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A chronicle of all things fun - eating, drinking, traveling... plus the occasional ranting

older | 1 | .... | 51 | 52 | (Page 53) | 54 | 55 | .... | 58 | newer

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    Ever since I first met Chef Ricardo Chaneton, I've always been curious about Mirazur.  And as the restaurant continued its meteoric rise up The World's 50 Best Restaurants, that curiosity got stronger.  Of course nobody I know believes that Restaurant ABC is actually the #8 restaurant in the world... but the fact that a restaurant is popular enough to get the votes required to be among the top means that they are probably doing something right.

    So when it came time to plan the French leg of our trip, I asked Ricardo to help book me a table at Mirazur.  I was going to visit my friends who live in the south of France, and I would take them out to a nice dinner.  They picked Hello Kitty and I up in Nice - with our big suitcases in tow - and drove us to the restaurant situated just over 100m from the border with Italy.

    The four of us arrived very early before the restaurant even opened, and we were invited inside to wait while they finished prepping.  However, I experienced a few minutes of panic when I was informed that they couldn't find our reservation...  It seemed just a little embarrasing to have told your friends that you're taking them to dinner, come all this way, and then be told by the restaurant they have no idea who you are...

    Fortunately it was all a misunderstanding, and they did have a table reserved for us.  Meanwhile we were offered a glass of Champagne while we waited for Chef Mauro Colagreco to come greet us.  I chose to start with Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé as it always goes down very well.

    Mauro came to give us a tour of the restaurant's gardens, which are split into two parts.  First we got a look at the citrus trees and herbs that are grown right next to and below the restaurant, including a very tall avocado tree which made my friends very jealous.  There are, of course, the lemons that Menton is famous for...


    We were then led to the larger part of the gardens, with most of the vegetables along with the chickens as well as the beehives.  Mauro spoke to us about creating biodiversity through permaculture, and it's taken them 4 years to get to the stage they're at.

    I loved seeing everything that they were working on, and was happy to meet Mauro's young son.  My sole regret was not asking Mauro for permission to fly my drone over the gardens...

    It was finally time to taste Mauro's cuisine for ourselves, and we were seated at a window-side table, where I had a great view of the border police building along with the service station while the ladies enjoyed the ocean view.

    The appetizers came in quick succession:

    Parmesan crust, double cream, and garlic flowers - very cheesy and definitely tasted of Parmesan.

    Salsify, guanciale, pollen - the guanciale was sooo good, especially with pollen on top to add the floral fragrance and a little sweetness.

    Smoked Mozzarella ball - the smoked mozzarella was inside the black salt ball.

    Barbajuan - herb ravioli filled with Taggiasca olive, with anchovy and Menton lemon on top.  The olive filling was very savory.

    Radish with salmon roe - I love salmon roe. 'Nuff said.

    Bread

    Oyster Gillardeau, shallot cream, declination of William's pear, watercress, bourage flowers - Mauro believes that the oyster is a little salty and wants to balance it with some sweetness and acidity, hence pear is added to the mix.  The Gillardeau oyster was beautiful, with good minerality, a hint of brine, but overall still on the sweet side.  Crunchy texture.  So pure and clean.  The tapioca pearls were a little powdery inside, which was a shame.  The shallot and onion cream was savory as well as acidic.  A very good start.

    Green bean salad, cherries, pistachios - with zucchini ribbons, wild arugula, red onion, olives, cherries, pistachio, and pistachio oil.  All the flavors get more intense and pure when the produce comes from the garden within walking distance.

    Curcubit - actually the dish is called cucurbitaceae, named after the family of plants.  There's melon, watermelon, cucumber, hemispheres of agar agar, along with herbs and melon juice.  I loved this dish.  I love all these fruits as they're pure joy in the summer, and so refreshing. 

    Sea "tourteau", apricot rosette, osmanthus cream - we were first told that the rosette was made of peach, but they turned out to be slices of apricots.  In the middle was a pile of shredded King crab meat, with some green lemon gelée and lemon confit which were so acidic that made me wince...

    Hello Kitty had requested not to have beetroot, so she was presented with a basket of different eggs from the chickens we saw earlier, and chose the egg from a Russian breed.  Stuffed with caviar, meadowsweet, and amaranth. 

    Salt crusted beetroot from our garden, osciètre caviar cream - as for me... I wanted to see whether the beetroot from the garden would taste good, so I chose not to have a substitute dish.  The white beetroot was covered in salt crust before being oven-baked for 2-3 hours.  This wasn't bad at all... and I guess reminded me of kohlrabi.  Worked very well with the salty caviar and the rich cream by providing some balance.

    Caesar's mushroom tarte, Grana Padano aged 36 months - the ovoli were harvested around the border between France and Italy, and were certainly more tasty than the ones I've had in Hong Kong.

    Shellfish, Provencal pesto - squid, mussels, clams with haricots verts, basil, pesto, cucumber (I thought it was zucchini?).  So delicious... especially the very tender squid.  And the basil!  The fragrance and flavors were just so intense!

    Turbot, celeriac mousseline and smoked shellfish sauce -with sorrel for acidity and dandelion from the garden.  The turbot was very tender, and the foamy sauce was certainly smoky.  My English friend - who jokingly asked for some frites to go with his fish - was suitably impressed.

    Bordighera squid, bagna cauda sauce - the squid came as thick "spaghetti" but they were very tender.  Very nice acidity from the bagna cauda.  Garnished with some artichoke chips and black rice crackers.

    2006 Rayas Blanc - drinking beautifully, with a little acetone, very ripe on the palate, and sweet nose.

    Pigeon from Marie Le Guen, wild strawberries, spelt, yarrow - what a beautiful pigeon!  Just look at the doneness and the color!  Exactly what I wanted.  The fraises des bois brought some acidity, and the rice (I thought the menu says spelt?) fried with Grana Padana was interesting.

    2003 La Nerthe Cuvée des Cadettes - nose was beautifully floral, with sweet fruit, mint, eucalyptus, jammy, exotic spices, cedar, and almost anise.  Wow!

    Raspberry crystals, peach with roasted vervain - raspberries, poached peach, with a broth made of peach skin and verbena, topped with a disc of frozen raspberry juice and garnished with verbena.  The verbena fused with the raspberries so beautifully.  So refreshing.

    Goat milk ice cream, raspberry, vervain - this worked very nicely together, too.

    Naranjo en flor, Sospel's St Joseph saffron, almond foam and orange sorbet - named after an Argentinian tango.  Chunks of orange along with orange sorbet, which was a good mix of fruitiness and acidity with the creaminess of the saffron cream and almond foam.

    Basil tart

    Raspberry pâté de fruit

    Cherries 

    This was a fantastic dinner. One could really taste how fresh the produce was - especially the ones coming from the gardens. While I could not say it was my favorite meal on our trip, the cooking was nevertheless at a very high level.  And as Hello Kitty rightly pointed out, at this level you're really trying to distinguish "between 98, 96, or 94 points".  This is certainly one of the top restaurants in the world, and I'm very, very glad I made the trip here.  I am, of course, also grateful for the warm hospitality from Mauro and the team.  And many thanks to Ricardo for the introduction.

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    After a late arrival at my friends' house that they are still renovating - and falling asleep in the car - we managed to sleep in due to sheer fatigue despite the absence of any curtains in the room.  And we finally got our first glimpse of Moses, our friends' 110-kg (the last time he stepped on a scale) English Mastiff.  Hello Kitty was very, very happy...

    After a late breakfast with goodies from the local boulangerie, along with the lemon cake from Mirazur, we set off for the Principality of Monaco so that Hello Kitty and I could play tourist.

    We dropped by Quai des Artistes with waterfront views of Port Hercule.  It was a beautiful day out and we wanted to be outdoors while in the shade, so this place was just about perfect.

    My friend ordered himself an Aperol spritz, and I decided to do the same.  This seems to be a popular drink nowadays so I thought I'd give it a try.

    While I had thought about ordering the local Perles de Monaco oysters, my eyes lit up when I saw a certain item on the menu.  With apologies in advance to my friends, I jumped at the chance to have this favorite dish...

    L'andouillette artisanale label AAAAA grillée - served with a minimal of greens and a big slice of pan-fried ham.  This was delicious.  And stinky.

    2017 Pascal Renaud Pouilly-Fuissé - flinty, tropical stone fruit, bright and refreshing.

    After lunch we continued our sightseeing.  As soon as we got out of the parking lot, we were on Boulevard Albert 1er (which, by the way, Google Maps navigation pronounces "ONE-er"...) and passed by the starting grid for the Monaco Grand Prix.  I only watch Formula One occasionally, but it was still a little surreal for us to be driving past the P1 box...

    One cannot come to Monte Carlo without checking out Casino de Monte-Carlo.  Other than a Ferrari 458 Speciale, the cars parked in front were a little disappointing...


    I was a little apprehensive since we were wearing shorts, but the bouncers didn't bat an eyelid.  I guess there were tons of tourists like ourselves who were going in to have a look. And Hello Kitty decided to take out her Insta360 camera to get a shot of us.  That was kinda fun.

    We went to Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo right next door, where they were renovating the space for Alain Ducasse's mothership Louis XV.

    We parked ourselves in Bar Americain for a drink.  True to form I chose a girlie drink... without any alcohol... but at least this one won the 1er Prix Concours Cocktail de l'été 2018...  Silencio was made with pineapple juice, passion fruit juice, lime juice, and kaffir lime syrup.

    We retired back to our friends' house and watched the sunset from their terrace, with Antibes and Nice on the horizon. My friend prepared a casual and light dinner, which we washed down with a few bottles of wine...

    2017 de Berne Grande Recolte Blanc - tropical stone fruit, light-bodied nice summer white.

    2016 Léo de la Gaffelière - ripe and sweet.

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    Another beautiful day in the south of France, and it was time to explore a few places closer to where my friends live.  Our first stop was Musée Molinard, where we got a guided tour on the processes used by the perfumeries in France's perfume capital.  It's amazing to find out the amount of flowers needed to distill the essence required to manufacture perfume.  Unfortunately we did not have time to go through a few hours of putting together our customized scents, but I'm OK with that.

