Monday, October 22, 2007

Michael Roux without the Waterside Inn

The Waterside Inn. Whilst I have never been there, I would imagine with it many accolades, it is one worth burning rubber for to take in the spectacular surroundings, impeccable service and to enjoy an extensive wine list with peerless cuisine.

Michael Roux was recently featured in a week long Michelin star dining extravaganza, so instead of flying and driving to the restaurant in Bray, we instead took a shorter drive to Goodwood Hotel.

So, what happens when we take one of the successful elements out of its natural environment?

The menu that we chose was a very safe menu, nothing spectacular and on hindsight, it was a menu that perhaps for quality control in a foreign environment was something that did not require a lot of a la minute cooking.

The food was really just ok – terrine of foie gras and pistachio-coated chicken breast and ratafia-marinated grapes, delicate shellfish minestrone, warm fish terrine with butter, oxtail and beef cheek in beaujolais wine, glazed onion, button mushrooms and smoked bacon and sliced pears and blueberries in shortbread biscuit and coulis of red fruit – nothing that particularly created an impression except and oddly enough, the ratafia-marinated grapes with the foie gras dish and the smoked bacon.

The uneven service was the highlight of the night. Our first two courses chased each other in quick succession and then the lag time in between our other courses left us a little hungry. Good company can compensate for off-beat food service, but the final straw of the night was when I tried to send back my hardly tender oxtail that was replaced, but after the waiter tried to insinuate that perhaps it was tough because what I had an issue with was the bone and not the meat per se. “What?!?” I have an issue with that, end of story.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

At Table Tatsuya

270 Orchard Road
#01-05 Park Hotel Orchard
Tel: 6737-1160

Last night was a night of focused eating. Sushi was the main thing on our minds, so with Akane closed we decided to head to the other well established sushi mecca in Singapore, Tatsuya.

The sushi counter only sits a dozen and the chefs put on quite a show with their sharp knifes, bamboo brushes and blow torches. With such a small sitting and the personal attention you are given with the one to three ratio of sushi chef per customer these seats are coveted and needless to say, costly.

We ordered ‘omakase’ with a qualifier that we were only interested in eating sushi and sashimi. And with that we were later assigned Chef Kan who took care of us for the rest of the night.

The problem with going to a new sushi bar or for any new restaurant is getting the chef to understand your palate and your likes. We started off with a super fresh sashimi platter that consisted of the usual suspects – salmon, tuna, giant shrimp, clams, swordfish – very good, but seemingly conservative for my raw appetite. I sat back and wondered if this was going to be a good meal. The sashimi plate was certain fresh and faultless, but was I going to be taken on that magic-carpet-ride-delectable-adventure that some sushi chefs are capable of?

Aburi toro and salmon

Aburi botan ebi

After popping the first piece of oily-punchy-pepper-seasoned aburi salmon, my fears of being disappointed were dispelled. Following in quick succession was a string of aburi creations, toro, scallop topped with foie gras, botan ebi with mentaiko and matsuzaka beef, all fabulous popping flavour morsels. The most incredible flavour combination was this ‘special unagi sushi’ as Chef Kan puts terms it which was a grilled piece of unagi rolled with a paper thin cucumber slice, topped with salmon skin followed by tobikko and then sprinkled with sesame seeds and a swift brush of yuzu zest and sauce … a mouthful to describe and a mouthful delight.

From the raw department, Chef Kan hand crafted nigiris that included tai with rock salt and squeeze of lime, uni, Hokkaido surf clam, hamachi, arkagai, abalone and chutoro. After which Chef Kan look a little lost since our appetites seemed insatiable as we still peered hungrily into the glass boxes in front of us scouring for more. He then pulled out some squid and sent it to the kitchen to deep-fry as a ‘snack’ or a crispy intermission whilst he thought about what he was going to feed us next. For a treat, he reached below and pulled out the hirame fin then we finally call it a night with the stronger tasting sama and saba.

Hokkaido surf clam


Tatsuya is a great table to be at. Bring you sense of adventure and let the chef lead, then either set your budget and boundaries on what you would or would not eat or eat with reckless abandonment and fork over your plastic.

