When I last passed through Seoul back in 2008 on my way to Central Asia, I was only able to visit one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city. Jongmyo Shrine (宗廟) is closed on Tuesdays and I had only one day in town on that trip. So I was determined to check that off my list this time around.
When we arrived at the front entrance, I was surprised to find the ticketing counters closed - just as they were 9 years ago. Fortunately it turned out to be a free-entry day for the public, so I was able to accomplish my mission.
For a royal shrine in the middle of the city, the grounds are actually fairly large. The buildings are also surprisingly plain-looking, devoid of the bright colors one often sees. Hey, even Baekyangsa Temple (白羊寺)
we went to a few days ago were more ornate...
It took us less than an hour to cover the grounds, and I enjoyed spending time in an oasis of tranquility in the middle of this bustling city. But it was time to cross the river for a little lunch.
As I was planning this trip and trying to figure out which restaurants with Michelin stars to hit, one word jumped out at me. Soigné
. It's not an expression that one sees often. In fact, in recent memory I have only seen it used in posts by the Instagram account chefjacqueslamerde
. But somehow I just needed to come here... I guess my choice was an odd one, because for one reason or another, the rest of the group did not join us for this meal.
The first thing I saw after being seated at the counter - and it was clear that a few of the-ladies-who-lunch did not appreciate this type of seating arrangement - was this little card. I thought it was the cutest thing! It brightened my mood instantly.
Chef Jun Lee refers to the menus he creates as "episodes", and we were now on the 15th Episode. Each dish has been inspired by a restaurant outside Korea that the chef has visited within the previous year, and the name of the restaurant is prominently listed alongside the name of the dish.
Pure taste | tomato, inspired by Tempura Kondo, Japan
- two basil leaves, which delivered very powerful flavors, bearing small dollops of burrata
and some tomato powder. Nice acidity with a little creaminess. The dish is presented like Korean ssam (쌈)
Fermentation | romaine, inspired by 108, Denmark
- romaine kimchi (김치)
and aged/fermented snapper, topped with watercress flower. Nice spicy kick here.
Vivid elegance | neungi mushroom, inspired by El Celler de Can Roca, Spain
- a steamed bun flavored with scaly hedgehog mushroom (능이버섯). We were meant to spread the mushroom sauce - with some lightly charred mushroom powder - onto the bun. I realize that the dish is named "elegance", but the mushroom flavors were simply too mild to be interesting.
South | seasonal vegetables, inspired by André, Singapore
- placed around the basil and fish oil pesto
were vegetables which were either raw, lightly blanched, or pickled: cauliflower, corn, carrot, sun-dried cherry tomato, broccoli, kidney bean, cucumber, kiwi berries, arugula, radish...
Effervesce local | cabbage, inspired by L'Effervescence, Japan
- the napa cabbage was slow-cooked with butter and kelp (다시마), then pan-fried at high heat. Sprinkled with nutmeg powder, then sunflower seed sauce is drizzled on top. Loved the deep flavors of the sauce.
By now we have gone through the first 4 courses, and I was still hungry. Starting to get a little worried...
Modern tradition | nan noodle, inspired by Enoteca Pinchiorri, Italy
- Chef Jun Lee came to introduce this course. Apparently these nanmyeon (난면)
are part of traditional royal cuisine, and chef has given them an update by adding mushroom and chili powder. Topped with two types of fresh mushrooms: cremini
; and song hwa
, which is apparently a hybrid between shiitake (椎茸)
and matsutake (松茸)
. Served with broth made from chicken and buckwheat.
Beautiful noodles with great texture.
Nature | mountain herbs with quail, inspired by Noma, Denmark
- the quail breast roulade
was served with different types of seasonal herbs, cooked differently. Sprinkled with powder made from fermented stems of the herbs, topped with Permesan.
There was garlic purée
inside the roulade
. This was very succulent, and of course the garlic everything tasty...
Nature | mountain herbs with Korean beef, inspired by Noma, Denmark
- I kinda made Hello Kitty take the beef. Served with sauce made with red wine and beef jus
. The romaine lettuce on the side came topped with Parmesan and herb crumble.
The beef looked great in the middle. Unfortunately the slices were too thin and the ratio of beef that was well-done around the edges to the medium-rare center was just too high, so overall the beef was just too dry. After our amazing Hanwoo beef dinner
last night, we would judge other servings of beef a lot more harshly...
No waste | apple, inspired by AMASS, Denmark
- this apple tart was made with the whole apple, with diced cubes as well as purée
in the middle of all the layers. Sprinkled with powder made from the peel and the seeds.
Served with a nice hazelnut ice cream
with cumble on the side.
- lemon cream choux
, avocado macaron
, and coffee canelé
For the first time in a few days, we actually left a restaurant without being stuffed. That was refreshing. This was a pretty decent lunch, but as it was the least Korean of all of our meals, it was in a way also the least interesting or revelatory.
We headed north across the river for our next cultural activity. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art (리움 삼성미술관)
has been on my list of museums to visit for a while. Thanks to my membership with Sothebys Preferred, we were granted free entry.
We started with Museum 2
with its collection of contemporary art, and had a glimpse of the works of many Korean artists. Hello Kitty is the one with background in art, and she could clearly see lots of dark emotions in pieces dating from the post-war era before martial law was lifted.
was devoted to traditional Korean art such as celadon, porcelain and more, including many national treasures dating back to the 12th century.
After our short museum visit, we met up with my high school friend Rachel - whom I haven't seen in exactly 30 years. We crossed the Han River once again, and ended up at Ladurée
in the Gangnam branch of Shinsegae Department Store. This is where I got to taste this financier
... which Hello Kitty quipped was "when financier
had a baby"...
We really didn't schedule enough time together, but before she had to rush off, my friend helped me go down to the supermarket and buy some gulbi (굴비)
- salted and dried small yellow croakers. Years ago mom had casually bought some while in Jeju Island, and had been pretty amazed at how tasty these were. There was a huge disparity in terms or pricing. Each bunch - tied together with plastic rope - weighed around 2kg, and depending on size they went from KRW 80,000 to 800,000 - which would mean around USD 150 each for a box of 5 croakers. Apparently these were from Yeonggwang County (영광군) and considered the best quality. Rachel asked them to cut the rope and also wrap each fish individually in plastic bags - which makes it easier for me.
I bid farewell to my friend, did a little more shopping in the supermarket, and headed back to the Shilla Seoul
to freshen up before dinner. Hello Kitty made another trip to the Shilla Duty Free for cosmetics while I asked the hotel to keep my croakers chilled overnight. A special dinner is coming up...
During the nascent stages of planning for our Korean trip, when we had roughly settled on the dates, I saw a post come across my Instagram feed. Gaggan Anand was announcing the next GohGan collaboration between himself and Fukuyama Goh (福山剛) of La Maison de la Nature Goh in Fukuoka (福岡市), and it would be around the tail end of our trip. So I shamelessly raised my hand and asked Gaggan for 4 seats for tonight. Thankfully I had asked early enough and they could accommodate us...
I had seen pictures and videos come across on Instagram showing the chefs shopping at the seafood market on Monday morning. They looked like they were ordering up a storm, with all kinds of sea creatures not normally part of my diet. It was looking very, very tantalizing...
While we were at Baekyangsa Temple (白羊寺)
on Sunday, we got confirmation that Jeong Kwan (正寬) sunim
would be coming to dinner tonight and join the second seating. Originally our little group was meant to be at the earlier seating, which would mean that we wouldn't get to see Jeong Kwan sunim
again - but thanks to some last-minute shuffling the organizers were able to fit us in for the last seating.
I caught up with Gaggan when I arrived, and he was definitely more than a little frazzled. After all, this was the last of the four seatings. But it was more than the stress of running a pop-up. Apparently they didn't get most of the ingredients they had ordered two days ago. Whether it was a language issue - or something more sinister - we do not know. But the chefs had to scramble for substitute ingredients, and Gaggan was very pissed off.
We took our assigned seats, and OF COURSE there would be an emoji menu! And apparently, there is a specific soundtrack, too... to go along with specific dishes.
The chefs - along with the organizer Jang Eunsil - delivered their opening remarks. Gaggan asked us not to judge (harshly) the dishes presented tonight, which is understandable because of the pop-up nature as well as the disastrous lack of ingredients. We kept our minds open for the rest of the evening. At least I did...
Vladimir came over to pour the first glass of the wine pairing. Knowing him, I should expect nothing but
bong water tonight...
Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
- nice minerality, with good acidity but surprisingly rounded on the palate for this extra brut. A hint of bitterness on the finish.
🍉 Watermelon (수박)
- the shell was kinda sticky and chewy. The kabosu (かぼす)
-marinated watermelon came with savory flavors which slowly melded together with the sweetness. Some yeasty and toasty flavors here with the pink elderflower emulsion on top.
👅 Lick It Up (릭잇업!)
- knowing Gaggan's love for metal, it's not surprising that he would create a dish based on a song - in this case Kiss
' classic "Lick It Up"
. He felt that dining at restaurants had become so pretentious... and Gaggan has been making his diners eat with their hands for a few years now... that he wants to ensure that everyone who eats at his restaurant - "back, white, Chinese, red... every color, every continent they come from, whoever they are... they have to do this! Billionaire, millionaire, hundred-dollar backpacker..."
So yes, this dish was served with no utensils, and everyone was instructed to pick up the plate, bring it to their faces, stick out their tongues and lick up the contents of the plate while listing to the song. We all did it, including Jeong Kwan sunim
. There are videos floating around of the guests licking, but they're not for public consumption...
So you've got matsutake (松茸)
with truffle shavings on top, with chili powder towards the bottom. When licking upwards from the bottom, it is spicy at first... then sweeter in the middle and at the top.
2015 Didier Grappe Côtes du Jura Novelin
- smooth on the palate, finish a little short, and almost a little bitter.
🍋 Yuzu Uni (유자 / 성게알)
- can't go wrong with sea urchin, right? And yuja /yuzu (柚子)
cream for fragrance.
🌸 Flower power (풀라워 파워)
- the flower was made with rice powder, with some sweet potato and beetroot (!!!!!!) powder. Served on cuttings from today's newspaper.
🍧 Abalone monaca (전복 모나카)
- the abalone was cooked with Korean pine nuts that the chefs bought in the market, and the combination was made into ice cream and spread on top of a monaka (最中)
. Then we have slices of abalone, sprinkled with seaweed powder. This was very delicious. One could taste the toasty flavors of pine nuts, but they weren't overpowering. The seaweed flavors were also very, very lovely.
🐮 Beef tartare (육회)
- the beef for the yukhoe (육회)
comes from a triangular cut near the bottom of the inner thigh of the cow's hind legs that the Japanese call tomosankaku (友三角)
, which the Koreans do not use. It's mixed with ice cream, wrapped in a leaf, then battered and deep-fried. The purpose of the ice cream was to enable the chefs to control the temperature, so that they could deliver a combination of raw, barely-cooked, and cooked beef altogether.
I should have seen what happened with the others and just taken it in one big bite. Instead, the ice cream dripped all over the place...
Le Coste Rosato, vintage unknown
- a little pungent... was there sulfur? Nose of red fruit. A little better later showing more sweet fruit.