    We didn't find the products at Molinard interesting, so we ended up hitting the the shop at Fragonard.  These guys are much better at packaging their products, and there was a constant stream of tourists coming in.  We ended up buying a bunch of soaps to bring home.

    Our last stop this morning was at Champagne Senez to pick up some bubbly for tonight's World Cup match Madame offered us a glass of Cristian Senez Carte Verte while we chatted and decided about what to buy.

    After going back to pick up the rest of the gang, we set off for Saint-Paul de Vence for lunch at an institution.  La Colombe d'Or is an auberge which began life as a cafe.  Its claim to fame isn't the amazing food that they serve - although they do a half-decent job of cooking.


    Its real claim to fame is their collection of artwork, which are on display just about everywhere.  Many of these were payment-in-kind by the artists themselves for room and board. Where else can you just casually walk up to a room full of paintings by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, and Miro like that??

    But we were here for lunch, and so we sat in the middle of the outdoor courtyard underneath the shade.  My first order of business?  Having a kir royale.

    We ordered the signature les hors d'oeuvre Colombe d'Or avec sa charcuterie, which turned out to be a huge spread with a basket of vegetables on the side containing cucumber, breakfast radishes, celery, artichoke, fennel... etc.

    I took a bit of most of the little dishes and laid them out on my plate.  These included anchovies, pickled herring, lentils with celery and carrots, chickpeas, saffron rice, grilled sardines, celeriac with mayo, red cabbage, marinated peppers and mushrooms, two types of saucisson, boudin noir, caramelized shallots which were amazingly sweet, and anchoïade.

    There was also tomates farcies.

    Turbot maraîchère - while turbot is a premium fish in this part of the world, it is unfortunately often bland... especially. when it's served with a cream sauce without much seasoning.  This was OK... and I did not finish the fish.

    We shared two bottles of wine between the 5 of us.

    2011 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Réserve - really floral nose, totally ripe and sweet on the palate.

    2013 Pibarnon Rouge - minty, forest, kinda ripe fruit.

    We were offered a shot of grappa to finish our meal.

    We were pretty full, and took the opportunity to walk up the slope and explore the art galleries nearby.  A pity that we did not stop at Fondation Maeght nearby...

    We stopped by a local cheese shop on the way home so that we could pick up some goodies for dinner tonight.   We would be eating at home while watching the France vs. Belgium semi-final match for the World Cup... and the Brie with ceps turned out to be a great buy.

    2011 Cristian Senez Rosé Saignée, en magnum - not very impressed...  Very far from the type of saignée I would normally buy.

    France won the match against Belgium.  Hello Kitty and I got very excited, because we knew that we would be in Paris on the day of the World Cup Final, when France is playing.  That would be totally awesome!

    I stayed up late chatting with our hostess, all the while trying to give Moses as good of a belly rub as he has been getting from Hello Kitty.  I don't think I succeeded, but that didn't stop Moses from demanding that I continue to rub him every time I stopped...

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    After bidding farewell to our hostess and Moses, our host dropped us off at Nice Airport - where we once again put our luggage in storage.  We then took the bus and headed into town for some last-minute exploration.  In all honesty, we really didn't see much of Nice on the day we arrived...

    When we got off the bus at Jardin Albert 1er, we crossed the street to the promenade next to the beach for a look.  I was in utter shock.  I had imagined pretty, white sand beaches on the Côte d'Azur... but I saw nothing but pebbles and gravel on the beach.  I'd probably have to lay down 2 layers of towels so that the corners of those stones don't puncture a hole in my ass.  Coming from Asia where we have plenty of beautiful beaches... this was certainly a big disappointment.

    We needed to grab some breakfast and coffee, so we stopped by Chez Maître Pierre.  I couldn't resist grabbing a palmier that was literally bigger than my face... and with plenty of sugar, too!

    After a not-so-quick stop to acquire boîte orange numero 1, we went back to the airport, retrieved our luggage, and flew back to Orly Airport for our second leg in Paris.

    We picked another apartment via AirBnB, this time just off Avenue de la Grand-Armée and a few minutes' walk to the Argentine Metro stop.  This, too, would turn out to be a great location for us.

    It was almost 4pm now and we haven't really had lunch, so I decided to do the only sensible thing - hit a McDonald's. There is an outlet right next to Porte Maillot, which isn't too long of a walk.  I always check out McDonald's in different countries to see what local specialties they offer.

    So I took the blue cheese and bacon burger from the Signature by McDonald's range.  Even without the Charolais beef, that's still kinda French, right?  Well... I think the staff forgot to put some caramelized onions or shallots in my burger, and without them, the thing was just too dry.

    With a few hours to kill before dinner, it was time to check out the sights in this part of town.  The Arc de Triomphe was the obvious choice as we could just walk over there.  Not surprisingly, the line to get to the top was a little too long, so we just had a look around from the base.

    We continued to walk along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, passing by the all-glass Publicis Drugstore before making a detour down Avenue George V.  But there was only one place that I wanted to visit here...

    86 Champs is the new outlet opened by L'Occitane in conjunction with Pierre Hermé.  Besides selling L'Occitane products and Pierre Hermé macarons and chocolates, there are three separate dining areas located at the back of the store, right in front of the store, and on the promenade.  The shop offered 3 types of hand cream created especially for this location, and also 3 new flavors of macarons inspired by L'Occitane and, of course, exclusive to this location.  Of course we bought those...

    They weren't selling Miss Gla'Gla here, but they did have other ice creams and soft serves.  So I got myself a Ispahan cone...

    We went back to freshen up and change for our dinner appointment.  I had long heard friends rave about Passage53, and the restaurant has gotten themselves 2 macarons to boot, so it was high time for me to see what all the fuss is about...

    ...if I could only find it!  It's in a little shopping mall called Passage des Panoramas, and 53 is the shop number.  But there was no sign at the door announcing the name, and if you missed the Relaix and Châteaux sign at the bottom of the window - which could happen if one is looking up in search of the shop number - then it may take a couple of trips back and forth before one realizes the actual location.

    There isn't a menu here as the diners give carte blanche to the chef.  In fact we never saw a menu from start to finish.

    We started with an aperitif...

    Deutz Rosé

    Corn cappuccino - the scent was very roasted, like coffee, but the toastiness wasn't evident at all on the palate.  Pretty viscous texture, with sweet, concentrated flavors. 

    Foie gras with cherries and rhubarb gelée - the foie had a hint of bitterness, but it was nicely neutralized by the acidity from the rhubarb.

    Langoustine with tomato gelée, tomato and basil granité - like so many chilled tomato dishes this season, this tasted of the purity of summer.  Wonderful.

    Veal and oyster with seaweed gelée - the veal tartare had great texture but frankly not much flavor, as it was overpowered by the other ingredients like oyster and seaweed gelée... which delivered good umami as well as flavors of the ocean.

    Calamari with tomato sauce, clam juice, and burnt aubergine purée - the grilled calamari was certainly very tasty, as was the tomato.  The burnt aubergine was indeed smoky, and worked well with the rest of the ingredients.

    Turbot with Imperial caviar from Sologne, littleneck clams - I still find turbot to be a boring fish in terms of flavor, but at least the texture was nice.  Topped with Sologne caviar from La Maison Nordique.  I really liked the addition of haricots verts, broad beans, cucumber, and perilla leaves on the side.

    Homard bleu, fromage blanc, horseradish, apricot purée - served with a honey and Sherry sauce.  This was OK.

    8-year old Galician beef dry-aged for 3 months, Cecina de Leon, Sherry vinegar - I was a little flabbergasted when I kept asking for the breed of the cattle, and the only I got was that the beef came from Galicia.  I'll assume it was Rubia Galega, then...

    Not surprisingly this was very, very tasty... with a nice little charring on the sides.

    Honey and lemon declination: ice cream, yogurt, gelée - with layers of puff pastry at the bottom.  Nice acidity.

    Red shiso, rhubarb, cherries, panna cotta - the shiso (紫蘇) flavors were very nice, coming from both the leaves as well as the gelée on top.

    Panna cotta and cherries at the bottom.

    Panna cotta with melon and verbena ice cream - with fresh almonds. I love melons in the summer, and together with the verbana ice cream this was really refreshing.

    Madagascar vanilla ice cream, eucalyptus, and honey

    Madeleines

    I suffered from sticker shock when I flipped through the wine list here... as some of the wines I had drunk in Belgium last week are now priced about double. Thankfully I was able to find something a little more reasonable...

    Jacques Selosse Le Bout du Clos, dégorgée 13 Mars 2013 - the nose was surprisingly floral, with vanilla, Chinese licorice root, and caramelized notes.  Really lovely and fragrant, toasty with marmalade notes.  Good depth on the palate.

    This was a very, very good meal. Absolutely no fails tonight either in terms of execution or flavor combinations.  With a Japanese chef in the kitchen - another Sato-san who is friends with Sato-san from Ta Vie 旅 - I could see the flavors being lighter... as the use of heavy cream was basically non-existent.  I loved that so many of the dishes came chilled and involved fruits and vegetables with natural acidity, and the result was that one's palate was never overwhelmed in this scorching weather.  This was exactly what I needed tonight.

    I was pretty full from dinner and wanted to walk a little, so I dragged Hello Kitty to take a look at Opéra Garnier at night.

    We also walked over to Place Vendôme to take in the atmosphere of the square before calling it a night.

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    There's an outlet of Eric Kayser just around the corner from the apartment we are staying in, so naturally this became our go-to place for coffee and viennoiserie in the morning.  It won't be the best in Paris, but it's good enough to keep us happy.
    This morning, though, I had something else to sample: the Pierre Hermé x L'Occitanemacarons I bought from 68 Champs yesterday.

    Pamplemousse and rhubarbe - fruity, but dominated by cloves.

