Monday, September 15, 2014

A Sunday of Tennis, and mainly Food

It must have been over 20 years since I last watched a professional tennis match in Hong Kong, and even further back if you count only the competitive ones. So I think I should give my support to the inaugural/reborn of Hong Kong Tennis Open by getting tickets to catch this year's final.

Well this women's tennis tournament didn't get off to a good start (and to my great dissappointment) with two of the original top draws Genie Bouchard and Peng Shuai pulled out of the tournament at the last minute citing fatique and injuries, but at least the week was blessed by great weather except one afternoon, which could have been much worse given the unpredictability of weather at this time of year. And the final day, which was on a Sunday, was as gorgeous as you could ever imagine with beautiful, sunny sky and a bit of a breeze. Still hot, but okay comfortable from a spectator point of view.

Cloud Porn above Savour Hong Kong
The tournament was organized by a Singapore-based event management company, and along with all the tennis actions packed throughout the whole week, they also brought in the concept of Savour, an outdoor food fair held in Singapore with much success last year. In Hong Kong, they lined up a few high-end restaurants in town and a couple overseas entries to set up food booths serving snacks and drinks in the outdoor area at Victoria Park next to the Centre Court, opening not only to the match ticket holders but the public as well.

Molecular Xiaolongbao at Bo Innovation booth
We managed to check out Savour Hong Kong for Sunday lunch before the games. I must say this is probably the most glamorous stadium food we have ever seen anywhere, on any occasion. We started with the molecular xiaolongbao at Bo Innovation, served in the portion of two on a fancy silver-colored plastic spoon. I tried the same dish not long ago at the restaurant myself and this time, my opinion is still the same - it's not bad but I still didn't see what the fuss was about with this. It didn't wow me enough.

Nage de crevettes at the L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges booth
We moved on to the booth by Paul Bocuse's L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges. We tried all three of their dishes on the menu - because they offered us free dessert if we ordered the two savory courses - and they were excellent, living up to their Michelin 3-star fame from their original restaurant in Lyon. The Nage de Crevettes was a cold appetizer with glazed shrimp in a pouilly-fuisee jelly with cauliflower cream infused with ginger underneath, served in a fancy plastic cup. The dish was beautifully presented, completed with edible flower petals and all, and was delicious and refreshing. Every ingredients just came together well and the dish was well-suited for this weather.

Saint Jacques, at the L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges booth
I was even more impressed with the seared scallops with potato fondant served in a cream sauce and sweet potato crisps. Obviously they were handicapped by not having the whole team of staff in a fully functional kitchen and having time constraint to serve at fast food speed, but I bet this came out almost as good as the ones from their restaurant. Once again, the presentation was impeccable, scallop was plump and perfectly cooked, and I loved the rich creamy flavor from the sauce.

Saffron Tagliatelle with Lobster Meat, Tomatoes, Porcini and Cucumber, at the Nicholini's booth
We then moved to the Nicholini's booth next door manned by Chef Luca himself. I heard good words of his tagliatelle dish so we ordered one to try. I think the portion was a bit small for the price (for $100 I would expect at least a regular pasta course portion than a tasting size), but nonetheless, it's of top quality and consistent with what you would get at his restaurant. Handmade saffron tagliatelle was served with fresh lobster meat, cherry tomato, porcini sauce and cucumber. We were overwhelmed by the aromatic saffron from the pasta, which was perfectly cooked as well, and there's good portion of lobster meat. Once again, I tipped my hat to the chef, for the excellent cooking from an outdoor food booth under such extreme heat condition.

Blue Butcher's Fries with Truffles and Parmesan
From our observations, Blue Butcher's truffle fries seem to be the most popular of all - I heard there were long lines waiting for those later on - guess people were drawn to the crispy fries freshly made, completed with bits of grated black truffles and parmesan cheese. It is a great side dish to have and extremely addictive - we finished that in no time and wanted more. 

At one end of the venue, an air-conditioned canopy was set up for wine-tasting. I was a bit confused at Watson's Wine's decision to present a predominantly red wine selection on this occasion. True the wine list came with a few legit choices, i.e. not cheap, overrated wines, and they claimed all the wines served had a 90+ rating from Robert Parker, but still, where's the common sense, people? I am sure Mr. Parker wouldn't approve drinking a big, full-bodied Chateau Giraud Larose 2008 (one of the red wines on offer) under such broiling heat. So we were left with only 2 sensible choices of whites - one Penfolds Riesling and then a chardonnay from Beringer's Private Reserve label. Both were decent as mainstream wines and definitely the more suitable choices.

Apple Tiramisu
Finally, we went back to the dessert at the L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges booth. It's a Granny Smith "tiramisu" freshly assembled by the booth by order. It's a twist from the traditional tiramisu, with crumbled almond cookies replacing lady fingers, a slightly sweet chantilly replacing the mascarpone cream and underneath all that was apple confit with a hint of ginger flavor. Once again, it's nicely presented and tasty.

Well this is no cheap burger or hot dogs and beer that we were more used to being served at sports stadium - we ended up spending probably as much as we would have at any lunch at a mid-range restaurant. But the venue, the setup and the restaurant line-up were great, the food was top-notch and we enjoyed our afternoon there eating and drinking and enjoying the sunshine. Even the minor details such as the cutlery, plates and "glasses" etc were not overlooked - it's almost like fine dining abeit being a self-served outdoor event. My only complaint was they should have put in more tables and shades around, and most importantly - more cooler fans! I thought the organizer being Singaporean would know best how to keep an outdoor venue cool enough for people to stay comfortable but they definitely should try harder next time. I would have gone for more food if it's not becoming unbearably hot after spending a good hour at an outdoor table with a tiny umbrella which barely kept us from having a heat stroke. They probably need to do better with the publicity too - many people didn't even hear of this if they were not coming for the tennis. Better yet, wouldn't it be great if they could maybe do a special degustation dinner featuring all the chefs present? If they do, I will be the first to sign up.

Oh, back to the game, which was supposedly our main event of the afternoon. Turned out Genie and Peng were hardly missed for not showing up, as we watched a hard-fought battle between 1st seed and 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki and the young and up-and-coming Karolina Pliskova, who's seeded third at the tournament. Both probably showed signs of fatigue after a gruesome week under such hot and humid weather, but the hard-hitting Lisicki (who currently holds the world record for the fastest serve by a woman) came away with the title, her first in 3 years. Karolina Pliskova then paired with her twin sister Kristyna to capture the doubles title in the game following the Singles final. Both games were exciting, not to mention I think the Priskova sisters were super hot and Sabine Lisicki was probably one of the friendliest and most pleasant personalities in the professional tennis circuit.

Yes, we went home completely drenched in sweat after the games (yes, even as spectators) but it's a Sunday afternoon well spent. Congratulations to the winners, bravo to the organizer who put together a wonderful tournament and bring professional tennis back to town after too long. We will definitely return next year, especially if they managed to attract more top players to take part - Sharapova maybe? Just giving them an idea.

When? September 14 2014
Where? Savour at Hong Kong Tennis Open, Victoria Park, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Saint Jacques at the L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges booth

1 comment :

endogrutarif said...

Photos look very tasty. Let me thank you very much for sharing your pursuit.


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