Tuesday, September 26, 2017

S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award 2018 - Our Semi-Finalists Representing Hong Kong & Macau Region

  The [S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award for 2018] competition is now well underway,  with the announcement of the regional Semi-Finalists cooking and advancing onto the Global Stage in the coming months - representing our Hong Kong and Macao region are 3 Young Chefs who have created some Signature dishes and aiming for the Top Honorary spots.   Initially I thought about not posting too much information online,  in case this might give other regional competitors more heads up advantage,  but since most dishes to be presented are fixed by this stage already,  I guess I could write more of my true feelings about them from a 'customer's' perspective in terms of taste and execution,  since from now onwards it will be more about the micro-management and fine tuning of the dish and components which could score the final brownie points.   Hopefully some kind of constructive criticism can help them progress right into the Finals and reach the Top Podium steps to represent our region and Culinary cities!   Hope no harsh feelings below because to be concise and not boring everyone else, I might just cut down straight to some points I wanted to raise : )

S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 - Semi-Finalists Preview
3 Young Chefs from HK & Macau,  have already been selected as 3 of 10 Semi-Finalists in the North East Asian region.  Best of Luck !

The Chefs Preparing in the Kitchen,
and thanks to S.Pellegrino for inviting us to sample their Competing Dishes..

Menu and Wines are Today Paired by Jebsen Fine Wines -

X.O. Bouillabaisse Dish representing Tai O Hong Kong Fishing Village Seafood -
by Chef de Cuisine Noël Berard from The Ocean
This dish was intriguing to me because it tried to amalgamate a France-Marseille Seafood Bouillabaisse concept,  with the Seafood the Chef was able to source from Hong Kong, itself full of famous fishing villages in the past due to the many Islands and proximity to the sea.  The Hong Kong style Seafood X.O. Sauce is house made by the young French Chef,  and although it is quite nice already and with the Onion compote replaces the Rouille spread in a true Bouillabaisse,  I think it could handle a smidgeon more heat or even more powderized Dried Prawns or Ham input.  The Monkfish Liver and the almost-raw Squid are decently pleasing, but the Eel filets I think might benefit with less poaching time and a slightly crispy skin on top just for contrast?   The base Crab broth to me was a slight weakness too,  as it was rather thin watery plus it could definitely handle more concentrated Fish & Crustacean flavors,  especially to counter-balance the Black sesame custard's potency.  Overall my favorite Concept today,  but it just needed slightly more fine tuning to really stand out in the taste department!

Ikan Bakar with Purple Sweet Potato Puree - 
by Chef Zack Fong from Conrad Macao

Chef Fong explained a lot about this Malaysian/Indonesian dish orally, but behind his enthusiasm and sentences, I think a lot of the specific terms behind the recipe and concept could be more manifested clearer,  or written concisely.  For example,  the composition of the Sambal sauce,  the use of Candlenut,  also the oceanic Jellies and Molecular Caviars used (which these two components I found, had some irregular murky colors or shapes, and affected the presentation).  Obviously I am not a Professional Chef,  lest a true Food Critic,  but overall I also found the String Ray part used was too meaty and thick versus the Sauce/Sambal proportion, and too filling too.  Plus it could have more of the Ikan Bakar exotic aroma,  either that or the aroma of burnt Banana leaves or just from better Flame Grilling,  which is one of the spirits and essences of eating Grilled fishes from this region even if it is made more Upscale in recipe.  The pertinent question to ask is - given a choice to pick,  will I want to eat the Original beach versions more or this version?  In order to Win over the eaters' hearts,  it will need a very convincing and compelling quality to definitely choose the latter over the former. 

Glazed Veal Sweetbreads, Langoustine with X.O. Sauce Emulsion,
Lemon Thyme & Crispy Chicken Skin -
By Chef Eric Räty of Cafe Gray Deluxe, The Upper House
This dish was loved by quite a few people,  although some of us preferred the concept of the X.O. Bouillabaisse too.  For me this is simply because a Ris de Veau aux Langoustines is already a trusted French Surf & Turf combo in my eating books,  and as such I could compare it directly to other similar versions I had in my memory bank, and I think so could other Judges in the end.  The X.O. Sauce emulsion over the perfectly cooked Langoustine was excellent, with the Lemon coulis and zest beside it together with similarly herbal citrusy Lemon Thyme components bridging the slightly spicy Crustacean with the Sweetbread's richness.  The sweetbread itself to me could be sous-vide cooked slightly softer in the centre and more resembling normal French style Sweetbreads, which usually have a texture like that of lamb's brain or hard tofu at most. The Chicken Skin was an amazing idea but ultimately it tasted more like a smashed floury croquant than real Chicken skin taste.  Anyway this was a very lovely dish as is,  but I really did thought 1-2 things could be easily fixable and instantly make this even more amazing!

