My 2nd Revisit That Shall Last For A While …@RyuGin Hong Kong

Date of Visit:  December 26 2014

So I am back at RyuGin Hong Kong again…this time with my Bro to celebrate his birthday.  My last visit with mom was enjoyable (here), so I thought I should splurge again for my Bro’s special occasion!  The 3 of us had been to Ryugin Tokyo earlier in the year too (here)

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Place setting

We didn’t order the signature RyuGin Sake this time, but instead opted for a more ‘competitively’ priced hot sake. 😆

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Hot sake

COURSE 1

Monkfish liver from Hokkaido and ‘aka’ clam with spring onion in mustard miso sauce 

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COURSE 2

Simmered abalone with winter vegetables served with grated radish sauce

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Love the presentation!

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COURSE 3

Shiitake mushroom egg custard topped with Matsubagani crab

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Whilst I had the substitute without crustaceans, due to my allergy

Shiitake mushroom egg custard topped with simmered scallop

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COURSE 4

Poached oyster and mashed turnip soup in winter style

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COURSE 5

Assortment of Sashimi 

Fishes flown in directly from Japan!  Try as I want to, I can never recognise the fishes – except tuna (pink)  and salmon (stripey orange)! 😁

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Loved how the chef plated the course: Using salt to draw a mountain scenery

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I really like this, I think it might be razor clam (?)

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COURSE 6

Charcoal grilled Alfonsino served with crispy scales.  

Yes, the citrus is from a province in Japan!

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The crispy scales were the highlight

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The lump in the middle is the salty preserved yuzu peel

COURSE 7

Wagyu ribeye sukiyaki with onset tamago

The egg is from Japan as well…😆

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Thinly sliced beef hidden under the simmered carrots, leeks and onions

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Brilliant gooey orange colour – double yums 😋

COURSE 8

Sea-urchin rice with pickled vegetables and miso soup

This is the traditional set denoting the end of the savoury course in a Japanese degustation meal.

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COURSE 9

Pear

Being spoilt with the theatrics of desserts, needless to say, I am quite disappointed with the rather under-whelming presentation…no theatrics of dry-ice…

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Pear

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Powdered sorbet pear

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Cooked pear added after I cracking open the miniature pear

COURSE 10

Deep-fried sticky rice spring-roll with ice-cream

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Quite a traditional dessert

Matcha, personally prepared by the maitre-d to finish off our meal.

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Matcha

Overall, the meal was good – utilising the freshest ingredients ALL air-flown from different regions in Japan – as expected of a 3-starred Michelin Restaurant 😗, but unfortunately a rather straight-forward text-book execution with not much of a ‘wow’ factor after a couple of visits.

But what is a birthday without a cake? So off we went to Robuchon for our 3rd dessert…😗

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Mandarin Grill Chef Sunday Tour @ Mandarin Grill + Bar, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hong Kong

I’m betting my bottom dollar that most of you dudes and dudettes are fans of the Masterchef series.

How awesome was Heston’s Blumenthal’s week long appearance on Masterchef?  I hope none of you missed out the fun-filled molecular themed episodes – with lots of liquid nitrogen, dry ice, spherications, smokes, etc. That particular episode on ‘Medieval Feast’ with the ‘vegetable patch’ reminded me that I have not blogged about my degustation dinner at Mandarin Grill + Bar in Hong Kong a couple of months ago.

Date of Visit: June 2 2013

Mandarin Grill + Bar is a 1-Michelin stared restaurant in Hong Kong synonymous for decadent dining – delicious food, sophisticated ambience, fantastic service, arty food presentation – all for HK$1,588+10% per person for the degustation.  A dress code is in force.  All men must wear a jacket and keep it on at all time.  No torn ripped jeans even the designer ones.  (Anyone remember Marc Jacobs’ kilts fiasco?  He was refused entry to a restaurant because he contravened the restaurant’s dress code by wearing a ‘skirt’?  It made news – and some noise!)

Anywaz…

The gastronomy at Mandarin Grill + Bar has enough neologisms and touches of creativity to convince the most discerning food critic and yet mom would still be happy with the landings in front of her. Since I was hosting  dinner for 6 on that night, I used my Samsung Note  to take these quick blurry snaps and relied on my memory of the highlights of the night – so apologies for the horrible photos and sketchy food notes.