🐟 Fish granola (농어 그래놀라)
- we were surprised when they started slapping these packages down on the table in front of us. Tearing the wrappers open revealed a "granola" bar inside...
But there were no grains here - only fish, nuts, and berries. There were dried sea bass flakes inside, which were very crunchy and savory... and the berries added sweet and sour flavors, together with spiciness. I loved this dish. Now... was it coincidence that ABBA
's Mama Mia
played while we ate this?
🐔 Nabe + tomyum + samgyetang ( 나베 + 똠얌 + 삼계탕)
- so you've got Japanese + Thai + Korean in one dish. The Japanese nabe (鍋)
was made with ginseng
, along with herbs for tom yum (ต้มยำ)
- without the sweet, sour, nor spicy flavors. The chicken was encased in aspic along with jujube and pine nuts, and served with chunks of rice crispies. With the broth in the bowl, the contents were meant to become chicken porridge. I guess this is a "deconstructed"samgyetang (삼계탕)
... I could taste the tom yum
spices, but they were relatively mild.
2014 Yvon Métras Beaujolais
- a very nice gamay.
🦐 Cold smoked ebi (훈제 새우)
- first we got the deep-fried shrimp heads which were, of course, very delicious. As for the raw tails, they used the Japanese technique of kobujime (昆布締め)
for an hour to add some flavor, then smoked with curry leaf oil. A few drops of kabosu
juice completes the flavors. I could certainly taste the smokiness.
🍖 Byeokje beef (벽제 소고기)
- the Chairman of Byeokje (벽제)
was at our table, and proudly introduced his beef. Unfortunately the chefs couldn't get enough of the cut they wanted, so they ended up with tomosankaku
again... which the locals don't eat. Marinated with 'Gaggan special spice' - whatever that is... and rubbed with Korean tea and salt. Delicious.
🦆 Duck burrito + gujeolpan (오리 구절판)
- these beautiful duck breasts came to us already cooked.
Then the chefs used a torch to smoke them with yuzu
leaves, which added some pepper flavors.
Then the breasts were sliced up and presented on a gujeolpan (구절판), along with duck leg confit
sour cream; azuki
beans made into rajma masala
; salsa verde
made from burnt eggplants and purple chilis; and cucumber.
Then we were each given one pancake and asked to make a burrito
'Korean-style'... Very tasty, but I used the salsa verde
2014 Domaine de Chassorney Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Puits de Chaux
- kinda soft on the palate, with nice fruit and a little leather.
🦀 GohGan curry 6th - bibimbap (카리 비빔밥)
- gohan (ご飯)
at GohGan is a must, and tradition dictates that it needs to be crab curry rice. So this time they've used Korean rice, Korean crab, and delivered a bibimbap (비빔밥)
. This was offered in small, medium, and large. Given my past history
, of course I shouted out "DOUBLE XL" to Gaggan...
Soooo delicious. There was a lot in my bowl, and the Korean rice seemed a little more sticky than expected, which added to the heaviness of the dish.
But I powered through and finished my bowl. And took my empty bowl and showed it to Gaggan...
🥂 Riesling ice flakes - bingsoo (리즐링 빙수)
- at the bottom of the bowl we had peach poached in pine syrup, riesling granité
, and topped with Gorgonzola with Korean makgeolli cream. Lots of fermentation going on here... rice wine, blue cheese, and wine. There was certainly an interesting kick from the Gorgonzola, and I thought the peaches were wonderfully sweet. Afterwards, though, Gaggan told me that the peaches they received were so poor that they had to pump up the flavors with syrup. Yet another reason to be pissed off about getting screwed by the suppliers...
Boksoondoga Makgeolli (福順都家 손막걸리)
- love this naturally sparkling makgeolli
, since I like drinking slightly acidic, slightly milky drinks.
Minions love banana (미니언즈 바나나)
- these were very soft lemon and banana meringue
, with crushed nuts on the back. Of course, we had to listen to the Minions sing The Village People
while eating these...
🍫 Candle in the Wind (초콜릿 캔들)
- their version of After Eight
, with fresh mint leaves, mint jelly, caramelized cocoa nibs, and chocolate ganache
. The 'wick' that they lit was actually an almond - which contained plenty of oil to burn up. OF COURSE this was served while playing Elton John
's Candle in the Wind
At the end of the dinner, the entire team came out to a round of applause from us. A job well done, especially given the unexpected challenges.
Even Jeong Kwan enjoyed herself and took pictures with the chefs. She also came over to greet us, and mentioned that she remembered the Great One from the cooking class (but didn't remember Hello Kitty and I...) But that didn't matter, because she wanted to take a picture with us again, and promised to invite us to her upcoming event in Hong Kong!
When most of the crowd had left, I asked Vladimir to bring out the special bottle of Korean liquor I had just received as a gift from my friend Rachel. I didn't really know what it was, but figured it was a special and precious - therefore something I could share with Gaggan, Goh, and Vladimir.
Kooksoondang Songjeolju (국순당 송절주)
- traditional Korean liquor brewed with pine needle joints, angelica, azalea, and other flowers. A little sweet on the nose, with Manuka honey, and oxidized like vin jaune
. On the palate the pine and medicinal flavors were pretty heavy. Definitely an acquired taste.
A great effort by the team. Just imagine if they actually received all the ingredients that they had ordered... What a dinner it would have been!
P.S. The Great One and I thought that, since we were in a different country and not in Gaggan's home turf, we would finally be able to pay for dinner. Nope. Even on someone else's turf, he just wouldn't let us pull out our wallets. Well... at least I brought along a little something to share. Gotta be better prepared next time!
P.P.S. Gaggan told me that all the ingredients they ordered finally showed up at 6pm the day after our dinner - which was a full 2 days late.
I got a ping from My Favorite Cousin a couple days ago, telling me that her parents were coming into town this weekend. Apparently it was my aunt's birthday, so even though I desperately needed break from eating out, I sucked it in and headed to dinner at Giando tonight.
Insalata di ovuli, tartufo estivo e bottarga
Thankfully we can order à la carte and have an easy evening. But My Favorite Cousin - being the greedy piggy that she is - decided to over-order... so I had to help her mop up the leftovers.
- it's hard to resist mushrooms in season, and even tougher when I see the word 'bottarga
'... Pretty fragrant, and overall nice and light.
I had a few spoonfuls of burrata come in Puglia
, which was very creamy and delicious.
Fettucine al ragu di volatili
- game season is starting, so it's nice to see some game meats on the menu. You've got pheasant and guinea fowl alongside duck and chicken here, but I guess once the meat is made into ragù
, it's no longer easy to taste the gaminess. Still, this was pretty nice.
Costata di vitello alla Milanese con rucola e pomodorini
- Milanese-style veal chops are not usually small, and this one that My Favorite Cousin ordered to share was pretty sizeable. Nice and crispy breading, and generally not bad.
Sorbetti agli agrumi Siciliani
- I was pretty full thanks to the veal chop, but I couldn't pass up these citrus sorbet flavors. We've got Sicilian mandarin, Sicilian blood orange, and Sicilian grapefruit. All of them were delicious.
Since it was a birthday dinner, I brought along some wine to help with the celebrations.
- opened and decanted immediately prior to serving. Drinking very nicely without much aeration. Showing good fruit with leather and forest notes. Smooth on the palate while still full-bodied.
2000 Beringer Nightingale
-lots of honey and nutty notes, with raisins, lemon, and acetone.
It's been a couple of months since I last hosted a dinner for the MNSC boys, and now it was Curry Jayer's turn. After a couple of years at Seventh Son (家全七福), this year the venue was changed to the American Club in Hong Kong. There would be steak on the menu.
Our host decided to order a few simple dishes, which was just fine by me! My stomach could use a little break from eating...
- actually pretty good. Each of us took a chunk of romaine lettuce, and the croûtons
were pretty nice.
Grilled Alaskan king crab legs
- these were VERY tasty, with melted, seasoned butter dripping from the shells.
There were two different steaks tonight for the boys to share:
- the tomahawk always looks impressive with the long bone, but honestly I've never really been a fan.
Tonight the kitchen kinda overcooked it, and this was on the dry side. We told our waiter as much.
- this looked prettier, in my opinion.
And it was also much, much better in terms of taste, with deeper, almost cheesier flavors.
Some sautéed spinach
and sautéed mushrooms
The purple cauliflower
was actually really delicious...
- with grated cheese on top.
- the kitchen was very apologetic about overcooking the tomahawk, so they sent out a complimentary striploin. This was clearly not overcooked...
And indeed, it was more juicy.
I was tempted, but couldn't handle dessert. Maybe next time...
Our host has always been generous when it comes to wine, and tonight was no exception. The line-up was truly fantastic.
2003 Coche-Dury Meursault
- lovely, toasty nose, with good ripeness, a little sweet grass. Medium palate. A little later showed some butter on the nose.
2004 Méo-Camuzet Richebourg
- opened 5 hours without decanting prior to serving. Very sweet nose, a little floral on the palate, dry on the palate, with a little iron... and a little soapy. 96 points.
1997 Méo-Camuzet Richebourg
- opened 2½ hours without decanting prior to serving. A little more intense than the 2004, with animal notes. A little dry on the palate. 93 points.
opened 5 hours without decanting prior to serving.
2001 DRC Romanée-Saint-Vivant
- served chilled. Elegant nose, very dry on the palate, with leather, smoked meats, and stemmy nose. 93 points.
2002 DRC Romanée-Saint-Vivant
- more fruit, dry and slightly savory palate, a little floral. 95 points.
opened 3½ hours and decanted 2½ hours prior to serving.
1989 Guigal La Landonne
- more alcoholic, lean, smoky. Second pour showed sweeter nose with vanilla notes. 95 points.
1991 Guigal La Landonne
- more fruit than the '89, very meaty. Full bodied and tannic. 93 points.4th pair
: opened 4½ hours and decanted 3½ hours prior to serving.
1995 Latour, ex-château
- smoky, minty, grassy, a little green pepper. Good tannins. Second pour showed much more fruit and mint, with pencil lead. 97 points.
2003 Latour, ex-château
- sweet fruit, coffee, smoky, meaty, also a little grassy. Second pour showed less coffee. 98 points.
A real fantastic evening full of surprises. I gotta say... my week spent eating top quality Hanwoo beef in Seoul has spoiled me for other types of beef...
Last month when I was invited to an evening showcasing this year's Krug x Mushroom pairing, one of the things I tasted was the mushroom burger at Beef and Liberty. At the time we were given a list of promotional dishes, pricing, and schedule. The program for Beef and Liberty wasn't due to start for another month, so I had to patiently wait until I returned from Korea.
The promotion actually started last night, but since I was out for a wine dinner I couldn't reschedule, tonight was the earliest opportunity for me to take advantage of the offer. And since Uwe is an old friend, I was gonna do what I can to support him. So Hello Kitty and I booked ourselves a table, and pre-booked the Champagne and burger combo.
We start with some padron peppers
first. These are always fun to eat, since it's kinda like playing Russian roulette
but with less severe consequences. None of these were spicy tonight...
We were then ready for the main event. For the low, low price of HKD 1,388, one can get a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée
plus two mushroom and truffle burgers
As anyone who knows the retail price of Krug Grande Cuvée will tell you, that's a damn good bargain!