Good Luck with Our S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 Semi-Finalists from Hong Kong & Macau -
I just wanted to write some encouraging words about my preview experience with these amazing Chefs,  not as an expert but just from another angle as a diner!  Especially knowing that they will be up against a group of very fierce and well trained competitors globally,  or even within North East Asia or China, Japan itself already.  And here's hoping that somehow a wee bit of feedback and hopefully if they could be interpreted as some constructive comments,  but obviously through the very hard work of the talented Chefs themselves, can all encourage our Hong Kong and Macau Chef Representatives to take up the Top S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award Honors!  Good luck Guys and see you again soon !

Friday, September 22, 2017

Chou Chou Taipei x The Lounge Four Season [Hong Kong] - Chef Kin here for 4 Days to Dish Up His French Brasserie Signature Dishes

  Chou Chou Taipei 法式料理餐廳  is famous for their modern French Brasserie style dishes,  headed by Chef Kin 林明健,  who also heads the kitchen at ACHOI Taipei,  a winner of the best Western Restaurant category in Taipei previously.  These days Chef Kin also opened a new concept called LONGTAIL in Taipei.  Despite being born a native in Hong Kong,  prior to opening his restaurants in Taiwan,  Chef Kin also worked in the Jean Georges kitchen in Shanghai which just received Michelin 1 Star in the 2018 Shanghai Guide,  as well as in France under tutelage of Guy Savoy.   Currently they are here only for 4 Days at The Lounge at Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong to showcase his French cuisine,  and it will end soon on the 24th of Sept 2017!

Chef Kin from Chou Chou and Longtail Taipei -
currently cooking in The Lounge, Four Seasons Hotel HK

Bread Basket by The Lounge to Start with -
Always one of the best bread baskets in Hong Kong,  the focaccia and grissini lately seem to have improved too,  if that's possible.

The Chou Chou x Longtail Taipei Menus -
With both A La Carte and Tasting Menus.  (Click to Enlarge)

Sardegna DOC Wines for Pairing today -

Persimmon Salad with Seeds & Nuts, Avocado, Yoghurt Citrus Dressing -
A smart use of a usually more Asian fruit,  used in a more Modern European way with a tangy dressing. 

Charred Foie Gras Ravioli with Sweet Corn Purée,
Kaffir Lime, Basil & Lemon Balm -
The dumplings were filled with seared foie gras,  and the richness of the livers are complimented with the slightly smoky corn puree and pop corns.  A quick squeeze of the Kaffir Lime wedge really brought out the 3rd dimension of this unique dish.  The combination of the citrus and basil is French in style,  yet somehow with the slight tweak of the central ingredients it carried an Asianized flavour without going down the fusion path...

Roasted Tilefish with Crispy Fish Scales 松笠焼き 馬頭魚, Cordia 破布子 Vinaigrette,
Winter Melon & Celery Cress - 
They use the white type of Tile Fish which closely resembles 甘鯛 Red Amadai, but is noticeably thicker meatier!  This was a large piece of fish filet and in Asia,  this is always welcome as we eat a lot more seafood and whole fishes.  This recipe is both presentable and also very popular in Japan and Tokyo's Michelin starred restaurants.

法式咖椰西多士, 醬油焦糖, 咖啡雪糕
Kaya Pandan & Coconut Brioche French Toast, Soy Sauce Caramel, Espresso Ice Cream - 
A French x Taipei Dessert inspiration based on a Singaporean Breakfast Dish, which has Kaya Toast, Poached Eggs, Soy Sauce and Kopi Coffee!  This was amazingly crispy on the outside,  and inside well soaked with pandan coconut flavors.  Apparently, the version at Chou Chou uses a slightly different Brioche bread,  which I would be keen to visit to try in the future too..