Under the guidance of the sommelier, my guest chose a Kabinett Riesling and a Nuits Saint Georges for dinner. I liked the French Burgundy, but found the German Riesling slightly too sweet as I refer drier varietals.

With our wines ordered, menus collected and everyone at the table comfortably settled, the waiters brought out a potted olive bonsai plant. A bit puzzling at first until the waiter said  to imagine eating the spherifed olives under the olive tree. Visual aid is said to evoke our memory center in our brains which works by enhancing the flavour receptors in our taste buds hence making the corresponding food taste better. To be honest, I cannot remember how the spherified olives tasted like…  The key of making ‘olives out of olives’ is to find olives that have a great quality juice that tastes great, here is a link of a tutorial by Ferran Adrian.  

The melt-in-your-mouth gougères rolled in parmesan cheese (presented in a Mandarin tin box) and olive gougères on the other hand, were heavenly, I distinctively remember the sweet buttery aroma of cheeses in the crumbly gougères.

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A pot of olive bonsai plant, with spherified olive and extra olive Gougères

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Gougères rolled in parmesan cheese (presented in a Mandarin tin box)

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Gougères

The warm soft breads were fresh out of the oven. A trolley of 5 types of  olive oils were wheeled to our table.  The waitress explained in detail the flavours and nuances of each type of oil hailing from different countries.  I think I chose the French, although in hindsight, I should have chosen ‘Lambda’ from Greece, the world’s most expensive olive oil (read here)

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House-made soft rolls

The presentation of a Flower Pot for each of the diners marks the 1st course.   It was accompanied by the ceremonial watering of the plant with a tea infusion from a watering-can!   Inside the Flower pot was a small garden patch of herbs and sous-vided root vegetables stuck in a creamy concoction and edible soil. This was quite similar to the Masterchef contests’ vegetable garden whereby they used egg mayonnaise (for earth), topped with chopped-up dried olives and nuts for make-believe edible soil.  I am not sure whether the same ingredients were used for the pot, but the pot was exceptionally divine – a bit too heavy and filling though.

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Flower Pot

Salmon and Caviar
I am assuming that the caviar was of the sustainable farmed varietal.     Because I nipped off to the Ladies (there was an attendant stationed there to hand me  a hand towel after I had washed my hands), I didn’t realise that we had to share a tin between 2 people.  I only realised later when I had a good half of it.  I think there was lobster boursin under the bed of caviar.  It was very delicious.  My apologies to my guest, but since she had recently attended a lavish wedding reception, she told me, that she has had enough of her share from the humongous bowl of caviar that is so de rigueur in Hong Kong society weddings nowadays.

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Caviar

The hedonistic salmons came out in style, smoking on a bed of herbs/hay.  This is smoked-cured-salmon-heaven and very good!

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Salmon

Sirloin
5 slices of tender juicy beef arranged in a circle around different types of mushrooms, (and a piece of dehydrated mushroom) on a heavy timber board- the waiter gave us a tall-tale of “cows roaming in the woods”.  Really?  We all thought that the story-line could be improved with “deers roaming in the forest”.  Whoever heard of cows in woods anyway?  This came accompanied with mash potatoes and spinach

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Sirloin

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Sirloin

By the time, the cheese trolley rolled over.  We were stuffed and had to wait for 20 minutes to digest before we can proceed any further.

We were served 17 types of Cheeses. Again, each piece of cheese was explained in detail by the cheese sommelier.  We had some crackers, honey and pastes to go with our cheeses.

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Cheese Board

I had a Light Bulb for dessert!  Really?!  Yup, the light bulb was made of spun sugar and filled with coconut foam and paired with a quenelle of mango ice cream and a chocolate filament for extra panache.

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Light Bulb

The grand finale was the petit fours.

This is melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles presented on  Mandarin Oriental’s signature edible chocolate ‘madolins’. I tried to scrap some chocolate bits off to try, but it was rock-solid hard.  Better not risk a trip to the dentist, right?  I should have asked for a doggie-bag too…

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Chocolate truffles presented on Mandarin Oriental’s signature Edible Chocolate ‘Madolins’

All-in-all a fantastic 4-hours dinner.  A bit Downton Abbey-ish, served in full silver service.