Once again I got to bite into a burger made with porcini
, and truffle. We also had French duck, a pan-fried duck egg with runny yolk, crispy crackling, and hollandaise
sauce. Tonight, however, the execution was a little off in the kitchen. The shrooms weren't seasoned so they tasted a little bland. It's not often that I reach for the salt shaker, but I felt it was necessary tonight.
The other problem was that the burger just got too messy to eat. As tasty as it was, the pieces of mushroom slipped out from between the two halves of the bun a little too easily.
Krug Grande Cuvée, 164éme édition
- the new edition has just been released recently. This was leaner, more austere, less rounded and ripe, with higher acidity compared to the 163éme
. Usually Krug GC is my preferred Krug on any given day, but I must say I'm not a fan of this one... yet.
I was privileged to have been invited to the launch of a few cuvées from the house of Krug. These bottlings all have their origins in the year 2004, so it makes sense that they were showcased side-by-side in the same tasting.
The function room at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
was set up to handle a couple of different sessions, and the first thing I noticed was this spread of nibbles... Bite-size canapés
which were both savory and sweet - and pretty to look at, too.
I was feeling surprisingly peckish, so I grabbed a few of these. In retrospect, I probably should have had 3 plates at least...
I thought we'd be mainly tasting the 2004 vintage, plus the Grande Cuvée to start, but it would seem there were four different wines today...
Krug Grande Cuvée, 163éme édition, en magnum, ID 215032
- just drinking beautifully, with mature, toasty notes, nice and caramelized in glass, with good acidity.
It's been a few years since I was last in the same room as Margareth Henriquez, who is the President and CEO of Krug, as I have been absent from these events. Naturally she was here to introduce the wines, and to tell us about the music pairings - something which started in Hong Kong a few years ago with a special event.
2004 Krug, ID 116006
- chardonnay delivered the best wines, followed by pinot meunier. It's the third-ever vintage where chardonnay dominates the blend. Nose was more toasty, and slightly more caramelized than expected. More depth on the palate, with high acidity and some savory minerality which developed further after sitting in glass for a while.
With the 2004 vintage, Krug has suggested two pieces of music to go with the Champagne. One of them is Lianne La Havas'Unstoppable
. We were asked to sip on the bubbly while the music played, and try to see if we could notice any difference in how the wine tasted. With the music on, the 2004 Krug seemingly showing more depth, as the meunier showed. Or maybe it was simply because the wine had more aeration in glass.
2002 Krug, ID 315043
- more rounded on the palate, lighter with less acidity. Lovely and more elegant, beautiful. It's easier to drink compared to the 2004.
at Les Crayères
in Reims selected this piece to pair with the 2002 vintage.
Finally, we were treated to the 160éme edition of the Grande Cuvée - also created in 2004.
Krug Grande Cuvée, 160éme édition, ID 212018
- WOW! This was MUCH better! More rounded on the palate. Very toasty, almost coffee notes, and almost some floral. Soooo beautiful. This edition was built around the poor 2001 vintage, which meant lots of reserve wines went into the blend, including as far back as 1990. 44% pinot noir, 33% chardonnay, and 23% pinot meunier. Definitely my favorite glass today.
For the music pairing, they once again went with Lianne La Havas and her Green and Gold
A wonderful tasting today. Very grateful for the kind invitation. Now I need to get my hands on some Grande Cuvée 160éme. STAT.
Last week Chaxiubao pinged me, asking if I wanted to join him for dinner at Terroir Parisien - Yannick Alleno's first foray into Hong Kong. I knew that the restaurant is brand new, and as most of my friends know, I have a habit of not going to brand new restaurants. I was hesitant, as the chance of stepping on landmines is high. I was then told that a few of our other friends are coming along. I relented and agreed to go along, against my better judgement.
The address indicated that it is on the Mezzanine Floor of the Prince's Building, so I figured they had taken over the space previous occupied by can.teen. But when I rode up the escalators from the front entrance of the building, I found that there was no access to the space. The old entrance had been boarded up. So I went around the floor. No other entrance. Nothing remotely that tells you there's a restaurant around.
I wasn't the only one. I saw others looking lost, and I bet they, too, were looking for the restaurant. I decided to go up to the Second Floor, as I remembered that the space used to have two entrances - one accessible from the walkway between Prince's Building and Alexandra House. Sure enough, the restaurant's only entrance is from that side, and is best accessed by coming in from another building. That's just plain stupid.
While we waited for everyone to arrive, we were persuaded by the staff to order something to start with.
, terrine de foie de volailles
, rillettes de poulet rôti
, rillettes de lapin à la moutarde
, tranches de museau à la vinaigrette
- lots of things happening on this platter... with charcuterie
; chicken rillettes
in a jar; chicken liver terrine
, rabbit rillettes
, and a slice of pig's snout jelly terrine
. All delicious except for the chicken rillettes
that I found boring.
- looks pretty but didn't care for the taste. I would have preferred a more traditional take, with slightly crispy, burnt cheese on the outside instead of the creamy Comté filling.
Then Chaxiubao took charge and ordered a bunch of starters for everyone to share...
Salade de frisée, cresson à l'oeuf mollet et croûtons au lard
- this was pretty nice. The soft-boiled egg is always a crowd-pleaser, and I didn't notice those big blocks of lardons
(I thought they were croûtons
) until I bit into one. Then it was just a bite of heaven.
Bouchées de champignons de Paris aux escargots
- another crowd-pleaser. Covering snails in parsley and garlic butter never fails, and here they are sitting on little mushroom caps. Needless to say we were encouraged to take our pieces of baguette
and wipe the pan with them...
Oeufs en gelée à la "frou-frou"
- a very traditional egg dish, with petits pois
peas and asparagus tips in beef consommé gelée
at the bottom topped with an egg in chaud-froid
cream with mustard mayo, served with fresh herbs. Surprising kick of acidity from the mustard, but pretty delish.
Filet de boeuf Charolais, sauce Café de Paris
- I originally opted for something else, but ultimately couldn't resist the Charolais calling my name... even if I chose a cut that's not very interesting. After all, it's not a breed one sees in Hong Kong often.
I asked for rare, and it did come out rare. In France they would have given it to me bleu
without even asking, which would have been fine with me. The beef itself was pretty good, but somehow the sauce Café de Paris
was a little milder than I had expected.
- these fries were everyone's favorite dish for the evening. They really were very good, and I think the 10 of us got 4 servings... or was it 5?
Purée pommes de terre
- I will never love another mash as much as I love the one from Oncle Joël (Robuchon), but this one had plenty of butter, too.
Citron complètement givré
- I really didn't have room for dessert, but I'm always itching to try desserts. This was half a lemon which had been hollowed out, and filled with lemon sorbet
, mint jelly, and topped with lemon cream. Pretty good, and the acidity kinda helps soothe my very full stomach.
Naturally a couple of us brought our own wines, and a friend negotiated with the staff on corkage by buying bottles off the restaurant's wine list.
2008 Château de Puligny-Montrachet Meursault 1er Cru Les Poruzots
- nice and ripe. Acidity not too high.
1970 Marqués de Murrietta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, from magnum
- no decanted so lots of sediment in glass. Very smooth on the palate, with a bit more acidity than expected. Nose of stewed fruits like blackberry compote.
This would have been a pretty good evening for me, as the dishes I tasted were pretty decent. A few others at the table, however, were not so lucky...
was overcooked and had to be sent back. An order of beef tartare
apparently came without much seasoning - it was lacking in salt, in Worcestershire as well as Tabasco sauce. One plate of "sea scallops" (why do they have to specify "sea" when scallops are never found in freshwater?) first came out overcooked and "rubbery". It was sent back, only for a second plate to come out undercooked and raw - not mi-cuit
. One of the victims ended up asking me why we bothered to come at such an early stage in the restaurant's life.
Yes... I wondered, too, why I agreed to come along. Even though I escaped relatively unscathed, it was clear that the execution was so random that I probably wouldn't be so lucky on my next visit. So I guess I won't be seeing the inside of this place again until 2018...
It has been quite a few months since Hairy Legs settled into his new role at Caprice, and we've been meaning to catch up for a while. After months of waiting, Bilbaobab was finally back in town, and we agreed to meet up for lunch today. I suggested we check out Arcane, as I have fond memories of my dinner there from some time ago and it's a place the others haven't been to before.
Spinach and Parmesan tortellini with onion consommé and bellota ham
By the time I arrived, it was clear from Stefano's demeanor that Hairy Legs had been recognized, as we were offered complimentary Champagne. Not wanting to go back to the office while red in the face, I politely declined. I also declined to have Chef Shane Osborn create a special menu of signature dishes for us, as I'm dining out four consecutive nights this week and really didn't need the extra calories. So set lunch for me it was.
- this was very nicely done. The textures of the wrappers were pleasing, and the flavors of the fillings worked very well with the strong flavors of the consommé
. In fact, the consommé
seemed to have been seasoned with something akin to Chinese five spice (五香)... and delivered a lovely and comforting familiarity.
Japanese fruit tomato with imam bayildi, rocket pesto, sour cream and Marfuga olive oil
- very clean and pure flavors here. Just delicious and the fragrance of olive oil lingered in the mouth. A complimentary dish from the chef which we shared.
Boudin of confit lamb shoulder and confit garlic with a salad of bulgur wheat, apricot and almond
- I love all kinds of encased meat, and seeing that this one was made not just with lamb shoulder, but confit
lamb shoulder, piqued my interest. I love it when a chef takes the effort to make his/her own sausages. This was deeeelicious! I would have loved any lamb dish anyway, but this was way better than what I had expected. The fragrance (and lamby flavors) and the Mediterranean spices were so alluring... Just beautiful! Thank you, sir... may I have another?
Sautéed potato gnocchi with caramelised leek, cep vinaigrette and shiitake duxelle
- I can see that gnocchi
is a dish that Shane likes to showcase, and the reason is glaringly apparent. This wasn't quite the same dish as the one he paired with Krug Grande Cuvée
earlier, but you've still got the same beautiful texture of the gnocchi
along with plenty of mushrooms. Another complimentary dish we shared.
I was being very careful not to stuff myself with food, so I decided not to have dessert. Instead, I chose to spend a little more time with my dining companions and indulged in a little gossip...
A very relaxing and delicious lunch. Many thanks to my friends for the treat, and I'm already looking forward to returning the favor in the 'hood... in two months' time!
A friend is in town after a couple of years' absence and requested Asian food for dinner. As she was bound to be exhausted from traveling, I figured we should be accommodating and do dinner on the Dark Side. I seemed to remember that there is a Chinese restaurant at the Hyatt Regency, but have never found occasion to dine there... So The Great One kindly booked us a table at The Chinese Restaurant (凱悅軒).
I had read about a particular set menu where we could enjoy a discount by using a certain credit card, and was interested in taking that offer. It was interesting because - as long as the entire table took this set - each person could make his/her own personal choices for appetizer, soup, main course, rice/noodle, and dessert. Only the veggie dish needs to be shared. But the others didn't seem to be enthusiastic about this option, so we ended up ordering à la carte.
When the dishes started arriving, I was a little upset at first - because I thought they were being served "out of order" in terms of how a proper Chinese meal should be. This was because I wasn't responsible for ordering and didn't know what other dishes were coming. I later realized that all of tonight's dishes had indeed been served in the proper order.