    Jasmin, néroli, immortelle - could clearly taste the jasmine, but overall it tastes like L'Occitane hand cream... so I guess that would be the immortelle.

    Miel, immortelle and mandarine - much more orange, very sweet.

    Afterwards we put on our Sunday best and headed out to Musée de l'Orangerie.  I wanted to bring Hello Kitty here to see Monet's giant paintings of Les Nymphéas.  These are works that one needs to behold with one's own eyes in order to really get the full impact.


    Once again the Insta360 ONE comes out and we try to capture the experience.

    We leave Jardin des Tuileries via the exit facing Place de la Concorde, and I am approached by a group of dark-skinned girls each holding a clipboard, ostensibly asking for my signature on a petition regarding Syrian refugees.  I had seen other women doing the same a few days ago, and I smile but gesture my refusal.

    But they don't go away, and soon I was surrounded by about 6 of them, and at least one started to tug at the sleeve of my jacket.  Alarms go off in my head, and my senses begin to sharpen to see whether any one of them reaches for my pockets or tries to open my messenger bag.

    That's when I saw THE Hello Kitty for the second time in my life.

    Sensing that I would be unable to fight off the girls on my own, she screamed "GET AWAY!!!!" at the top of her lungs.  At this point a lady who had been selling souvenirs at a stand nearby came out and yelled at the girls, and the girls reluctantly withdrew... with smiles on their faces and not a hint of shame or remorse.

    From then on, Hello Kitty would remind me to walk around Paris holding the selfie-stick for Insta360 - which is like a lighter version of a monopod, and could be extended and used as a weapon.

    Soon we found ourselves in the safety of Le Meurice, and sat down in the grand dining room for lunch.  We didn't want a big lunch today, so we dispensed with the menu and just ordered à la carte.

    2004 Pommery Cuvée Louise - nicely integrated together.  Mature and softer on the palate.

    Crispy bread with sorrel, goat cheese, and honey - initially the flavors were slightly strange and unpleasant, with pronounced acidity and fermented flavors.  I got used to those flavors eventually...

    The bread came on a trolley, and was sliced to order.

    Vegetables steamed with Himalayan rock salt, black olive and Parmesan dip

    Spider crab, tomatoes/almonds, gold caviar - Hello Kitty's choice.  This dish came in three separate parts.  First was crab meat with fresh almonds, tomato, shellfish foam, topped with caviar.

    This was a little salty from the caviar.

    Then we have crab legs with tomato and fresh almonds.

    Ravioli with shellfish bouillon.

    Each of the three parts of the dish was delicious. Hello Kitty was very, very happy with her choice.


    Langoustines from Scotland, fennel/lemon - nice to have the shredded fennel for my veg intake, and the lemon paste was a surprise.  But overall... ho-hum.

    These crispy things were a lot like deep-fried wonton (雲吞) skins we see in Cantonese cuisine, and they were attached to the tops of the langoustines.

    'Ikejime' line-caught sea bass on the scale, green peas and rhubarb - the sea bass was pan-fried with the scales on, so it was pretty crispy on that side.  Plenty of cucumbers, rhubarb, peas, and pea tendrils.  The mousseline on the side was tarama, and this was made with the head of the sea bass.

    Honestly... I found this dish boring like I did the last dish.  It didn't fail, nor was it poorly executed.  I just didn't think the flavors were that interesting.  Just no magic here... at all.


    Silk grain veal, smoked eel - this was basically a hunk of côte de bœuf, which our waiter took time to slice up in front of us on the trolley.  Served with smoked eel and steamed vegetables.

    Hello Kitty had asked for the veal to be done 'rare', although I was tempted to say 'bleu' as I always do when ordering beef in France.  Well... what we got was not rare at all.  OK, maybe the middle 20% was still pink and rare, but the rest of it was definitely overcooked.  In fact it was so overcooked that the texture had turned chewy and grainy.  And no, the grain did not feel "silky" as stated on the carte.

    We asked our waiter whether this was, in fact, 'rare'.  And he very confidently told us that, yes, it was certainly rare.  He did not bother to ask us whether we were unhappy with the doneness.  And he certainly did not offer to have the kitchen send us a new piece of veal.  He just assumed that we should take his word for it.

    I looked around the dining room, and noticed that of the 10 front-of-house staff, all were white men.  And at this point I'm getting kinda pissed off, and I feel that the waiter's attitude was that us Asian tourists carrying cameras just don't know any better.  But we chose not to make a fuss, and didn't bother sending the dish back.  Both dishes I had ordered for myself were uninspired, and I didn't see the point of having the kitchen cook a new dish.

    You wanna see a piece of beef that was cooked rare?  This one from last night was just about perfect.

    When the waiter came to take our unfinished plates away, he didn't bother asking us why we had left so much of our food untouched.  Three-quarters of the veal was still on the plate, and not a word from him.

    The staff came to prepare a dashi with lots of herbs, in the same way that one would prepare siphon coffee.

    We were then offered some cheese from the trolley, and I asked for very thin slices of Beaufort, Ossal Iraty, and Cantal.

    An Asian female pâtissière comes out pushing an ice cream trolley, and offers us a pre-dessert of lemon sorbet, lemon espuma, lemon granité, and lemon zest.  W-T-F.  I know it's made from lemon and I should expect some acidity, but the espuma was so fucking sour that I was wincing uncontrollably.  I don't remember having tasted anything so sour... and this put Sour Patch Kids to shame.

    Refreshed melon, redcurrant, verbena - the melon sorbet in the center was very smooth and sweet.  The melon granité provided a slightly different texture.  The groseilles provided the acidity to counterbalance the sweetness of the melon.  Garnished with thin, dehydrated wafers of melon as well as verbena.  Certainly my favorite dish from this meal.

    When I was choosing my restaurants for Paris, I knew I wanted to dine at an Alan Ducasse restaurant, and debated whether I should book the 3-star at Plaza Athénée or this one with "just" 2-stars.  As we had originally planned on staying in Le Meurice, I chose to have a meal here.  Unfortunately this turned out to be a huge disappointment.  When a restaurant has two Michelin stars, one would expect the meal to be more than just decent.  It is, after all, "worth a detour"... which this meal most certainly was not.  But the worst part was the service.  I certainly did not expect this poor level of service from a restaurant in such a legendary hotel, and certainly did not expect it from one of Monsieur Ducasse's restaurants.

    We left with bitter tastes in our mouths, and the only solution to take the edge off was to go shopping at the boutiques nearby...

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    The afternoon's shopping session brought Hello Kitty some much-needed happiness after a disappointing lunch. After retiring to the apartment to freshen up, we crossed the river for dinner at Neige d'Été.  Like Passage53 last night, and indeed a number of dining establishments we are visiting this trip, it was not immediately apparent that we had come upon the right place.

    There is only one menu, and one has the option of adding caviar or truffle with certain dishes as a supplement.

    Deep-fried squid and octopus

    Potato foam and watermelon soup - with little bits of watermelon and what seemed to be celery, and a purple chip on top.

    Tartare de veau, crème de haddock, pomme paille, avec Caviar Kristal - I chose to add the caviar supplement, but not sure it was necessary.  The veal tartare came with anchovies, girolles, crispy strands of potato, haricots verts, fava beans, peas, basil, and tomatoes.  The girolles were chilled and smoky.  The haddock cream underneath the caviar was also smoky.

    The one thing that annoyed me about this dish was that we were not given spoons.  I found it a little difficult to pick up caviar with just a knife and fork.  Perhaps the chef could show me the tricks?

    Poulpe de Galice, ragoût d'encornet, harissa - the discs of Galician octopus tentacles came on a bed of harissa powder, with brunoise of pickled capsicum and red perilla leaves on top.  This was pretty nice, as there was just the right amount of acidity with the chewy octopus.

    The deep-fried vegetable chip came with diced octopus tentacles as well as a minced ragoût of squid that tasted like it came out of a can... with a little spice.

    Turbot poêlé, gnocchi, shungiku - the turbot was line-caught, had great texture to it, and for once I could taste the flavors of the fish itself.   The gnocchi came in a pool of shungiku (春菊) purée, with a few cubes of jamón and wafer-thin slices of cedrat, the Corsican citron.

    Ris de veau pané, tartare de bulot, fines herbes - with tartare of whelk underneath the julienned apples and greens, as well as veal jus and mussels gravy(?) on the side.

    The sweetbeads has been breaded and fried, and the texture was very, very good.  Springy and spongy.  Of course it tasty very creamy, too...

    Bœuf Normand grillé au charbon de bois japonais - served with grilled vegetables such as capsicum and beautiful eggplant, topped with finely diced pickled onions, with eggplant purée and beef jus on the side.

    The Normandy beef was grilled with Japanese binchotan (備長炭). Unlike the 2-star restaurant where we had our lunch today, this kitchen does know how to do beef right.  Just look at the color and doneness.  Just the right amount of caramelization on the outside while most of the center remained juicy and, in fact, quite bouncy.  Hello Kitty actually prefers this to the Galician beef we had last night.

    Cerise, thym-orange, espuma de yahourt - the granité of black cherries came with orange thyme, black cherries, and was covered in a layer of yogurt mousse.  Very delicious.  The thyme was a nice touch, and the cherries were very ripe.  The acidity in the yogurt foam worked well with the fruit.

    Nougat glacé revisité, miel au romarin - the orange cream and tuile surrounded a scoop of nougat ice cream.  Served with cardamom marshmallow which looked like a donut.  The cream came with lemon confit.

    The mignardises were raspberry macarons, passion fruit choux, and chocolate tart.

    The sugar for my coffee came in this cute little box.

    For wine tonight, once again I reached for a bottle of bubbly that proved to be the value play...

    1996 André Beaufort Ambonnay Brut, dégorgée en Avril 2016 - this has matured well, but still got some sharp acidity. Very full-bodied.  Took about 2 hours to get the toasty notes to come out.

