Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Mixed Feeling - Gaddi's

Whether it's because of its location, its gorgeously-designed dining space with Victorian windows, high ceiling, crystal chandeliers and candlestands or its classily-dressed wait-staff, in our mind, dining at Gaddi's is never a light-hearted affair. Even without the dress code (there is one actually), you would have felt obliged to dress up a notch so as to not feel too out of place with the classic, colonial decor - of course, whether you like it or not that way is a personal preference.

My bro and sis-in-law came back to Hong Kong recently for a week-long break to attend a wedding, so we met up for lunch here as this was the only time slot we were both available. The maitre d' seated us in the middle of the dining room after everyone arrived. Well, a few tables were occupied here and there, but it's so quiet that I can almost hear the pin drops. To be honest I am not a big fan of such "tranquility", felt more like sitting in a deserted place that made me feel a bit uncomfortable - again, a matter of personal preference.

Compared to its dinner menu, the menu du dejeuner obviously offers better value for money - a 3-course lunch with options to choose from for appetizer, main, and dessert (or cheese if you so choose). It came with a glass of wine too, though there's nothing particular to write home about for a rustic, typical Macon Village that I had (or the Australian shiraz as the other option).

The food this afternoon wasn't bad, per se, just that it's certainly not as inspiring as previous times when we tried the chef's table dinner menu - which I didn't blame him cuz that would have been four times as expensive. I love the presentation of all the courses, both in terms of plating and how the food's brought to the table - so elegantly done that it's certainly a class of its own. Well, this is once called the best French restaurant in the Far East for a reason, I suppose.

My main course - Bresse chicken confit with lentils - is a classic winter dish cooked beautifully and I have to tip my hat off to Chef Goodridge for that.  It's served with a foam of foie gras which did bring a balanced flavor and a new facet of texture to the plate, figuratively speaking. I also adored my dessert of prune and pecan clafoutis - another iconic French dish - this time served with a quenelle of armagnac icecream.

Unfortunately service is one of the areas that we found especially dissappointing this afternoon. So often when we turned around looking for our waiter we found none within our proximity, not to mention the mere fact that we actually had to ask - several times - for simple things such as having our bread plates and water glasses filled. We almost have to resort to the rather rude two-hand wave in order to get some attention from someone - at one point I even considered calling the maitre d' on the phone for rescue. From our past experience that's very not typical of this hotel I must say, especially from this very dining outlet. Perhaps that made it even more of a let-down.

We can certainly live with a little less uptightness, a more "lively" dining room and definitely more attentive service, yet we wouldn't complain too much after sitting down for a decent meal like this - we became even more appreciative to that once we saw the long waiting line for the "famous" afternoon tea downstairs as we made our way back to the hotel lobby. But next time, we will probably save up to enjoy a sumptuous dinner here rather than coming for the presumably better-valued lunch.

when? November 13 2010
where? Gaddi's, The Peninsula, TST, Hong Kong
menu highlights?  Bresse chicken confit with Puy lentils and goose liver

Monday, December 27, 2010

Repeat Business - Bombana Part 2

It's extremely rare that we lavished ourselves in upscale dining in quick succession, but a couple nights after Amber we were sitting in Bombana's dining room at Otto e Mezzo yet again, this time with my college buddies. With the white truffle season on-going and the newly acclaimed 2-michelin stars to show forth, it's not easy to score a reservation at this restaurant but we were glad that a last-minute cancellation by someone else cleared us off the waitlist for a table.

The restaurant's already full of ppl when we arrived - most of whom looked like they are coming for some corporate functions, then a few couples and us - party of six. I suppose that's typical of a Monday evening. Mr Bombana's mingling around the dining room as usual, chatting with guests and preparing the still-in-season white truffle dishes by the table - he ought to be more than pleased looking at the buzzing dining room on what is usually the slowest night of the week for restaurant business.

Glancing through the familiar menu and wine list - we came here for dinner a few weeks ago - I decided to bypass the degustation menu this time and opted for something simpler. I started with tagliatelle with lobster and cherry tomatoes and move on to the main course of osso bucco with saffron risotto. I had a similar dish a month ago - only last time it was angelhair instead of tagliatelle, and by choosing to repeat that probably tells my fondness towards this pasta dish. In my opinion, no one does Italian meat dishes better than Bombana, and this classic dish of osso bucco is without a doubt the best in town. It's meaty and juicy and goes so well with the creamy, flavorful and perfectly-cooked risotto. Our friends mr and mrs y ordered the grilled rib-eye. The menu said it's good for 2 but in my opinion it can easily serve 3 or 4 average person - hence we were able to steal a bite from them, and it is amazing.

I also loved the Super Tuscan that we picked - a non-traditional Merlot-Syrah-Sangiovese blend gave this wine a berry-forward palate with good smooth tannin not very typical of its young age. Easy-drinking and goes well with the meat dishes we had. We didn't find anything interesting from the dessert menu, so instead we went back to our place for a dose of homemade ice-cream - a scope each of darjeeling and espresso flavors - my interpretation of "yin-yang" as a perfect nightcap to bring this Monday evening to a conclusion.