Smoked chicken, jasmine tea (茉莉花茶燻雞)
- not bad. The chicken was tender, and the flavors were well-balanced - the smokiness was detectable without being too overpowering. I did wish, though, that the soy sauce flavors could have been a wee bit deeper.
Stir-fried leafy amaranth with diced garlic (蒜蓉炒莧菜)
- young shoots here so they were tender.
Fried scallop and bean curd ball, oyster sauce (香煎帶子琵琶豆腐)
- the picture in the menu came with a caption describing these as "scallop balls", so naturally I reverted to my juvenile self and cracked a joke with the Kat about scallops having balls... In any case, these were actually pan-fried tofu
with diced scallops and water chestnuts inside. Pretty tasty.
Braised flower crab meat, vermicelli, chicken soup (生拆紅蟹燴銀絲)
- I love vermicelli in soup and this was a very "light" dish in terms of flavor, although I did wonder a little if the "chicken soup" was really chicken powder. Thankfully, though, I didn't get the sense that it was loaded with MSG.
Crispy egg noddle, seafood (海鮮炒麵)
- our visitor's request. As befitting a restaurant in a 5-star hotel, they served the topping on the side so that the deep-fried noodles would stay crispy and not get soggy.
We plated our portions ourselves. The noodles were very yum. The seafood was OK.
Pretty decent dinner, although we didn't order anything special so I wasn't able to get a sense of how this place would do when it comes to higher end dishes. Maybe next time...
After our first "walking tour" last month, the powers that be once again invited me to join "part 2" of the Krug x Mushroom tour. This time we would be going to three different restaurants.
We started our evening in the cellar behind the kitchen at Caprice
. The Four Seasons Hong Kong took this event pretty seriously, as both the F and B Manager and the PR were in attendance, in addition to Hairy Legs and others from the restaurant. We seemed to have a smaller crew tonight, and that was just fine for this Arrogant Prick.
Krug Grande Cuvée, 162éme édition, ID 214032
- toasty and lovely, with a little minerals.
Poached turbot, jamón, ceps
- the turbot was poached just right, with a nice springy texture as it resisted the downward bite force of my teeth. The bowl was full of mushroom flavors - with cep
mash and sautéedceps
. Of course, we've also got some beautiful jamón
, too. INHALED.
Our next stop was VEA Restaurant and Lounge
. It's another restaurant where, strangely enough, I enjoyed the food on my very first visit but somehow never found occasion to return.
Antonio came over and presented us with a little elderflower and yuzu cocktail
Lost in rain forest
- so on the plate you've got cauliflower juice roasted with butter and yeast - with truffle crumble on top - along with 8 different types of mushroom from China such as pickled wood ear, girolles
, enokitake (榎茸)
, cordycep flowers, maitake (舞茸)
, beech mushrooms, shiitake (椎茸), and bamboo piths. Chef Vicky also made a mushroom with meringue
and added a few dots of sour cream for effect. Nasturtium leaves were decorated with sugar to resemble dew drops. Separately, we've got seaweed sponge cake on the side to represent moss in the forest.
Liquid nitrogen is poured on top of the sponge cake, which becomes brittle and is spooned on top of the dish. Lots of 'shrooms, different textures and flavors.
Parmesan truffle fries, truffle mayo
- we were feeling a wee bit hungry, so we also had some of these delicious fries. I guess my years of living in Hong Kong has gotten me used to eating fries with mayo instead of ketchup...
Our final stop tonight would be
ASS Aberdeen Street Social
- a restaurant in which I have yet to eat a full meal. Chef Chris Whitmore created a dish to pair with Krug Grande Cuvée, and this was offered on their printed menu.
A hunter's breakfast
- you've got 5 different types of mushrooms cooked differently including wood ear, shiitake
, shimeji (占地茸)
, oyster mushrooms, and raw button mushrooms. Once again, you've got a chef here who didn't get the memo that Krug x Eggs was last year... so we have 2 little quail eggs on top. Everything sits on top of a sweet and lightly smoked purée
that reminded me of caramelized onion jam, and the dish came served with hazelnuts and mushroom-flavored sourdough croûtons
. Very nice.
A fun and delicious evening. A little too much in terms of peanuts tonight, and I probably should have spent a little mor time keeping my big mouth shut. Many thanks to the powers that be for this kind and generous invitation, and special thanks to Gourmet KC for stopping me from strangling someone and committing murder...
The Locusts are swinging through town again, and like the devoted (but long-suffering) friend that I am, I arranged for a couple of meals so they could try out some of my favorite restaurants in town. As I had enough sufficient notice this time around, I managed to get my act together and book ourselves seats at the Godenya (ごでんや) counter.
I noticed for the last couple of months that the restaurant has been posting on social media about their seat openings, so I was guessing that business seemed to have fallen off a little here... which isn't surprising given how fickle diners are in this town. What it means for me, though, is that I would be able to come with much shorter notice - always a plus.
But we actually started with a bottle of wine in my office just before dinner. Out of all the refreshments I offered, Mrs. Locust preferred wine. The 2009 Doisy-Daëne Sec showed classic green apple on the nose, ripe with a little honey.
We moved to the hole-in-the-wall for dinner. Once again I seated myself at the end of the counter - and in front of the water bath for sake. I would be watching Goshima-san adjust the temperatures of the sake throughout the evening.
Japan figs (いちじくの前菜)
- the sweet Japanese fig was placed in the freezer for one hour to deliver a texture that wasn't quite frozen and icy. Nice and refreshing way to start on this warm night. Topped with dill, tarragon, and edible flowers.
Raifuku Junmai Kjyosyu Nama (来福 純米貴醸酒生), 2017
- served at 10°C. Supposedly with a sake meter value (日本酒度) of -50.
A kijoshu (貴醸酒)
partly made with junmai sake
instead of water. Fairly sweet on the palate, with nice fermented rice notes and a hint of acetone on the nose. Very nice depth on the palate, with a hint of bitterness mid-palate. Later on there was a hint of something unpleasant on the nose, almost similar to the mold/flor
which I find in some aged Huadiao. Taken with the fig, the fermented rice flavors became really obvious.
Isaki, ishikagegai, ceviche Japan style (いさきと石垣貝のセビーチェ)
- the Bering Sea cockles (石垣貝) were very soft yet crunchy at the same time. The chicken grunt (伊佐木) was good, and we've got some sea grapes (海葡萄) on top adding some flavors of the sea. The herring roe in the crunchy 子持ち昆布 had a pretty powdery texture, which I didn't care for.
Yorokobigaijin Junmai Ginjyo Nama (悦凱陣 純米吟醸生), 2017
- served at 13°C. With a seimaibuai (精米歩合)
of 50% and a sake meter value of +9. Nice and fermented rice nose. Soft and sweet on the attack but the finish was dry and slightly bitter.
Pumpkin, beets, century eggs (かぼちゃと皮蛋のブリュレ)
- both Hello Kitty and I drew deep breaths at the mention of beets, but I kept an open mind. In the end it wasn't as horrible as I had feared. Yes, there was some of that earthiness, but I tasted mostly the sweetness - along with the rich and creamy pumpkin. Of course, the caramelized top of the brûlée
helped tremendously, to the point where I barely tasted the flavors of the century egg (皮蛋) at the bottom.
Akishika Yamahai Jyunmai Nama (秋鹿 山廃純米生), 2017
- served at 11°C. With a seimaibuai
of 70% and a sake meter value of -81, and only 8% alcohol. Very savory on the palate, like koshu (古酒)
or oxidized wines like vin jaune
or Shaoxing (紹興)
. Almost a little fizzy. There's acidity and fruitiness here, almost like dunking a preserved plum (話梅) into Shaoxing.
Shirogai, ikura (焼き白貝と焼きイクラ)
- removing the top shell revealed the diced pieces of clam, which came with clam juice and salmon roe (イクラ), garnished with chrysanthemum petals and yuzu (柚子)
rind - the latter delivering its trademark fragrance. The clam itself was very sweet, while the lightly cooked salmon roe was surprisingly alcoholic.
Furei Kimoto Jyunmai (冨玲 きもと純米), 2013
- served at 45°C. With a seimaibuai
of 60% and a sake meter value of +7.5. Soft on the palate and savory like koshu
, with a dry finish.
Abalone, rice (鮑のリゾット 肝ソース)
- this was my favorite dish on my last visit, and in fact made it to the list of my best dishes of 2016
. This time around it was still very delicious, although probably less creamy and cheesy. We still have diced zucchini
mushrooms, and toasted pine nuts inside, but we've also got a helluva lot of finely diced chives. The abalone itself seemed a little more raw tonight. As it was last time, the star of the dish was undoubtedly the abalone liver sauce.
Furousen Yamahai Jyunmai Ginjyo Nama (不老泉 山廃純米吟醸生), 2016
- served at 13°C. With a seimaibuai
of 55% and a sake meter value of +4. Very good balance here - slightly sweet on the attack but gets dry mid-palate and ends with a very spicy finish.
Scampi, tom yam kung (赤座海老のトムヤムクン)
- this featured a scampi-like crustacean known as "Japanese lobster". The tail was still pretty raw. The shell delivered pretty strong, smoky flavors thanks to the grilling. Came with what looked like a mussel and a few straw mushrooms. The tom yum (ต้มยำ)
showed some lemongrass, although it was not the acidic version we are used to but was sweeter with more umami
. The spiciness was mild at first, but built up gradually.
Kotorinosaezuri Junmai Ginjyo (小鳥のさえずり 純米吟醸), 2010
- served at 28°C. With a seimaibuai (精米歩合)
of 50%. Soft on the palate at first, but quickly turned dry. Very powerful and lots of depth on the palate.
Sanma, liver (秋刀魚の炭火焼き)
- definitely in season now, and I was very happy to have it tonight. Grilling on charcoal transforms the fattiness of the fish, and this was very delicate. Interestingly served with liver sauce, avocado dressed with shaved yuzu
zest, and physalis (ほうずき). Just beautiful.
Udon, sudachi (すだち饂飩)
- very interesting. The udon came with slices of sudachi (すだち)
lime, so that the clean and pure flavors of the dashi (出汁)
were slightly overpowered by the acidity and the citrus flavors.
Ice, matcha, sake (バニラアイスと抹茶と酒)
- the vanilla ice cream came with some azuki
bean paste, glutinous rice balls (白玉団子), and a matcha
sauce made with Kinpo Shizenshu Nigorishu (金宝 自然酒 にごり酒)
This was a pretty good meal, and the Locusts were happy and satisfied. In the first couple of years after the restaurant opened, the pricing was so reasonable that I was worried that they were not making enough profit to survive. It seems they have upped their prices significantly, and perhaps this was a reason they were no longer perennially full. Personally I thought while the current pricing was no longer an incredible bargain, it was still reasonable - and necessary for the long-term survival of the restaurant.
I'm dining with the Locusts for a second night in a row, and tonight we chose to go to Tasting Court (天一閣) since, to my great surprise, they turned down an opportunity to visit my favorite private dining facility on account that they would be served too much food...
Steamed abalone with dried peel (陳皮蒸鮑魚仔)
This was the first time I tried booking myself a table, and without a special menu being organized, Mr. Locust chose the most premium of the three options offered.
- this was pretty good, and the chiffonade
of aged mandarin peel delivered the familiar fragrance.