    This was another really good meal at a Parisien restaurant helmed by a Japanese chef.  Actually, the entire kitchen seemed to be Japanese as only Japanese was spoken.  While I enjoyed my dinner at Passage53 more thanks to the flavor profile and the temperature, considering that this menu (without supplements) cost just under half of the one at Passage53, tonight would seem like a good bargain.

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    Today is museum day, and I've set aside the daylight hours for the Musée du Louvre.  It's been more than a decade and a half since my last visit, and it would be interesting to see what has changed over this period.

    I'm ever so grateful that I don't have to line up and buy a ticket for this place, so getting in was a breeze.  The place is still massive and a total maze, so we devised a game plan and figured out which sections we wanted to see.  Of course, we had to hit a few of the "must-see" works just like most of the tourists here... and these included Venus de Milo as well as La Victoire de Samothrace.

    @ '16 Sanrio
    Like everyone else we passed by the salon that housed La Joconde - which, by the way, had certainly been moved since the last time I was here.  It was funny just to see the crowd of people who were trying to get a closer look at it - and trying to snape a picture with the tiny cameras on their phones.  We didn't bother fighting the crowd.  We lamented at the hordes of people whose main goal was to check off a list while ignoring all the other countless treasures here.  Truth be told I'd rather look at the Gudetama Museum version...

    We didn't want to leave the museum for lunch, so we parked ourselves at Café Richelieu - which is run by Angelina nowadays.  I start with a slice of quiche Lorraine, which was pretty decent and came with some lettuce and vinaigrette.

    You can't come to Angelina and not have any chocolate, so I ordered up something they created specifically for this location - aptly named Richelieu.  The chocolate pyramid contained crunchy almond biscuit, dark chocolate cream, dark chocolate biscuit, milk chocolate and hazelnut mousse.


    Every time I'm in the Louvre, I must visit Room 801, which houses the 24 paintings of the Marie de Medici Cycle by Petrus Paulus Reubens.  I fell in love with the large format paintings in this room during my first visit to the Louvre, and I make it a point to come see them on each visit.  This time I've got the Insta360 ONE with me, which captures the grandeur of the series very nicely.

    We manage to get through most of the works we wanted to see, and even had time to check out the exhibition of Eugène Delacroix's works - including the iconic La Liberté guidant le peuple, which had been moved to become part of this special exhibition.

    After freshening up back at the apartment, it was time to across town for dinner.  This was one of my most-anticipated meals this trip, and it wasn't at a place with multiple Michelin stars.  We were going to Le Baratin.

    For many people who love food and know Paris, this place and the husband-and-wife team behind it need no introduction.  I have long wanted to come here and see for myself why my foodie friends - many chefs included - make it a point to stop here when they're in town.  Raquel Carena is practically legendary among certain circles.

    Pied de cochon en gelée aux herbes - I see the words "pied de cochon" and I'm sold.  The pig trotters have been finely diced and compressed into a terrine with a nice and chewy texture.  Much to my surprise, the terrine itself had minimal seasoning, and instead we were relying on the vinaigrette with finely diced raw red onions and gherkins.  Very, very happy to be eating this.

    Artichaut poivrade en ragoût au citron - this was more up Hello Kitty's alley, and of course had nice acidity.

    Moules en escabèche au vinaigre de Xérès - these were very nice, too.  The diced tomato and sherry vinegar delivered nice and refreshing acidity to liven up the palate.

    Galette de sardines, concombre à la crème - on top of the pastry bottom was some crème fraîche, cucumber, spinach, and of course the sardines.

    Epaule d'agneau de lait rôtie, epinards, grenaille - now THIS... THIS was good shit!  Milk-fed lamb shoulder, simply roasted.  Classic and delicious.  Nothing complicated at all about this, and sooo satisfying!  My happiness level shot up as soon as I saw this in front of me.  Browned and crispy skin, liquefied lamb fat.  Amazing how much happiness it brought me for EUR 24.

    Crème vanille madagascar, fraises des bois - I can't resist fraises des bois, so I had to get me some...  Sad that this came with so much cream that most of it was wasted.

    I know that this place is famous for their bongwater natural wines.  In fact, it's the MacDaddy of bongwater bars.  And the wine list is on the wall right by the entrance, with a few names that Foillard, Lassaigne, and Stephan that I recognized.

    But the wine snob in me found this list to be too "plain" (read: too cheap, without any "rare treasures").  So I approached the gentleman at the bar (no, not Philippe Pinoteau... he was hanging out on the street admiring his motorcycle) and asked whether they had something "better" than the Syrah from Stephan.  He promised to fetch me something.

    What came was, of course, more interesting and far more expensive than what's on the wine list, although I was secretly hoping for something even more interesting and rare.  Of course, I'm fully aware that unlike the table next to me, I'm not a regular customer.  I'm a nobody to this restaurant, so why should they offer me the gems from their cellar?

    2013 Jean-Michel Stephan Côte-Rôtie - beautiful!  Nice nose of black olives, violet, leather, and some eucalyptus.  Still tannic, and definitely drunk too warm for my taste. 

    Hello Kitty could tell from my face that I was a happy camper.  I was happy to have made it here for the delicious food, and we both enjoyed the bottle of bongwater.  I am now a fan, and I shall return for more goodies on future visits to the City of Lights.

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    I'm finally in Paris on Bastille Day!  I am very much looking forward to the festivities today, especially the fireworks tonight.

    We got ready to explore more touristy sites this morning, and just as we were coming out of our apartment not long before 10am, I saw a whole crowd of people standing in the middle of Avenue de la Grande-Armée.  They seemed to be waiting for something.

    A few seconds later I had my answer.  The noise of jets flying overhead reached my ears and I just managed to catch the Patrouille de France fly past us with their tri-colored smoke. I immediately took my camera out of my bag and started filming.

    When the fly-by was done, a third of the crowd dutifully piled into the Eric Kayser at the corner to get their breakfast, including the two of us...

    Having fueled up with caffeine and all, we went to hit the two main destinations for today - both on Île de la Cité.  First up was Sainte-Chapelle, my favorite church in the entire world.  We first had a look around the lower chapel, where the ceiling was painted with fleur de lys.

    But the real treasure is upstairs in the royal chapel. Those 15 large panes of stained-glass windows are simply amazing - with each pane telling different biblical stories.


    One can read about the windows or even look at pictures, but the real impact cannot be truly felt until one is standing in the chapel itself. It is, for the lack of a better description, simply AWESOME. Which is why it's perfect for a picture with our Insta360 ONE. Scrolling around and zooming in and out gives different perspectives, and as Hello Kitty said after taking this picture, being table to get this shot of the chapel alone is worth the price we paid for the camera.

    Our next destination was just a stone's throw away.  As impressive as the latter's architecture is, I've always preferred Sainte-Chapelle to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.   We go in for a look, and one thing that's new since my last visit is a reliquery for Saint Paul Chen, a martyr in China canonized in 2000.  I was pretty surprised to see this, and can't help wondering how much of the decision to have this on display here was to cater to the large amount of Chinese visitors coming through here.

    As we walk down rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame, the lyrics of the Cocteau Twins'Road, River, and Rail popped into my head... especially the line "...naked and caught on the Île de la Cité..."

    We cross onto Île Saint-Louis and eventually come to Berthillon.  Believe it or not, this was actually my first time visiting this Parisien institution - as it was closed for summer holidays during my first visit to Paris back in 1994, and somehow I've never found time for it since.

    courtesy of Hello Kitty
    I chose two flavors - agenaise (Armagnac and prune) and framboise à la rose.  Delicious and refreshing on a hot summer day.  I was a little disappointed, though, at the size of the scoops here...

    We cross the Pont de la Tournelle and I see La Tour d'Argent in front of me.  It's been more than 15 years since my last visit, and I do miss its classic dishes.  But this time I have other itches to scratch...

    We stop at Le Rousseau for lunch as it is just down the street from Le Bon Marché.  I order steak frites and asked for bleu.  The kitchen delivers.

    After getting our shopping done, we return to the apartment and freshen up for dinner. We booked ourselves an early dinner at Au Passage.  After our dinner last week, I couldn't get a certain magnum out of my head... so I was determined to go and drink it tonight.  And I didn't care that we'd have to travel to the other side of town and back.

    Œuf chou fleur amande œuf de truite - this was a great dish to kick off dinner.  I love cauliflower, and the cauliflower cream was particularly delicious.  Worked very well with eggs and the trout roe, as well as shaved fresh almonds.

    Ventrèche de thon grillé sauce cassis raifort oseille - what's not to like about tuna belly?  Served with sorrel, horseradish, and a blackcurrant sauce.

    Very tender and tasty.  And guilt-free, too, since I know that this can't possibly be blue fin.  Not for EUR 19.

    Tête de turbot grillé aïoli - I didn't think much when I saw this on the menu.  I ordered it because I didn't want to get another piece of turbot that I found bland.  But when this whole head showed up in front of me, my eyes nearby popped out.

    This... this was a thing of beauty.  I normally don't go ga-ga over fish heads, but this was something else.  While Hello Kitty took the bulk of the cheek - and she normally stays clear of fish heads - I attacked the collar.  Plenty of collagen everywhere, and so, soooo tasty.  Of course, it was even better with a little aïoli...  I gotta say that this was the best 10 Euros I spent on the entire trip.

    Cochon rhubarbe préservée tomate datterino aneth - we ordered this again because we liked it last week, but I didn't get to have any as I chose to focus on the fish head.

    So... the whole reason we came back here was for a magnum of wine.  This place has a surprising collection of wines from Jean-François Ganevat, and I had a very specific cuvée in mind...

    2015 Ganevat J'en Veux Encore, en magnum - pretty light on the palate, with smoky and leather notes on the nose.  Sadly served far too warm.

    We knew we wouldn't be able to finish the magnum, and were originally planning to take the rest of it back to the apartment.  But Hello Kitty suggested that we leave the rest of the wine for the staff, but ask to buy another magnum to take home.  The staff was more than happy to sell us more bottles, but sadly I were told that we had drunk the last magnum of this cuvée... so we ended up buying something else instead.

