Sunday, December 17, 2017

Stars Gala

It's highly unusual that I made a second trip to Macau in less than a week (more on that on the post later this month), but then this is for a highly unusual event. Michelin is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in Hong Kong/Macau this year with a grand gala dinner as part of the annual announcement event, this year held in Macau's City of Dreams complex and I was invited to attend.


I took half-day off work and made it to Macau early evening right before the event began. That's not without some minor drama (which involved me dashing madly in MTR station with my tux trying to catch my ferry - long story) but I was glad I made it on time, barely. I don't think one can get a better venue for this kind of event than in Macau where space and budget were never an issue. The ballroom at City of Dreams' Grand Hyatt Macau was gorgeous with red being the theme - same tone as the iconic red cover of the Michelin Guide.

Event like this is always fun where everybody dress up to the nines to celebrate and good to catch up with friends over glasses of champagnes with everyone in jubilant mood (it's a black tie event). With the 2018 Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau just announced in the afternoon before the gala dinner, obviously the spotlight went to restaurants (and their chefs) which received their much coveted and revered stars. No major changes this year for both Hong Kong and Macau but I am particularly happy that Arcane (with Chef Shane Osborn) and Yee Tung Heen (with Chef Wing-Keung Wong) got their first star after working under the radar for some time and both I had the opportunities to visit in the past year.

After the time to mingle among the stars, all of us then proceeded to the ballroom where an evening of fine cuisine and entertainment awaited. Tonight's menu was a 7-course dinner each prepared by the chef from a Michelin-starred restaurant (or in one case, multiple Michelin-starred restaurants). No matter how famous or skillful the chefs are, it's still a complex task catering for 600+ guests which need to be served and fed at the same time, and all done within a kitchen that they are not familiar with, but I think they all did a brilliant job given the situation.

We started with the dish prepared by none other than Chef Alain Ducasse, whose restaurants empire included 3 restaurants with 3 Michelin stars (in London, Paris and Monte Carlo) plus numerous others (including Rech in Intercontinental Hong Kong which received its first Michelin star just now). It's his signature appetizer dish with gamberoni prawns, delicate aspic made with fish broth and then topped with caviar. Presentation is faultless, taste impeccable with excellent combination of textures and layers of sea flavor and perfectly suitable for the occasion - that's a true masterpiece and to do it over 600 times was incredible.

"Home court advantage" perhaps played a role in the next two dishes prepared by two chefs from the City of Dreams complex - both were outstanding. First was the Chinese dish by Jade Dragon's Chef Tam, with the hearty ginseng soup with poached chicken. I could live with the soup served slightly warmer (again, problem of having to prepare and serve so many bowls at the same time), but the chicken was flavorful, moist and tender with that unique taste from the ginseng, perfectly suitable for winter.

Next was the Brittany blue lobster tart, watermelon and yuzu vinaigrette by Chef Fabrice Vulin, the dish I was quite familiar with having tried this evolving dish when he was at Caprice and again when I visited him a few months ago before the official re-opening of his new restaurant The Tasting Room in Macau - I could see the refinement in each iteration. Needless to say, it's fabulous as always with the sweetness of the watermelon matched well with the rich blue lobster meat and the slight acidity from the yuzu dressing (accented by the dab of caviar on top)

Chef Hidemichi Seki from Hong Kong's Ryugin then prepared for a Japanese-style contemporary dish, with Miyazaki Wagyu beef served as "chilled shabu shabu" in a glass bowl and mixed with Chinese supreme broth jelly, seaweed, sea urchin and edible flowers, a dish called "Dual Heritage" paying tribute to chef's Chinese and Japanese cuisine backgrounds. It's a straight forward, fail-safe dish with fancy ingredients with unique flavor and the toasted seaweed was an excellent touch, adding to the dish a smoky flavor and some different textures.


Two main courses were then served - starting with the braised abalone by Chef Wai-keung Kwok of Tang Court of The Langham Hong Kong. The South African abalone was braised tender and tasty with the gravy-like sauce, shiitake mushrooms and vegetables. You can't get something more symbolic of Cantonese cuisine using one of our favorite ingredients, abalone. The second main was a poultry dish prepared by Chef Noah Sandoval of Oriole Chicago, with the cured and roasted Racan pigeon breast, charred cippolini onions, smoked black pepper and dried blueberries. I was amazed at how tender the pigeon breast was and full of flavor too.

With the gala dinner co-hosted by Robert Parker Wine Advocate, of course the menu came with wine pairings with a few highly-rated bottles. I personally liked the red selection more than the whites this evening. Many of us at the table raised their eyebrows when they saw the beef and sea urchin dish was paired with a Bordeaux. But surprisingly the 2012 Chateau La Tour Figeac matched reasonably well with the less tannic on the palate and a little smokiness similar to the toasted sea weed/nori flavor in the dish. My personal favorite of the night was the Chambolle-Musigny with licorice on the palate, showing bright red fruit characters and smooth tannin, though I personally thought it worked better with the pigeon dish rather than the abalone as the menu was designed.


In between the food and the drink, we also spent time paying tribute to the newly minted starred restaurants and their culinary teams, with musical performance of canto-pop diva Joey Yung towards the end of the dinner. It just followed the recent trend of us beginning to treat chefs like rock-stars or pop idols, for better or worse.

Our last course was the dessert prepared by "Chef" Nicholas Tse, the celebrity-turned-cookie shop owner, who put on a show to prepare a platter described as "rose profiteroles, rose water and lychee jelly, dehydrated rose petals and caraway seed bread sticks", or as my friend CCW said precisely, "cream puff with a pair of jellos". That's exactly what that was - I only wish the taste was half as spectacular as the fuss he put on stage where he splashed the ganache all over the place. Of course little did we know the video clip of him preparing the dish on stage on the night soon became a mini social media phenomena with people posting them all over the place on YouTube, Facebook and other platforms even with a few parody versions (the dessert was still better than the petit fours though I must say)

The return trip from dinner was again unusually long (I took the midnight ferry back from Macau and didn't get home til after 1am) but if it's Michelin Guide's definition that three stars signify exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey, this black tie dinner presented by such an array of fine chefs certainly fit that criteria, for a night among the many stars and to celebrate the very fine cuisine of our beloved hometown. It's such a honor to be part of the occasion and we all had a fabulous time.

More photos in my Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/albums/72157689098634221 and here's the official highlights of the event: https://guide.michelin.com/hk/en/hong-kong-macau/features/recap-highlights-of-the-2018-michelin-guide-hong-kong-macau-gala/news

(The event was by invitation courtesy of Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau)

When? November 30 2017
Where? Grand Hyatt Macau at City of Dreams, Estrada do Istmo City of Dreams, Macau
Menu Highlights? Every one of the dishes was great in its own right!
Drinks?
Champagne Mumm Grand Cordon Brut NV
2012 Chateau Des Quarts, Pouilly-Fuisse "Clos Des Quarts" Monopole
2013 Domaine Pernot Belicard Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain
2012 Chateau La Tour Figeac, Saint-Emilion
2012 Domaine David Duband Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers
2011 Domaine Stephane Ogier, Cote Rotie
Jean-Marc Roulot, Liqueur "l'Abricot du Roulot"
Web:
Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau: guide.michelin.com/hk/hong-kong-macau
City of Dreams Macau: www.cityofdreamsmacau.com


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