Wild clam scalded with sake (日本清酒浸蜆)
- very surprised that they screwed up on something so simple. There was waaay too much ginger and waaay too much sake
, so it was pretty easy to choke on the broth should one decides to drink it. The clams, though, were fine. I guess they didn't really want us to drink the broth...
Chinese grilled pork chop with soybean (西班牙黑毛豬叉燒)
- I still like this a lot, as the marinade of Chinese black olives (欖角), black beans (豆豉), and aged mandarin peel (陳皮) makes the pork very tasty. The cut we received tonight was much fattier than I remembered from previous visits, and this meant the pieces were even more tender.
Slow-cooked chicken soup with fish maw and conch (花膠螺頭燉雞)
- pretty good.
Steamed fresh flowery crab with aged Shaoxing wine served with rice noodle (香醉紅蟳)
- Mrs. Locust was very restrained when it came to this dish, which left Mr. Locust and myself working on most of the flower crab. This, of course, was the pièce de résistance
... and it certainly did not disappoint. Against my better judgement, I scooped up large servings of the rice noodles (陳村粉) which had been soaking up the delicious sauce.
Spicy baked tiger prawn with peppercorn and chili (椒香焗大虎蝦)
- the smell of cumin hit us soon after the pot was laid on the table. Lots of spices here made the prawns pretty tasty. There was both the fiery sensation from chili peppers and green peppercorns as well as the numbing sensation from Sichuan peppercorns.
Traditional herbs and soy sauce braised goose (醬碌獅頭鵝)
- this was very, very good. The goose was, naturally, very tender, with nice depth of flavors thanks to the spices and soy sauce. The crunchy slices of pickled lotus root did a nice job of providing balance.
Steamed lotus seed in winter melon roll with broccoli (荷塘吐艷)
- nice idea and presentation, but too bad the execution failed. The broccoli was fine, and they took the time and effort to roll up those thin slices of winter melon, but the lotus seeds at the center of those rolls were completely unseasoned. Unseasoned lotus seeds end up tasting green - and unpleasant... basically just shy of tasting like mold. I persevered and swallowed the first few of those lotus seeds before complaining about them and seeing that Mr. Locust left them untouched on his plate.
Fried rice with ginger, dried scallops, sakura shrimp and egg white (薑米瑤柱櫻花蝦蛋白炒飯)
- redemption. This was SO.FUCKING.GOOD. Anytime you've got flied lice with shredded dried scallops with egg white - done at high heat - means you've got a very tasty bowl. The flavors also got a boost from the finely chopped preserved leafy mustard (梅菜). Adding pan-fried sakura
shrimp (桜海老) raises the game to a whole different level. DAMN!
Blended jujube coconut juice pudding (椰汁棗茸糕)
- the usual dessert. I like this, but I think it's time that the chef came up with something else for dessert...
Huadiao with dried jujube dessert drink (花雕紅棗飲)
- cool and refreshing.
I brought a couple of bottles tonight...
2007 Joh.Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
- much sweeter than expected from a kabinett. Lovely on the palate with great structure. Nose of muscat grape and a little white flowers.
2000 Etude Pinot Noir Heirloom
- initially not much sweet fruit, probably a little over the hill now. A little more fruit later after aeration.
In spite of a couple of shortfalls, this was a very good meal - as I had expected. Even without a custom-made extended menu, this continues to be a lot of food. But there are worse things that could happen, right?
It's no secret that I'm a fan of Uwe Opocensky's, and I'm lucky to have him as a friend. When he made the decision to leave the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, my friends and I were fortunate enough to be in the Krug Room for his last service. After prepping for his pet project for the last year, his eponymous restaurant Uwe is finally ready to open its doors to the public. And tonight, The Great One and I had the privilege of getting a sneak preview.
As is usual for our meet-ups, I brought the wines and Uwe chose the restaurant. Given that the restaurant begins service tomorrow, I had expected to be dining here tonight. But Uwe tried to be a little tricky to confuse me... He knows very well that I avoid brand new restaurants like the plague, so he told me that we'd be meeting at the new place for a drink before we "go around the corner for some food." I didn't know what else was around the corner besides Trattoria Queen Hollywood, but whatever. I wouldn't have any issues with wherever Uwe takes me.
The front door opened just as I reached for it, and I immediately saw three guys dressed in the same uniform of white dress shirts, black jeans, and white canvas sneakers. In addition to Uwe, the other two other familiar faces belonged to Ken and Luke - both formerly of the Mandarin Oriental. I was ever so happy to know that diners would be in good hands with these two.
And wouldn't you know it, Nena's 99 Luftballons was playing as I walked in... as if I didn't know the guy running this place was German... And throughout the evening, the playlist included mostly tunes from the 80s and the 70s... with maybe a few 90s' hits thrown in. As Uwe said : "our generation".
|Courtesy of Uwe|
|Courtesy of Uwe|
Uwe asked whether I would like to start with some Krug. Would I? Mais, bien sûr!
The Krug Grande Cuvée, 159éme édition, ID 313052
was mature and beautiful, with toasty nose and lovely sweetness.
After The Great One arrived - having gotten a little lost - Uwe confessed that we were, in fact, dining in. He had spoken to me months ago about the possibility of hosting me on the first night that his pet project opens, and here we have it - The Great One and I were getting a very private preview.
From then on, food started arriving at the table, and Uwe was back to his old tricks... trying to kill me by feeding me a ton of food.Autumn landscape
- well, Uwe's swiped one of those trees that he used to decorate the Mandarin Oriental Christmas party with, along with a bunch of fallen leaves. It now stands in the middle of the restaurant, and naturally the canapés
would go along with this theme...
Finnish reindeer moss
- with freshly-grated horseradish.
Malt breadsticks with pickles
- always fun to eat.
Smoked salmon with caviar
- I would never complain about Uwe's smoked salmon... especially with those little thingies on top!
Venison tartare with mushrooms
- I love venison, and the tartare
has such a nice and firm texture, delivering a lot of bite. Looks like it came with some raw cep slices and wood sorrel.
Pickled Japanese radish
- the acidity was definitely there, and kinda helped whet the appetite... although that was hardly necessary!
Bone marrow candle
- we ripped pieces from the grilled sourdough bread and dipped them into the melting "candle"...
Very, very decadent, but oh-so-good! I could never resist bone marrow...
Egg with mushrooms and pickled mushrooms
- so... Krug x Egg and Krug x Mushroom continues... This was very tasty, but I felt it was over-seasoned and heavy-handed with the salt.
Cep mushroom tart
- with scrambled duck egg and girolles. The tart crust was made with mushrooms.
- it's game season, and pithiviers
is a great way to serve up game birds. The grouse came from Rhug Estate and has been hung for 10 days.
The minced grouse was stuffed inside the pastry along with cabbage and rosemary, then served with some jus
. Delicious. Warm and comforting.
Oh, by the way... everything up to this point has been part of the "Autumn landscape". So we've only just got done with the FIRST course out of the six-course menu.
King crab spring roll
- shredded Alaskan king crab filling, served with yuzu
-flavored mayo. When I was almost done, a couple of bites near the end delivered some sharp and unpleasant ammonia. It turns out that Uwe mixed in the crab tomalley. Now this is strange... Normally I love
tomalley and couldn't get enough, but for some reason this was a little too much for me tonight.
- a spiralizer is used to turn celeriac into ribbon "pasta
". Cooked with seasonal wild mushrooms such as girolles
and morels, veal stock, and Japanese cream. Then we had a good amount of Australian black truffle shaved on top of it all. This was mostly veg and really delicious. Too bad we had run out of Krug by now... or this would be yet another Krug x Mushroom dish.
- the Rhug Estate lamb shoulder was hung for 8 hours over fire. It was very, very tender and was pretty easy to cut through. In fact, the ribs and spine were easy to separate with one's hands.
Very, very delish. We were even provided with little cabbage discs so that we could wrap the lamb inside like bossam (보쌈)
Uwe also tossed part of the spine onto my plate, so I dutifully gnawed on it and stripped it of any delicious meat...
And in lieu of raw garlic in the Korean version, here it was served with a really strong garlic mayo. Guess I won't be kissing anyone tonight!
A couple of other side dishes came alongside the roasted lamb shoulder, including cucumber with mint
and parsnip purée
- the sauce which was drizzled over the pineapple was made with roasted pineapple jus
, and this was garnished with mint leaves and mint flowers.
We then found out that they make their ice cream the old-fashioned way - by churning with a hand crank!
The ice cream
was made with Japanese 48% double-cream, and drizzled with Captain Morgan rum raisins. Very, very rich. Very, very sweet. Oh-so-delicious. Somehow this reminded me of the ice cream I had at Saison
Apparently the porcelain bowls in which our ice cream was served date from the Ming Dynasty...
We finished the meal with some peppermint tea
, served in cups made around the Roaring Twenties.
- these chocolate truffles came with black truffle on the outside. They were so rich and creamy - and also seemed slightly savory - that I actually asked Uwe if he made them with foie gras
I figured since I was drinking with Uwe and he was treating me to dinner and all, I would bring along something a little special...
The first bottle was purchased at the Sotheby's elBullicellar auction in 2013
. The bottle was signed by both Ferran Adrià
and the late Juli Soler
. This was meaningful because Uwe spent 6 months (one season) at elBulli
2009 Hospices de Beaune Corton-Vergennes Cuvée Paul Chanson par Lucien Le Moine pour El Bulli
- very dry with lots of minerals, beautiful and flinty. Later on buttery and sweet, with a nose that was soooo toasty.
The second bottle came from Sine Qua Non
, because I know it's something Uwe always wanted to drink and never gets the chance to. And as someone who fell in love with this winery back in 2001, I have a few in my collection to share with good friends.
2001 Sine Qua Non Ventriloquist
- opened for 45 minutes prior to decanting, and served 2 hours after opening. Bouquet was really sweet and jammy as expected, then turned very floral and violet. More than 3 hours after opening a little cotton candy developed.
The Great One and I were stuffed. And a little buzzed. But we were so, so happy... and honored that we had the privilege to be given a preview of what Uwe's fans are about to experience for themselves after waiting for more than a year. I wish my friend lots of success, and I can only hope that he can find a few seats for me from time to time in his 16-seater...
The last time that I caught up with both Winnie the Chew and Zhongmeister together was more than a year ago, and a request for made for a Japanese dinner. I had originally wanted to book one of the new places on the Dark Side, but alas, not having the help of a High Person meant we were relegated to the restaurant's waiting list. So I decided to make a long-overdue return to Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) and check out what Chef Seki Hidemichi (関秀道) is serving these days.
Uni, namanori seaweed and shiromiso paste with superiore Chinese broth jelly (海胆 生海苔と白みそのピュレ 上湯の煮凝り)
I was surprised to find that the menu has now changed to 12 courses, and wondered about the format change. They had also taken their classic hot/cold dessert off the menu, so it looks like quite a few changes have been made since I was last here a year ago.
- I love that when the weather is warm, the menu here always starts off with something on ice. Always so refreshing.
Sea urchin is always a crowd-pleaser, and here we have a great balance between the sweetness and creminess with the savory flavors of the white miso
, along with delicate and clean flavors of the Chinese superior broth (上湯) made with ham. Perilla (紫蘇) flowers add a lovely dose of fragrance here.