    We rushed back to the apartment to drop off the wines and to pick up my tripod, and hopped into a taxi to try to get to Champs de Mars for the fireworks.  Of course the whole of Paris was trying to do the same, and the taxi driver suggested that we try to get to Palais de Tokyo on foot instead.

    Not surprisingly the police had closed off the area around Palais de Tokyo, and we were stuck in a huge crowd of people with buildings and trees blocking our view.  I never got to use my tripod or even bothered to take my camera out of the bag.  I ended up getting a partial view of the fireworks, with an occasional glimpse at someone else's smartphone screen.  Hello Kitty fared even worse.  Naturally, she wasn't very happy with my poor planning and how things turned out.

    There were of course no taxis to take us back, so we ended up following the crowd and walked back to the Arc de Triomphe.   This being Bastille Day, I finally got the opportunity to see the Tricolore hung from the bottom of the Arc.

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    It's Sunday in Paris where many outlets are closed, including your neighborhood boulangeries.  Since we can't get our caffeine fix at Eric Kayser and we were reluctant to patronize a touristy café with tables on the sidewalk, we decided to grab breakfast at... McDo!

    Œuf McMuffin bacon et beef

    McMuffin jambon Emmental fondu

    We grabbed a taxi to visit Fondation Louis Vuitton, which is adjacent to the Jardin d'Acclimatation and not far from the apartment. It's an impressive structure designed by Frank Gehry, with terraces where one can relax while getting a view of the nearby parks and the skyscrapers in the distance.

    One of the more interesting pieces in the current exhibit, "In Tune with the World", was Untitled by Dan Flavin.


    Given this was Louis Vuitton, we weren't the least bit surprised to find Murakami Takashi (村上隆) represented here. Time to whip out the Insta360 ONE inside this particular room.

    I had a very particular place in mind for lunch today... not for their savory items but for a particular dessert.  So off to Le Royal Monceau we went, and we parked ourselves inside the outdoor courtyard of Le Bar Long.

    I wanted something simple, so I just took a Croque Madame which came with some frites. These were OK and I most certainly overpaid for what I got.

    Ispahan kakigori par Pierre Hermé - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR... My whole reason of being here.  On top of the shaved ice we've got rose syrup, raspberry coulis, a scoop of Ispahan sorbet encased in the middle, marinated lychees, fresh raspberries, and raspberry-flavored macaron biscuits.  Very, very refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day.

    Our celebrity sighting of the day, and indeed of the trip, was Chef Matsuhisa Nobuyuki (松久信幸) who happens to run Matsuhisa Paris within the hotel. He was dining at another table across the courtyard, and many of the hotel staff came to take their selfies with him.

    We rushed back to the apartment after lunch to change.  France was playing in the finals of the World Cup today, and of course I wore my navy blue T-shirt and shorts in support of Les Bleus.  Someone on FB had suggested that we go watch the live broadcast at Le Chalet XVI because the place had "big screens" and "usually very quiet". Not having had made any reservations elsewhere, I decided to drag Hello Kitty there.  And since we couldn't pick up a taxi, we walked a good 20 minutes or so on foot.

    Only to find that the restaurant was completely packed, and instead of a "big screen" as promised, there were several smaller screens.  So it's not difficult to imagine Hello Kitty's mood at this point, as we knew we would have to stand for the next two hours.  But the mood improved as soon as the first goal was scored against Croatia, and we were glad to have watched the World Cup Finals in a French bar surrounded by French football fans who were complete strangers to us.  That was certainly entertaining.

    We started to walk back to the apartment after France's victory when it dawned on me that we were pretty close to the Trocadéro. And since we still haven't gotten a decent look at the Tour Eiffel, I figured we should detour for a look on such a fine day. We found lots of people in a celebratory mood.


    The crowd was moving towards the Arc de Triomphe, so we simply walked with them.  The Place Charles de Gaule had been blocked off to vehicular traffic, and was now full of people.  We saw people waving flags, setting off firecrackers and colored smoke, singing, and dancing on top of bus stops.  The whole city was on fire, and it was amazing that we were in the middle of it.

    After taking a quick break at home, we decided to go get ourselves some dinner.  On a Sunday night.  On the day France won the World Cup.  We knew this would be incredibly challenging, so we called Hyatt Regency Etoile and asked about booking a table atWindo. Whoever was on the other end of the line told us not to worry and to just go over, so we walked westward along the Avenue de la Grande-Armée. People were still all over the streets, and we saw that a car has been overturned and smashed.

    We went up to the 34th floor, only to find that Windo was under renovation.  The person on the phone had said nothing.  So we went back to the lobby level and got a table at Mayo.  I could see that the place was severely short-staffed, and fully expected a long wait for food.  Very few other tables were getting their food, so we waited.  And waited.

    About an order after we placed our order, our waiter came over to inform us that one of the dishes we had ordered - and we only ordered two items - was unavailable.  He was very apologetic, and I knew it wasn't his fault, but this was fucking ridiculous.  The kitchen sent word ONE HOUR after we ordered that they couldn't give us what we wanted?!  We paid for our drinks and left.

    Given the lack of dining establishments which were open at 10pm on a Sunday night, McDo was completely packed.  I was resigned to the fact that our dinner would end up being the 2-day-old loaf of bread with figs that I'd bought from Eric Kayser, until I walked past Duret Mandarin (福臨門酒家) just around the block from the apartment.  We had walked past this Chinese restaurant for the past 5 days, but of course we weren't gonna eat Chinese food in Paris...

    Faced with the prospect of subsisting on semi-stale bread and water, I decided to stand outside the door of the restaurant - even though the sign indicated that they were closed.  I kept looking at the owners inside, and Hello Kitty would tell me that I had the "sad puppy" look.  Eventually the owners took pity on me, and came to ask me what I wanted.

    As the chef was knocking off, the owners asked whether we could settle for take-out instead of dining in.  We were only too happy to have some hot food tonight, and ordered 2 simple items which would have been quick to prepare.

    Crab meat fried rice - well, it's actually imitation crab meat with diced barbecued pork, but it didn't matter.  This was comfort food.

    Stir-fried vegetables - veg is always good, and comforting.

    This has been a helluva day. When I planned our trip, the only criterion was that we had to be in Paris on Bastille Day, and what we experienced today was totally expected, and as clichéd as it sounds - probably once in a lifetime. It's not something that I'll forget for the rest of my days.

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    It's our last day in Paris and we have a few errands to run.  After storing our luggage at Gare du Nord - which involved a 1½ hour taxi ride with our luggage as a result of Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées being completely blocked off and jammed - we crossed the river for a quick errand, before coming back to the 8ème. I was looking for an easy lunch spot that wasn't an obvious tourist trap around the Place de la Madeleine when Hello Kitty came upon Chez Nicolas, the wine bar above the wine shop.We got ourselves a table by the window overlooking L'église de la Madeleine, in the comfort of air conditioning. Lo and behold, they even have something that's totally up my alley!

    Andouillette Duval 5A, sauce moutarde poivre maison - I get to eat andouillette for my very last meal in Paris!  I would never have imagined that!  This was completely smothered in mustard sauce, which was really rich.  The fat fries on the side were pretty nice, but there was just waaay too much of it.

    Just look at all those layers of intestines stuffed inside the casing!  So stinky.  So good.

    I was very, very happy.  And shortly after, Hello Kitty also had her happy moment with the acquisition with boîte orange numerous deux.

    We had changed our departure schedule to a later train, and suddenly had a couple of extra hours to kill.  The staff at the station were not helpful at all regarding how to change our train tickets, so we ended up hanging out at the Burger King across the Gare du Nord...

    After arriving back at Gare de Bruxelles Midi, we are back at the Hilton Brussels Grande Place.  A shower and a quick change into respectable clothes, and we stroll down a few blocks to the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Brussels for dinner.

    We had missed an invitation earlier in the year to try Chef Yves Mattagne's cuisine at the Solaire Resort in Manila, so I decided that this should be our last formal meal of the trip.

    We were running a little late because of our schedule change, but the staff were nevertheless gracious and welcoming.  After 17 days' of dining out, I assumed that Hello Kitty would want to take it easy and choose the smaller set menu.  How wrong I was.

    I started with a glass of Ruinart Brut - a Champagne I have never found to be remarkable or interesting.

    Fried calamari / espuma with calamari ink / horseradish - pretty interesting, especially the combination of espuma with horseradish.

    Dauricus caviar, gambero rosso: white pearl / sour cream / dill / lime / Brussels waffle with seaweed - such a pretty dish!  The dauricus caviar came from China, of course, although the staff couldn't tell me the brand.  The little white pearls on top of the caviar were actually made of cucumber.

    Brussels waffle with seaweed - Hello Kitty was amused that the second waffle we had in Belgium also came in a restaurant with Michelin stars... although this was savory and made with seaweed.  We were meant to have it with the caviar and cream, but I think I was happier putting some of the seaweed butter (from Bordier, perhaps?) on it...

    Underneath the caviar was a mixture of sour cream, diced White Pearl oysters, Sicilian gambero rosso, crunchy raw onions, and shellfish gelée.  The oysters were nice and briny, and brought along flavors of the ocean.  The combination of gambero rosso with the gelée was amazing.

    When I first saw this dish my initial knee-jerk reaction was "Oh, another chef trying to impress me by putting Chinese caviar in front of me."  I was ever so happy to have been pleasantly surprised.  This was a beautiful dish, both in terms of presentation as well as flavors.

    Char : smoked / sea urchin / peas / chanterelle / spring onion / mint / basil - the char was not fully cooked and had a very soft and lovely texture.  The treatment of the skin was interesting, as it was partially peeled and rolled back... with a slightly springy and chewy texture.  Served with peas, pea emulsion, charred leek, basil, girolles, pearl onions with sea urchin foam, and charcoal olive oil.  This was very, very good.  It's an excellent dish that was so much more interesting than what I had at Le Meurice...

