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

A Bit of a Yawner…@ Tapas Molecular Bar, Tokyo

Date of Visit: February 24 2013

Tapas are primarily small bites with something to drink. After some surfing on the net, I decided to go for an ‘adventurous’ molecular dinner at Tapas Molecular Bar at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo. I will advise to book sometime ahead since there are only 2 seatings per night accommodating 7 diners per seating.

True to its name, this tapas bar is REALLY a bar – a cosy 7-seaters tucked away from the Oriental Lounge where we can watch the bartender mix cocktails at one corner while waiting for our dinner to start.

From reading blogs and reviews, I came to understand that the main draw card is the highly entertaining Canadian chef called Chef Ramsey. Unfortunately, it was his off-night, so we had his second-in-command, Chef Yamamoto to ‘perform’ for us.

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‘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

Just An Average Nick @RyuGin Tokyo

Date of Visit: February 26 2013 (Early Spring Menu)

In stark contrast to its offshoot’s glamorous location in Hong Kong (my review here), Nihonryori RyuGin‘s location in Tokyo is more subdued, in a residential back street off Roppongi. Roppongi was a sleezy area frequented by American GIs in the 60s before Mr Mori took the punt to redevelop the area and almost went under during the Japanese Asset Bubble. Lucky for him, his gamble paid off and now Roppongi is a thriving metropolis in Tokyo.

With an impressive string of accolades, namely 3 Michelin stars and being in S. Pellegrino’s List of World’s Top 50 Restaurants (determined by the water the restaurant sells, methinks), booking for a degustation dinner at RyuGin is very strict – starting at 11:30am on the 1st of the preceding month. However, if you are a late diner, you may be able to book in for their à la carte after 9:30pm. 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?

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Liberty Private Works

(A scheduled post from the Chica currently on a month-long luncheon in Japan)

Date of Visit: February 18 2013

I booked Liberty Private Works (LPW) a month before I arrived Hong Kong. Booking was super-easy as it’s all done via online booking and the restaurant will email you with confirmation, followed up by 2 more phone confirmations – the week before and on the day. Getting a seating on your prefered date is a different matter. I did a Google search and found that this is the Top Restaurant in Hong Kong. The seats are very coverted since the establishment is operated in the ‘private kitchen style’, i.e. limited seating of around 26 persons per night organised in 2 seatings – 7:30pm and 8:30pm.

The menu is a set degustation menu costing $HK800+10%. Wine pairing will set you back further for HK$680+10%. We opted for a bottle of Spanish red instead. The wine list is very well curated with New World wines as well as the Old Worlds, I would suggest you to peruse the wine list online before you go for dinner – if you prefer reds, choose a lighter style wines (my 2-cents)

Chefs at work...Plating up with precision... and utmost concentration

Chefs at work…Plating up with precision… and utmost concentration

Munching on the lavash with guacalmole dips while waiting for the 8:30pm start

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Lavash with Guacamole

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The highly prized truffle in the glass cake-stand

AMUSE BOUCHE: Octopus terrine, balsamic (black dots) & pepper (red dots) reductions, cute circular cabbage leaf, cheese croquette, triangular pepper. Very delectable…

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Amuse Bouche of Octpus Terrine

ONE (Seafood): The chef suggested that we start from the left with the frozen grape and finish on the right. The espelette gave a spicy kick that lingers. After eating the last frozen grapes, I can really feel the espelette kicking in, warming my belly

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Tuna, Sea urchin, Espelette, Rice

Close up of the sea urchin and tuna. Can you see the caviar and gold leaf? The puff rice was very crunchy and tasted slightly vanillin… some childhood memories perhaps – munching on puff-rice crackers, anyone?

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TWO (Seafood): This course came on a very hot stone-slate plate. Because I’m allegic to shellfish, I got 2 pieces of the pumpkin ravioli instead of the lobster. (The lobster was apparently quite chewy and tough). The foam is coconut reduction. There was a suprise in store – I found a piece of seaweed under all the trappings. I love the green endame and yellow sago beads

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Lobster, Chorizo, Pumpkin, Coconut

THREE (Seafood): What beautiful presentation! Ponzu jelly in cubes, dots of yogurt, fennel, tiny nectarine bits, sous vide salmon and sweet oyster

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Salmon, Oyster, Nectarine, Fennel Yogurt

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Mine – but without the oyster

FOUR: This is a rather difficult dish to make, since the egg is poached inside the ravioli. Boy-O-Boy, delicious! I stuck the warm baguette to break the egg and wipe down the plate to soak up all the yolk and sauces – let’s spare the dishwasher boy the trouble, I say…

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Egg, Truffle, Parmesan, Caviar

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Spear the egg with the baguette

FIVE: The foam is from the essense of ham and fowl. There’s chargrilled brussel sprout leaves, daikon, thick ‘vegemitey’ truffles sauce

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Guinea Hen, Winter Black Truffle, Iberico Ham, Pear

Pulled fowl under the ham

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What’s under the Ham?

SIX: This is a fun dish. It kind of reminds me of my breakfast muesli with coco nibs. Venison is cooked in 2 ways: Venison steak cooked medium-rare and venison sausage. There’s a mint inside the sausage – another suprise? Cute! The pickled onion compliments the cherries, one whets the appetite, the other sweetens it.
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Venison, Cherry, Cocoa, Muesli

SEVEN (Dessert): THIS IS THE HIGHLIGHT!!

Each dessert plate is done very artistically and not one looked the same!

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Korean Strawberry, Tomato, Mascarpone, Rosemary

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Tomato with a suprise stuffing inside (not telling) and basil seeds

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Closer look

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Ice-cream, mochi with condensed milk filling

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The final product – crackling of liquid nitrogen

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EIGHT: Taking the Cantonese spin with fried milk – and healthful bee pollen and honey to soothe the body… interesting. The fried milk was very ceamy and milky which I absolutely loved

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Fried Milk, Saffron, Manuka Honey, Bee Pollen

PETIT FOURS: The clock is striking midnight and I have to catch the last MTR back to the dark-side… All-in-all, a very fun, interesting and tasty experience. Yes, I will be back! Most defo!

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Petit Fours: Mini Madelaines