Well, of course white truffle is the ingredient of choice when it came to the right time at this restaurant, but surely for the rest of the year, as we found out this evening, there are still plenty of reasons to come here more regularly, whether for an elaborate celebration, or just a run for a simple, comforting Italian meal. Either way, Bombana is certainly our choice.

when? December 6 2010
where? 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Alexandra House, Central
occasion? Gathering with Friends
menu highlights? Osso Bucco with saffron risotto
drinks? 2008 Gaja Ca'marcanda Promis

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry "Yummy" Christmas

Well most people made their christmas cards with the pictures of themselves, their spouses, their babies, their kids, their dogs, cats, squirrels, rabbits, goldfish, plants or whatever. We decided to share with you some of the wonderful food we have enjoyed over the past year.

Have a great holiday season, my friend, and all the best (food) in the year 2011! Just remember: a man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work! (a quote from here) Amen.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Remarkable Night at Amber

I just realized I am in a dry spell lately as far as blogging is concerned... not that there aren't any remarkable things happening recently worth reflecting on or sharing, especially as far as eating's concerned, so I decided to bring them all on in one go...

Going back and forth several times and a few tweets to Chef Ekkebus later, we landed back at Amber on our 6th wedding anniversary on this Saturday night in December, and we love it!

With the memory of leaving the restaurant as two very satisfied customers on Valentine's Day still living vividly in mind, it seems to be an obvious choice for us to return for another celebration. After arriving promptly at 7:30pm (okay that's not true - we were late), we were seated near the entrance of the elegant yet lively dining room - and in my opinion the more quiet and comfortable section away from the crowd and the kitchen. I love the setting of this place actually - chic decor, well-designed space with tables organized sparse enough that you don't feel intruded yet close enough that you can take a peek at what other people are eating and don't feel you are sitting in a room by yourselves.

The menu left us with a very simple decision - everything in the degustation menu sounds enticing so we spent no time settling on it without even bothered to look at the a la carte options. We are very eager to see what the best the chef has to offer us through the creation of his signature dishes on the menu. Ian our sommelier was very helpful in making our wine selection a straight-forward exercise too. Being my favorite wine region along with Ian's affirmation, picking a Chablis is a no-brainer and glad it worked well with most courses on the menu.

We started with the familiar amuse bouche of foie gras lollipop and iberian pork croquette. We loved the lollipop when we first had it in February, and we still do this time, even though the amusement bit has faltered somewhat with the second try, naturally.

Chef Ekkebus' signature appetizer dish - hokkaido sea urchin served in a lobster jell-o with cauliflower mousse, caviar and crispy seaweed waffles - is easily the one dish that made a lasting impression on us tonight and rightfully so - the presentation is impeccable - it's served in a shell of sea urchin with fine layers of delectable colors inside; the combination of classic regional flavors - uni from Hokkaido - and modern techniques is simply flawless, and the delicate taste and texture are divine - we felt like we are tasting the essence from the sea as the sea urchin roe and lobster jelly along with the caviar's "swimming" in our mouths. CYY mentioned the dish reminded her of the equally adorable "oyster and pearl" that we had in a small yet significant culinary outpost in Yountville a couple years ago, which I totally agreed. I can't say this is fusion, but the chef certainly took full advantage of regional ingredients for this unique and spectacular dish. An absolutely genius creation, I must say.

We also love the melt-in-your-mouth and intense-flavored waghu beef with the main serving oven-roasted and served in its own jus, and in comparison, the second serving - short ribs braised with passion fruit-glazed root vegetables - is just okay (to me, I don't even mind doing it without the second serving altogether) It's so soft and tender that I don't even need to force my knife through. Once again, he made use of regional ingredients - in this case the exquisite Kagoshima beef - and cooked to perfection. I like the light yet flavorful texture of langoustine and foie gras dish, but the scallop's a tad bit overcooked to my liking, which left a slightly rubbery taste on the surface as a result. Nonetheless I think the combination of toasted brioche mousseline and kabocha squash that was served with the scallops an interesting one.

Other courses in the menu included salmon that's cooked to pinpoint accuracy, presented in a somewhat playfully manner with a crust of squid ink-dyed bread crumbs (pretending to be a roast beef tenderloin) and worked in harmony with avocado puree and apple "rolls" on the side, as well as a more-than-decent selection of cheeses wheeled in on a cart after our beef main course.

After a surprising treat of champagne - courtesy of the very man behind the kitchen - we moved onto something sweet. The first dessert of vacherin "coque" with blood orange yoghurt inside was refreshing and did its job of cleansing our palate (and I also like its neat and clean presentation), and by contrast, the chocolate souffle and cocoa sorbet which followed is a rich and comforting winter dessert that is equally enjoyable.

It is a memorable evening to us no matter what but a fine meal like this certainly added a nice touch to it. How appropriate to celebrate our time together with something that we enjoyed doing together most - going on a culinary adventure that is. Will we go back soon? You bet. I am already looking forward to its spring menu coming out in mid-January.


when? December 4 2010
where? Amber, at Landmark Mandarin Oriental
occasion? 6th wedding anniversary
menu highlights? Hokkaido Sea Urchin, in a lobster jell-o with cauliflower, caviar and crispy seaweed waffles
Chablis Premier Cru "Fourchaume" 2008, Bouchard Pere et Fils
Krug Grande Cuvee NV