Saturday, January 13, 2018

Artistic Tasting Menu

I feel like trekking to a whole new world when we stopped by Sai Wan/Shek Tong Tsui on the west side one evening before Christmas. The aging community filled with rows of decades-old "Tong Lau" (run-down tenement buildings) was gentrified to be an up-and-coming, hipster neighborhood with high-end apartment buildings, cafes, bars and restaurants, including COBO House which was our destination this time.

This 2-year-old restaurant is the brainchild of Chef Janice Wong of 2am:dessertbar in Singapore, and COBO House is the first time she ventured out of her specialty of desserts with a full menu. The art theme of the restaurant is evident with a carefully curated collection of paintings, sculptures and commissioned tableware found throughout the spacious dining room which stretches over two floors next to a new apartment building plus the rooftop mini farm where some of the vegetables and herbs came from. And the concept extended to their dishes as well with a touch of art flair through plating and the combination of different colors and flavors.

We were at the restaurant for a preview of their upcoming festive menu which they introduced during Christmas and New Year. And we started with a colorful appetizer course named "Snow", with baby beets (cooked sous-vide), purple cabbage slow, roasted blackberries, fresh and sun-fried tomatoes and dusted with freeze-dried burrata "snow" on top. I like the interesting combination of savory and acidity with all the beautiful festive colors presented.

Our next course was a seafood course with a piece of smoked and charred mackerel fillet with crab meat, red peppers and avocado puree underneath, and on the side there were grapes, ribbons of parsnip chips and crispy Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes. I was surprised by that touch of red pepper flavor and the sweet taste from the halved grapes which somehow matched very well with the seafood umami taste.

I reckon the play on savory-sweet combination was less successful with the next course of guinea fowl consommé. To start with the consommé needs to be much more intense for the right contrast with the rich forest mushrooms and dried fruits served as condiments in the bowl. And the masala cream at the bottom of the bowl didn't do much to the overall taste either. Maybe some re-touching would help enhance the overall taste.

There was a choice of mains which we picked in advance. My lobster dish was decent with a big piece of lobster tail (cooked sous-vide I suspect) served with uni orzo and sautéed forest mushrooms. The orzo was cooked like risotto  but with more a bouncy bite. Sea urchin/Uni was added in to give the dish a nice orange color and some creaminess (but not as rich as I expected). The mushrooms got a tad bit heavy touch on paprika but overall it's an enjoyable dish with the right portion.

I like our pre-dessert of a simple scope of pretzel icecream. It's done on a Pacojet so it has this soft, creamy texture with a mild hint of wheaty flavor, served with bits of cracked salted pretzels. Then our main dessert reminded me of the traditional Christmas pudding with a slice of toffee cake topped with slices of apple with a quenelle of red berry sorbet on the side. Calvado was poured in the middle of the plate at our table and lighted up in flames for the theatrical effect. I am not a big fan of those super rich Christmas cake but I enjoyed this toned-down version with a milder flavor while keeping the spirit of the festive winter taste.

A few other places attempted this combination of visual and culinary art with mixed success, and I think in general the team at COBO House did well in keeping that delicate balance of delivering original dishes that are pleasing to the palate and to the eyes in a casual setting, something this new neighborhood and its new residents would need and appreciate.

When? December 20 2017
Where? COBO House by 2am:dessertbar
Menu Highlights? Lobster, Uni Orzo, Mushroom
Drinks? Champagne Papis Loveday Brut NV

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