Saturday, October 1, 2016

Pop-Up in the Sky

With the iconic red pillar post-box at the front reception and sea of Union Jacks draped along the narrow corridor leading to the bar and dining area, the team in Ozone at The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong spared no effort in making people feel like they were transposed to London's Duck and Waffle restaurant when we came over for an event featuring the "highest restaurant in London" (Duck and Waffle) at the "highest bar in the world" (Ozone) up on Level 118.

I thought it's a brilliant marketing strategy for both Ritz Carlton and Duck and Waffle to join forces for a 5-day-only popup event in late September/early October. Those who have visited the Duck and Waffle up on the 40th Floor in London's financial district would agree that the place bore some resemblance in style to the equally grizzling Ozone Bar on top of Ritz Carlton Hong Kong. I could even argue - probably with some bias towards my beloved hometown - that their Hong Kong host probably offers a more superior view than their London home!

Last year during summer we only had a quick late-night bite at London's Duck and Waffle after a long flight from HKG on the day of our visit, so I was happy that this time I managed to try a few more dishes, all from their original menu including some of the signature dishes. We began with a few tapas-style dishes over a good selection of cocktails. I adored the bowl of crispy pig ears last time, and even though this version was not as crunchy as the one I had back then, it's flavorful and made great bar snack. Equally delicious was the bacon-wrapped dates with the enticing savory sweet taste - I chowed down two of them in no time after stealing a bite at one by the kitchen counter earlier already before we sat down for the meal.

Didn't manage to drink as much as I would love to on a weeknight, but the few cocktails I tried were spot on. I particularly liked the Ristretto Negroni for a smooth flavor of gin, vermouth amaro and coffee served with a fancy diamond-shaped clear ice cube in an old-fashioned glass, and the non-alcoholic Garden Spritz with the mix of roasted red (bell) pepper, orange and eldenflower soda for an interesting aromatic and grassy taste.

A number of dishes were offered in the "Small Plates" section, more of appetizer portion. The foie gras creme brulee was by consensus the best, at least to our section of table, with the brioche stuffed with pork crackling served with a small bowl of the smooth and creamy and rich foie gras mousse caramelized on top like the creme brulee dessert. Having a few of those would probably give you a heart attack but it's delicious. I was also impressed with the beef tartare with a balanced flavor brought together by the oozy egg yolk in the middle.

There were no surprises when everyone's attention was immediately turned to the kitchen at our back as the namesake dish of Duck and Waffle coming out en masse with cameras and smart phones ready for action to capture that very moment. It's just as what I remembered - a perfectly-cooked sunny-side up duck egg, the whole duck leg slow-cooked in fat than deep-fried for the crispy skin and half the Belgium waffle served with mustard maple syrup on the side. I could live with a more crispy waffle but it was decent as is, bearing in mind the sheer amount of waffles they need to bring out at the same time for our long table. But the mustard-maple syrup was outstanding and perfect for the dish.

Took a while for the desserts to arrive but they were well worth the wait. The Baked Alaska was not done in the most traditional flambe style, but the meringue peaks were well-toasted by blow-torch with the icecream wrapped inside, accented by a touch of preserved lemon rind, curd and powder. The Torrejas, sort of like an upgraded version of a regular French Toast, was served in "sharing" portion with well-cooked maple-caramel apples, a scoop of cinnamon icecream and a generous drizzle of syrup. Just right for my sweet craving, I reckon, and no, I ain't sharing the dish with anyone.

It's no easy task to bring together a successful pop-up event, trying to replicate the dining experience on unfamiliar ground and meet the high expectations from customers having to pay a premium, but I think the Duck and Waffle and Ozone teams did so in flying colors.

More photos inside my Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/albums/72157673277944831

(Dinner is by Invitation and based on a special event menu offered at the restaurant at the time of visit)

When? September 27 2016
Where? Ozone at The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, Level 118, International Commerce Centre, West Kowloon, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Duck and Waffle


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