*See the whole set of photos here.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

My first brush with Gagnaire

25/F Mandarin Oriental
2 Connaught Road
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2825-4001

Gagnaire, famed for his clever and delicious fusion of unexpected flavours and layers of textures does justice to the idea of molecular gastronomy and the idea of fusion cooking. He has a way of seducing and dazzling you with his food. His food is fun and emphasises flavour that is sensually engaging.

I've never been to Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, so a visit to this Asian outpost of this gastro temple seemed like a necessary stop.

I started with a popcorn soup that was highly recommended by the waiter. Seriously, how could you resist ordering something that sounds so silly. In all its seriousness, it was a rich silky corn soup playfully garnished with popcorn.

That was followed by a duck foie gras and oyster that was pan seared with cabbage, Morteau sausage, baby artichoke and shiitake. Bathed in the natural jus of foie gras and oyster this dynamic duo was surprisingly light and hit all the right flavour notes.

I substituted an entrée of beef tartare served with a soft boiled egg, tomato melon kuice and potato fondant and other main courses that we ordered included roasted veal loin with carrot and almond paste and wild mushrooms, all very good.

Dessert was the talk of lunch. We split a Guanja chocolate soufflé served with condiments of blackcurrant sorbet, parfait and chardonnay cheese cream and a request from the dinner a la carte menu of an arugula and pistachio dessert. For the lack of a more eloquent word, the arugula and pistachio dessert was green. On top of a bed of arugula sat pistachio and arugula and pistachio flavoured cream with super thin crisp sugar coins and topped with a pistachio sponge, and it was all green. Thankfully, it did not taste green, in fact it was surprisingly delicious and refreshing.

My lunch at Pierre was seductive. The view is fabulous, my lunch company was funny and the food was whimsical, classic and edgy. I enjoyed lunch, smart and stylish it was good for the stomach as it was for the mind. I would like to return for lunch or dinner.

*See the whole set of photos here.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Bo Innovation

With menu items ‘steamed foie gras siu mai’ and ‘crispy garlic wonton, salty duck egg curry foam, escargot ragout’ reflect all the signs a modern fusion Chinese restaurant. Its name, Bo innovation, has some history. The original restaurant that Chef Alvin Leung aka the Demon Chef took over was called Bo and having enjoyed positive publicity over the years, it was hard to shake off the name Bo that had been associated with him, eventually adopted it as it to mean BO-ld innovation. Alvin Leung’s BO is his interpretation of innovative modern Chinese cooking has been wowing international and local audiences with his ‘extreme Chinese cuisine’ and has even been hailed as Hong Kong’s most innovative chef.

All these promised an out of this world experience, one that will shock and awe and induce inspiration and will be something that I remember and talk about for a long time. Did it? No. Was it terrible? No. Most of the dishes were ok-good but there was nothing that moved to the next level and met my expectations of this talked about restaurant.

Duet of french chicken - slow cooked in lotus leaf & served with ponzu sauce; smoked quail egg, taro crust, caviar; steamed foie gras "siu mai"; Macau crab souffle

The cooking is tasty but lacks a certain level of elegance. My biggest let down was the smoked suckling pig, slow cooked 20 hours with Sichuan apple chutney because I’m in Hong Kong, the land of glorious roasted goose and pork, and the pork that I was served had a tough and chewy skin and it had too much fat that I could hardly eat it.

There are some good showings. The Macau crab soufflé was wonderful served with the homemade vinegar and so was the slow cooked French chicken in lotus leaf that was tender and fragrantly perfumed. The highlight for me ironically was an item that was not on the present menu, the Caesar in a cone - a parmesan cone filled with an espuma of romaine lettuce, onion and other common Caesar ingredients.

At Bo Innovation, experiencing the food is only one half. If you can, sit at the chef’s table and experience Chef Alvin. He cooked for Anthony Bourdain with a cigar in mouth and has told a friend of mine “I’m going to cook for you and you are going to like it!” You’ll either like him or hate him.

Bo Innovation can be fun on occasion. Maybe I’ll go back to see what the Demon Chef has been experimenting with but with managed expectations.

Caesar in a cone

* view the meal in photos
here .

Bo Innovation
Upper Ground Floor
32-38 Ice House Street
Central, HK
Tel: 852-2850-8373
* They are moving in the next few months, check the website for their new address

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