Friday, September 26, 2014

Le Dome de Cristal ( III ) - New French Chef from Guy Savoy

 Le Dome de Cristal in Hong Kong has recently recruited a new French Chef Charles-Benoit Lacour.  As the new Culinary Director behind this prestigious brand of Champagne Restaurant,    they are trying to push the food quality forward and make it comparable to the Michelin Starred Quality restaurants just as you will discover it in France.   Coming from the 2-3 Michelin Starred camp and background of Guy Savoy kitchens,  Chef Benoit’s food here was executed well indeed but I did sensed that it is taking time to build up the kitchen team behind and create enough synergy to carry it forward one step at a time.   It is definitely getting there,  plus this is not my first time of experiencing the Chef’s food in reality.  I have been to the previous Singapore Guy Savoy outlet and he made me one of the most memorable Game Meat and Truffle Tourte pie dishes ever.  And despite my previous meal being of my own adventurous and self-paid meal in Singapore,  this time it was by Invitation by the Ambroisia Group,  I hope my review can be of a Constructive Criticism and help push forward the HK Food movement.   



IMG_7981IMG_7982French Bordier butter -





IMG_7985Pretty good Bread Selections.  I loved the Tomato Bread but somehow think it was familiar from elsewhere too but can’t quite recall.  The mini Baguette was interesting as it has no sharp ends and nipples.  Perhaps that is intentional by the Baker to make it more Hong Kong style and easier to eat? 





IMG_7987IMG_7991Louis Roederer “Cristal" 2005 Champagne,  with French Gillardeau No.1 Oysters -
The Japanese dressing was enhancing it with a bit of spice and acidity,  and ultimately the Cristal Champagne was mostly Apple acidity with a faint hint of Brioche,  and complemented the minerally Oyster well enough.   ~  8/10




IMG_79942012 Marigny Neuf Sauvignon Blanc -
From just South of Loire Valley.  If you really know French wines you will always notice that France has so many hidden treasures and just off the Classified Appellations are always filled with surprises.  It is in these hidden vineyards where you can find your own treasures and without constraints by a systematic control of what can, or cannot be produced within a confined system.  You can argue from both sides of the argument but to me,  Wine is Wine.   Being certified with WSET Certification personally doesn’t necessarily mean you understand all French or other wines.  The current trend isn’t as Systematic and constrained at all as every few months onwards,  things do change for the better.   At least this was an Organic wine by design and individually unique somewhat.      





IMG_7997Summer Beans, John Dory fish,  Burnt Spring Onion and Fresh Hers Jus -
This was cooked really well indeed.   The recipe was spot on and there is nothing to complain about here.   Executed well enough.  ~  8/10



IMG_8004Duck Foie Gras and Cabbage Ravioli -
The concept to me is a bit Simplistic albeit also being thoughtful and an interpretation of a of Chinese Wontons.   At least it was executed well.  ~ 8/10 




IMG_80062002 Chambolle-Musigny Burgundy Pinot Noir -
Thanks and for sharing indeed.  This was so drinkable as expected. 





IMG_8009Potato Mash -
One of the best ones I can recall in town.  I am glad they paid Attention to such small details.   I prefer this over the HK or Macau Robuchon versions.





IMG_8033French Quail,  Beet Roots, Raspberry,  Potatoes,  Acidic juice -
This was served with Claws attached and signifies usually that the game birds were held in healthy free-range captivity and not in closed cages,  where they loose their claws after fighting.   This was cooked perfectly well and the only versions I could think of better than here,  are the new Pigeon dishes at Four Seasons Caprice,  also AKRAME in Wanchai.   This was great but I liked the above versions more as comparison but they are close enough in performance.   Here it just needed to retain more gamey Pigeon taste!   -  8/10





Price:  Lunch Invitation by Le Dome de Cristal and new Chef
Food:   ♕♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Ease of Access:  4/5
Address:  中環皇后大道中9號嘉軒廣場3樓
3/F, The Galleria, 9 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong, Central
Ph:  2116 4688

Monday, September 8, 2014

Man Wah, Seasonal Sichuan menu from Da Rong He, from 19th to 27th of September

Michelin 1 Stars

 蓉和 Da Rong He is a reputably famous restaurant group in Sichuan Region,  and Michelin 1 Starred Man Wah is bringing in their Chefs to recreate this Sichuan experience in their Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental Hotel,   during the 19th to 27th of September period.   We received a glance of this meal during an Invitation by the hotel staff,  and below are some of the signature dishes which will be available soon at Man Wah in September and serves as a preview. 