    Royal langoustine : baked on stone / saké / goose liver / duck consommé / Chinese cabbage / black fungi / wakame - our waiter told us these were "rocking langoustines" on "hard rock", which brought chuckles from both of us...


    The langoustine was placed on a hot stone and flambéed with a dash of sake. When I took it off the stone it certainly looked mi-cuit. Very, very tasty.

    Pan-fried goose foie gras and ravioli with Chinese cabbage, Chinese black mushrooms in duck consommé.  The foie was cooked perfectly.

    Brill : oyster maki / leek / ratte potatoes / romanesco / cockles / hazelnut butter mousseline - the brill had a flaky texture but was honestly a little bland.  The accompanying hazelnut butter mousseline, however, was fucking awesome.  The oyster was still mostly raw and came wrapped in nori (海苔)Pomme purée with wasabi. The cockles were delicious but unfortunately there was a little sand inside.

    Anjou pigeon : harissa / lemon / pastilla / humus / artichoke / Ras el Hanout juice - I have to be honest... I was very disappointed when the dish came, because I had so wanted this to be a big pigeon-stuffed pastilla.  But the pastilla was just a tube of filo with the pigeon leg inside.  Served with chickpeas, hummus, and a small pita with cheese inside.

    The beautiful piece of pigeon was certainly rosé and actually still oozed a little blood when pressure was placed on it while cutting. There was a pretty sweet brûlée on top with Ras al Hanout, along with diced mint leaves.  Although this wasn't what I was hoping for, it was nonetheless very delicious.

    Creamy blueberries : lemongrass and ginger perfume / mango / exotic fruit sorbet - the yogurt mousse definitely had ginger and what I thought was cardamom (lemongrass?) flavors, with blueberry filling inside and sitting on a chocolate cookie base.  There was a ball on the side made with hazelnut soy, as well as chunks of mango.  The sorbet was made with passion fruit and certainly pretty sour.

    Taïnori chocolate soup : vanilla espuma / coffee granita / Choco Pops - on the bed of chocolate mousse was the fluffy vanilla espuma in the middle, with a sphere of coffee granita, chocolate truffles with nut ganache, Choco Pops, and chocolate soil.  Pretty nice.

    And finally, some mignardises for us to finish...

    Madeleine with lemon zest

    Not sure what this was as I didn't taste it...

    Religieuse with red currant - a little savory.

    White chocolate truffle

    Macaron with ganache of salted caramel and vanilla.

    As we were inside a hotel in Brussels city center, the wine list didn't seem to offer as many bargains as the other places we visited in Belgium. I almost picked another bottle of my go-to white Burg, but the sommelier suggested I take the other bottle I was considering... and I'm certain that was a good call.

    2004 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste.-Hune - what a beautiful wine!  Big nose of petrol, white flowers, and polyurethane.  Good ripeness and a little round on the palate, with good acidity levels to boot.

    This was a most excellent dinner to cap off our long trip.  In fact, Hello Kitty said that this was her second-favorite meal of the entire trip, and that's quite something.  The cuisine here is certainly very refined, with lots of modern touches.  Thank you, Belgium and France, for delivering so many fond memories over the last 17 days.

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  • 07/16/18--20:28: Europe 2018: the final tally
  • It's been more than a decade since I took such a long holiday, and I figured it's worth looking back at some statistics:

    Total days in Europe: 18

    Number of countries visited: 4 (but mostly in Belgium and France)

    Number of cities/towns visited: 15

    Number of Michelin-star restaurants: 12

    Total number of Michelin stars: 23

    Number of visits to McDonald's: 2

    Number of Asian meals: 2

    Bottles of bongwater drunk: 4

    Brussels waffles consumed: 2, both at restaurants within Michelin stars.

    Hermès shops visited: 4 (in Brussels, Paris, and Nice)

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    Since early 2007, I have been wanting to gear my future travels towards visiting more locations which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are so many amazing places around the world to see!

    Here is the list that I have already visited so far. Click on the links to see pictures from my Picasa albums.

    Total count: 72 sites in 21 countries


    Australia
    Greater Blue Mountains Area - 1976
    Sydney Opera House - 1976

    Belgium
    The Architectural Works of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement - 2018
    Belfries of Belgium and France - 2018
    Historic Centre of Brugge - 2018
    La Grand-Place, Brussels - 2018
    Major Townhouses of the Architect Victor Horta - 2018
    Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex - 2018
    Stoclet House - 2018

    Cambodia 
    Angkor - 2001

    China 
    The Great Wall - 1997, 1999
    The Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang - 1997, 1999 (Beijing only)
    Mogao Caves - 1999
    Temple of Heaven - 1997, 1999
    Summer Palace - 1997
    Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties - 1997
    Historic Centre of Macao - 1990, 1995, 2005, 2010
    Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an - Tianshan Corridor - 1998, 1999
    South China Karst - 2000
    Xinjiang Tianshan - 1998
    Westlake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou - 1998

    France 
    Bordeaux, Port of the Moon - 2009
    Cathedral of Notre Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Remi and Palace of Tau, Reims - 2002, 2009
    Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars - 2002, 2009
    Climats, terroirs of Burgundy - 2010
    Historic Center of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge - 2011
    Historic Center of Lyons - 2011
    Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion - 2009
    Palace and Park of Versailles - 2009
    Paris, Banks of the Seine - 1994, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2018
    Roman Theater and its Surroundings and the "Triumphal Arch" of Orange - 2011

    India 
    Agra Fort - 2007
    Taj Mahal - 2007
    Fatehpur Sikri - 2007
    Humayun's Tomb, Dehli - 2007
    Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Dehli - 2007

    Indonesia 
    Borobudur Temple Compounds - 2005
    Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy - 1997
    Prambanan Temple Compounds - 2005

    Japan 
    Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration - 1983, 1985, 2002, 2004,
    Himeji-jo - 1998
    Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) - 1998, 2006
    Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara - 2006
    Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range - 2003
    Shrines and Temples of Nikko - 2007
    The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement - 2016

    Kazakhstan 
    Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi - 2008
    Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly - 2008
    Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an - Tianshan Corridor - 2008

    Korea
    Changdeokgung Palace Complex - 2008
    Jongmyo Shrine - 2017

    Malaysia
    Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straights of Malacca - 2003

    Oman 
    Ancient City of Qalhat - 2007
    Bahla Fort - 2007
    Falaj System of Irrigation - 2007

    Portugal 
    Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belen in Lisbon - 2006
    Historic Centre of Oporto - 2006
    Alto Douro Wine Region - 2006

    Singapore
    Singapore Botanical Gardens - 1974, 1975, 1976, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1999, 2004

    South Africa
    Cape Floral Region Protected Areas - 1995

    Spain 
    Works of Antonio Gaudi - 2006

    Switzerland
    Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces - 2008, 2011

    Thailand
    Historic City of Ayutthaya - 2008
    Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns - 2008

    United Kingdom
    Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church - 1976
    Tower of London - 1976, 2005

    United States
    Grand Canyon National Park - 2015
    San Antonio Missions - 1995
    Statue of Liberty - 1994, 2006
    Yosemite National Park - 2015

    Uzbekistan
    Itchan Kala - 2008
    Historic Center of Bukhara - 2008
    Historic Center of Shakhrisyabz - 2008
    Samarkand - Crossroads of Cultures - 2008

    This list will be continuously updated as my travels take me to more sites.

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  • 07/19/18--08:38: Jim's new playground
  • I rarely hang out with my professional peers socially, but one of my good friends invited me to join a networking dinner with people in similar positions at myself - people I normally only run into at conferences.  Since the dinner was gonna be at The Flying Elk, I agreed to join the gang even though I knew I might be tired after my long trip to Europe.

    I was ever so grateful that, for once, nobody asked me to do the ordering. Not even for the wine. I was happy to just go with the flow.

    Truffle popcorn, Västerboften cheese, dried mushroom - meh.  Kinda fun for the first couple of bites, but we all kinda lost interest quickly.

    Boneless chicken wings, Kvibille cheese, crispy parsley, clarified butter - these were a little more salty than I expected, with a dab of blue cheese on top.  Almost tasted like chorizo...

    Croquettes, shortrib, thyme, smoked chili emulsion - there was mushroom purée along with the very tender short ribs inside.  Served with smoked chipotle sauce.

    Gougères, Allerum cheddar, fennel seeds, chestnut honey - this came compliments of Jim.  A combination of sweet and salty thanks to having honey on the outside and cheese on the inside.

    House smoked Norwegian salmon, pink peppercorns, lemon smetana, trout roe, crispy cucumber - also compliments of Jim.  This was pretty nice.

    Tartar "lamb in dill", dill mayonnaise, "ättika vinegar", pickled root crops, crunchy onions - this was interesting because the pickles brought acidity and sweetness to the dish.

    Umami salad, duck confit, shiitake, smoked pecorino, crispy onions, umami dressing - this was kinda interesting, I guess... because I wouldn't exactly call it a salad...

    Halibut tartar and king crab, lime hollandaise, sour carrots, cayenne, coriander cress - nice and refreshing.

    "Rossini", roasted cod and foie gras, truffle jus, green beans and mie de pain - interesting to see a Rossini made with cod...  The piece of pan-fried foie on top was obviously sinful, but there was good acidity in the sauce to cut the richness.  The haricots verts were also pretty good.  Overall a very tasty dish.

    Baked hen's egg "63.4C", spinach, truffle, Gruyère, roasted chicken jus, petit pois and dried sourdough bread - pretty nice and satisfying, with diced cubes of Gruyère.

    Open sandwich, pork cheeks "24h", cabbage, truffle béchamel, wild mushroom, black pepper - what's not to love about tender pork cheeks, especially after braising for 24 hours?  Slap it together with some pickled red cabbage so that the acidity can help cut the richness, then shave some truffle on top with a Microplane.  Instant crowd-pleaser.