Simmered abalone, grilled eggplant with matcha foam (煮鮑と焼茄子 抹茶)
- the abalone comes from Chiba Prefecture (千葉県) and has been simmering for 8 hours. Served with charcoal-grilled eggplant which delivered a lovely, smoky fragrance. Covered in abalone liver sauce and topped with a matcha (抹茶)
-flavored foam. I was surprised to discover some sansho
leaves (木の芽) with the abalone for some added fragrance.
Pretty decent, but here Hello Kitty starts to run into issues with having caffeine in her food...
A drop of tomato (フルーツトマトの雫)
- clearly inspired by the Adrià brothers' spherification.
Inside the agar 'skin' - which was rather thick - was the purée
of Amera tomatoes (アメーラトマト) from Kyushu (九州). The calyx was actually made with fried bok choy (白菜)
, and a drizzle of Spanish extra virgin olive oil was added.
Hairy crab dumpling soup, chrysanthemum, aroma of matsutake (毛蟹真蒸のお椀 黄菊 松茸香る)
- the usual bowl containing ichibandashi (一番出汁)
has been complemented with the delicate fragrance of matsutake (松茸)
mushrooms, along with yellow chrysanthemum petals. This was definitely more complex than the usual ichibandashi.
The crab ball was made with delicious Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹), along with some crab tomalley (蟹味噌) inside. Very yum.
Sashimi, one by one (お造り 盛り合さず):
- marinated in soy sauce and served with a dab of yellow mustard. The mustard was, thankfully, not very pungent... and worked well with the soy flavors.
Anago caviar (穴子とキャビア)
- the shirayaki (白焼き)
of conger eel was meant to be taken with French farmed sturgeon caviar instead of salt. I chose not to use either the sudachi (酢橘)
or the wasabi on the side, but I did like the crunchy ice plants.
Wined kuruma shrimp (酔車海老油霜)
- the shrimp was pan-fried in a mixture of 12-year-old Huadiao wine (花雕酒) and soy sauce, following by being dunked in 220°C hot oil for 3 seconds.
The result is a shrimp tail which was a little more raw than mi-cuit. We've also got the head deep-fried after being flattened. Very tasty. Not sure I picked up much of the Huadiao fragrance, though...
Beef shabu shabu, taro stem with ginger sauce (牛しゃぶと芋茎 生姜のあん)
- the taro stems (芋茎) had been cooked so that they were no longer crunchy. The tender and marbled Miyazaki beef (宮崎牛) was, in my view, somewhat overcooked. The ginger sauce provided a little fragrance and a kick, which matched perfectly with the shredded myoga (茗荷)
Crispy scales amadai with deep fried and charcoal grilled maitake mushroom (あまだい鱗焼き マイタケの天ぷらの炭火焼)
- along with the fish, we had maitake mushrooms (舞茸) which were cooked as tempura first before being charcoal grilled, as well as grilled fresh ginkgo nuts, physalis, and togarashi (唐辛子)
The tilefish's scales were flicked up by hand, and the fish was pan-fried before being charcoal-grilled. Delicious as expected, with crispy scales providing a nice, smoky fragrance to the succulent flesh.
Muscat, cucumber, wasabi (シャインマスカット 胡瓜 山葵のジュレ)
- the Shine Muscat (シャインマスカット) grapes were slightly boiled to lend a softer texture, then drizzled with sudachi
juice before being mixed with wasabi
, white celery, and cucumber. Surprisingly savory, with a little kick from the celery building up to a bigger kick from the wasabi
. A nice balance here with the very sweet muscat grapes.
Duck hot pot in Miyagi style (鴨とクレソンとポルチーニの鍋)
- the duck breast from Bresse was pretty tasty, and the soup made with other parts of the duck had plenty of black pepper for seasoning. The porcini
mushrooms were delicious, but the watercress was a little earthy. Served with some yuzukosho (柚子胡椒)
on the side.
Charcoal grilled river eel and ikura with chestnuts rice (栗ご飯とおかず)
- it's chestnut season, and what I had in my bowl with rice was pretty sweet.
The salmon roe was served with yuzu
zest, giving it a more delicate flavor profile.
The charcoal grilled eel was as delicious as ever, with sansho (山椒)
pepper and sansho
Peach and sweet corn (桃のすり流しとトウモロコシのアイス)
- sweet corn ice cream and white peach purée
, coffee coulis
, and white peach espuma
. A very nice balance of delicate flavors, but another dish that Hello Kitty couldn't eat. Not that she enjoys desserts... So Zhongmeister inhaled it for her.
"White peony" tea mousse with bamboo leaf sorbet wrapped in yuba (湯葉と白牡丹茶)
- wrapped inside the fresh yuba (湯葉)
was some soy milk ice cream with white peony (白牡丹) tea leaves and cookie crumble. Sprinkled with soy milk powder made by freezing with liquid nitrogen, and topped with a piece of yuba
. Delicious. Another dessert Hello Kitty couldn't eat, so I took it despite being very full...
White peony tea was served on the side.
I brought along a very interesting bottle of vin nature
2006 Ganevat Les Vignes de mon Père
- a little oak, pollen, and definitely a little more "dusty". Initially the acidity was high when the wine was a little warm, and the acidity stayed high. One hour after opening the nose was really fragrant, with a bit more honey and flint. Kinda lean on the palate. Opened up further after 2 hours and showed almost like oxidized pear. Very complex, from vines planted in 1930.
There was a conflict between Winnie the Chew and the Zhongmeister about the wine they were bringing, so they didn't. We ended up ordering a bottle of sake off their wine list.
The restaurant claims to have two bottlings of Kokuryu (黒龍) - from one of my favorite sake
breweries - which were "exclusive" to their restaurant. I am a big fan of Kokuryu and have been known to collect a few of their sakes
. I asked the restaurant staff about the Kokuryu Gin (黒龍吟)
and what the differences were between this and the brewery's more common daiginjoRyu (龍)
. The answer? The liquid inside is the same, but they get a customized label...
So I made the executive decision to order the other "special bottling". Well, it turns out that this label was designed by artist Fujishiro Seiji (藤城清治)
and the bottling had originally been released in December 2011, just before the start of the previous Year of the Dragon. I believe this is just the same thing as their regular Daiginjo (大吟醸)
inside the bottle.
Kokuryu Daiginjo Tenku ni Noboru Ryu (黒龍 大吟醸 天空に登る龍)
- seimaibuai (精米歩合)
of 50%. Very tropical nose, fruity with banana and floral notes. Very sweet both on the nose and on the palate. Later on the nose showed more fermented rice notes.
A very delicious dinner, and we were totally stuffed. It was nice to see Seki-san
when he came to greet us, and I felt bad that we had stayed so late. I guess I can only make it up to him by not waiting another year to visit him...
Mikacina's back in town again, and this time around she made a couple of requests far in advance. First and foremost on her list was Neighborhood. She had long heard about it from The Great One and myself, and when DaRC also told her about it while we were in Seoul, it was clear that she needed to see for herself why it is that we're all big fan of The Man in White T-shirt.
So... about 6 hours after Hello Kitty and I started drinking - seemingly without a break in between - and after hosting the gang at our new place for a few hours, we showed up en masse at arguably my favorite restaurant in town. The people from the first seating had cleared out by now, and we were ready for some real food! Although I wasn't feeling particularly hungry after nibbling on snacks for the previous 6 hours...
Per SOP we gave carte blanche to The Man in White T-shirt, and fully expected to be stuffed halfway through dinner...
First order of business was picking out a white truffle from Langhe
. The Man in White T-shirt had, in fact, put aside a particularly fragrant and large one for us. As it was placed atop the scale, we could see it weighed more than 108 grams. That's a pretty decent size for the eight of us. And the fragrance was pretty amazing, considering that it's so early in the season.
Aged Rangers Valley beef / melon / truffle
- the dry-aged beef from Rangers Valley - marinated in Chiuchow master stock (滷水) and rubbed with black truffle - was once again very, very delish. That it was served with a piece of sweet melon was a stroke of genius.
Galician octopus / potato salad
- the octopus was very, very tender, with lovely smoky flavors. There was more than meets the eye when it came to this potato salad, and I rather enjoyed this.
Salami / culatello
- always delish. Cured pork fat. Mmmm...
Hokkaido fruit tomato carpaccio / Hokkaido salmon roe / plum salt
- we've had the fruit tomato with plum salt before, but tonight there's a little bit of house-cured sujiko (筋子)
from Hokkaido on top. Thanks to the addition of the cured sujiko
- which is normally not cured and therefore has lighter flavors without the salt - the dish became slightly on the salty side.
Padron peppers / cheddar
- after a couple of episodes of having had some with plenty of sand inside, I've grown a little wary of these little buggers. I took just one tonight, and it was OK.
Aquitaine beef / Aquitaine oyster tartare / Kyushu sea urchin
- very decadent... with sea urchin AND oyster. A marriage of France and Japan. What's not to like?!
Foie gras / beef tongue / girolle mushroom
- this was REALLY good... I took one of the corners so I could have more foie
and leave more tongue to the others. Sooooo smooth. Next time I come, I'm taking at least half a slice instead of just 1/8...
Baby lobsters / aioli
- this was a total surprise. We were amazed at how small these local rock lobsters were... and wondered whether they should have been caught and eaten at all...
This was "medium" in size... The flesh was, of course, delicious and sweet. Surprisingly, though, I didn't care for the tomalley.
Rocket salad / buffalo burrata
- nice and creamy burrata
. At this point The Man in White T-shirt came over and started shaving our white truffle... There was a little incident during the shaving process, and as a result I failed to grab a video of it...
Fried Italian egg
- there are few things that match white truffles better than eggs - whether scrambled or simply done sunny-side up. These Italian eggs with their orange yolks were delicious.
Saute girolle mushroom / escargot
- it's no surprise that this dish worked perfectly with the truffle... with all the mushrooms and earthy escargot
in the bowl. I stayed away from those cloves of garlic...
Black truffle chicken wings
- perennial favorite here. Caramelized skin, crispy around the edges, perfume from the bits of black truffle... In a word: YUM.
- not bad at all! Interestingly, though, instead of the usual moules marinières
we have a creamy sauce that had a closer resemblance to yellow curry... thanks to spices like cumin and chili powder.
Salt baked ganbajun and truffle chicken / giblet rice
- salt-baked chicken here is always something to behold, as the salt crust gets chipped away and the local chicken underneath is revealed... showing the slices of black truffle underneath the skin.
The chicken is then taken back to the kitchen, and finished with a bed of rice containing ganbajun (乾巴菌)
mushrooms and giblets - including liver and - thanks to The Great One - more amourettes
than you can shake a stick at.
Needless to say, with all that truffle on the table, some of it went on top of this dish as well. In fact, I'm certain that we didn't shave nearly enough of it on top! Nevertheless, this was very, very delicious. It's just too bad that by this point, all of us were already pretty stuffed... So a good chunk of this dish went into doggie bags...
Giant garoupa jaw / kokotxa
- this was truly a sight to behold. I had earlier seen The Man in White T-shirt dissect the collar and side fin of the same fish for our neighboring table, and here we have the lower jaw of a 90-something-catty (that would translate to 50-something kg) giant garoupa (龍躉). As for the preparation, The Man in White T-shirt compared it with kokotxa
- the Basque dish which uses the gelatinous flesh from fish jaws and emulsify with olive oil while adding parsley, garlic, and chili.
