak”, Sabrina had already declared: “Just putting this out there… but I think we may need a third dessert.” Can you tell why we’re friends?! Our final choice was the “Bamboo”, which thanks to the mysterious name and a description mentioning “charcoal ice-cream” seemed more Nat Geo Wild than Asia Food Channel. Nevertheless, we were quickly swayed by mention of “chocolate marshmallows”; these turned out to be squidgy gelee cubes that tasted of chocolate pudding, which clearly need to be sold in bags as soon as possible. The rest of the dish consisted of charcoal ice-cream (which had the luscious bittersweet taste of dark chocolate), raspberry sorbet (again, a slightly weird texture due to that ruddy liquid nitrogen), wafer-thin flat tuile biscuits and some tufts of chocolate sponge – all artfully arranged in a Jackson Pollock-esque spiky splatter on the plate.
Frankly, I liked it better once the raspberry sorbet melted down to a texture that felt less like astronaut food but again, the textures had been well chosen to provide a dose of crunchy, creamy and chewy all at once, whilst the tartness of the raspberry and the richness of dark chocolate is a flavour combo that’s a classic for a reason. And despite our initial reservations about the charcoal ice-cream, it actually turned out to be our favourite part of the dish… just like that!
Each dessert order also includes a pot of tea – I’d most recommend the Empress Grey, which cuts through the sweetness of your meal with aplomb. It’s a while since I’ve been really excited or intrigued about a dessert, and these three delivered a wow factor that Derren Brown would be proud of. For around $120 for a hotel-quality dessert, plus amuse-bouche, beverage and general dessert spectacle, I actually thought ATUM Desserant was decent value… after all, who can put a price on dishes that look a million dollars for your Instagram, hey?
ATUM Desserant, 16/F, The L. Square, 459-461 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, +852 2956 1411