    Roasted scallop, scrambled egg, truffle, beurre noisette, crispy potato and smoked soy - always done very well by the Frantzén team, and it's easy to see the scallops were mi-cuit.  The combination of scrambled eggs and beurre noisette was pretty nice and comforting, and the crispy shredded potato on top always adds some very satisfying crunch to the whole mix.

    Baby chicken and lobster "pot-au-feu", baby chicken, lobster, consommé, tarragon and lobster soup - a signature dish here and their version of "surf-and-turf".  This came with carrots, turnips, fennel, and garnished with chervil.  Very tasty.


    The lobster soup was rich but at the same time came with plenty of acidity.

    Swedish punch - on the house before dessert, and very sweet indeed.


    "After Eight", mint and chocolate - once the mint ice cream and mint leaves are combined with the chocolate fondant, the flavors remind one of After Eight chocolate mints.


    Crème brûlée, Swedish coffee, Tahiti vanilla, toasted hazelnuts - pretty nice with all the hazelnuts on top.

    Swedish "syltkakor", vanilla and raspberry

    This was clearly a crowd in need of some alcohol, and we actually did OK... polishing off 5 bottles between the 9 of us.

    2015 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley - very fruity, very minty, really ripe and jammy, with metallic and iron notes.

    2012 Alejandro Fernández Tinto Pesquera Reserva - notes of black fruits.

    2015 Shaw and Smith Shiraz - very sweet and oaky, minty.

    2011 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc Beeswax Vineyard - pretty toasty, flinty, later getting pungent with sulfur.

    2015 Foillard Morgon "Côte du Puy" - really beautiful nose, with fragrant potpourri.

    We had a pretty good time tonight, and judging by the dishes we had, we probably went through more than 3/4 of the menu here.  Many thanks to Jim for sending us some extra goodies.

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  • 07/21/18--08:58: Bongwater with Gaggan
  • I had just paid my first visit to The Flying Elktwo nights ago with a bunch of people from the industry, but when Gaggan Anand comes to town and invites you to dinner... you don't utter the words "...but I just ate there!"   So I bit my tongue and brought a few bottles of bongwater with me to dinner.

    Once again I did not have to order from the menu, because everything was up to Chef Jim Löfdahl.   I've tried most of the dishes two nights ago, anyway, so I won't bother with notes on the same dishes.

    Boneless chicken wings, Kvibille cheese, crispy parsley, clarified butter - still pretty good.

    Truffle popcorn, Västerboften cheese, dried mushroom - meh.

    Croquettes, shortrib, thyme, smoked chili emulsion - still pretty good.

    Gougères, Allerum cheddar, fennel seeds, chestnut honey

    House smoked Norwegian salmon, pink peppercorns, lemon smetana, trout roe, crispy cucumber

    Tartar "lamb in dill", dill mayonnaise, "ättika vinegar", pickled root crops, crunchy onions

    Roasted scallop, scrambled egg, truffle, beurre noisette, crispy potato and smoked soy

    Baked hen's egg "63.4C", spinach, truffle, Gruyère, roasted chicken jus, petit pois and dried sourdough bread

    Umami salad, duck confit, shiitake, smoked pecorino, crispy onions, umami dressing

    Poached turbot, Sherry and beurre noisette emulsion, bacon, broccoli, and hazelnut - the beurre noisette was certainly very nutty and creamy.

    "Rossini", roasted cod and foie gras, truffle jus, green beans and mie de pain

    Open sandwich, pork cheeks "24h", cabbage, truffle béchamel, wild mushroom, black pepper - didn't know that the pork actually comes from Yuen Long (元朗).  Also noticed for the first time that there were thin shreds of crispy potatoes just below the shaved truffle.

    Roasted smoked venison sirloin, Frantzén's "hot sauce", bitter salad, jus roti, and sea buckthorn oil - the Swedish venison was slightly firm on the outside but surprisingly tender in the middle. 

    Grilled beef tenderloin, smoked heart of beef, horseradish, celeriac remoulade, pickled mustard seeds - the Irish beef has been dry-aged.  There were pickled mustard seeds with the beef jus.  Topped with onion ring and powdered horseradish.

    Baby chicken and lobster "pot-au-feu", baby chicken, lobster, consommé, tarragon and lobster soup

    Lobster soup on the side.

    Sea buckthorn and carrot sorbet, chrysanthemum, orange peel and cinnamon oil

    Crème brûlée, Swedish coffee, Tahiti vanilla, toasted hazelnuts

    Grilled pineapple, Swedish punsch, brown sugar, star anise ice cream - ginger and brown sugar crumble on top of the ice cream.

    “Marängsviss”, blueberries, lemon thyme, rye

    "After Eight", mint and chocolate

    Gaggan has been brainwashed by Vladimir into loving bongwater, so I knew what kind of wines to bring... Although as it turns out there were 10 of us, so the 3 bottles went very quickly.

    2014 Ganevat Grusse en Billat

    2008 Valentini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo - big, toasty nose with coffee notes.  Soft on the palate.  Very nice.

    2014 Yann Durieux DH Rouge - nice and floral, almost a little like Leroy.  A little ripe and sweet on the nose with dried herb notes.  Good acidity on the palate.

    I asked for a girlie drink , and was served this rhubarb pie.

    It was good to see Gaggan back in Hong Kong, and I was grateful (and more than a little shocked) to receive the gift that he had Vladimir pick out. Time to up my game!

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    The Great One and I try to take Gaggan Anand out whenever he's in town, partly as a way to reciprocate the favor since he's never allowed us to pay for a meal in his restaurant or at his pop-ups.  We know he loves the local food in Hong Kong, so The Great One booked us a table at Celebrity Cuisine (名人坊) for some dim sum.

    We have always been fans of Chef Cheng Kam-fu (鄭錦富), although I vaguely remember my last dim sum lunch here years ago as being underwhelming.  I guess that's why I haven't been back for lunch in many years...

    Fried rice roll with XO sauce (XO醬炒腸粉) - always happy to have this.

    Deep fired spring roll with seafood (長大蝦春卷) - yes, it did say "fired" on the menu.  This was so-so.

    Fried turnip paste (香煎蘿蔔糕)

    Steamed egg custard bun (金黃流沙包) - not exactly easy to share with the very liquid filling.

    Steamed barbecued pork bun (蜜餞叉燒包)

    Steamed prawn and bamboo shoot dumpling (水晶鮮蝦餃)

    Stewed minced assorted meat with bean curd (琵琶豆腐) - as The Great One likes to remind us, the recipe of this dish is in her book.  It is, of course, a very good and tasty version of the classic dish.

    Sautéed string beans with preserved vegetables (欖菜四季豆)

    Bird's nest stuffed in chicken wing (燕窩釀鳳翼) - another signature dish.  Gaggan wondered if this is where Zaiyu from DEN got the idea of stuffing chicken wings, and of course... Cantonese chefs have been stuffing chicken wings with glutinous rice or birds' nest for a while now.

    Deep-fried crab claw stuffed with minced shrimp (百花釀蟹拑) - this was pretty decent, but I'm usually not a fan of this dish... as the crab claw inside is too tiny and it's mostly the deep-fried shrimp paste - and comes at a premium because the claw.

    Sweet and sour pork with diced pineapple (香脆咕嚕肉)

    Baked chicken with Shaoxing Wine (花雕焗飛天雞) - this was very good, but I think by this time we no longer had the capacity for so much chicken.

    Stir-fried rice noodles with beef (乾炒牛河) - since Gaggan is in town for local food, we just had to order his favorite dish...

    The chef sent us a plate of pan-fried bitter gourd to try.  With all the deep-fried food we were having, this would certainly help...

    Jisheng cha with red dates and egg (名人蛋紅棗茶) - dessert was also on the house as the chef wanted us to try this.  Besides the "egg without yolk" and lotus seeds from Hunan Province, there were also silverweed roots (人參果) from Tibet.  The brown sugar for the soup came from Xinjiang.

    1989 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett - nice acidity on the palate.  Nose of white flowers and a little flint.

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    Over 2 months ago my friend L told me she wanted to dine at Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) in Hong Kong, and told me that she would make her way here as long as I got a booking, so I got us 4 seats at the counter tonight.  But L's schedule changed just before I left on my extended European vacation, so I ended up asking around for replacements.  Thankfully Baller was more than happy to step in and brought along a friend.

    This was the first time for me to sit in front of Fujimoto-san, as I had always been served by Kobayashi-san on my previous visits.  They know about my preference not to have any tuna, so there would be appropriate substitutes along the way.

    Steamed abalone (蒸し鮑) - very tender after being simmered for 6 hours.
    Octopus (蛸) - chewy in the middle but very soft and almost liquefied on the outside.  A little sweet as expected.

    Conger eel shirayaki (穴子志ら焼) - with two types of condiments: nama shichimi (生七味) and wasabi.

    Uni trio (雲丹三種盛り) - this is always one of the highlights during dinner service.  For some reason, I only took pictures of one type of sea urchin...

    Pink sea urchin (赤雲丹), Saga Prefecture (佐賀県) - very dark in color but very sweet.

    Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹), Rishiri Island (利尻島) - orange in color.  A little more bitter, and flavors were more concentrated.

    Purple sea urchin (紫雲丹), Hokkaido - most creamy and rich out of the three, with custard-like texture.  From Higashizawa Seafood (東沢水産).

    Bonito (鰹) - lightly torched on the outside and served with a dab of spring onion as well as minced ginger.  The oil brushed on top was very, very flavorful.  Very good.

    Monkfish liver (鮟肝) - always one of my favorite things to eat here.  The liver was soooo soft and melted in the mouth like ice cream.  The shavings of yuzu zest on top brought a nice citrus fragrance.

    Japanese hairtail (大刀魚) - my replacement in place of grilled tuna collar.  Fantastic soft texture.  Served with eggplant from Osaka.

    Next we moved on to the sushi portion of the meal.

