Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sunday at the Spoon

Last weekend I was invited to try out the new Sunday brunch menu at Spoon at Intercontinental Hong Kong. I have to admit it's been a *long* while since I last set foot in this Michelin-starred outpost by Alain Ducasse - somehow it just slipped off our mind for no particular reason.

We were seated in the middle of the dining area, with gorgeous window view of the skyline behind us and most importantly, easy access to the buffet tables. We certainly picked the right day to enjoy an unobstructed view of the harbor in this perfect weather. I was told they did a little revamp of the Sunday brunch offering recently (hence this invitation for tasting). Now they have an even wider food selection and re-arranged the setup as well with the desserts no longer stationed behind the pastry kitchen but were brought back to the front.



We started off with a visit to the appetizer buffet tables which spread across on two sides of the room. On one table was more of the breakfast-themed items - the bread and pastries, yoghurts, fruits, cereal and milk and so on, and on the other table was the charcuterie platter, salads, cheeses and other cold appetizers.

With no less than 5 different choices of cured sausages, along with homemade suckling pig porchetta, duck liver pate, pork terrine en croute, and jamon iberico freshly sliced off the bone, this is not for the decidophobia - or hey, if you have difficulties in choosing, just take them all. That's the beauty of buffet, isn't it? Same for cheeses - with almost 10 different types to pick, and even for cured salmon - you can have a choice of them cooked gravlax style, or smoked, with both being prepared in house. I was impressed not only by the number of choices - which was not uncommon for hotel buffets in Hong Kong, but all the food was carefully chosen, perfectly prepared, and absolutely delicious.

While we were busy digging in plates after plates of appetizers, spooning echire butter at will to the already buttery croissant (ok, guess that's just me), the rest of the savory items were cooked to order and brought to our table. It's not shown on the menu, but first up was a soup course. I think the cauliflower veloute with croutons were brilliant. The texture from that of the pureed cauliflower and cream, along with the subtle flavor from the meat broth, and the bits of croutons just worked well together. A comforting "first" course.

The soup was followed by a choice from 3 egg courses. My favorite was the fried eggs - essentially their interpretation of the classic oeufs en meurette. Rather than fried with oil in a pan - as the name of the dish might have suggested, the eggs were baked in the oven in a mini cocotte and served with a reduced red wine meat sauce. The eggs were cooked to just the right consistency (barely runny), and the sauce was rich, velvety and full of flavors. If you are for the more "traditional" choices, there were also choices of an omelette - served "Basquaise style" with tomatoes and onions, or the Eggs Benedict - well a Eggs Florentine to be exact, with spinach, hollandaise sauce, a slim slice of toast and meat sauce served on the side.

For the choice of mains, they also tried to bring some varieties in their four choices - with one vegetable, one seafood and two meat courses to pick. Well I love the cookpot of local market fruits and vegetables best - their signature dish. A medley of thinly sliced root vegetables - beets, carrots, white radish and alike - were arranged in layers in a uniquely shaped "cookpot" and baked in oven. It's then served with a generous pour of gravy at the table, with even more finely diced vegetables and fruits. It's beautifully presented and full of fragrance from that of the root veggies and different flavors from the many types of ingredients in one dish.

Turned out the steamed grouper in shellfish mariniere style was also a lovely choice. All the ingredients - grouper fillet, mussels and different types of clams - were sourced locally - for those mindful of carbon footprint and the philosophy of eating local - and cooked in the classic French way. The creamy sauce and flavors from that of the clams and mussels worked well with the firm and rich grouper fillet.

On the other hand, I was a bit puzzled at the choices for meat courses. To me, Roast beef with pomme frites and rack of lamb with white coco beans and piquillos were a little too - well, simple and perhaps a bit lack of heart - for a restaurant boosting their creative culinary team. It's decent, but then if I was looking for a good roast beef or a rack of lamb, I would have walked downstairs to The Steak House under the same roof which specializes in these sort of dishes. I know, it is brunch not dinner we are talking about and there got to be choices for the more conservative minds blah blah blah... but as a compromise, perhaps at least one choice from their far more enticing a la carte menu in tasting portion? Well, I am just saying, and I am sure some may find the beef and lamb choices gave them better bang for the buck.

The best part of the Sunday Brunch was the desserts - in fact I did regret not saving more room for them that day. There weren't too many choices, but all of them were excellent - more than excellent actually. My favorites were the caramel religieuses, chocolate opera cake and lemon meringue tart - just because they were all that I could manage. The mille feuilles and eclair looked equally attractive - I guess I would have to go back and try next time.

The menu came with a glass of sparkling wine, followed by free pouring of red and white wines throughout the meal. Apparently they put a focus on wines from southern France - consistent with the types of food and cooking style the restaurant features - and I loved my bubbly from Languedoc, and the Rhone Valley blanc and Provencal rouge. I particularly found the E. Guigal 2011 Cotes du Rhone Blanc interesting with its bone dry character, good acidity, mineral-loaded palate but surprisingly subtle floral nose, which made it a good choice for the creamy seafood or the vegetable cookpot. For the rest of the wines, nothing particular to write home about but they were cheerful and easy to drink. Not bad for house wines. For non-wine drinkers, there were also juices and non-alcoholic cocktails to choose from.

Enjoyable as it definitely was, I did hesitate a little bit to give my unreserved recommendation - the sticking point being the lack of more creative main course choices and more importantly, the seemingly high price point for a Sunday brunch. (it came to HK$888 per person plus 10% service charge) But then it's just down to my personal, and rather subjective, judgment. Well as one of my friends commented on facebook, that "the jamon alone is worth the price of the brunch"... and come to think of it, with the appetizers (jamon included) and the cheeses and the desserts and free pour of wines, in a perfect venue to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon, yeah she might have a point. 

More pictures can be found in my flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157632918754581/

When? March 3 2013
Where? Spoon by Alain Ducasse, Intercontinental Hong Kong
Menu highlight: Cookpot with Local Market Fruits and Vegetables

Note: Meal courtesy of Intercontinental Hong Kong and Spoon by Alain Ducasse

1 comment :

HK Epicurus said...

I WANT that Suckling Pig Porchetta and the desserts...

Actually u know what - one of my biggest concerns about going to Brunches is that I can't eat all that much in 1 go.

For $888 + 10% I know I can eat my hearts out and get my money back but I wholeheartedly agree with you that if the Main Course is going to impress more (since I am a small eater), I would so love to come every weekend : )

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