Thursday, July 31, 2014

Opera Menu at Nicholini’s, Conrad Hotel HK

 Chef Luca de Berardinis comes straight from the Michelin 1 starred il Milione,  and used to work alongside Chef Marco Gubbiotti.   Chef Luca will be revamping the new menu for Nicholini’s,  and also creating a ‘Flavours of Opera’ Menu for 9th of August.   This menu can be had for $1288,  and $1588 with Wine Pairings.



Polenta Musica Sheets,   Parmesan Cheese Puffs -
The polenta crisp were a novelty,  it tasted almost like buckwheat crisps.  Usually they are served as soft polenta or as a dried polenta like cous cous,  or as chips.  Who would have thought they could make it into Musica Sheets?   Off to a great start already.   The Cheese puffs were equally warm and memorable,  they were just like French gougeres,  the inside was surprisingly strong of cheese aroma and I think I detected a hint of Gorgonzola blue cheese somehow despite it being called Parmesan ?  9/10


View from Nicholini’s -
They are actually very famous for their weekend Brunch,  which has unlimited Foie Gras,  Pasta and a Main Course such as a steak.  I have been here before but never posted,  due to personal reasons. 



Focaccia, Italian Sourdough,  Grissini -
All made in-house.  The breads were flavorful,  albeit slightly softer than I imagined.  The grissino was crisp and fragrant.   None of the weird bready doughy version served elsewhere close-by,  but somehow HK foodies think is the best in town for unknown reasons…     

Amuse Bouche – Fried Fish Ball with Porcini sauce and Caviar
Nice starter and the sauce was pretty potent.   ~  8/10



Dry Ice Smoke with Fennel Flower -
A theatrical start to a meal,  sometimes you find it to be cliched,  but for a hotel Italian Fine-Dining meal it actually became a surprise..

Salted Cod Fish with Roasted Potatoes in Red Vinegar,  Dry Olive Powders and Roasted Peppers -
The salted cod fish were surprisingly still quite fresh,  which means they must be home cured,  but ultimately it was not salty or packed with umami flavours enough.   The roasted potatoes were a little too limp to my liking.   I thought this would be a nice dish and even slightly Spanish,   but I wanted more flavour impact somewhat and may be also more fish to potatoes ratio.   But things afterwards went back up to standards if not more.   ~  5/10


Thickish Balsamic Vinegar with IGP status -
Actually this was pretty tasty and viscous,  despite not being of Tradizionale D.O.P status certified.

Piedmontese ‘Fessona’ hand-chopped Beef Tartare, Fried Egg Yolk,  Shallot Confit and Salad,  with Shaved Summer Truffles -
A dish also served at il Milione,  the Piedmont sourced beef is the IT in Italy right now for being served raw and I have had it a few times recently there,  since it is an aged and muscular cow and flavorful but too chewy to eat when too cooked.  This one was made from Fessona rump cut.   The beef flavour was definitely stronger when I had it in Italy for some reason,  but this made up for it with the panko crusted fried egg yolk,  and tonight I did noticed our truffles weren’t the normal Summer Truffles in colour.   Indeed Chef Luca explained somehow he got a batch of Summer Black Truffles which might have originated from France instead and all the better!   ~  8.5/10



Fascarelli pasta (think Spaetzle),  with Green Pea soup,  and Tuna Bottarga -
Another super thoughtful dish and actually quite authentic back at home.   The pasta was hand ripped and retained a nice bite,  the Bottarga was surprisingly dense and flavor packed and there is no guessing that this is the Tuna variant and not the Mullet Mugine version.   Every small detail counts here,  it totally reminded me of il Milione.   ~  9/10



Wine Pairing to go with the Food -
Won’t elaborate into the finer details today.  
I think the focus really was on the food tonight.


“Caponata” with Smoked Eggplant cubes,  Fried Eggplant Skins, Eggplant Puree,  and Ravioli stuffed with Octopus & Ricotta Cheese,  served with Pizzaiola sauce -
Again totally reminding me of il Milione’s subtle micro-tuning style.   The Eggplant if you read again is presented in 3 different ways,  and the smoked cubes were very noticeable.   The ravioli were also great and served with a tomato herbs based sauce,  not akin to a ‘pizza’ sauce.   How interesting is that?    You will have to be really passionate about food to pull this trick off.   ~  9/10



Some Chianti Classico for the Opera Menu pairing -

Spanish Tuna Tonno under Fried Potato Nest,  Cured Salmon Roes,  Chard,  Fava Beans,  Mango Puree,  Basil Oil -
This was interesting as the potato nest was almost Picturesque-like.   The salmon caviars were also a bit more cured than fresh which is exciting personally and unique.   The Tuna was to me a little too cooked dense,  but overall I liked this concept if it can be tweaked a little bit better,  starting with the core tuna which can be rarer.  ~  7/10

Sgroppino Lemon,  Vanilla and Prosecco Sorbet – with Cardamom scent beneath
This was a really pleasing palate cleanser,  and on initial sniff one can already tell the bottom layer was lined with a different perfume – one of the guests instantly picked up on the scent!   This traditional cocktail/sorbet recipe was received with acclaim.  It was so refreshing yet just like the above Dry Iced Fennel flower effort,  this was another surprise and actually reminded me of a meal at Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca.  (Review:  El Celler de Can Roca)


Some Moscato d’Asti -
I know expectations vs reality is hard to please.  Even if this concept is also so cliched as a finale drink.   I have got to say…   It’s pleasing,  but I know of many other pleasing options too from within Italy and nearby regions.   I don’t want to sound arrogant,  but there are so many un-explored sweetish wines from within Europe that I miss,  and I am sure there are equally others that I haven’t tried.  



Warm Olive Oil and Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Sorbet and Balsamic Vinegar -
This was interesting as a warm Olive-Chocolate cake sat on top of the sorbet.   It was flowing too and totally unconventional.   It’s good to play around with food sometimes?   I expected more olive oil taste but in the end I detected it somehow.    ~  7/10

There’s a few Pasticcini here -
The stood out was the Madeleine,  which carries a recipe from a Michelin 2* restaurant from Paris.  This was so fragrant,  it beats anything in town easily with their secret recipe.  The rest of the platter was Italian and done well too,  but the Madeleines were really wow,  I haven’t even had this standard in France itself in the top Restaurants or Patisseries..   Got to try to believe.    ~  9.5/10





Price:  HKD $1288 - $1588 Per Person with Wines Inclusive  (Meal was by Invitation)
Ease of Access:  4/5
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ – ♕♕♕♕♕ 1/2 

Address: 金鐘金鐘道88號太古廣場港麗酒店8樓
8F Conrad Hotel, 88 Pacific Place,  Queensway Road,  Admiralty,  Hong Kong 
Ph: 2521 3838

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