I might have missed the Art Basel 2013 and the special menu designed in conjunction with it, but nevertheless, there is always next year.  Here is a link to the astoundingly specially created menu here  *Food Porn*

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Van Gough’s Ear made from Foie Gras

Revisit @ Liberty Private Works, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: June 4 2013

A splendid meal back in February at Liberty Private Works (my review here) and hearing more positive feedbacks from friends who went there on my recommendation prompted a revisit. Seeing familiar faces working on the night is a testament to the restaurant that they are able to retain quality staff for long periods of time. The familiarity in turn immediately brought a sense of ease as we climbed onto our high stools at the bar.

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After being seated, we were given a test tube and a ‘tablet’. I know from my experience at Takazawa (my review here), that I have to pour this cold liquid over the ‘tablet’ which soon unravelled itself to be a towelette. It was very thoughtful of the restaurant to refresh us with the cold refreshing towelete smelling of lemongrass in order to prep us for the dinner ahead. While waiting for our 7:30pm group to start, we were given crackers with guacamole dips to nibble on.

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Our evening of visual tantalisation and clever platings started with the pretty Amuse Bouche of Oyster in citrus ponzu foam and jelly (on an oyster shell, of course).

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Tuna, Sea-Urchin, Espelette, Rice
This is a regular feature and also the signature dish in LPW’s menu. One starts with the frozen grape on the left towards the tuna and sea-urchins on a bed of amazingly crunchy puffed rice to finish the course with the frozen longan. I am absolutely delighted with my serve of briny-sweet sea urchins. The textures afforded by the puffed rice when matched with the sea urchin and tuna were just sublime. Sucking on my frozen logan, I am excited to see what follows.

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Langoustine, Frog, Chanterelle, Wheat Berry
This dish somehow conjured up an imagery of ‘Wind in the Willows’. The fried frog drumstick was classy dressed in the pool of spinach puree. Matched with sweet langoustine and chanterelle, this effectively transformed the frog into a very exciting offering.

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Monkfish, Bone marrow, Pancetta, Maitake
The unusual pairing of the fish with pancetta and bone marrow, made each bite the more enticing and each bite the more tempting and enjoyable.

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Egg, Truffle, Parmesan, Caviar
Next up, is a classy breakfast-sey spinach and ricotta raviolo sous-vided with egg. It came with caviar and to be eaten with a freshly baked baguette. This is also one of LPW’s signature dish that we had on my first visit, and one which I really enjoyed.

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Pigeon, Smoked Eel, Pea, Morel
Yet another unusual pairing of tender pigeon breast with smoked eel. The clever accompaniments of pea and morel are used for balancing the different flavours and textures of the pigeon and eel.

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Iberian Pork, Beetroot, Plum, Hoisin
The Iberian Pork continued the “wow” factor that remained consistent with all of the courses throughout the evening. I really had to start questioning whether or not the pork was ultimately going to be my favourite dish in the end. This pretty dish bursting of fruity flavours is also the last of the savoury course.

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It was An evening of fun watching the chefs hard at work.

Finally desserts arrive… LPW makes the most awesome desserts and we have 2 dessert courses.

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Banana, Blueberry, Mascarpone, Peanut Butter

Stylish presentation

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I am a sucker for theatrics and enjoyed watching the chef preparing instant ice-cream with liquid nitrogen.

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Final presentation

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Chocolate, Caramel, Chilli, Salt
I must say that this is my new favourite dessert. What a marvellous idea to pop the olive bubbles in our mouths to smoothen the chocolate crumbs, caramel, chilli and salt!

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Petit Fours
Too full to eat anymore, I did manage to savour one Orange Madelaine.
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This has to be one of the most comfortable dining experiences that I have had, more so encouraged by the very attentive and smooth service team. My palate was challenged by the combination of new tastes that I never thought would complement one another , new intelligence was found and most importantly the entire experience led to the hours to fly by as pleasant conversation was enhanced by positive experiences. What impressed me was that everything from the food, drink, service and ambiance was elegant and not over the top. LPW is a clearly my firm favourite in Hongkie Town!

