Wednesday, January 21, 2015

One Cheesy Evening at On Dining Kitchen

After a few messages being exchanged in one of the gourmet meetup group I was in, we managed to get a table at On Dining Kitchen and Lounge last Monday, with one and only one thing in our minds - Cheese!


This new restaurant - occupying the top 2 floors of a new building near Lan Kwai Fong and opened only a month ago - was the brainchild of the same impressive team behind the successful, now Michelin-starred Upper Modern Bistro, including Chef Philippe Orrico heading the kitchen. Even though I think the venue was slightly handicapped by the building's limited floor area, it wasn't as cramped as I thought, even with a well-stocked bar plus lounge in the upper floor and a wide open kitchen plus dining area in the lower level. Rather, the short distance between the tables and the kitchen added a homey feel to the place - it's as if I was eating in some friend's trendy apartment. The restaurant also offered an open view of the bustling city from atop through the floor-to-ceiling windows, completed with an outdoor terrace on the upper floor for drinks or more casual dining. 

With all due respect to Chef Philippe's cooking, the main theme of our evening was cheese - with Jeremy Ervard (formerly of Caprice) running front of the house we expected nothing less than the most epic cheese selection in town, as he's known for being an awesome cheese master. That's the reason why we decided to share only a few starter and main course dishes, saving rooms for the cheeses after.

They ran a pretty big menu considered the size of the restaurant and the kitchen, with almost 20 choices of starter courses and 10 main course options available on a-la-carte basis. 63-degree egg was a dish Chef Orrico made his name since the St George (at Hullett House) days, and even though now it's seen at just about anywhere, I reckon his version is still the best in town. The perfectly "poached" egg sat on top of sauteed mushrooms, with a mellow crustacean bisque sauce and hint of the fragrant yuzu giving the dish a balancing, refreshing touch. Even though the menu changes regularly, I was told they wouldn't dare take away the 63-degree egg... that's an indication of how popular that is.

The langoustine "lasagna" was a beautifully executed east-meet-west dish with obvious Asian influence, combining langoustine and veal sweetbread with coconut-curry foam splashed with lime juice, covered with a thin sheet of pasta. I was expecting a little more gamey flavor from the sweetbread but overall it did provide that creamy taste which went well with the Thai-style sauce.

I also liked the warm salad of sauteed octopus, artichokes and potatoes served with a light mustard dressing. It was a comforting course to start, though I wish there were more octopus in the dish to bring more of a chewy texture, and perhaps a little bit more acidity in the dressing.

Both main courses we ordered to share among the 5 of us were excellent. I am usually not a lamb person, but the Iberico lamb loin, cooked medium rare with just the mildest gamey taste was tender and delicious, with just a simple side dish of white bean stew cooked with lamb and garlic jus.

The chicken was another simple yet perfectly executed dish with the juiciest free-range meat carved on top of a bed of sauteed seasonal vegetables and completely covered by sumptuous amount of shaved winter black truffles and a light cream sauce. The earthy truffle with a slight crunchy texture provided the right contrast to the delicate meat flavors.

Then it came to the time of cheese. Jeremy built a compact cheese room on the upper level, allowing a good amount of cheese he sourced - some exclusively available at the restaurant - to be kept in ideal condition. Other than the two we specifically requested - the aged Comte and Mimolette - we asked him to pick the rest for us, along with the wines that could go with them.

Amazing line-up of cheese: (Right to left) Mimolette, Brillat-Savarin, Selle Sur Cher, Chabichou, Comte, P'tit Moselan, Tomme de Chevre Ariegeoise, Brin d'Amour, Coulommiers, Vacherin de Chevre, Fourme d'Ambert
Ten minutes later Jeremy re-emerged with 11 types of cheeses placed on the signature wooden platter, from the mild but super creamy ones to the richer blue cheese.

It's a bit cliche to say I liked them all but it's honestly not far from the truth. Nonetheless, a few particularly stood out. The Brillat Savarin from Burgundy - being the mildest of all in the selection - has a smooth, creamy taste with a hint of mushroom and wheat accented by the addition of black truffle shaved on top, and worked great with a glass of bubbly from a boutique grower champagne house that sommelier Nicolas brought us.

Pairing cheese and beer didn't sound obvious at first, but I reckon Mimolette - aged 36 months and with that deep, nuttiness flavor - is a perfect match to a glass of refreshing, almost fruity white beer. I still remembered it was an eye-opener for us when we first tried this combo a few years ago at Caprice. Of course, one didn't need to question the quality and taste of the rare, 48-month aged Comte that Jeremy kept, something I didn't mind munching on all day long at all.

On the other end of the taste spectrum we had a delightful flight of richer cheeses, paired with a sweet fortified wine from the little-known appellation of Maury in Languedoc. The Brin d'Amour is an semi-soft artisan cheese made with ewe's milk from the island of Corsica and I liked its creamy texture and somewhat punchy taste with the dried herbs which covered the rinds. I wasn't usually a huge fan of blue cheese, but the Fourme d'Ambert we had didn't have a repulsive pungent flavor yet retained the distinct blue cheese characters. 

With the restaurant barely a month old, they were still dealing with minor issues from time to time - they mixed up our reservation earlier (luckily fixed when one of us showed up one week too early by accident), and the service could be a bit slow at times - but this is not the type of place you want to hurry your meal through anyway so all's good. And with comfortable environment, lovely food, impressive cheese and enjoyable experience, the restaurant has everything it needs to become the next talk of the town. If I were you, I wouldn't wait longer to give this a try before it got too popular.

When? January 19 2015
Where? On Dining Kitchen and Lounge, 29/F, 18 On Lan Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Jeremy's Cheese Selection
Drinks?
Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc du Blanc Prestige Brut NV
Mas Amiel Maury AOC Millesime 1980
Web: http://www.ontop.hk/


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