Price:  A La Carte Dishes from HKD $145 to $1,580 for Tasting Menu  (Preview Coverage Invited by Four Seasons Hotel)
Food: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address: Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central
Phone:  +852 31968820

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sushi Tsubomi 鮨蕾 [Hong Kong] - Lunch Sushi Course at Affordable HKD $180 is Recommendable

  Sushi Tsubomi opened in the middle of 2017,  and Chef Michael and his team are instantly recognizable being familiar faces in the local Sushi scene,  and I am sure some of us have eaten at their previous restaurants where they took stints, including at Nobu.  This time around,  they opened up their own restaurant inside V Point in Causeway Bay.  We arrived here for a business lunch by impromptu,  since we were headed to La Bombance in the same building instead initially.  We were glad we also gave here a try because the Sushi 8 Pieces plus Tuna Maki Roll Lunch Set starts at just HKD $180,  and quality was surprisingly decent too.

One of our Sushi Shokunin for today -

Lunch Menu -
We opted for either 8 Sushi Pieces with Maki Roll for $180 per person,  or a Chirashi Sushi including Sea Urchin bowl at $250.

Duck Breast Salad,  & Steamed Chawanmushi Egg Custard -
For a Lunch set,  this is usually protocol standard in HK Sushi restaurants.

Chawanmushi Egg Custard -
The top decoration layer looked a bit plain,  without much Red & White Kamaboko fish cake or the Mitsuba herbs placed beautifully,  usually a touch I take notice of...  Other than that the smoothness of the egg custard was fine, there were pieces of chicken and seafood underneath

Chirashi Don - HKD $250 as Lunch Set
This carried the more modern look, and it included 10 different types of Seafood.  The Sea Urchin for lunch is as expected,  from Korea,  but this is normal.  The fish selections were basically the same as the Sushi sets we ordered too more or less. 

Sushi 8 Pieces Lunch Set - HKD $180
Sushi 1) Izaki Grunt Fish
& 2) Botan Ebi from Canada

Sushi 1) Hamachi Japanese Amberjack & 2) Kanpachi Amberjack -
This was an interesting combination to be presented together on the same plate,  since both fishes are related yet different,  plus the naming terms have a connotation about whether they are farmed or not within Japan these days.   The Hamachi is usually oilier the colder months it gets, whereas the Kanpachi is usually the lesser liked due to its crunchier texture but leaner meat.  Both today were of good quality for the respective fishes

Sushi 5) Kurodai Blackhead Sea Bream & 6) Aji Horse Mackerel -
The Aji was in season when we visited and for a hikarimono silver skinned fish,  not overly strong in fishiness.  The Kurodai is one of my favourite fishes as it is sweet tasting and clean, without the sometimes stringy veiny texture of a normal Tai.

Sushi 7) Grilled Karei Engawa & 8) Marinated Tuna Zuke -
Both were again tasting fresh and had their own respective tastes, which cannot be guaranteed in Hong Kong as sometimes the fish taste is muted.  This bit I was positively surprised about Sushi Tsubomi,  since the importation of fresher, better quality fishes to begin with, and subsequently the conditioning of the fishes from pickling to dry aging all affect the outcome.  Here so far, and for a team of Hong Kong trained Chefs,  it was actually pretty good.  The Shari rice used white rice vinegar here and although not outstanding,  was more than fair for its course..

Tuna & Negi Maki to Finish -
This was again another surprise to me, since the tuna were cut thickly and chunky,  not the more typical negi-toro minced type associated with this course.  Sushi Purists will have a point to say about this,  but as a paying customer I actually think this can be more satisfying for everyone.

Soup and Oshinko Pickles -
This was just ok.  It could have more seafood and miso depth to me..

3 Different Salts for Shaving onto Different Fishes -
With an Iranian and Himalayan salt.  Overall the Lunch Sets were great deals and as mentioned, the seafood items were all either Fresh or conditioned well and prime for their respective uses.  I would certainly come back without a flinch during Lunch Hours.  As for Dinner?  I think it will depend on how much they will charge for the Omakase vs the night performance level,  which is another game altogether...