‘Foraging’ @Aronia de Takazawa, Tokyo

Date of Visit: February 22 2013

Aronia de Takazawa or the re-branded Takagawa was voted the #1 Restaurant on Tripadvisor before I left for Tokyo. It also came #31 in S.Pellegrino Asia 5o Best Restaurant 2013.  From the reviews and blogs I have read, also famously difficult to book because it is a tiny restaurant with only 4 tables! So reservation was made 3 months ahead through emails with Takazawa’s wife, Akiko.  Continue reading

Eating ‘Dirt’ at Asia’s #1 Resto! @ Narisawa

Date of Visit: February 25 2013

A spot of experimental French-Japanese dining à la Narisawa-style. Reservations was too easy – hop online, fill in your details, pick your date and remember to reconfirm a week before.

The resto is in a up-market suburb of Aoyama, very easy to find. Since we were early, we checked out the hood. Walking around the suburban vernacular of precast concrete, we spotted design firms and GA Japan masterpieces. Continue reading

Dining with Bogans @RyuGin Hong Kong

Date of Visit: February 16 2013

To date, my dinner at Tenku RyuGin is the most expensive meal I had in Hong Kong (HK$1980++). What gives? The location of course, atop the International Commerce Center, currently the tallest building in Hong Kong on Level 101. I had also wanted to compare the branch here in Hong Kong before I test the mother branch in Tokyo where I had secured a reservation.

To get to RyuGin, one has to go to the Sky Dining Lobby to catch the dedicated express (1 minute) lift. I guessed that Level 101 must be at 400m (bad digit for the Chinese) above sea-level since the screen inside the lift turned orange once it reached 399m and a second later, the lift doors opened.

The decor of the restaurant is very simple with light-coloured raw timber. It is reminiscent of walking in a Japanese garden passing through the ‘shacks’ of glass-encased wine displays before arriving at our table by the window.

The views from Level 101 is less than spectacular with smog and haze.

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Red sun syndrome?

Continue reading

Sepia

Date of Visit: August 11, 2012

Another memorable meal in 2012 was at Sepia. It is ranked #3 in the Gourmet Traveller Guide and also received 3 Hats from SMH Good Food Guide.

If not for the take-home degustation menu of the day (with postcards and the restaurant’s calling card as momento), I would be left puzzling at the pictures without a clue to what deliciousness I had. I must also say that dining at Sepia is the closest to molecular gastronomy experience in Australia! The following are my iPhone gastronomic journal (and I must say iPhone takes some good pictures!)

ONE

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Seared swordfish belly, kelp, mayonnaise, shiso vinegar jelly, ginger oil

TWO

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Butter poached Port Lincoln squid, barley, miso cured egg yolk, lemon sorrel

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Check out the posh knife work!

THREE

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Wild yabbies, water chestnuts, jamon butter, apple and fennel, elk

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I got a substitute dish- scallop with nori, avo and Japanese ginger jelly (the little translucent ball on the bottom left)

FOUR

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Seared Empador, nori salt, roasted bonito and garlic consomme daikon radish, Hijiki, salad burnet

FIVE

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Glazed and smoked freshwater eel, watercress, parsley and oyster dashi, tapioca, licorice, nasturtium

SIX

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Milked lamb goat’s cheese

SEVEN

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Saikyo miso braised pork belly, Corella pear, pickled artichokes, spanner crab and crackling, rosemary flowers

EIGHT

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Seared Wagyu beef, nameko mushroom, garlic flowering chives, roasted red onion juice and wasabi, shallot, potato and kombu crumb, citrus soy

NINE

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Fondue of ‘Old Telegraph Road’ brie, sushi rice, malt, Tasmanian winter truffle

TEN

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Reduced milk sorbet, cucmuber and apple jelly, pickled cucumber granita, mint oil (Before)

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Reduced milk sorbet, cucmuber and apple jelly, pickled cucumber granita, mint oil (After)

ELEVEN

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Rhubarb, vanilla custard, almond cake, juniper and lemon, honey ice cream

FINALE

This is the “plat de résistance” and the reason I chose to eat at Sepia – the famous ‘Winter Chocolate Forest’!

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“Winter chocolate forest” – Soft chocolate, praline and chestnut, lavender cream, blackberry sorbet, blood orange jellies, green tea, licorice, chocolate twigs

Sepia on Urbanspoon

Biota Dining

Date of Visit: August 5, 2012

Biota Dining has to be one of my most memorable meal of 2012. Thanks to my FB page, where I had posted some pictures and notes, I still have the sweet memories to share in my blog.

