Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tosca x Cracco

I couldn't believe twice I walked by Chef Carlo Cracco's namesake restaurant in Milan in my previous trips and twice I didn't manage to walk in and pay a visit. After all Cracco is considered one of the top restaurants in town by the Michelin Guide (which gave it 2 stars) and Chef Cracco was highly-regarded for his avant-garde style, offering a twist using traditional ingredients with some of his innovative cooking techniques, not to mention his numerous cookbooks, TV appearances etc making him one of the best known Italian chefs.

But I ain't going to let the opportunity slip the third time when I learned the chef was over in Hong Kong for a short stint at Tosca at The Ritz Carlton in early November, so we booked a table for lunch on a Saturday. Most people would probably prefer the tables by the window with the breathtaking view of Hong Kong skyline down below, but I was actually happy they put us at the table near to the open kitchen, offering a glimpse of both chefs and the team preparing the dishes. We were one of the earliest customers to arrive and not surprisingly, the dining area was soon filled to a full house.

We went for the 6-course degustation menu, which may sound a bit much for lunch but we wanted to try everything. Our first course was fried egg yolk served as amuse-bouche, perhaps one of the most well-known dishes by the chef using his favorite ingredient. The deep orange-red egg yolk was breaded and deep-fried, then served with the seasonal figs and celery root puree in room temperature. Letting the lava-like yolk break through the slightly crispy surface and mix everything together, you got a mouthful of intense, creamy flavor accompanied by a hint of sweetness.

The first dish listed on the menu was a somewhat straight-forward dish, with a piece of raw Mediterranean red prawn coated with pistachio flakes then served with beetroot sauce and a razor-thin slice of beetroot poached in its own juice. The presentation was colorful and I like the combination of the prawn full of umami flavor and the beetroot which was very sweet. That was followed by a pasta course – the rigatoni with a splash of lentisco oil on top and white chocolate sauce at the bottom, and mixed with porcini mushrooms and shreds of sea asparagus. The overall flavor was complex – with the earthy, almost meaty porcini contrasting with the aromatic oil and sweet and creamy chocolate sauce.

The risotto was served in a peculiar green color. One might immediately thought it’s infused with vegetables but instead it was plankton, some microscopic sea creatures, giving the dish a sea-water flavor. Adding to the interesting taste was the tangy and aromatic bergamot and the creamy white chocolate sauce. It was challenging yet very enjoyable.

Having the degustation menu saved me the dilemma of having to choose between two main courses since we were having both. The amberjack was the lighter of the both, with the firm and buttery fish matching with white and green asparagus and vanilla sauce (the menu listed purple asparagus as the third kind but I couldn't see any) The veal chop has a much richer flavor with an extra tender texture, topped with capers mash and served with licorice sauce and celeriac puree on the side. It's like an explosion of many tastes in your mouth.

While we had ingredients like white chocolate and vanilla in our savory courses, the dessert featured lentils and peas, consistent with Chef Cracco's creative style. Pea icecream was served with bits of lentils and peas on the side, then underneath was cookie crumbs and chocolate puree. I thought it's fine - not a strong trace of those grassy pea flavor but instead, it's delicate and slightly aromatic, contrasting with the creamy chocolate.

Opting for something easy-drinking, we took the advice of Leo the sommelier and went for a bottle of Sicilian red. It's medium-bodied with a subtle floral nose and loaded with bright red fruits on the palate. An alright choice, and something new to try. Bringing in guest chefs overseas for short appearance has been a growing trend not just here but just almost everywhere, and I got to say Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is one that does this right and with much success time and time again, evident by full booking in many of their pop-up events. We enjoyed our Cracco lunch at Tosca, and next time when I am in Milan, I will make sure to visit his restaurant.

Here are more pictures from the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/albums/72157672540002363

When? November 5 2016
Where? Tosca, Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Level 102, International Commerce Center, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Riso “Riserva San Massimo”, plankton, bergamot and white chocolate
Drink? 2014 Valle Dell'Acate Il Frappato Vittoria
Web:
Tosca: www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/china/hong-kong/dining/tosca
Ristorante Cracco: www.ristorantecracco.it

(Please check out my Instagram page too! At https://www.instagram.com/g4gary/)

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