Sunday, December 27, 2015

Through the Red Door

When my friend M told me about his supper club project at The Fringe Club a few months back, to be honest I was both curious and secretly, a bit doubtful at the same time. To start with, as far as food is concerned, I wasn't aware of anything serious going on at the venue ever since Michelle Garnaut left her legendary namesake restaurant behind a few years ago. And I haven't heard much of this new supper club - called Red Door Dining Lab - despite it being in operations for a while already and I considered myself to be kinda in the know of any new and exciting restaurant openings. The lack of information added to the sense of mystery and also, skepticism.


M went on giving me a 5-minute introduction of his venture, and kindly asked me to join him some time at one of their events. Red Door Dining Lab works on rather a simple concept, bringing in guest chefs for a short stint and providing them the venue and equipment, and access to a group of adventurous food lovers eager to try on any new menu concept. In the last few months, they have had chefs coming in from various parts around the world, each with a different background and from what I heard, some interesting menu ideas.

I finally got to try one of the dinners last week when they had the Melbourne-based Ryan Foote, a part-time chef and full-time artist, cooking at the Lab for 2 evenings, with a 5-course menu titled "The Aroma Project", an attempt to combine the elements of art, aroma, food and drink into a single meal.

There's a homey feel to the compact dining area which can comfortably seat 20 or so at one of the three long, communal tables with the same rustic-style decor as the good old M at the Fringe, which once upon a time was housed under the same roof just one level down.

The dinner began with a brief speech by Chef Ryan, who walked us through his thought process in creating some of the dishes to be presented tonight. As the name "The Aroma Project" has suggested, each of the courses highlighted the different aromas presented, whether that be coming from edible flowers, citrus fruits, herbs, or smoke. Given his background as an artist/sculptor/potter as well as someone who loves to cook, he made good use of his artistic skills by integrating some of those elements into his dishes. For example, a few courses were presented in a special ceramic dish that he made himself, which was both pretty to look at and practical.


The first 2 courses making use of lightly-cured fish were decent, with tuna marinated with edible flowers in the first course, and lemon myrtle and juniper berry cured salmon in the second both lovely. That was followed by a simple rosewood-smoked pumpkin "terrine" paired with a small sip of pinot noir in an unique presentation. I wasn't usually a fan of pumpkin presented this way - almost like a steamed pudding - but I loved the combination of the pleasant rosewood smoke and the nuts on top, and I thought it's tasty. 

There's no main course per se - just a series of dishes presented in order - but I guess the polenta served with dots of lavender beetroot and sweet potato purees, ham crisps and a salad of edible flowers was one of the more substantial course. I found the combination interesting, and the polenta - molded in the shape of a perfume bottle - was quite decent.

It was then followed by 3 desserts - of which the second one was probably my favorite course of the evening. There were many things going on in this beautifully-assembled dish. At the bottom was a frozen mousse of white chocolate and wattle seed, then on top was a honey-comb shaped jasmine milk tea "granita", garnished by some sesame and hibiscus flower. The cooking part looks simple, but the preparation was definitely not. The jasmine milk tea granita has the mistakable Hong kong-style milk tea flavor and the honeycomb shape adds to an interesting, "voluminous" texture. It's very enjoyable and I love the uniqueness aspect of this seemingly random combination.

Overall I enjoyed the dining experience sitting in this intimate environment trying out new dishes and meeting new people. The dishes were decent and creative, the flavors unique and all in fine presentation too. Chef Ryan and the team certainly did a good job despite having such short period of time for preparation. It's a pity that I don't think the pictures I took were doing the meal any justice - I blame my poor point-and-shoot camera and the dim lighting. I will be keen to see what the Red Door Dining Lab has in place for the next showings for more creative menu and cooking. Thanks M for your generous treat and for introducing me to this wonderful place and concept.

When? December 11 2015
Where? Red Door Dining Lab, 2/F The Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? White chocolate & wattle seed mousse with jasmine milk tea honeycomb and hibiscus flower
Wine?
2013 Domaine Marc Bredif Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, Loire Valley
2013 Maison Pierre Sparr Riesling Reserve, AOC Alsace
2013 Clos des Fous Subsollum Pinot Noir, Chile
2013 Tutto Farnea Birbo, Veneto, Italy
Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro NV, Penedes, Spain
Web: www.reddoordininglab.com


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