In the days of yore, before the petrol price rocketed sky-high, my family would often go for long country drives. Nevertheless, last August, when my mom got her hot new European SUV, so we decided to take the car out for a spin. I had read the rave reviews on Biota Dinning, so booked a table online.

The drive from Sydney to Bowral took around 2 hours.

We got a bit of a ‘fright’ when mom pulled up into the parking lot in front of a motel and asked, ‘Are we dining in a motel?’. I hoped not, but hopped off the car to check the situation (I was a bit worried, because I have had made a few bad dining recommendations before). To my relief, 2 country-gentlemen came out from another walkway and said to me, ‘This is the best restaurant in Bowral!”. Phew! What a relief!

We were the first to arrive at 12 noon. A lot of reviewers referred the decor as ‘Scandi-chic’, but I thought ‘Bondi-chic’ – well, never mind, both tastes rely heavily on natural wood, white washes, striped cushions in a somewhat large bare-minimalist room. I think the ‘naked’ light-bulbs for lightning looked fun though.

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Main dining room

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The kitchen ‘theatre’

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The ‘Bar’ with a huge branch and tin bucket for cooling wines – pretty rustic

Quirky touches everywhere… on the wall

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Quirky chicks

…on the table…

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Egg shell resting on hay – deco only – do not eat!

Righto! To the food…Amuse Bouche and the customary bread and butter…

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Amuse Bouche: Salmon jerky impaled by thin rod in Himalayan salt

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Whole meal damper – butter served on stone, nice touch

ONE

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Pulled beef with beet root

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Picturesque Scallop with celeriac purée, zucchini and peas

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Duck egg on smoked puffed rice (a must-try)

TWO

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Lamb rump

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Pork neck painted in ash! So this is what the New York foodies are raving about ‘food with ash’!

Our Wine

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New wine discovery from Canberra – it has a good hint of pepper!

THREE

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Chocolate (Before)

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Chocolate (After)

Tea with Petit Fours

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Tea with Petit Fours

Just checking out the rest of the place..

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Informal dining area where they serve tapas and lighter plates

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Chill-out lounge with fire place (view 1)

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Chill-out lounge with fire place (view 2)

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Outdoor terrace with a real stove to make pizza (for summer)

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More outdoor sitting

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The garden with the famous resident geese

On the way home, we detoured to the tourist drive to check out the view of Bowral… Biota Dining was simply awesome and we will definitely be back!

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View of Bowral

Biota Dining on Urbanspoon

Quay Restaurant

Wow! After 3 years of dreaming the famous Snow Egg from MasterChef, I finally got to savour it! Did Peter Gilmore float my boat? Read on!
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Date of Visit: January 23, 2013

The Quay Restaurant at Circular Quay is No.29th in S.Pellegrino’s World Top 50 Restaurant (2012). It is the only Australasian restaurant included in the ranking. To get a table at Quay for a party of 2 to 4 would need at least 3 months reservation, however, because we are a party of over 5 people, we got a table with relative ease.

Since we entertaining guests from overseas, we look for location and accolades. What is a more iconic setting than the night time views over the waters of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge? Fret not, the cruise liner parked at the Overseas Terminal usually sets sail around 6:30pm – but do enquire when you make reservation.

The decor of the restaurant is nothing to gush home. Blue carpet, mirrors on the ceiling and walls. The bar looked rather nice, except when I looked closer, it’s just a drinks prep area. AnywaZ, I was given the honour to choose the wine for the table. Since I’m an adventurous drinker, I chose a white and a red varietal from Portugal:
2010 Dona Paterna (Alvarinho), Vinho Verde A$80 – floral varietal akin to sav blanc but with more weight
2006 Niepoort Vertente (D.O.C Douro), Douro Valley A$128 – light chocolate cherry, smooth with some age

I am very pleased with my choosing. I must say that the wine list is very good and easy to navigate, perfectly structured with international selections in magnums and half bottles too.

Our table decided on the 4-course dinner menu (A$165).

FIRST UP

Amuse bouche was goat’s curd, tomato, crunchy fennel seed – my taste bud is getting tickled… loving the texture…mmm… looks like the stage is set for a rather fine meal.