Incidentally, I have now figured out The Great One's current weight, as she referenced herself to this particular fish...
The Man in White T-shirt then made a great effort - with DaRC's help - to strip all the skin, flesh, and other gelatinous parts from the bones.
Thankfully there wasn't a whole lot left on the plate when they were finished, because we had no room for any more food. But this was simply delectable! I could never have imagined having kokotxa
here... with local fish!
Vanilla ice cream
- as we still had plenty of white truffle left, there was only one thing to be done - shaving it over scoops of vanilla ice cream.
With our fridge at home overflowing with mooncakes, Hello Kitty and I decided to bring a box of mini egg custard mooncakes (迷你酥皮奶黃月餅)
from Hafie (哈妃)
to share with everyone. We asked the kitchen to warm up a few of them, and I think they went over pretty well. I liked the texture of the handmade "skin", and the custard itself was very tasty - with more egg yolk flavor than many of the commercially available alternatives.
What would a gathering be without a few bottles? DaRC and I brought along a few bottles to help liven the conversation...
- nose was very caramelized and oxidized, with savory minerals.
2012 Lucien Le Moine Corton Blanc
- showeing really beautiful toasty nose, with lots of flint.
1985 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde
- nice and mature, showing good amount of sweet fruit, leather, and animal notes.
1997 Jaboulet La Chapelle
- nice and smooth now, with good concentration and a bit of leather.
1993 Royal Tokaji Company Tokaji Aszu Essencia
- throwing off an unbelievable amount of sediment. Incredibly unctuous and viscous. Really rich, with tons of honey and dried tangerine peel, and surprisingly high acidity to balance out the sugars.
What a feast! We were sooooo full... and had definitely overstayed our welcome. I'm glad we had a few friends who could join us while we entertained our visitor, and I'm also glad that I'll have a couple of days for my digestive system to take a break before my next heavy meal...
We promised to take Mikacina for a Cantonese meal while she's in town (she's already had another Cantonese meal before tonight), and we decided to take her to The Chairman (大班樓). Neither The Great One nor I have been there in a while, so this was a good opportunity for a refresher. Since The Great One made the arrangements through Danny, we knew we would be well taken care of.
Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑)
Sweet vinegar pickled tomatoes (醃漬蕃茄)
Deep-fried spinyhead croaker (酥炸獅頭魚)
We started with some cold-brewed Oolong (烏龍) tea, which had amazing floral notes as if they came with osmanthus (桂花) - the way some tea merchants like to combine them. Just as Danny said, this was almost a little sweet on the palate.
- this wasn't on our menu, but Danny sent out a plate of these delicious fishies. Very, very crispy and yummy with seaweed powder sprinkled all over, and I slowly chomped on the head as Danny reminded us about the 'stones' instead which could chip our teeth.
Rock lobster meat cooked in fish and rice broth (魚米湯煮琵琶蝦)
- the flathead lobsters were nice, and came with a viscous fish congee
that has been strained to remove the rice grains. Nicely seasoned with shrimp roe and shrimp oil.
Smoked abalone (煙燻野生青邊鮑角)
- the wild greenlip abalone was braised in abalone sauce, and did taste a little smoky.
This was served with a second glass of cold-brewed Oolong tea, which was smoky and matched the abalone well.
Lamb and steamed bun (羊肉夾包)
- the Lazy Susan was cleared so that a whole spread could be laid out on top, starting with the shredded lamb.
We also had the steamed buns as well as condiments such as caramelized shallots, shredded ginger and cucumber, dill, and basil.
We then put everything together into a bao
before drizzling the sauce on top of everything. This was really, really delicious. Why did I only get one bun?!
Steamed garoupa with sundried mandarin peel (古法陳皮咸肉蒸老鼠斑)
- the humpback grouper was steamed with dried mandarin peel as well as slices of cured pork fat - essentially lardo
We're biased and think that the Cantonese way of preparing steamed fish is the best cooking method for fresh fish. When shiitake
mushrooms and chiffonade
of dried mandarin peel is added, the wonderful fragrance takes things up a notch. Of course, adding lardo
into the mix is like hitting the NOS button on cars modified for street race.
Steamed fresh flowery crab with aged Shaoxing wine and flat rice noodles (雞油花雕蒸大花蟹配陳村粉)
- the pièce de résistance
. Cue Calvin Harris'This is What You Came For
. And it was a big one! A whole 2 catties! The two claws were simply HUGE!
I'm actually happier eating the body, so I let the visitors enjoy the claws. We made sure that we had plenty of the sauce made with Shaoxing wine (花雕) and chicken fat for the noodles to soak up.
Pan fried whole crispy chicken stuffed with shrimp paste (香煎百花雞件配魚露)
- always an interesting preparation, as shrimp paste is encased with the chicken and pan-fried. Pretty decent.
Layered beancurd and seasonal vegetables cooked in homemade fish broth (魚湯腐皮浸時菜)
- very nice and delicate, I have a fondness for the Cantonese way of serving vegetables with fresh beancurd sheets (腐皮) cooked in fish broth.
Crab meat sticky rice (蟹肉糯米飯)
- this was VERY, VERY good. Mixing lots of shredded crab meat and diced spring onions - along with plenty of crispy, pan-fried sakura
shrimp (桜海老) - into glutinous rice is a surefire way of delivering happiness.Dessert trio (甜品三味):
Almond soup (杏仁茶)
Hawthorn berries pudding (山楂糕)
- this was OK.
Red date pudding (紅棗糕)
- probably the best out of the trio, with plenty of jujube flavors.
As usual, I brought along a few bottles to share...
2014 Ganevat Les Chamois du Paradis
- good acidity here, almost a little fuzzy on the palate, and definitely not 'clean'. Flinty.
2008 Ostertag Fronholz Gewurztraminer Vendages Tardives
- lots of lychee, peaches, honey, and floral notes, with a little flint. Very sweet on the palate. Worked reasonably well with the abalone and the crab.
1997 Guado Al Tasso
- classic claret nose, with smoky, minty, and a little bit of earthy notes, along with sweet fruit. Drinking really well just after popping the cork.
It has been waaay too long since we met up with Birdiegolf, so when we found ourselves with not one but two days off during the week, it seemed like the right time to have a meal together. Hidden (秀殿) was suggested as the venue, as our friends have not yet had the pleasure of dining there.
Fruit tomato (フルーツトマト)
Once seated, I immediately inquired about the curry rice that The Man in White T-shirt was photographed with recently. I was saddened to be told that it was not available. I would have to settle for something else, then...
- these were more ripe than the Amera (アメーラトマト) we had on our last visit.
Fried cheese bites (一口チーズフライ)
- it still amazes me how much we enjoy these deep-fried pieces of Camembert... And yes, we ordered a second serving. Again.
Chicken wings (手羽唐揚げ)
- this never fails to deliver with the acidity of the sauce tempering the sinful richness from deep-frying.
Deep-fried sweet potato (フライドさつまいも)
Pearl onions (ペコロス)
- pretty sweet.
Conger eel (穴子)
- very, very good this time.
Crab leg (かに足)
- the crab leg was really sweet and delicious.
Kelp with herring roe (子持ち昆布
) - always one of my favorites. Love that bouncy and crunchy texture.
Soy-marinated firefly squid (蛍いか沖漬け)
Chicken skin marinated in ponzu (鶏皮ポン酢)
Deep-fried fish cake (薩摩揚げ)
Rice cake (もち)
Wagyu filet (和牛ヒレ)
- gotta say that I'm usually not a fan of this...
Scallop with tartar and salmon roe (ほたてタルタルいくら)
- I managed to convince Mrs Birdie to try to get this all in one bite... Still one of my favorite things to eat here.
Spaghetti napolitana (ナポリタン)
- this was supposed to be very good, and became my consolation prize when the curry rice wasn't available. Gotta say that I really enjoyed this. The sauce was a little sweeter than I had expected, and the slices of bacon really made the dish for me.
Served with Kraft 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese and McIlhenny Tabasco sauce on the side.
There were TWO isshobins (一升瓶)
tonight, but I bullied my way into opening the one I brought...
Dewazakura Daiginjo Manrei (出羽桜 大吟醸 万禮), BY25, from isshobin (一升瓶)
- seimaibuai (精米歩合)
of 25%. This has been aged for about 3 years before release, which explains how smooth, rounded, and viscous it tasted on the palate. Initially just slightly sweet and a little dry on the finish, this later became much sweeter. Very delicious.
It's Hello Kitty's birthday, and once again I asked her to choose the restaurant for her birthday dinner. Having gotten word that Amber has put together their "Amber Classics Menu" in advance of their renovation, she decided that we should go and check it out. After all, it's been a while since we were last able to taste Chef Richard Ekkebus' signature Hokkaido sea urchin - thanks to it being taken off the menu last May.
We arrived a little late, but were greeted warmly by the staff. Once seated we were shown the menus, and John brought the wine list so I could choose something before our red wine was ready. Imagine my surprise, then, when Hello Kitty informed me that she fancied the seasonal degustation menu instead. So... I've come all this way back here and we won't even have the one dish that I miss so dearly...
We started with a glass of Alfred Gratien Brut
, whose nose very caramelized, quite mineral. Very full on the palate, with very high acidity and a grippy finish. Definitely showing the meunier side.
First up was saltiness
, of the sea. The Dutch oyster leaf came bearing a ball containing sea water, with a little strand of sea grapes on top. This was honestly a little more salty than I had anticipated, and the seaweed flavors were definitely very prominent.
came as lemon meringue
filled with lemon gel. Definitely acidic.
showed up in the form of an old friend - Guinness Dry Stoute beer with onions and crispy cereals
. The onion stew deglazed with Guinness had plenty of fermented flavors, and the caramelized onions delivered both sweet and savory flavors. The cereals lent a nice and crunchy texture.
This was followed by sweetness
, green pea tartlet
with Hokkaido milk - which was very sweet. The tart crust itself had delicious buttery and fermented flavors.
- chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し)
with fruit tomato compote in the middle with seaweed powder sprinkled on top.
Served with crispy seaweed cracker
on the side.
Schrenki-dauricus caviar: leek, crème fraiche and feuille de brick served like a fine tart
- this also looks familiar, but tonight we've got the full size version instead of the mini amuse
version - with 20 grams of caviar. There were diced leeks on top of the crispy feuille de brick
pastry just below the caviar, and a whole disc of crème fraîche
on top of the caviar.
I joked about taking the whole thing in one bite, but the reality is that even I don't have a mouth that can fit the whole tart in... but perhaps Julia Roberts could give it a try. In any case, this was very, very satisfying. While I have been somewhat spoiled over the last year by Russian golden osetra
or even beluga
, any time you get to stick 20 grams of sturgeon caviar in your mouth is a pretty good day!
Heirloom tomatoes: pickled rose petal, solidified basil infused extra virgin olive oil, stracciatella di bufala, finger lime, watermelon and tomato water
- surrounding the tomato water-infused stracciatella
in the middle were four different types of heirloom tomatoes, with rose petals, edible flowers, and herbs. The watermelon and tomato water poured on the side was a mix of sweet and savory, while the 'snow' barely had any basil flavor. A very pretty dish, and tasty, too.
