Saturday, October 18, 2014

Starred gem in Kwun Tong

Recently I was at the Michelin-starred MIC Kitchen for a dinner tasting of the newly-launched menu. It's been a long while since I last came - that was when the restaurant was still known as MC Kitchen before a lawsuit from you-know-who forcing a new change soon after its opening. I am interested to know how this place - an outpost of Chef Alvin of Bo Innovation now headed by his top lieutenant Chris Keung - has evolved since then.

From its address in the traditional industrial district of Kwun Tong in East Kowloon, one may think it's located inside some run-down, filthy factory buildings commonly found in the area, but in fact the restaurant was located in the lobby of a new, sophisticated office building, right next to a beautifully landscaped garden outside. I was quite surprised to find to a near full house at the restaurant on a random weeknights, given this is not the usual area people hang out after work. But the sight of this made the evening looking quite promising already.

We wanted to give a good try of as many things on the menu as possible, so we ordered most of our dishes to share among the 4 of us at the table. Normally the menu features a number of items for appetizer, main course and dessert, which could be ordered a la carte or as a 3-course set (and similar but a different menu for lunch), or one could go for the tasting menu with more courses and presumably smaller portion for each.

Wagyu Beef Tartar, Preserved Kumquat, Fried "Nam Yu Mantou"
A few of the dishes did especially caught my attention. For appetizers, I like the Wagyu Beef and Scallop the most. The Wagyu Beef was served as tartar, served with preserved kumquat giving it a unique flavor and fragrance, and deep-fried "Mantou" (Chinese buns) infused with Nam Yu flavor. It's hard to describe how Nam Yu - or red fermented tofu - taste like or it could be an acquired taste for some - and its pungent flavor could be tricky, but here the chef put the dish together brilliantly with just the right balance of different exotic flavors.

Hokkaido Scallops, "Choy Po" Polenta, Wild Mushrooms
Well I also liked the Hokkaido scallops pan-seared and served with a small slab of deep-fried polenta, even though I couldn't quite taste of "Choy Po" (pickled Chinese vegetables) said to be inside the polenta, nor I wouldn't describe shimeiji mushroom - a common type usually cultivated in a farm - wild mushroom as indicated on the menu. But the dish was well-cooked nonetheless - both the scallops and polenta were delicious.

Carabineros shrimp, Handmade Noodles, "Har Mi"
We each ordered one main course - of course that didn't mean I wasn't curious enough to dip into other people's dishes along the way, and I liked all the 3 seafood dishes. I still remembered the Har Mi (tiny shrimp) oil I had at Bo Innovation a few months ago - and here it made the appearance in the form of a pasta served with Carabineros shrimp. It's just as good, with the rich umami and spicy flavors well integrated in a bowl of house-made pasta. The blue lobster dish was also very delicious, with a hint of exotic turmeric spice from that of a green curry sauce. The cod was the lightest dish of all - with a piece of fish fillet well-seared to give a caramelized crust, then served in a deep soup dish with dashi (typical Japanese broth), shemeiji mushroom and jellyfish kimchee.

Wagyu Beef - Short Rib, Compressed Watermelon, "Dong Gwei", Bakkutteh, Chocolate
The fourth main course we had - and probably the most peculiar of all - was the Wagyu Short Ribs. It's served with compressed watermelon infused with dong gwei (Chinese angelica) and a chocolate sauce with a hint of bakkutteh - a Malay herbal soup made with pork. It sounded weird enough, and it is. I like the thoughts from the chef to let the watermelon sweetness cut through the fat from the short ribs, and the chocolate sauce bringing a smoky flavor, but hmm... I am not sure it worked 100% for me. Maybe I just didn't have enough of the dish to make a fair judgment, or maybe not.

Yak & Mac
We also had a few of their side dishes, of which my favorite was the black truffle "Loh Bak Gou", or Chinese turnip cake. If you were into pungent cheese, I think the Yak & Mac, with Black Truffle Yak Cheese and steamed rice rolls (known as Cheung Fun in Chinese), would be an interesting choice - promise this is no ordinary mac & cheese you are used to.

Apple Pie with Sour Cream Icecream
To Fu Fa
We tried two of the desserts to complete our meal. The Apple dessert - with a mini pie (that resembles one from McDonald's), apple sorbet, apple crisp, apple sauce and a scoop of sour cream icecream - was great, playing with the different forms of the same ingredients. And the "To Fu Fa" - which was ordered off-menu - was another simple yet brilliant creation - playful version of the sweet tofu dessert commonly found on Hong Kong streets, this was served as a soy milk foam with strong ginger juice infusion in a mini casserole.

Schlossgut Diel. "Demon" Riesling Kabinett 2012, special labelled for the "Demon" Chef Alvin
I generally liked the dishes here and the menu was reasonably-priced giving me extra incentives to come back more regularly. Having a meal at BO Innovation could be a polarizing experience - you either love it or hate it, but MIC Kitchen seems to provide a fair middle ground for people looking for adventurous food but nothing over the line. For those people who never set foot on the dark side (aka Kowloon), the restaurant could be one reason why you should make a detour over.

Full photo album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157648418276628/

Note: Dinner is an invited tasting event hosted by the restaurant

When? October 9 2014
Where? MIC Kitchen, G/F, AIA Kowloon Tower, Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Wagyu Beef tartar with preserved kumquat and Fried "Nam Yu Mantou", Carabineros shrimp pasta with Har Mi Oil,
Drink? Schlossgut Diel. Demon Riesling Kabinett 2012
Web: mickitchen.com.hk


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