Saturday, November 30, 2019

Creative Four-Hands Effort

With almost every fine-dining restaurants in town offering some kind of special collaboration dinner events on a regular basis these days, I got pickier in choosing which one to go. But the one at Arbor recently just fits all the criteria, so I made the booking the first day I got the news about the event featuring guest chef Yusuke Takada of La Cime.

I have tried Chef Eric Raty’s dishes a few times this year already but haven’t been back to his restaurant Arbor for a while, so a re-visit is definitely in order, and La Cime, a Michelin-starred French restaurant in Osaka, Japan has been on my To-Try list, so with this special menu, offered for just a few days earlier this month, I could hit two birds with one stone. There’s no surprise the restaurant was totally filled during Saturday lunch service on the day we went given the caliber of both chefs, and they gave us a nice booth seats near to the window with excellent view (and lighting for the picture) – I am pretty sure they did it on purpose.

The menu placed in front of us offered little hint of what’s going to be presented, with four courses listed with simple descriptions. First to arrive was a basket of freshly baked warm brioche, made with white miso mixed into the dough. It’s delicious, but our favorite was the butter served on the side, one of which was mixed with soy sauce (made from an old brewery in Fukuoka) and clarified. It offered quite an umami bomb and extra buttery flavor to the well-made piece of bread. Then it’s a pair of small plates as our first amuse-bouche – poached sazae (sea snail) served with a dab of mustard and kombu on a skewer plus the liver sauce mixed with matcha, then the poaching liquid mixed with matcha served as dashi in the shell.

Next amuse-bouche course featured the boudin dog by Chef Yusuke-san, a bite-sized boudin noir served a la corn dog style in a black batter fried dough, and Chef Eric’s washoku rendition of the Nordic black pudding, topped with puffed rice, the creamy shirako (cod sperm milt) sauce and lingonberries, offering good combination of rich flavors and different textures.

Chef Eric then sent us an extra course off-menu – with goose benacles served with a rich dashi made with asari clam juice, ginger and buttermilk. On top was thin slices of green apples, lily bulbs and a thin layer of lardo. With the ginger infused in the sauce it almost felt like a Thai-inspired dish with exotic flavor, and the goose benacles were bouncy with rich taste.

Chefs then explained to us the next course of crab as being inspired by a lotus pond he saw while touring Fukuoka looking for seasonal ingredients and inspiration. Inside a small bowl was a milk pudding topped with a mild tosazu mixed with kawatake (freshwater seaweed). On top was nasturtium that looks like mini lotus leaves and hanging onto the rim of the bowl was a deep-fried Kanikko (baby crab). It’s cute and I liked the mild acidity in the tosazu, not overwhelming the overall taste of the dish and the clean umami flavor from the crab.

Next course was another one created by both chefs together – a combination of hot and cold bites. Served in a paper bag was a croquette made with Matsu Kinoko mushroom from Fukuoka, hot from the deep fryer. On the side was a bowl filled with ice, and on top, shrimp and beef tartare served in a halved kaboso (bitter orange) and covered with a thin glaze of fermented enoki mushroom reduction. The croquette was a glorified street food, with meaty and juicy texture, and the tartare has excellent texture too with an interesting hint of the fermented mushroom.

Our main course description of “monkfish, eggplant and red peppers” gave little hint of what we should be expecting, and it’s another unique dish co-created by both chefs. The thick piece of monkfish fillet was gently steamed then finished with a quick searing on the pan. Eggplant was served two ways – with a thick slice placed underneath the fish and puree on the side. The black sauce that was drizzled over was made with chicken jus, black garlic, sansho peppers, seaweed and bits of pomelos. The fish was delicious – thick and firm – and the sauce was intense with the slightly numbing pepper taste.

Three different desserts were served, starting with the refreshing mikan sorbet served with a light and creamy fromage blanc mousse and sake kasu jelly. That’s followed by apple, dark sugar and cinnamon macaron and chestnut tartlet as petit fours. Chef really nailed this petit fours game with excellent presentation and good flavor to bring the meal to a great ending.

We declined the wine pairing option simply because we have drank way too much the previous evening and want something simpler. And we went for only a champagne by glass (on the house) and a half bottle. We continued with this coincidental series of fine champagne with a glass with lively acidity and floral aroma, followed by a bright and easy going Sancerre that worked well with the seafood courses. Really appreciate the effort by two promising chefs bringing us something creative and unique, and showed true characters of what their cooking are about.

More photos at

When? November 9 2019
Where? Arbor, Level 25, H Queen's, 80 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? “Crab, Kawatake, Tosazu, Nastrutium”
Champagne De Sousa Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserve NV
2018 Domaine Vincent Pinard Sancere “Flores”
La Cime: 

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