Price:  HKD $180 to $250 + 10% 
Food: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address: 22/F, V Point, 2-22 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay
銅鑼灣登龍街2-22號V Point 22樓
Phone: +852 23391899

Friday, September 8, 2017

TOWN by Nagao [Hong Kong] - Tasting Menu by Chef Bryan Nagao, Previously of Peninsula's Felix at HKD $648

  TOWN by Bryan Nagao has received a 2016-2017 Michelin Guide Recommendation since it's inception and previously it was known as Alba in this Cubus Tower location. Chef Nagao is born Hawaiian-Japanese and used to be the Head Chef at Hong Kong Peninsula's Philipe Starck studded Felix, and in his own restaurant nowadays the food concentrates mainly on sourcing fine Japanese ingredients, and cooked in a Modern European way,  occasionally with reference to his Hawaiian or Japanese roots!    It is one of the best hidden gems in Causeway Bay,  and in particularly to his regular Lunch Customers,  Bryan is actually well known for making some of the best thoughtful salad dishes in Hong Kong .. 

Town by Bryan Nagao -
Deservingly, a regular recipient of Michelin Recommendations even in the latest 2017 Guide. Although Causeway Bay is more known for Japanese or Casual eats and often revered as the Shibuya of Hong Kong,  it does also employ many Office Workers in the district.  Hence restaurants like Town by Nagao, or Michelin Starred Seasons by Olivier nearby have their market..

Bread Basket -

Tasting Menu at HKD $648 - 5 Courses
For night time, a very reasonable Tasting Menu with some of Bryan's Signature Dishes

Wagyu Tartare 'Bavette', Sea Urchin, Japanese Melon, Avocado & Yuzu Mayo, Truffle Soil with Fried Taro Strips - Supplement HKD $28
This had flavorful and thickly diced beef cubes,  and sweet Sea Urchins.  The pairing of the fruit sauces was a smart idea,  with the Truffle Soil adding the final touch. 

Charcoal Cooked Beetroot for "Days", Burrata Cheese, Rhubarb Sauce & Endive Salad.
With a tinge of Lemon Thyme Herbs -
Quite refreshing as a small salad..  The Burrata only uses the inside runny cheese,  with bits of stracciatella. 

Grilled Australian Octopus Legs, Lomi-Lomi Tomatoes, Pickled Lemon & Ume -
The Octopus was tender with a charred surface,  it reminded me of some Spanish Restaurants in town which serve the Galician octopus version - the tentacles are slightly salty even without any seasoning, since it is naturally briny from the sea water.  The use of some fruity elements is apparent in this late Summer Tasting Menu.

Ayu Fish with Ayu Liver Sauce, Saffron, Oka Hijiki 陸鹿尾菜, Sansho Pepper, Dill Weed and Cherry Tomatoes. Topped with Sea Grapes -
One of the most memorable Japanese Ayu 鮎 fish Courses I have ever tried. The fresh 陸鹿尾菜 replaces the similar and traditional Tade-su 蓼酢 in this recipe, and fully brings out the fish aroma. The skin was evenly thin Crispy and the meat was so moist, partially bone-in at the tail.  It was my first time knowing Chef Nagao cooks Ayu fish,  and it impressed a lot.  Even down to the slight numbness in the sauce spiked with peppercorns..

Charred Honeyed Figs, Blood Orange Sorbet, Vanilla sponge,
with Butter Crumbles & Honey Crumiel -
A lovely dessert course to finish the dinner meal.  The dessert recipe carries some elements of Molecular gastronomy within,  which is always welcome as desserts should spring some surprise elements.  The savory dishes in the mean time were solid and thoughtful,  form follows function - without going down the overly presentable plating way.

It was Great to revisit Chef Nagao at Town -
Last visit I came during Lunch Hours for their Main Course + Salad Antipasti Bar,  which was a lovely meal as well and I still remember the well cooked Beef Pasta,  as well as the Spring Chicken dish vividly.   Next time I come again,  I will need to order the Signature Suckling Pig,  which has elements of Hawaiian cuisine in it and representing the Chef's paying homage to his birth place.

Price:  HKD $648 + $28 + 10%  (Note:  Chef Nagao actually invited me to come check up randomly on his Kitchen Team,  when he was Out of Town for Holiday...)
Food: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕

Address: 銅鑼灣開平道1號 Cubus 10樓
10/F, Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Rd, Causeway Bay
Phone:  +852 25688708


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