P1340467Sea Whelks,  Pickled Bamboo Shoot, Baby Ginger, Lettuce,
Morel Mushrooms, Fox Nuts, Walnuts - 老壇泡山珍
I came a bit late and started on this Sea Whelks appetizer dish,  which was slightly spicy and sour.  It might look simple but the level of sophisticated input into the dish means this is more about micro-tuning,  which is often neglected by the masses   ~  7/10



P1340472Sichuan Peppercorn and Bamboo Pith - 蜀南竹毛肚
The Chinese name suggests this is Beef Tripes but it is in fact totally Vegetarian and only due to it’s looks resembling a certain part of a cow’s stomach.   It is the same Bamboo Pith used in Cantonese cuisine but served horizontally-sliced instead.  Nice aerated crunchy texture with an absorption of peppercorn sauce,  served with fresh and pickled cucumbers on the side.   ~  8/10


Minced Chicken & Egg White Pudding with Birds Nest  - 官燕四川雞豆花
This was very finely hand-diced chicken mince with egg white,  which then undergoes a sieving process to making it smooth,  before becoming steamed.   It had the texture of silken tofu as per its namesake but carries the taste of chicken!    Eaten with Birds Nest and a base chicken stock.
  Amazing dish and said to be one of the first Chinese Molecular style cooking dishes in Chinese food history.  ~  8/10 


Steamed Fish Head and Tails,  Red Capsicum, Red Chilli - 開門紅
When this arrived we could barely spot the fish.  As one of the signature dishes,  this had peeled capsicums and chili,  and despite the clear looking broth one of the hottest dishes for the night.   Later on we added in some hand-made noodles to accompany the base broth and it was tantalizing yet simultaneously challenging with it’s spiciness and numbness.  ~  9/10



Fried Veggies and Pickles -
To sooth the spiciness of the above,  Signature Fish Head dish..
Much needed to cool me down again.



Tea and Camphor Wood Smoked,  Bone-in Duck - 樟茶鴨
The butchering technique was neat,  to the point I think I was being spoiled.   Many modern versions of this smoked duck dish are so roughly made these days?   This was shiny on the skin’s surface and actually very crispy too.  However the Tea and Camphor wood smokiness wasn’t as strongly penetrating as I would have liked.    The tenderness of the pinkish duck meat with a super crispy skin definitely made up for this deficient.   This is one dish that I have always found elusive to find a perfect version in Hong Kong and I have been eating a better version in Melbourne at 翠竹閣 Bamboo House for many years...    ~  7.5/10



Wok Fried Abalone with Bean Sprouts - 自發豆芽爆炒鮮鮑
The bean sprouts are home-grown and hand harvested just when they are ready,  amazing isn’t it?  A normal customer wouldn’t be able to pick the difference.  The Abalones were diagonally cut to review a turtle like pattern,  which absorbed in more sauce and wok-chi.   A lovely dish and unique in Hong Kong.   ~  8/10



Fish poached in Sichuan Hot Oil sauce - 沸騰魚
Basically a 水煮魚,  with lots of red chili and sichuan peppers which numbs your senses.  It reminds me of the Fish Heads dish above but this was surprisingly less chili  but had a more numbling effect.   It shows that Sichuan cuisine isn’t all about spiciness and hotness,  but seeking a balance of equilibrium in between…   ~  8/10


Container Bowl carried from Sichuan’s Da Rong He all the way to Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental Hotel..

Rice Congee with Shrimps, Sea cucumber, Fish, Taro in Chicken Broth - 金湯養身鍋
This was surprisingly rich in seafood and chicken flavor,  hope this is not a once-off as this was very memorable for me as it tasted like what the recipe actually says !   Rice was boiled down to a thick gravy-like consistency too.   Comfort food turned into super comfort food for me.  ~  9/10


Ginger,  Garlic and Wine Gai Lan - 薑汁芥蘭
This is interesting because it seemed like everyone on the table already knew they made the best version in town here,   coz we always order this ourselves too.   Tonight’s version still looked great but to me a little under-cooked.   It actually happens -  a lot of time it’s the simplest of dishes that the Kitchens might assume is done right,  but which they could take a bite of as QC being serving to customers.   ~  6.9/10

Birthday Lotus Seed and Salted Egg Yolk bun -
It was a Elaine項項’s birthday and we all got a share of this sweet bun!  Thanks so much to her Open-mouthed smile The inside was minced well and smooth with good egg yolk taste,  but the bun was a little dry for some reason.    Overall the Sichuan Themed Meal was always going to be an Elegant version and the real deal,  not the street food or compromised version we see everywhere else in the world.   Worth coming to here and experience what real Sichuan food is really about.  



Price: $800 – $900  (This Meal was by Invitation.  You can also find on this Blog my self-paid Meals here)
Ease of Access:   4/5 
Food: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours:
Mon to Fri  12:00am - 23:00pm
Sat to Sun 11:30am - 23:00pm
Address: 中環干諾道中5號香港文華東方酒店25樓
25/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central

Thursday, September 4, 2014

VASCO Fine Dining - Spanish Michelin Basque style food

 VASCO is the Spanish Fine Dining restaurant on top of the more casual ISONO Eatery & Bar downstairs -  both are consulted and looked after by the Barcelona Michelin 2* Lasarte kitchen team and also 3* Martin Berasategui from Basque Country.   We arrived here for a friends birthday and it was going to be all out or nothing,  let’s order the $1180 Grand Tasting Degustation meal,  which comprises of around 10 Courses and other add-ons. 



3 types of Spanish Olive oils -
Each with slightly different results.  We all liked the middle one the best for balance and floral grassiness..



Lovely Sofas -
I didn’t expect this Design setting.  It was almost Classical.  But not so much the Modern Spanish food to follow afterwards..  Loved the hybrid design and not too pretentious.




Dried Cecina Beef Grissini,  Foie Gras Crispy Sandwich, 
Olive with Orange Jam,  and Spiced Caramelized Pistachios -
Interesting starters and thoughtful and playful,  also very Spanish in a way.   Loving the concept already.   ~  8.5/10



5 Colored Butters -
Plain,  Mushrooms which was very powerful earthy,  Tomato which was also herbal and almost meaty like a Bolognaise ragu.  Pistachio which looked greener than it tasted so,  and Beetroot which was mostly about sweetness but could have more Beet taste.    It’s not as gimmicky as it looks,  we finished most of them in no time.   ~  8/10



Sourdough Bread -
As I mentioned previously,  Hong Kong has seen an up rise in bread quality during the past 1-2 years and this was no exception,  yeasty and aromatic,  crispy yet soft.   Great bread and memorable.   ~  9/10



1st Amuse Bouche -
Cauliflower cream,  Clam and Caviar


Amuse Bouche #2 - 
Fish Cheek-Tongue Kokotxa with Parsley Cream and Edible Flowers -
Definitely Basque Cuisine,  which is one of the best places on earth to eat Pintxo tapas,  and how fine dining in that area evolved from these dishes,  both from French and Spanish Basque side.  




Pancetta Brioche -
Buttery with lots of Iberico pork pancetta flavour.  Really amazingly done and flavorful but not greasy,  even for the health conscious like moi.   ~  9/10


Sakura Prawn Crisps,   with Trout Tartare with Orange, Curd Cucumber & Trout Caviar -
We thought the trout tartare was slightly overly minced and salty,  but the shrimp crackers were very aromatic and reminded me of a similar dish at AMBER recently.   ~  7.5/10  




Marinated tuna -
A replacement dish as the Birthday Girl doesn’t eat innards like Foie Gras,  heard it was pretty ok and with such short notice,  the kitchen handled the situation well enough. 



Roasted Foie Gras with Hazelnut Salt,  Duck Consommé,  Citronelle, 
Horseradish,  Seaweed and some Lemon Grass -
Initially I didn’t like the sound of this recipe as it’s too Asianized,  but when I bit in,  the duck gras was cooked to perfection and with a crunchy coating,  all the flavours were balanced and not over powering each other.  Was very surprised I liked this dish so much more than I anticipated.   ~  9/10



Red Palamos prawn,  with Sea Urchin,  Crustacean Mayonnaise, 
Prawn Salt,  Seaweed & Samphire seabed -
This was so reminiscent of the dishes I ate in Spain especially closer to the Catalonia to Basque side.   This was really lovely – although I have had even more amazing Palamos prawn dishes there to compare with directly,  though I am talking about Michelin 3* restaurants in Spain.    ~  8/10




Birthday Girl needed a Quilt due to the Air-con Blasting on full -
They actually have these pre-wrapped.   Excellent preparation by the restaurant, 
if only they also stopped pushing us to order $95 a bottle Mineral Waters that tasted too Alkaline, or actually know that Cecina is dry cured beef,   instead of just saying ‘No’ it is not to me and acting a bit defensive.




Farmhouse Egg Yolk with Potatoes and Mozzarella foam, 
Guanciale pork jowl,  Basil,  Black Truffle -
This was pretty decent but one can’t help to compare it to the NUR Restaurant version.  That one has more egg and mushrooms and grains taste.  This dish was just ok and the weakest dish tonight for me,  it needed more flavours in most aspects.   ~  6/10



Guanciale Pork Jowl on top of the egg…
Almost Lardo like transparent.  This to me is a Carbonara concept..





Wild Turbot on Onions and Paprika with Clams and Seaweed,  Braised Endive,  Octopus -
This was cooked well but somehow I thought could do with more.   It was good but may be it needed some Shells Present or Grilling flavours?   It was a bit flat in the aromatic sensations   ~  7/10





Slow-cooked Iberico Pork Loin with Barley -
This was again a replacement dish due to the Birthday girl not wanting any game meat.  Surprisingly the meat tasted almost Salt-Cured like.   The meat texture could be softer but for a make-shift solution,  this was ok..




French Pigeon,  Pigs Ears and Dry Tomato stew,  Apple Cream and Foie Gras Toast -
This had a crisp skin and the pigeon cooked to medium-rare accurately and seasoned well.   In HK context this was one very fine pigeon,  although the versions I had at AKRAME and Caprice are on the same level.   The ones I ate in Basque Michelin restaurants are better yet again though and more complicated in recipe,  so you can always expect more fanciful ideas perhaps?   ~  8/10



A Roasted Lamb as a replacement dish -
Tried a piece of this and it was cooked well. 



Cardamom and Rice Essence soup,  Arbequina olive oil sponge,  Frozen cream -
This was surprisingly likable and reminded me of a modern day Riz au Lait.   The olive oil sponge was so El Bulli inspired in style.   Very strong in the Cardamom input too.   Unexpectedly likable,  in fact Madam Sixty Ate did a similar dessert before but I liked this one more ~  9/10



Frozen Coffee with Chocolate Leaf,  Apricot Jelly -
This looked pretty enough.   It was decent and a nice finish as a dessert.   If anything,  I expected some sauce for some reason but this was so Autumn....   ~  8/10



Hazelnut and Chocolate Pralines,  with Cocoa nibs -
As Petits fours




Raspberry Financier,   Yuzu Fruit Pates,  Choux Puffs -
I was very surprised on the positive side,  as these mini desserts were all done excellently and didn’t just carry the presentation.  The financiers were caramelized chewy on the edges,  the fruit pate had a lot of sourness than foreseeable and helped to cut down on the fullness from the many Courses.   Very thoughtfully done.   Overall the meal was great value for Money at $1180 for all the Tasting Courses,  and with Great Butter and Bread too.    Definitely Michelin 1-2* Quality food for the 2015 Guide if you ask my own opinion.   Great pick by the birthday friends !





Price:  $1180 + Drinks + 10% Per Person
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 - ♕♕♕♕♕

Address: Vasco, 7/F, Block B, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Hong Kong
Ph: +852 2156 0888


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