Friday, February 23, 2018

HAKU x Gallery VASK

It’s great to see so many familiar faces gathered upon Haku after Chinese New Year for a special tasting of the collaboration menu with the visiting chef Chele Gonzalez of Manila’s Gallery VASK. I have not been to Gallery VASK before but heard good things about Chef Gonzalez’s creative cooking in Spanish style but with a Filipino twist, so I was quite eager to check out the dishes he created specifically for this 2-day-only event alongside with Chef Agustin Balbi of Haku.




This afternoon I think we tried almost all of the dishes on this tasting menu, starting with a few bite-size amuse-bouche dishes. The polmard beef sausage was made in-house and presented on a skewer stick topped with a dab of dashi mayo, followed by a beetroot cornet filled with ikura (salmon roes) and dashi cream, both created by Chef Agustin. I love that burst-in-your-mouth sensation of biting through the salmon roes with the smooth and creamy umami taste inside the mini cone. Chef Chele’s ones took a slightly different form, more like pintxos with a twist. First was the fermented shrimp cracker (ukoy) with sea urchins, shiso flower and corn espuma, and second one was tuna tartare mixed with lardo and served in a thin purple rice cracker topped with sansho. One can’t go wrong with such combination in the first one and I thought the contrast in flavor of the fermented shrimp and sea urchin was interesting, and I love the mouthfeel of the tuna tartare in the second one, fatty but not over-bearing.

With champagne glass filling up, we quickly moved onto a few new dishes in more substantial portion. The oyster was beautifully presented in a deep stoneware bowl glazed in earthy tone, with the piece of oyster cured with smoked coconut tiger milk ("Kinilaw") and served with pili nuts, pickled kamias (mountain cucumber), and drops of cilantro oil, all classic ingredients in Filipino cuisine. The pili nuts have a soft texture with a taste similar to cashew but more buttery, and that combined with the creamy and sharp curing liquid and the tart and slightly crunchy kamias worked well with the fresh, umami-rich oyster.


Next was more seafood dishes served as a pair – first was a gorgeously poached (then torched) piece of tara (cod) fillet served with the seared and crispy fish skin on top, and at the bottom, a buttery sauce with chives, shio-kombo, diced sun-dried tomatoes and kabu, or round Japanese radish) I love that rich sauce going with the delicate fish, with a hint of umami flavor from some anchovies added into the sauce, as Chef Agustin explained to us. On another dish was a small piece of deep-fried shirako topped with a dab of Akegarashi, a soy-koji paste with a hint of pepper (sourced from Yamagata prefecture of Japan), and it was perfectly prepared with that creaminess from the shirako encased in a crispy tempura batter with a light touch of sudachi on the side.

The next dish was another interesting one, with Chef Chele introducing more traditional Filipino ingredients to us in a fancy presentation. The banana heart has the appearance of artichokes with milder flavor – it’s poached and served with a generous smear of the rich peanut and fermented shrimp paste sauce (that resembles a curry-like taste) and coconut milk. I like the exotic flavor and actually didn’t mind it to be even richer to go with the rather mild banana heart in wedges.

I thought the next dish of "Kani Zosui" was perfect as the temperature dropped overnight. The bisque-like soup seasoned with togarashi was cooked with rice and picked crab meat in a casserole and served with a piece of Hokkaido king crab leg in a bowl. It was hearty and satisfying with the rich sea flavor and reminded me somewhat of a good old southern jambalaya with that kick of spiciness at the end.

Chef Chele asked us whether we have rooms for one more dish which was his signature dish of beef short ribs. Who’s going to say no to that? So, soon our "encore" dish arrived, with the piece of Kagoshima beef short ribs served with black garlic puree and onions. Other than the beef being super tender, what impressed me most was the acidity from calamansi juice and the soy sauce ("soyamansi", as chef described his "Sour Ribs" dish) added to marinate the beef, giving the piece an additional dimension of tartness flavor, which balanced the fattiness of the meat. The marinate also mixed in with the jus to serve as the sauce.


We finished with a pair of desserts, each done by the two chefs. First was Chef Chele's "Pandan Éclair" with the pandan cream stuffed inside a thin shell made with sticky rice and parmesan and a burnt coconut ice-cream. Mixed everything together and you got this mouthful of creaminess and super sweet taste (and a hint of that savory parmesan taste towards the end which made it extra interesting) Second one was a strawberry granita served in a tomato, and as Chef Agustin reminded us, "tomato is a fruit" so it's a totally legit dessert ingredient. And I have to agree – with that plump, juicy, slightly sweet tomato from Fukuoka paired very well with the super-sweet Amaou Ichigo strawberry from the same region – and in an Instagram-friendly presentation (with the red color totally appropriate for the festive Chinese New Year season too)

It’s a pity that this menu is only available for two days – well at least to those missed out. On the other hand, I felt lucky and happy that I got to try this before everyone else does. Ha ha. 

Lunch was by invitation and based on a special menu available for limited time only. For more pictures, you can view my Flickr album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/albums/72157688090064620

My previous visit to Haku: g4gary.blogspot.com/2017/09/serious-kappo-dinner.html

When? February 22 2018
Where? Haku, Shop OT G04B, Ground Floor Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? "Sour Ribs" - Beef, Soyamansi, Garlic Casein
Drinks? Champagne Duval Leroy Fleur de Champagne Brut Premier Cru NV
Web:
Haku: www.haku.com.hk
Gallery Vask: www.galleryvask.com


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