    Splendid alfonsino (金目鯛) - aged for 6 days.  Very thick cut, which delivered a little bit of crunch.

    Yellowtail (鰤) - now I started to notice the acidity in the rice, and the rice grains seemed slightly harder than before.

    Gizzard shad (小鰭), Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本県) - good acidity in the neta (ネタ), and the shari (シャリ) was pretty warm.

    Spotted halibut (星鰈), Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県) - aged for two days.  Interesting chewy and crunchy texture.

    Horse mackerel (鯵), Izumi City (出水) in Kagoshima Prefecture (鹿児島県) - always one of my favorite pieces of sushi here, and in fact they probably do it better than anywhere else that I've been.  Soft and melt-in-your-mouth.

    Clam shell (蛤) - my substitute for tuna. Sweet as usual from the tare (たれ), and for the first time I could pick this up with my hands.

    Bigfin reef squid (アオリイカ) - I must have been distracted when I ate this piece, because I don't remember feeling the same wonderful texture I got from the pieces of squid (墨烏賊) served on my previous visits. Judging by the same level of scoring on top, I'm sure it was just as good.

    Japanese tiger prawn (車海老)

    Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹), Nemuro City (根室市) in Hokkaido - served so cold that it highlighted the sweetness and creaminess.

    Conger eel (穴子), Tokyo - melted in my mouth.

    Purple sea urchin roll (紫雲丹巻き), Hokkaido - my substitute for chopped tuna roll.  I'd take this any day!


    Soup

    Egg (玉子焼き)

    We brought along 3 bottles of wine, including the el cheapo Champagne that I like and thought would pair well with sushi... and we ended up paying MUCH more for corkage on the Champagne compared to the cost of the bottle... Oh well.

    2006 Louis Roederer Brut Nature - good acidity on the palate, but also plenty of ripeness.

    2000 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne - a little nutty almost, and soft on the palate.

    1995 Maison Leroy Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers - initially a little more leather notes, but later showed more sweet fruit.

    This was my fourth visit to this restaurant, and there always seems to be something about my neighbors that bothers me on each visit.  I think it has something to do with how difficult this place is to book... how "exclusive" it is... that attracts a certain type of clientele.  While I don't usually pay attention to who sits near me when I dine out, Hello Kitty immediately recognized the media tycoon and an internationally-famous movie star who took up the other 4 seats at the 8-seat counter.

    The thing about our neighbors was that despite being easily 100 times more wealthy than I am, or despite one of them reportedly having a hand in restaurants and wineries... it was pretty clear to me that they knew very little about what they were eating or drinking... or even cared for it.  To them, it just seemed like an expensive meal which they could easily afford, at a restaurant that was getting a lot of attention where reservations were hard to come by.  They didn't seem to be getting anywhere near the sort of happiness that the four of us were getting from eating the same food and drinking a very expensive bottle of brand-name sake.

    In retrospect, I'm very happy that I have learned to appreciate these things a lot more.

    P.S.  Quite a few of my friends have asked me in private who these people were.  My standard answer is that if I actually revealed their identities, I might find myself hospitalized with broken bones or limbs...

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    Today is the 1-year anniversary of the Soyuz MS-05 launch, which I traveled to Baikonur Cosmodrome to watch.  Even if it's not "once in a lifetime", it's still a very special day that I will remember for a long time to come.

    While shopping for souvenirs at the Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum, I picked up two cans of food meant for the Russian cosmonauts.  The pricing of around USD 20 for each can was definitely a rip-off, but I guess I'm the exact kind of idiot they were looking for...

    So I decided that today would be the perfect time to open those cans and taste how bad the cosmonauts have it up there.


    Токана мясо-овощная (Tomato with meat and vegetable) - creamy texture in the vegetables with onions, red pepper, and potato.  Was there perhaps a little cheese?

    The meat looked like beef, and it was very tough and chewy.


    Свинина со сладким перцем (Pork with sweet pepper) - this was OK.  The little cubes of pork were clearly fully-cooked, but the texture wasn't too bad.

    One doesn't expect gourmet bites from cans that have a 4-5 year shelf life. I only hope that Bresnik and Nespoli had something better to eat than Ryazansky.

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  • 07/28/18--02:36: Lunch #2 with bongwater
  • Not long after I nibbled on some overpriced Russian canned food, I went over to Caprice Bar to see Hairy Legs and Victor.  This was my real lunch date, and I brought along a bottle of bongwater that I had carried all the way back from Paris.

    First came a plate of charcuterie...

    Then there was the croque monsieur with truffle.

    Just look at the melted cheese...  This was MUCH better than the canned stuff I had earlier.  Meanwhile, Hairy Legs polished off the "salad" on the side so he could report back to the missus about his healthy lunch...

    But the main event - besides discussing a little business about my upcoming wine dinner - was the wine.  And I was pretty excited about opening this magnum...

    2015 Ganevat Le p'tiot Roukin, en magnum - very fragrant and fruity.  After 25 minutes floral notes came out, with leather, a little metallic and iron rust, also toasty.  Beautiful wine!

    2004 Grange des Pères - animal, a hint of savory notes, a little honey, some herbs, and pollen.  Very smooth on the palate.


    A very enjoyable afternoon, and I'm expecting a knock-out menu when I come back next week.

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  • 07/30/18--21:34: Roast goose fix
  • It's been a while since I last hit up Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝), so I went for a quick fix at lunch.

    Roast goose chest with rice noodle (鵝胸瀨) - they were strictly allocating the goose drumsticks - as they always do - and weren't giving out any.  The breast meat was just about half the price of the drumstick, so I was pretty happy to save some money.

    Blanched choy sum (菜心)

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    So it's finally my turn to host a dinner for the MNSC boys.  It's been a long time since any of us last hosted a dinner at Caprice, but I knew Hairy Legs would not fail me.  Knowing this was a big thing for me, Hairy Legs, sommelier Victor Petiot, and I had a gathering last week to discuss the dishes that would pair with the wines.  I asked for a short menu since some of the boys have been cutting down on the amount of food they take in, and Hairy Legs decided to put together a few dishes with plenty of truffles.

    First came a trio of nibbles:

    King crab with tomato concassé

    Crispy tart with garlic cream and sea urchin

    Balik salmon with crème fraîche and oscietra caviar - pretty smoky.

    Tartare de bœuf, truffe noire et œuf de caille - with Australian wagyu as well as Tasmanian black truffle, and a quail egg on top.  This was very tasty, with crispy diced chives as well as diced truffle mixed in with the beef.

    Homard bleu de Bretagne, artichaut, duxelle, menthe et truffe noire - with artichoke mash, mushroom and fennel duxelles, chicken jus, and a mix of Tasmanian black truffle and mint.  This was very, very good.  Most of us were surprised at how well the mint just seemed to perk things up in this dish. 

    Another of Hairy Legs' signature dishes... with pigeon being done in cocoa pods.

    Le pigeon de Racan de la Maison Bellorr, cuit dans une cabosse de cacao, chutney de figues et salsifi - the pan-seared foie gras on the side was very, very good... wonderfully soft and wobbly texture.  The fig chutney worked very well with the pigeon.

    And the pigeon itself was perfectly rosé, exactly the way I would want it.

    I've seen this presentation of beef in a lotus leaf before... which had been smoked with Japanese cherry wood.

    Faux filet de bœuf Kagoshima et aubergine, sauce Périgourdine - with pickled eggplant, eggplant caviar, artichoke chips, and black truffle on top.  Very, very good.  Just look at the color of the beef!  Soooo tender.

    Brillat-Savarin et Brie à la truffe noire, pain au noix - the kitchen made their own truffled cheese just for us, aging it for 2 days to ensure the truffle flavors got into the cheese.

    Tarte a la figue et glace vanille

    Madeleines

    Strawberry macarons

    Mignardises - packed home for the boys' better halves.

    A second tarte...

    A few of the boys had stopped coming to Caprice for the last few years, and they were honestly surprised by the dishes tonight.  Everyone was very, very happy with how well the dishes worked with the wines.

    And speaking of the wines... I had been wanting to do a vertical tasting of my favorite wines from my favorite producer for a long time.  Tonight was that opportunity.  I left the treatment decisions entirely up to sommelier Victor Petiot, and the results were a little surprising to many.  As it turns out, most of the wines still tasted as if they were very young wines - even the bottle that was more than 30 years' old.

    2004 Louis Roederer Cristal - very nice and floral.  Nice and balanced on the palate between crisp acidity and some ripeness.

    First pair: opened 6 hours and 15 minutes prior to serving.  Not decanted.
    1995 Guigal La Landonne - minty, eucalyptus, a little sweet with black fruits, a little smoke.  Good acidity and slightly lighter on the palate, with a little bacon fat.  96 points.

    1995 Guigal La Turque - smoky, leather, a little shoe polish?  Still full-bodied.  95 points.

    Second pair:
    1985 Guigal La Turque - opened 7 hours prior to serving.  Very meaty and smoky, a little savory, and a little coffee.  96 points.

    1998 Guigal La Turque - opened 7 hours prior and decanted 1 hour prior to serving.  Notes of pencil lead, with nice and ripe sweet fruit.  95 points.

    Third pair: opened almost 8 hours prior to serving.
    1989 Guigal La Turque - nice bacon fat, coffee, smoke.  Very nice.  99 points.

    1990 Guigal La Turque - more closed, ripe and stewed fruit, grilled meats, a little savory but not quite black olive.  96 points.

    Fourth pair: opened 8 hours and 40 minutes prior, and decanted 2 hours and 40 minutes prior to serving.
    1999 Guigal La Mouline - minty with grilled meats.  96 points.

    1999 Guigal La Turque - still concentrated, with sharp alcohol, still smoky, oaky, ripe and sweet on the palate.  96 points.


    I loved lining up the bottles tonight for a "group shot", as I had been cellaring all of these bottles for at least a decade. Many thanks to Hairy Legs, Victor, and Ken for taking such good care of us tonight.

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