Sunday, March 5, 2017

Rustic Alsatian Duet

I was at Brasserie on the Eighth at The Conrad last Friday for a pop-up dinner featuring the chef couple Cyril Bonnard and Marie Wucher from Hotel Le Parc in Alsace. With most French restaurants at the hotels around town mostly of the fine-dining style, Brasserie on the Eighth stood out to be something different, in a more casual, brasserie/bistro style but with the same level of seriousness about cooking and serving authentic French cuisine.

I haven’t been back here for a while but nothing much has changed, with the open dining area (similar in layout with the Nicholini’s just next door except the open kitchen) packed with people on a Friday night and the private room on the side, where we were seated this evening. We got a taste of their 6-course degustation menu, with classic Alsatian dishes, some coming from heirloom recipes passing down through generations, as Chef Cyril explained.

We began with an amuse-bouche snack of a cheese gougeres, which was well prepared with punchy flavor of the munster cheese, the type local to the region. Alsace never struck me as a place big on seafood, but turned out we had a few seafood dishes in our menu, and what the chefs try to do is to the traditional dishes a modern touch using their experience in kitchens and restaurants around the world. Our first course of salmon was done tataki-style, lightly cured than cooked only on the outside. It was rich in flavor along with bits of apples and cucumbers on top plus the thin slices of radish and lovage. A tad bit salty but flavorful with the contemporary style combination.

Foie gras is one of the Alsace specialties, and here in our second course was one done pan-seared served with orange bits, marmalade and dragee candy with almonds. The sweetness of the candy and marmalade balanced out the fatty liver. The ocean trout fillet, our third course, was said to be coming from Chef Marie’s grandma’s recipe. The fish fillet was gently poached, then served in a creamy mushroom sauce with a splash of Riesling. A bowl of tagliatelle in butter sauce was served on the side, which was great with the creamy sauce after we were done with the fish. It’s a very rustic and classic dish.

Our main course was beef tenderloin. I particularly loved the horseradish gratin on top, bringing in a hint of sweetness with a slight kick in flavor. That plus the chunks and puree of Jerusalem artichokes adding to the sweetness, working well with the tender meat with jus.

We wondered what our cheese course Munster Flambee looks like soon after we opened up our menu, and turned out it’s done with chefs Cyril and Marie wheeling out the table with cheese wedges on the plate and the stove, warming up the gewürztraminer brandy, then poured on top of the cheese just as it’s flambéing. Such strong taste both from the liquor and the cheese, but surprisingly worked well with the glass of the off-dry gewürztraminer.

Chef Marie specializes in pastry so it’s her bringing us the dessert of the evening. It’s a modern interpretation of the black forest. The crispy chocolate cake was topped with dark chocolate mousse and finished with kirsch-soaked cherries and kirsch icecream. Much lighter than the traditional version but kept the similar taste. It was delicious.

We went with pairing of Alsace wines, of course, starting from a simple Pinot d’Alsace than moving onto several signature varietals in the region and finished with the gewürztraminer, all coming from the same winery. My favorites were the pinot gris and gewürztraminer – the former bone dry with mint and woody/pencil on the nose; the latter classic with predominantly lychee on the palate and a pleasing floral aroma.

Not a whole lot of surprise factor in this dinner, but I thought the execution was solid and the dishes were good. And we all had a good casual time catching up – that's the important bit.

(Dinner was by invitation and courtesy of Conrad Hong Kong)

When? March 3 2017
Where? Brasserie on the Eighth, The Conrad Hong Kong, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Beef Tenderloin gratinated with horseradish
2011 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot d’Alsace
2011 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot Gris
2014 Domaine Marcel Deiss Riesling
2012 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot Noir Burlenberg
2013 Domaine Marcel Deiss Gewurztraminer

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