Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Crustacean Affair at Cafe Causette


Two weeks ago, if it's not we ran out of time for a proper dinner to catch an evening movie at IFC, we would have gone to Cafe Causette to try out their seasonal Lobster & Bubbly menu. Then the next day I got a message from the hotel's marketing team inviting me to join them to try out the menu - wow, I call this a case of serendipity.


Lobster Thermidor
As far as being food ingredient is concerned, it's hard not to love lobsters really (unless you are one of the few poor souls who are allergic to them) - with its succulent meat, strong flavors and firm texture which were so versatile in cooking, from the cheapskate American way of simple boiling (as in the traditional clam bake), to the classic French Lobster Thermidor, to the Chinese way of sautéing with ginger and green onions... the possibilities were limitless. And they were literally tasty from head to tail.


Lobster Cocktail
The menu ran by Cafe Causette this time, available a la carte with an abbreviated version for lunch, plus a few sparkling wine paired set dinner options, has quite a number of different items made with this delicious crustacean. And on their sparkling wine menu listed a few from a simple Prosecco to a vintage grower champagne.

Tempura
We started with some "Tidbit" dishes meant to be shared. One big piece of skewered lobster claw was laid on top of another on a mini table top grill and they were served with lobster mayo. It's a creamy start and got ourselves warmed up to the night filled with lobsters. That was followed by a few starter items - a tempura platter (with vegetables in addition to lobsters) served with wasabi mayo and the traditional soy sauce with grated daikon, a pair of tacos filled with the usual ingredients and a slight spicy kick, and a lobster cocktail served on a martini glass, of which I liked the tempura the most for its combination of crunchy batter and succulent lobster meat, and the interesting matching with wasabi mayo.

Lobster Dog
We then moved on to dishes with more substantial portion. It did seem a bit of indulgent that we each had a half Lobster Thermidor but it was hard say no to this classic dish with a browned cheese crust on top. I reckon this and the sparkling wine were the best match as the acidity of the bubbly drink did provide the balance to the richness of the dish. We had a bit of discussion whether the next dish should be called a "Lobster Dog", or as Americans (esp those from New England) would call a "Lobster Roll", but the name argument aside, the Lobster Dog - as it's named here - was good, with sizable portion of lobster meat stuffed inside a toasted sesame bun along with ketchup, mustard and mayo, and the fries served with it were irresistible!

Lobster Wontons
If you are looking for something lighter, then I guess the lobster wonton soup that we had would be the perfect comfort food for you. I personally would prefer the traditional wontons with firm and bouncy shrimp meat inside, but this one is a tad richer and more flavorful. I could imagine this being a perfect choice for an easy, one-dish late supper kind of night.

Lobster "Bolognaise"
We also tried the two pasta dishes - the Mac & Cheese served on a cast iron skillet with macaroni infused with lobsters, and the Bolognaise with saffron linguini, tomatoes and parsley. Both served with plenty of picked lobster meat on top. I would like my mac & cheese a bit creamier (more cheese?) and more burned on top but it's still very enjoyable, but this evening I definitely liked the bolognaise dish more with the sweet tomato stew combining well with the substantial lobster meat, and the linguini infused with saffron aroma and color was a nice touch too, giving the dish another dimension of flavors.

Along with the countless Lobster dishes we had we were served a couple sparkling wines available on the menu. Schramsberg Vineyards is one of the few American sparkling wine house with excellent productions. Their blanc du blanc of the current vintage of 2011 was dry, pale golden color with fine bubbles. Floral on the nose, some pear and green apple on the palate, and a bit toasty. That was followed by Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose served in cute little half-bottles. Deep hue of salmon pink color, starting with a floral aroma, then light spices. Definitely a bit richer than the blanc du blanc we had before and as I said earlier, stood well with the creamy and intense dishes like the Lobster Thermidor to cut down some of the richness. 

Peach - with Rose champagne sorbet and puff pastry
No lobster for dessert but there were a few new sweet dishes based on champagne. I like the one with poached peach on a biscuity puff pastry tart shell, and topped with a scoop of rose champagne sorbet. Elegant, seasonal and refreshing. Of course, the good old apple crumble and raspberry cheesecake from their regular menu never disappoints.

I would say for a set dinner menu with 2 courses of lobster dishes and a glass of bubbles going for around $400 in a top hotel cafe, one can't possibly argue this is not a great steal. I always love Cafe Causette for a comfortable, simple meal - one you don't need to think much and plan in advance. I sure will make a trip back before the lobster & bubbly menu promotion ends at the end of August as a belated "lobster date" - after all we only took a rain-check last time and need to make up for it.

Thanks Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong for the lovely meal.

When? July 30 2014
Where? Cafe Causette, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Lobster Bolognaise with saffron linguini, lobster stew, tomatoes and fresh parsley
Drinks?
Shramsberg Vineyards Blanc du Blancs Brut 2011
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose NV
Web: http://www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong/fine-dining/cafe-causette/



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