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Amuse Bouche

Just being a country bumpkin here, got to take pics of everything including butter and salt for the bread! LOL

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ONE

My choice of salad did not disappoint. See how beautifully it was presented? Sweet juicy cherries, tangy beets and smooth creaminess of the creme fraiche are beautifully balanced with savoury ‘toffeeish’ crunchy croutons

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Salad of preserved wild cherries,
albino and chioggia beetroots, radish, crème fraîche, violets

Beautiful presentation

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Fragrant poached chicken,
white radish, sea scallops, smoked eggplant cream, pea blossoms

Bugs Bunny’s Delight

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Carrot seedlings, white lentils,
almonds, Reggiano emulsion, cumin, daylilies, Job’s tears, coriander flowers

TWO

This is where service falls short… 3 persons at our table (including me) ordered squid without thinking that the squid will be replaced by scampi tonight. We thought that it was only for the tasting menu. So a mistake was made when the waiter who took the order did not clarify with us again that squid is also off the 4-course menu when we ordered ‘squid’ (and I had also informed the waiter than I am allergic to shellfish!). In my opinion, a restaurant of this calibre, should simply reprint the menu. How much does an A6 reflex paper cost?

Back to the story…When the replacement scampi arrived, I could immediately smell that it’s crustacean which I am highly allergic to. (And if I can smell crustacean, it only means that it is not fresh, that’s how sensitive my nose is!) A little disagreement ensued with the waiter who brought out the dishes…yadda..yadda… to cut the story short, the waiter should have just removed the plate and not argue with the client! Duh?!

Picture of the wrong order: My source told me that the scampi was ‘mushy’ no ‘crunchy freshness’

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Scampi, squid ink custard, society garlic, pink turnips

I’m happy with my replacement. It looks fancy. Puffed quinoa and nuts on the thinly sliced squail (master knife-work here). The brioche came across as dry. Since I can never ever taste truffles no many how many times I have tried, it is perplexing to me why truffles are so highly regarded.

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Coturnix quail, farro, hazelnuts, quinoa,
steamed truffle brioche, egg yolk confit, Vin Jaune cream

THREE

Look at the tiny onions! Too cute to eat. But the rice in broth was a tad too salty for me

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Korean green rice,
mountain spinach, barletta onions, green radish
asparagus, chestnut mushrooms

Dining source’s comment on the lamb was that it was sinewy and not ‘that great’

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Suffolk lamb loin,
eggplant skin and olive purée, sheeps milk crème fraîche,
fresh and preserved flowers

Looks like a chocolate cake. Dining source’s comment was that the beef was bland. Oh well… course THREE was only so-so.

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Poached Rangers Valley beef,
bitter chocolate black pudding,
morel, ezekiel crumbs, shaved mushrooms

FOUR

Dessert time! This is THE moment!

Eight texture chocolate cake is the latest signature dessert of Quay. The 8th texture was actually the hot choc sauce served at the table. (Note it melting in the middle). It was a very rich and powerful – me likey!

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Eight texture chocolate cake

What it looks like in cross-section. Check out the DIY video here.

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Eight texture chocolate cake

This is the moment I have been waiting for! MY Snow Egg arriveth! Apparently, they change the flavours seasonally. They have done jackfruit and guava previously. The process of making the Snow Egg is highly technical. Ice-cream inside lightly poached meringue and encrusted with very thin caramel, resting on cherry granita with bits of dehydrated coconut. Check out the DIY video here

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Cherry and coconut snow egg

What was my verdict of the Snow Egg? I liked the presentation but apart from the cherry and coconut granita, I couldn’t remember what was the flavour of the supposed yolk, and whether it should be ice-cream or cream since it was a sludge when I cracked open the egg.

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Cherry and coconut snow egg

I saw people from the next table having the ‘Jersey cream, salted caramel, prunes, walnuts, ethereal sheets’, also on the dessert menu. The presentation looked ‘deconstructive’ with the sheets wedging into the cream and sorts. I’m sure it must be delish too!

Finally, some chocky with our nightcap

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Petit Fours – extra A$10 with coffee/ tea

So, did Peter Gilmore float my boat? Needless to say, the presentations rocked and the techniques involved in the desserts could not be faulted. Unfortunately, for the main meals, there are other places that offers better. If I am coming back, it will definitely be for the desserts.

Degustation menu (updated)

Degustation menu

Degustation menu

FYI and comparison sake, do check out Andy Hayler’s review here.

Quay on Urbanspoon