David Hervé 'Ronce" oyster: over a plankton gel with organic kale, seawater and organic lemon jell-O, mustard cress bloom
- we were advised not to ingest the kelp and the salt on the plate...
The oyster from Brittany was steamed at 70°C, then covered with a layer of thin slices of kailan (芥藍)
as well as plankton gelée
. Decorated with a few petals of mustard flowers. The oyster itself was very creamy in texture - and a little more firm thanks to being steamed - while the metallic, briny flavors remained. The acidity from the lemon jello worked very well with the other flavors here to achieve balance.
Langoustine: minced over airated aka uni, schrenki caviar, poached jicama, kabu and Granny Smith fricassée
- COULD THIS BE? IS THIS THE NEW 'HOKKAIDO SEA URCHIN'? At first glance this seemed to have all the right ingredients...
So we've got a layer of minced raw Brittany langoustine on top, with a layer of Hokkaido sea urchin espuma
(Richard did WHAT to sea urchin??!!) just below, and chunks of poached jicama
and kabu (蕪)
buried underneath, along with chunks and chiffonade
of Granny Smith. Garnished with a few tongues sea urchin and more schrenki
Pretty nice, actually... If one thinks about it, one can almost see how Richard has substituted each of the main ingredients of his signature dish with something different - but at the same time familiar.
Cantabrian octopus: grilled over charcoal, coulis of fermented bell pepper with pearl onions and octopus cooking juice emulsion
- lovely smoky flavors from the grilled octopus. These chunks came from the part of the tentacles closer to the head, so while they were fairly soft it still took a little effort to cut through. The petals of pearl onions came with pancetta
mayo and salicornia - an ingredient for which Richard had offered to pay me handsomely should I have carried some back from the shores of the Aral Sea
. The octopus went very well with the fermented bell pepper and cabbage coulis
A delicious dish, but I couldn't help but be reminded of the amazing octopus tentacle I had at Jungsik
Duck foie gras: poached in mushroom tea with charred Japanese shiitake, pickled enoki and black garlic purée
- Amber has always delivered perfectly poached foie gras
, and tonight was no exception. Tonight it came with foie gras
foam as well as shiitake (椎茸)
, enoki (えのき茸)
, and button mushrooms, with some mushroom tea which was flavorful but not over-seasoned. The black garlic purée
was beautiful and sweet, with a lot of depth.
Line caught turbot: confit, crispy "beard", coulis of black autumn truffles, warm salad of wet hazelnuts, girolles and pickled mushrooms
- Hello Kitty chose the Miyazaki beef - which is delicious but I consider somewhat boring - so I had to pick the turbot. Well... unfortunately I found this boring, too... While the turbot from Brittany was slow-cooked and the execution was on point, the mushroom sauce covering it was just too bland and uninteresting - and desperately needed the black truffle coulis
to add some personality. The crispy 'beard' cooked a la plancha
that was served on the side was much better, as was the mix of girolles
, wet hazelnuts, and mushrooms.
Kabocha pumpkin: and coconut milk foam, over a menton lemon and nutmeg sorbet with caramelized pumpkin seeds and 'fleur de sel'
- the coconut flavors were very subtle as the pumpkin dominated. The chunks of pumpkin inside were very sweet, while the seeds showed toasty flavors. The acidity in the lemon sorbet
was certainly noticeable, while the fleur de sel
brought an interesting dimension.
Soliès figs: poached in a juice of black berries with a purple shiso sorbet
- Hello Kitty didn't understand why the kitchen couldn't have just served us the beautiful figs on their own, but of course that would have been too simple. So we got figs which had been poached in black berry juice and served with black berry sauce. I felt the sauce had a bitter aftertaste and not to my liking. But hey, at least all those red, circular rings of sauce weren't made from beetroot...
Caramelized milk chocolate 'caramelatte': play of textures with cacao sorbet, praline dust, caramelized almonds, salted caramel and kalamansi
- Amber likes to serve up dark chocolate sorbet, which meant the dessert wasn't sickly sweet and balances out the almond crispy and the salted caramel sauce. Interesting to find a few dots of kalamansi
Cavaillon melon sorbet
- with a little sumac for contrast.
Carrot and amanatsu mikan (甘夏みかん) pâté de fruit
- a little underwhelming.
Dark chocolate ganache with coconut chantilly
In a conversation with Richard earlier, I had let slip that it was Hello Kitty's birthday tonight, so the nice staff very kindly prepared a small chocolate cake for the occasion...
...while I brought an appropriate bottle of wine for the occasion...1982 Latour à Pomerol
- opened an hour and 45 minutes prior to serving without decanting. Wonderful nose showing smoky, tobacco, pencil lead, and fragrant woodsy notes, with some sweet fruit underneath. Good acidity on the back end. The wine drank very well but peaked somewhere between 2½ and 3 hours.
Another delicious meal, and surprisingly we did not walk out of the restaurant thinking that our stomachs were on the verge of exploding. Many thanks to Richard for adding "PRIMA DONNA"
to my profile at the restaurant so that we would get extra pampering from everyone, and of course we were grateful to have been comped the bubbly and the delicious caviar tart at the end of the evening.
A friend is back home for a few days and misses Cantonese food dearly. I have, unfortunately, been stuffing my face a little too much lately... so I wasn't able to spend more time with her. But I did promise to take her to Tasting Court (天一閣) for some nice Cantonese, so we grabbed a few accomplices and got ourselves a table, tailoring the menu a little.
Deep-fried pork fat stuffed with prawn (金錢蝦餅)
- the chiffonade
of kaffir lime leaves gave off a lovely fragrance to go with the prawns wrapped inside deep-fried caul fat. I also liked the pickled cucumbers.
Steamed orange stuffed with crab meat and scallop (白玉紅蟳釀金盞)
- one of the dishes which impressed Chef Alain Ducasse on his visit. I still love the fragrances of Chinese celery and kaffir lime leaves, and the crunch of water chestnuts - together with the celery - was quite a nice contrast to the crab, scallop, and orange. Of course, the dish worked best when one ladles the Huadiao sauce over the stuffing.
Chinese grilled pork chop with soybean (西班牙黑毛豬叉燒)
- this has certainly become one of my favorite versions of char siu (叉燒)
. The pork itself was very, very tender and flavorful - one could really taste the flavors of the pork itself. The special paste in which it was marinated - consisting of aged mandarin peel, black beans, and Chinese black olives - made this a truly special dish.
Slow-cooked chicken wrapped pigeon with Shaoxing wine (狀元紅燉鳳吞雞)
- lots of flavors in the soup thanks to the large variety of herbs used, but having flavors doesn't necessarily mean lots of salt. Delicious.
Yes, there's a pigeon stuffed inside the chicken. The heads of both birds were taken by someone who is really into them, and I thought I spotted two round balls... but they turned out to be pigeon eggs.
Steamed fresh flowery crab with aged Shaoxing wine served with rice noodle (香醉紅蟳)
- well, we've got a couple of crab queens around tonight, so once again I was very restrained in terms of getting myself some crab. There's never a time when this dish didn't deliver. Just beautiful. And the noodles which have soaked up the delicious sauce made with 25-year-old Huadiao.
Slow-cooked meat ball in chicken soup (葵花斬肉)
- another dish that impressed Monsieur Ducasse. This was a really, really tender meatball... with an amazing texture that reminds me of a very soft cuttlefish ball. Delicious.
Baked chicken pickled with sea salt (海鹽焗雞)
- the chicken was buried under the salted meringue
The final presentation came with a ton of chopped spring onions and a good drizzle of oil. Very, very fragrant. Loved this chicken and its giblets. For fans of chicken ass, however, they were dismayed to discover that their treasured parts had been discarded by the kitchen...
Vegetable scalded in fish soup (魚湯浸時蔬)
- FAIL. The ginkgo nuts were very, very bitter, and actually imparted its bitter flavors onto the loofah. None of us touched the veg after the first couple of bites.
Prawn roe stirred noodle with prawn and shallot essence oil (蝦子蝦油蔥油撈麵)
- I loved the noodles that came with plenty of spring onion and spring onion oil, but there were complaints around the table regarding the meager quantity of shrimp roe. I was still happily lapping it up, though.
Blended jujube coconut juice pudding (椰汁棗茸糕)
- complaints around the table about this one, too... as it was served lukewarm. This meant that the rich jujube flavors normally coming out were a little muted.
25-year-old Huadiao wine (花雕酒)
- this was pretty good as usual, with a single jujube inside.
We were pretty weak in terms of alcohol tonight, with the 6 of us only managing to polish off two bottles...
2009 Doisy-Daëne Sec
- toasty, flinty, with some green apple.
Azumaichi Junmai Daiginjo Shizukushibori (東一 純米大吟醸 雫搾り)
- seimaibuai (精米歩合)
of 39%. Very sweet on the nose, very floral and fragrant with fermented rice notes. Initially served very cold, so it was light on the attack at first, then gradually built up after warming a little. Later on slightly sweet on the attack then turns dry.
The evening would have turned out fine except for the table next to us. When I first arrived, I raised an eyebrow at the sight of some of the characters... and things only got worse when the table filled up. I don't expect big tables to stay quiet, but these guys were waaaaay over the line. They acted like they were in the privacy of their own home and no one else was around. What's worse is that towards the end, these guys started smoking. That's just fucking ridiculous. A real bunch of assholes, even worse than these guys
So... the last few weeks have seen a few "battles" from The Great Pizza Bake Off - where a few chefs and food writers pair up and pitch their special pizza recipes against each other. The actually cooking is then done by the team at Mercato, and diners "vote" for them by ordering the one which appeals to them the most.
Bacon jam pizza : bacon jam, farm egg, wild mushrooms
And now it was Da Jam's turn as he goes up against Chef Butterfingers
Satoru Mukogawa, who was filmed dropping half his pizza while presenting it at the restaurant on Monday. I wasn't able to join the publicity festivities on Monday, so I decided to rope in Fergie and try it out for lunch today.
Of course the two of us would order both pizzas and decide for ourselves which one tasted better. We know both of the creators behind the pies, so there should be no favoritism here...
- BUT OF COURSE it has jam on it!!! This recipe is from a guy named DA JAM, after all...
So we've got a farm egg in the middle with semi-runny yolk, a bunch of mushrooms, chunks of Italian sausage, a little basil, and of course Da Jam's famous bacon jam. As Fergie remarked, Da Jam has very smartly put together a collection of ingredients which have been proven to work well together. A very familiar and comforting combination of flavors, and really tough not to like this.
Mentaiko seafood pizza: seafood, nori dried seaweed, mentaiko chili cod roe
- shaaaaaa!!!! No surprise that this came from a Japanese chef...
Underneath the thin shreds of nori (海苔)
, we've got chunks of squid, octopus, as well as mentaiko (明太子)
sauce on the pizza dough. Very tasty, and I liked the spicy kick from the mentaiko
. But I also tasted a little hint of bitterness on the finish.
In the end, both Fergie and I had to give Da Jam a slight edge. Chef Butterfingers' pizza simply got a little too soggy from the mentaiko
sauce, and we'll come straight out and say that we really, really liked the bacon jam.
I was too full from the delicious pizzas to have room for dessert, but someone else clearly wanted something sweet badly enough...