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When Japanese yakitori meets French ingredients, you get “Yakifrenchy”: Chef Olivier Elzer’s original — and patented — concept at Clarence.

Olivier Elzer insists on clarifying he is not a trained Japanese chef before you take to his newly minted concept. But for anyone who’s explored the lantern-lit backstreets of Tokyo’s culinary scene at midnight, they’ll recognise that yakitori is the smokey, very fragrant form of Japanese skewers fired over a charcoal grill. While “Frenchy”, no doubt refers to a French-influenced kind of cooking — something Elzer is, in fact, Michelin-star kitchen-trained and incredibly prolific at.

With that easily dissected knowledge, it’s a straightforward path to uncovering Elzer’s “Yakifrenchy” as the clever amalgamation between both cuisines. An original — and also, leading — concept at chef Elzer’s sparkling new, casual fine-dining restaurant in Central’s HCode: Clarence. By the way, did we mention the term is patented?

Yakifrenchy at Clarence combines the concept of Japanese yakitori with French-style preparation and ingredients.

“At Clarence, we’re breathing new life into French classics,” Elzer says of the new venture. “My wife and I are big fans of yakitori, so I wanted to give the same respect to French cuisine with the robata grill, using binchotan charcoal.”

The menu is a true reflection of this commitment to redefining French cuisine, in lighter, gentler and comfortably casual steps. Each one of the carefully — and surely, laborious — skewered bits reaches towards a true French profile while adopting the easy, one-bite style so distinctive of the street-side Japanese speciality; be it in the ingredients (Burgundy Snails in garlic parsley butter) or method of preparation (duck confit with garlic) and even, iconic dishes as a whole (pesto Ratatouille).

Each Yakifrenchy skewer is authentically finished over a traditional robata, which has been especially fitted into the Clarence kitchens along with steamers and teppan grills. And although reinvented, the traditional elements of yakitori is never lost, instead creatively embraced in a Clarence — or rather Elzer — adaptation. Raw radishes are served on the side, as an alternate take on a typical palette cleanser, alongside a couple of dips and sauces that take on the traditional role of shichimi chilli powder (Japanese seven spice) or shio (salt) and sweet tare (thickened soy sauce) — a secret French 13-spice blend and custom-made French lemon mustard is plated in neat little ramekins.

“A foundation of French cuisine is the sauce,” adds Elzer. As such, each skewer also comes coated, glazed and glossed over with a signature condiment of its own.

Frog Legs / Pastis / Tomato Yakifrenchy (HK$68)
Duck Confit / Garlic Yakifrenchy (HK$68)

While the current rotation of Yakifrenchy skewers is a small group of nine spilt equally between the three main sections of Veggies, Fish and Meat, Elzer doesn’t hesitate to share that he has already ideated a menu of over 100 different variations and will — depending on how each are received by diners — be rotating through the extensive catalogue.

“The idea [of Yakifrenchy] is to discover produce and recipes from different regions of France: mussels from Brittany, lamb and veal from the south of France,” says Elzer. “The cooking method is Japanese, but the ingredients are purely French, and each skewer can transport guests to a different part of France.”

Elzer acknowledges that he is not the first person to use Asian cooking methods with French cuisine — in fact, he credits some part of the refreshing concept to an inspired lesson from his mentor Joël Robuchon and his renowned L’Atelier — a French restaurant fitted with Japanese elements of a sushi counter and teppan hob serving in Spanish tapas-style portions.

“[It was] a creative culmination of his life and what he loves,” Elzer recalls. And the Yakifrenchy at Clarence is just the beginning of Elzer’s own.

Prices for Yakifrenchy begins at HK$42. Clarence is open Monday to Sunday from 12 to 6pm. Reservations can be made here.

Clarence, 25/F, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 3568 1397

The post Clarence’s “Yakifrenchy” is the beautiful union of two leading cuisines appeared first on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong.