Saturday, December 27, 2014

FINDS - Nordic Christmas Dinner with Wine Pairing by Cottage Vineyards

  For me as a foodie,  I believe in taking a more holistic approach to comprehending what the Restaurant’s ultimate aim is and to understand them as a sum of its parts.   Chef Jaakko from FINDS recently during the Christmas Period and for the 10th Anniversary of the only true Nordic restaurant in Hong Kong,  tried to re-create a traditionally spirited yet modern interpretations of Nordic dishes.   Nordic or Scandinavian cuisine are all the rage these days as exemplified by the likes of NOMA or Geranium in Denmark,  and South American cuisine is the other coming up the ladder.  Compared to my last visits years ago,  this time it truly impressed with it’s new direction,  both in taste and concept especially in the unique Nordic ingredients used.    These dishes were paired in collaboration with the wines selected by Ada Leung,  a multiple Award winning sommelier from Cottage Vineyards (    



Some of the Wines selected by both Chef and Ada from Cottage Vineyards,  for the perfect Food and Wine Pairing that day -

Scandinavian style Dark Rye and Crispy Bread -
Spread on Alder Wood Smoked Butter and a Beurre Noisette ‘caramelized’ butter.  
This was so addictive especially the butters.   Very impressive and customized here.   I was speaking to Chef and mentioned how I miss the Lard spreads too in Scandinavia.   Well worth visiting here for them alone.   ~  9.5/10

Domaine J. Lurens Blanquette De Limoux Brut NV, 
Languedoc,  France -
Note the bottle correlates to the glass on the most left,  this sparkling is made using Champagne style method but in the South,  paired with the thoughtful Artic Char dish below..


NORWAY - Life of an Artic Charr, also known as Artic Char
The fish is presented as 6 Ways.   Artic Charr Spread, Cured, Smoked, Slightly Seared,  its Fresh roes and Smoked roes,  and a Fried Fish Skin. Served with an Oyster tasting leaf, Sea Buckthorn gelee and Dill cream.   Such a lovely starter dish with many textures and flavours.   Very complex…  Even I have to read through my own notes again on Instagram to verify my memory was right.   ~ 10/10

Frederic Lornet Arbois ‘Nature’ 2010,  Jura,  France -
Made with the local Arbois AOC Savagnin blanc grapes or Nature,  (and nothing to do with biodynamic or natural wines in this context).  The Savagnin is said to be related to Traminer and the mother of many other famous grapes which spawned from it,  including Sauvignon Blanc,  Gerwurztraminer.   I have actually had this bottle a few times before at Mandarin Grill, Cottage Vineyards and also the newly Michelin Starred AKRAME.   It is quite a floral aromatic lemony wine with a hint of honeysuckle.  Love it for pairing with certain fresher seafood dishes..  



Chilled Crayfish,  Cooked and Marinated with Crown Dill on Toast -
Requiring some hand action,  this represents part of the Swedish journey..  
It is interesting and representative of the discovery journey,  although one can’t help relate it to the popular buffet tables around town too !  ~  6.9/10


Les Vins de Roisin Vin de Rhubarbe 2002,  Roisin,  Belgium -
Rhubarb wine from Belgium,  made using normal grape wine methods.   This was always going to be interesting and don’t be distracted by it’s golden hue,  it is not sweet at all!   Cottage Vineyards believes this would pair well with many seafood and shellfishes with its profile,  and knowing this is Belgian it makes inherent sense.


Hand Dived Scallop seasoned with its own Dry Coral Roe Powder, Vendace Fish Roe and Salicorne – Latter basically a Samphire.  Don't be fooled by the Shell's size which was humongous. This scallop was so big and cooked perfectly and divers fetch for them between icy crevices at below zero degress,  its own dried roe powder was a genius touch for umami taste and as a result,  no salt was used  ~ 9/10

Denmark Lækker – Eel & Scrambled Eggs with Caviar on Crisp Bread
I have always said culture in Europe has been transitional,  and Lækker in Danish means good looking or even good tasting,  and in Holland the Dutch word Lekker means good tasting,  and they are just facing each other opposite the ocean in geography.  Surely this is not by coincidence? -  there are still people who lectures me repetitively that a Macaron vs a Macaroon are different things.  Well guess what?  An American Macaroon is nearly exactly the same as a French Macaron Congolais in formula,  which preceded the modern day Parisian Macaron Gerbet sandwich with fillings,  which preceded the previous Parisian Macaron Sandwich without fillings,  which preceded the Bordeaux style St Emilion biscuity Macarons,  when Italy also had Maccherones unrelated to the pasta same name and Spain had the same.    Truth be told I have been explaining this as a “Pretending to be a Food Historian” attitude with patience for years.   But patience wears thin after a decade,  if I explain that Chocolat vs Chocolate is a linguistic difference,  so is Cafe vs Caffe,  why can’t anyone be open minded enough and think Macaroon vs Macaron have the same origin but just deviated from there somehow?   And that is also how Wine Grapes work after Mutation or deliberate Cross Breeding.   And Croissants were actually spread from Austria and hence even the French shops classify it under the Viennoserie section,  which sounds just like Vienna by no coincidence,  but could have had some Turkish origins too.    Sometimes I get so frustrated because how hard is it to understand that Cantonese Wontons are derived from Northern Chinese Wontons and then trickled down to Canton Region and Hong Kong or Macau.   Or Zha Jiang Mein is also from near Beijing or Shantung,  but migrated up North to Korea with a different recipe,  or down here in Hong Kong with a traceable but different recipe altogether?

Frederic Lornet Arbois Chardonnay ‘Les Messagelins’ 2010,  Jura,  France -
This time the Frederic Lornet representative changes from the Savagnin Blanc to a Chardonnay..

Smorrebrods – Open Sandwiches
1) Sennep Marinerede Sild - Mustard Herring and Potatoes.  A Denmark Danish recipe,  again the mention of herring must remind one of Holland,  which is how I began the above description too and drew their correlations. 
2) Stjerneskud Shooting Star -  Halibut done 2 ways with Shrimp
3) Flæskesteg – Pork & Red cabbage open sandwich
I can’t read this language at all damn,  but concept wise they are quite Danish from my visit there,  only with a modern twist and not as bready underneath..      ~ 7.5/10

Couly-Dutheil White Saumur ‘Les Moulins de Turquant’ 2013,  Loire Valley,  France
A dry Chenin Blanc,  the Saumur slightly overlapping Anjou nearby.  This has fairly chalky minerality with white fruit and is mildly spiced.   I personally have a fetish for the Loire Region wines as it is so diverse…  How about the Food pairing beneath?  

Wild Game Pate with Rowanberry Jelly -
Served in the ‘forest’.   I liked the presentation and this is so unique in Hong Kong context.  I would have loved the Pate to be larger in size,  just because I am a Chinese lol.  However the strong components taste of both ingredients surprised me.   But I still want more because it was so good !  XD    ~ 8/10  

Juniper smoked Quail Yolks,  Dried Vendace Roe,  Trumpet Chanterelle Broth -
Actually and surprisingly this was my least favourite dish and I will explain it why.  The trumpet broth is what I expected the most from but it could have been stronger.  Whilst the smoked quail eggs are an interesting touch I could not get over the brunoise diced veggies in the middle which taste too raw.   Call it bad luck or fate,  the weakish tasting components weren’t helped by the hard vegetables.  ~ 6/10

Chilled Potato Foam -


IMG_0605Santa Sophia Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore DOC 2011,  Veneto,  Italy -
70% Corvina,  25% Rondinella,  5% Molinara cepage.  This was quite earthy and truffled like,  with black cherry,  blackberry and chocolate and a noticeable good body.   This is to me only building up to a Crescendo in the next wine by the same Wine Maker. 


Smoked Mackerel Fish Balls in Artic Shrimp Sauce,  Dill-Cucumbers,  Pickled Carrots,  Shyr-Dip -
This came with heated up Volcanic Rocks and a beer poured on top to steam the fish balls in front of the customers.  I loved this concept!    The Shrimp sauce was apparent but to me certainly carried some Mushroomy taste behind it too somehow.  The Mackerel balls weren’t as strong as I would have liked them in that typical you know,  Norwegian or Japanese Saba mackerel impact,  but they combined with the sauce and the overall display was certainly unforgettable.   ~ 8/10

Some Yogurty Dip -


Santa Sofia Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2008,  Veneto,  Italy -
One of the wines I was looking forward to the most.   You see,  according to Cottage Vineyards,  most of the modern version Amarone’s are all sugary sweet and Santa Sofia is the only remaining Winemaker which retained the original Amarone spirit and only drying the grapes to 30% moisture loss,  with no more artificial methods to make it hotter and becoming a Recioto almost.   This certainly was my favourite wine for the pairing lunch,  with an abundance of complexity and puts many Ripasso’s and other Amarone’s into the artificial bracket almost.  Even dehydrated dried raisins can be made into a very complex wine like here and especially when many others are engineered to suit the American palate and have been jacked up in price too.  

Venison Tenderloin Rydberg,  Gold Beetroots,  Smoked Beetroot,  Fried Fingerling Potatoes,  Egg Yolk,  Pickled Cucumber and Red Wine Sauce -
My description differs from the official menu a bit as changes do occur,  for this instance the Red Beetroot puree is Smoked heavily and the Egg Yolk barely touches the surface,  due to the purpose of Wine Pairing.  The original recipe has a whole slow cooked egg intact.   The potatoes were surprisingly crisp despite their look.  The small presence of egg yolk was compacted in taste and appreciated in the recipe.  The Venison didn’t seem Larded during the cooking or wrapped in Fatty bacon but it was one of the better ones I have had in Hong Kong – make that the best from memory.   ~ 7 – 8.5/10

Raspberry wine from Belgium -
Apart from Grapes,  you can make wines from Rhubarb as above or even Raspberries.   To me this isn’t unexpectable since Belgian beers can be made out of many varieties of fruits or yeasts.   But this was definitely interesting


Lapland Vanilla Snowballs 2 Ways - served with Wild Spruce Shoot Syrup, which is citrusy tart.  2nd is served with a Burnt Pine Terva Tar Syrup -
Which then gives it a smokiness and if you love doing burnouts in your cars - this will give you a big thrill without buying any Nokian rubber tires!  Amazing presentation too.   The moss is more for presentation but places like NOMA in Denmark serves it fried as I experienced it there..  ~ 9/10



Cloudberry Jam -
Known as a liquid gold and expensive,  it tasted to me like a mixture between Kiwifruit and for some reason Shanghai Mitten Crabs as described above.   Very unique in HK,  this is a fruit that is only grown and harvested in the very North lattitude side in the Artics circles.   ~ 9/10 



Pancake Party - 
Miniature and reminds me of Poffertjes in Holland a bit. 

House made Nordic Jams for our Pancake party! 
Lingonberry, Cloudberry, Rhubarb, Blueberry, Raspberry jams and Cognac Cream -
The Cloudberry is definitely the most special one,  it is expensive and like liquid gold.  It tasted like  amix between Kiwi Fruits and Shanghai Mitten crabs to me,  yes I said that!  Quite oceanic actually.




Price:  $1,100 + 10%
Food:   ♕♕♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address: 尖沙咀金巴利道39號帝樂文娜公館1樓
1F,  Luxe Manor Hotel,  Kimberly Road,  Tsim Sha Tsui,  Kowloon,  Hong Kong
Ph:  2522 9138

Friday, December 19, 2014

La Maison du Chocolat - Chocolate Training with Christmas & New Years French Chocolats

 A few people have joined a La Maison du Chocolat chocolate program class which will last over a few months,  with such a rare chance to learn about the production of chocolates and more behind the scenes of this artisanal French Chocolate brand,  we joined for an Afternoon Tea session at the Lee Garden branch of LMdC.   Started by a chocolatier Robert Linxe from French Basque country,   since 1996 he also recruited Nicolas Cloiseau, who later obtained the highest honor of becoming a (MOF) Meilleur Ouvrier de France Chocolatier 2007.    He sources ingredients from all over the world for insipiration -  it was interesting to learn that since La Maison du Chocolat opened in Hong Kong and Japan,  he often sources local Asian ingredients to also make special chocolate versions for the European market !



Metate -  An ancient Stone Tool for the ancient Aztecs in current day Mexico
It is used to grind Cacao beans and Corn.   The owner has cleverly designated this meaningful tool as the La Maison du Chocolat logo !   


The Chocolate Afternoon Tea -
Available at the Lee Garden branch of La Maison du Chocolat.  
We were taught through a Powerpoint Presentation and Videos,   the production of LMdC Chocolates.   Using only a blend of the top Criollo and Trinitario cacao beans.

Salvador – Ganache with Raspberry Pulp
Boheme – Plain Milk Chocolate Mousse
Traviata – Praline with Grilled and Caramelized Almonds
Some people preferred the Traviata for the crunchy texture.  I liked the Salvador for the fruitiness within,   each to their own !


Mini Salted Caramel & Dark Chocolate Eclairs -
Filled with chocolate ganache.   These are part of the new Afternoon Tea Set here.  
Other La Maison du Chocolat branches carry the larger version. 


New Xmas items:  Brut Champagne Macaron with Chocolate Ganache,
Rose Champagne Macaron with Venezuela Dark Chocolate Ganache -

Rose Champagne Macaron with Venezuela Dark Chocolate ganache,  coated in Cocoa Nibs -
The shells have a slightly chewy texture,  and I have always said their texture are textbook perfect in HK context.   The girls liked the Whiter version better which carried a stronger Champagne taste,  but I myself preferred this version because the more dark fruit yet slightly smoky Venezuela Chocolate attracted me more.


The New Seasonal Xmas Collection Chocolates -
This time we tried the Clementine Square which the citrus fruit is sourced from Corsica,  a remote Mediterranean island owned by France, with both imported candied orange and clementine rinds.  
The other Praline Masquerade is a favourite for today,  using a Scottish Yuletide Fruitcake as a concept,  and utilizing Almonds and Tunisian dates,  this was very lovable too.  


The Ganache inside a La Maison du Chocolat -
They are surprisingly either Plain,  Whipped for a more aerated texture,  of Pre-infused with flavours.    The Chocolate Coating is thin because it is poured over as per French technique,  whereas the Switzerland or Belgian or even Spanish version is usually formed in a mould.   *I definitely learn something new everyday. 


Champagne to Celebrate with,  after the Chocolates and Macarons Class Session!


2014 Christmas Macarons Box -  6 pieces for $190
Individually they are around $23 a piece usually.

Christmas Box 32 Pieces -  $700
All hand crafted.   Apparently the best enjoyment of their chocolates is between a room temperature of between 18C – 20C degrees !    They do make for a prestigious Christmas Gift definitely,  our family gets quite a few of them each year.  So this time,  it was good to learn more about their chocolates finally.




Price:  $23 – $700 Depending on what is ordered
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕♕♕

Address: 銅鑼灣希慎道33號利園1期B03A號鋪  (They also have various shops in HK.)
Shop B03A,  33 Hysan Road,  No. 1 Lee Garden,  Causeway Bay,  Hong Kong
Ph: 2907 2002

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Popsy Room, Gallery of the Senses - Art Space with Fine Dining Food

  Located on Upper Lascar Street,  also known as 摩囉街 in Chinese,  this street in Sheung Wan is renowned for their Chinese Antique stores despite the slightly Indian naming reference.   A number of new food entrants have infiltrated this historical space and not without good reason.   Man Mo Cafe down the other end of the block does Chinese-French style Dim Sums,  almost intending to make a statement?!    Here at Popsy Room,  the owner was adamant at creating an Art Gallery spatial atmosphere -  where local Artists can shine and showcase their Art Exhibitions during every 2 months via rotation and this is paired with food courses which reflect the individual Art pieces,  hand crafted carefully by their Chef.   At $988 for 5 Courses and $1388 for 8 Courses per Tasting Degustation,  it is nearer Fine Dining prices.   But it will almost certainly impress your date with this Gallery slash Restaurant if you ask my opinion,  mostly because it is fun.   Thanks for an online friend for inviting me over the 2nd time around!  


Shirky Chan – The Artist on Exhibition this 2 months
She returns back from Australia,  Melbourne, my turf incidentally.  The Apple and Rose themed paintings explore the inner self of the artist herself,  or the Alter-ego within all of us.   It’s abstract and even darkish in feeling, though you can definitely understand the sub-conscious  element of truth in it.

Fried Quail Egg with Pistachio purée and Sweet & Sour Egg Salad -
As a Starter course..  The pistachio flavour over powered slightly but I liked the delicacy of this dish composition,  and only as an amuse bouche too.   ~ 8/10 


Can’t believe this was hand made by the Artist -
iPhone 7S better look a bit like this when it arrives... !   



Fresh Crab Meat with 6 Layered Crisp, Tomato Consommé Jelly, Trio Tomato Trifle on Fresh Salad - The Daughter of Woman
It had some Citrusy elements in the background in a suitable way,   and the tomato consomme jelly takes days to prepare but like the owner said,  many customers wouldn’t notice this small detail.   A pretty dish by composition,  if not a bit too creamily sauced.   I liked the crispy and buttery wafer the most.  ~ 7.5/10

Wild Mushrooms and Porcini Soup,  with Creamy Foam and a Crispy Crostino -
Made to pair with the below Cloudy Art presentation.  This was actually my favourite dish with its earthiness and concentration and also it’s proximity in concept to the art piece it was trying to represent.  Pretty viscous thick and potent in flavours too,  enhanced by some shiitake mushrooms.    ~  9/10


There's a "She" watching from inside the Eye of the Pupil -
I took it from this angle for fun,  if you saw what I posted on Instagram before. 



The Eye - Seared Lobster with Crustacean Foam and Orzo Pasta with Sundried Tomato Carbonara cream -
Liked this dish it's always a crowd pleaser recipe when executed well enough.  Looking really like the eye indeed.   Actually this was smart recipe in many ways,  the combination makes sense.   Note:  this is the lunch tasting portion.  ~ 8/10




Roasted Pork Belly with Curried Lentil Beans,  Vegetables,  and Pumpkin Puree -
The curried lentils is a traditional concept although needed slightly more gravy sauce.  The Pork Belly was cooked nicely and again a smaller portion than the normal Dinner portion.   From a foodie’s point of view,  in HK,  it is probably better to give More than Too Few.  The restaurant and chef might think they are being considerate in calculating how much the customers can eat…  But may be I should bring some female foodie blogger friends and then they might know how much more food they consume than me by multiple folds xD    ~ 7/10



Veal Medallion version -
With similar veggies.  It wasn’t mine but just to show you the other Meat options.


Wine Poached Berries with Pistachio Ice Cream and Milk Foam -
This was surprisingly nice because all the flavours sang out individually.   In HK,  too many places have fanciful recipes and menu writing but the individual components taste muted, not sure if anyone agrees with me.   Not in this dessert fortunately.   ~ 8/10



The Owner of Popsy Room pays attention to Smallest of the Details -
Here I am trying out both a Chocolate Mint Tea after the lunch and my neighbour’s Fruit tea.    For me personally,  this isn’t just a Restaurant per se,  it’s an Experience and with good causes and Vision.   It reminds me of HK’s Dialogue in the Dark,  which was also so meaningful and to me,  even educational and learned how clumsy it is to eat without lighting and getting sauces all over your hand.   Here it is more like an excursion and it definitely is unique in HK Context,  and there is a similar Chinese restaurant doing similar in Sai Wan Ho too with their Artistic and Pottery Classes.  People with Vision is what I admire the most..





Price:  $988 to $1388 + 10% Per Person  (Meal by Invitation by a Friend of this Restaurant)
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address: G/F, 30 Upper Lascar Row, Sheung Wan,  Hong Kong
Ph: +852 2234 6711


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