Monday, November 18, 2019

Twelve Courses and No Chicken

We were excited that Chef Dan managed to get us a table to eat at his restaurant Belon on a Friday evening despite we planned this rather late. It’s been a few months since we last ate there – if we didn’t count the times we dropped by for a quick round of drinks or desserts – and we have always enjoyed the meals at the restaurant with well executed bistro-style dishes and the lively vibe inside this cozy space in Soho.

Place was packed as always when we arrived at the time of our reservation, and they seated us at a table at the corner near to the bar. Before we came, Dan told us there were a few new items on the menu, so we just let him choose our dishes. First to come was the gougere as amuse-bouche, with the strong mustard flavor inside the creamy Comte cheese filling. That was followed by the Bigorre pork sausages sliced thin, bread and butter and another bite-sized canape as cod tarama tartlet with grated karasumi (mullet roes) and bits of mitsuba (Japanese parsley) stalks.

It’s not the first time we had the oyster tartare at Belon, but this is the best yet and that’s not only because chef decided to give us out of proportion amount of caviar on top. Underneath the huge quenelle of Oscietra Caviar and inside the oyster shell was just the right portions of all rest of the ingredients – the creamy chopped oysters dressed with lemon and lime juices, toasted bread crumbs and chopped chives and celery. It’s beautifully plated and the creamy and mineral tastes worked well together for the rich yet refreshing cold appetizer course.

We had the savory feuilletage dish before but I felt like this is an improved version in subtle ways – more layers of puff pastry with a strong taste of nori (seaweed) mixed in, and sandwiched in between is horseradish cream with a kick and fresh ikura (salmon roes) providing good mineral and umami flavor. The Drunken Pigeon dish was the only one I specifically requested, because CYY has tried this before and raved about it since (and I haven’t). And gosh, that surely was one heck of a dish and matched every bit of my expectation and much more. The pieces of pigeon breast was cooked to perfect pinkish color with tender texture, and on the side was sorrel leaves for a touch of grassy taste and celtuce for the texture. But what set this apart was the really the sauce spooned over at the table, intense and thick with yellow wine and meat jus reduction. Truly unique inspired by the Shanghainese version of the same dish using Jura wine instead of Chinese Shaoxing wine.

Two more equally rich courses were brought over to our table. The foie gras pate was served with a piece of brioche toast and it’s firm and creamy, and then it’s the ravioli with 48-month-aged Comte cheese filling and served with cep mushrooms and a yellow wine sauce (which is a milder version of the one served with the pigeon). Both were pushing to the limit in terms of richness (I could see some might even find them too salty) but I thought it’s rightfully done this way to highlight the original flavor of the ingredients used. The pike quenelle was served as a “bonus” course, with the softest, most pillowy quenelle made with fish broth and eggs done in the classical way with a rich creamy sauce, and on top, shaved white truffles which were of course right in season. Again, the rich flavor worked as good contrast to the unmistakable aroma from the truffles in generous portion.

No chicken this time but instead we had the quail. Again, perfectly roasted with stuffing placed just underneath the skin. The meat was just barely done with the pink color, especially those nearest to the bone, and was moist and (really really) tender. On the side was girolle mushrooms and wilted pea leaves. And once again, the highlight was the rich sauce that brought everything together for another flawless execution.

Chef decided to give us all three desserts that were listed in the a la carte menu of the night – so that brought our dinner to a total of 12 courses, not including the amuse bouche and the madeleines as petit fours at the end. (that's pretty insane I must say, especially most of the dishes weren't served in just tasting portion) First was the delicious baby figs with honey and lemon-thyme panna cotta, which also doubled as a palate cleanser. Then it was the signature mille-feuille (this time served with gingerbread cream and pear jam) and also the chocolate tart with creme fraiche. I had a hard time trying to finish the mille-feuille but failed at the end, and then I regretted not getting to the last bites the moment I walked out of the restaurant and into our Uber ride. Ah!

We brought our own bottle this time and the sommelier was very gracious to send us a few more glasses to go with the long menu. The champagne poured from a magnum bottle worked well with the lighter courses in the beginning, and I opened our bottle of Burgundy two hours before the dinner, and was lively when it’s poured. The initial fragrant floral aroma led to something more mellow when it was poured. Medium-bodied with good red fruit, some leather and tobacco on the palate, just the right touch of tannin and a long finish. It was a delightful wine that came of age. With 3 different desserts we paired it with two sweet wines – first a vinsanto that’s not on the menu (because their wine list was dominated with French ones) and then a fortified wine from Maury. Love the vin santo which has turned into more a copper color possibly because of its age, full-bodied, aromatic with honey and dried apricot taste, working well with the Mille-feuille while the Maury wine, younger in comparison and with its “port-like” characters, worked best with chocolate with its taste of ripe plums and blackcurrant.

First The Chairman and then now this, what a week of fine-dining for us.

More photos here:

When? November 1 2019
Where? Belon, 41 Elgin Street, Soho, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Drunken Pigeon with Celtuce and Sorrel
Champagne Vilmart & Cie, Grande Reserve Premier Cru NV
2012 Domaine Benjamin Leroux Volnay 1er Cru Clos de la Cave des Ducs
1999 Farnito Vinsanto del Chianti
2008 Mas Amiel Maury Vintage Charles Dupuy

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