Friday, October 27, 2017

Four-Hands Preview

I was not able to make it to either nights of the special Vicky Cheng x Margarita Fores dinner at Chef Vicky's restaurant VEA in late October, but was glad to get a sneak preview of the menu a couple of days before it was launched. I have never tried Chef Margarita's (of Grace Park Restaurant in Manila) cooking before but I always wanted to, ever since she received her Best Female Chef award by the Asia's 50 Best Restaurant last year.

The 8-course dinner menu featured dishes made by both chefs, who were known for their creations combining local ingredients and western cooking and presentation style, giving the traditional ethnic cuisines a facelift. We got a tasting for a few of those courses and they were amazing.

We began with a simple amuse-bouche of Sisig on Adlai Cracker, the traditional Filipino/Pinoy snack with meat from pig's head served on a piece of cracker made of pearl barley with mango, pork crackling, caramelized onion and mayo, followed by Chef Vicky's "Life in a Jungle" course in an elaborate presentation which looked like a garden pond.

So many components were playfully plated in a single dish- squid-ink bread became the rock, and the savory meringues became the stone pebbles, with the dried dill powder looked like moss on the shore. Mini crab and shrimps were deep-fried and placed on the side along with mini raw langoustine and lumps of caviar. Inside the pond was tomato water with drops of dill oil. And it tasted great when all these components were combined into a spoonful of crispy, creamy, umami taste with a hint of acidity and sweetness.

Chef Margarita's Crab Meat Ravioli was then brought to us in a deep lidded bowl. She's trained in Italian cuisine so this is her version of combining local ingredients and cooking into what's considered traditional Italian. Spinach was mixed into the dough giving the ravioli skin a deep green color, and inside was picked meat from flower crabs fresh from the local market (as told when she dropped by to explain the dish to us) On top was a light calamansi cream and "baby crab fat" (coral and roes from the freshwater Talangka crab commonly found in The Philippines) The garnishes of mustard and tarragon flowers (also from The Philippines) added to the interesting flavor and aroma to this unique dish.

The last dish we tried was the Roasted Sea Cucumber by Chef Vicky. This is the dish I anticipated the most after glancing through the menu from the press release as I haven't tried sea cucumber cooked western-style before, let alone a "roasted" one (in Chinese cuisine it's typically braised). Again, it was beautifully presented, with the sea cucumber with a crispy batter with Brittany blue lobster meat stuffed underneath. At the bottom was steamed thick rice noodles (typically served with crustacean dish in Cantonese cuisine), green scallions with a thick sauce made with lobster stock and drizzles of ginger oil. It was outstanding.

We also got to try a few cocktail pairings that go with the dishes. My favorite was the blood orange cocktail served with eldenflower, apple, lemon and ginger for the pleasant aroma and smooth taste - yes I am not a very adventurous person as far as mixology is concerned. The mushroom consommé mixed with sakura shrimp-infused vodka served in a sherry glass - the one paired with the crab ravioli - was almost like a savory course on its own. Everyone got a funny look at their faces when sipping on the vodka on its own, but I thought the combination with the umami-rich consommé was fine, like an intense dashi.

It's a pity I couldn't make it to the actual dinner - I definitely regret more after this abbreviated preview meal - but I guess I will have to find some other time to try more of the dishes by both fabulous chefs.

More photos in my Flickr album:

(The meal is by invitation and based on a special menu)

When? October 2017
Where? VEA, Level 29-30, The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Roasted Sea Cucumber with Blue Lobster, Scallion, Ginger

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