Monday, October 17, 2011

Beyond Impeccable - Caprice

When it came to celebration of some sort, we have the tendency of trying out "new" restaurants (by new we either meant one that are newly opened or simply places that we have never been). However, this year around with nothing particularly interesting coming in sight, we decided to go back to the one that we had high regards previously - the place i vividly recalled having an "impeccable meal" last year.
We have certainly built up our expectation over the dinner at Caprice, from our past experience and from what we heard from others over the years (and from the accolades it has earned, of course) This time, we left it entirely to the chef to decide on our menu and our evening still turned out to exceed every bit of what we expected and more.

We started off with Milk Fed Veal and Caviar Tartare with Taleggio Panna Cotta and Braised Sweetbreads (after an amuse bouche of brioche with spinach and white bean mousse). This almost can be counted as two courses - as the tartare and caviar came in one dish while the panna cotta was served on the side in a separate bowl. The distinct flavors of the veal and caviar came out as a winner while the panna cotta serves as a perfect accompaniment with its creamy texture and softed taste - what a balancing act.

I would not consider our second course - Warm Duck Foie Gras and Apple Tatin in Cider Sauce - a creative combination, but it's cooked perfectly and with "picturesque" presentation - seared foie gras and the apple tatin put side by side in the middle with green apple bits and jelly "dotted" around the plate.

Our third course was Tourteau Crab Tiramisu with Fruity Marinade and Tandoori Spices. If I have to name one favorite dish of the night, this would be my choice. Can't go wrong with crabs with layers of with hint of sweetness (from that of the tropical fruit coulis in the middle and mascarpone on top) and spices. And so colorfully presented that I was in awe just by glancing at such beauty. Absolutely sensational.

Langoustine Ravioli with Veal Sweetbreads and Chanterelle Mushrooms in Shellfish Bisque. One light dish was followed by a richer one. Strictly speaking it's not a ravioli dish per se - pieces of cooked round pasta was placed on top and bottom of a poached langoustine (cooked sous vide?). It's served on a bed of a sauce with bits of chanterelle mushrooms, tomatoes and lobster bisque. The sauce basically went well with almost everything - very nicely done. Once again, the whole dish was a great combination of classical ingredients and cooking.

Our main course was Roast Wild Duck with Endive Fricassée, Sweet Red Cabbage and Celery Root Purée in Stout Sauce. That's one of the seasonal items on the menu. The wild duck's as tender, juicy and flavorful as you can ever imagine. Sauce's made from the pan jus plus stout (as in Guiness) slowly reduced to almost syrup consistancy. Not a noticeable trace of alcohol taste but the wheaty flavors from stout greatly enriches the texture and flavors of the whole thing. An elegant interpretation of this rustic dish, and went well with the Pinot Noir we picked.
Cheese Platter. Upon the recommendation of our friend csy, we asked to have a wine-cheese pairing arranged for us. Except the first cheese and wine pairing that I can't remember (some kind of light sheep milk cheese with a Loire white), the rest were (in the order from light to rich) Mimolette with Hoegaarden, Aged Comte with Vin Jaume, Mont D'or with Morey St Denis, and Roquefort with Banyul. Of course, the rich, 40-month aged comte and the creamy Mont D'or that just came right in season - both signature cheeses of the restaurant at this time of year - need no further introduction, but my favorite pairing went to the combination of mimolette with hoegaarden. The nutiness of the cheese couple with the almost floral flavor of a Belgium white beer just worked perfectly somehow. Other wines were artfully matched with cheeses from the same region and of complementary tastes.
Dessert: Lemon Myrtle, Honey Sablé and Calisson Ice Cream. A citrus-based, refreshing dessert was exactly what we needed after our 5 cheeses and 5 wines. Not something technically difficult to make, I should say, but it's simply delicious.

The week before the dinner, I was thinking that everything would probably taste ordinary for the rest of the week in anticipation of this meal on the weekend. Unfortunately I was quite right - with such fine dinner in mind, nothing else came even close.

when? October 15 2011
where? Caprice, Four Seasons Hotel, Central, Hong Kong
menu highlights? Tourteau Crab Tiramisu with Fruity Marinade and Tandoori Spices

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Baked Scallops in Orange Cup

Scallop is perhaps my favorite food ingredient – it’s full of umami flavors, versatile – you can basically do everything with it, be it steamed, roasted, pan-seared, baked, and can go with almost everything, and so easy to cook.

Well this is a dish that I came up with using various components that I have cooked before with some success. The end-result is an interesting ensemble of distinct tastes and textures and can be nicely presented too.

Baked scallops with Saikyo Miso and Butternut Squash Foam in Orange Cup 

Recipe(for 6)


12 scallops – I like those sashimi-grade scallops from Hokkaido that can be found in major Japanese supermarket in town. It came with different sizes (and priced accordingly). The one I used this time is a medium-sized one (4S).

6 oranges – Ideally I would use Yuzu from Oita – the place we visited last month – but it’s almost impossible to find outside of Japan. So I used small oranges instead (mandarin oranges probably work too)

For Saikyo Miso: (I adopted the recipe from The Nobu Cookbook)
¾ Cup Mirin
2 Cups White Miso Paste
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar

For Butternut Squash Foam:
Half a butternut squash (around 1 pound) – remove the seeds
Half a stick butter
¼ cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and Black Pepper to taste


1. First, cut off the top of the oranges and save them as “lids” for garnishing. Hollow out the oranges carefully and set aside.
2. Dice up about ½ cup of oranges and make ¼ cup of fresh orange juice from what you have hollowed out.
3. To make Saikyo Miso , bring sake and mirin to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat, boil for an additional 20 seconds to evaporate the alcohol. Turn the heat down to low and add the miso paste, mixing with a wooden spoon until all miso has dissolved and there’s no lumps. Turn the heat up again and add the sugar while stirring constantly with the wooden spoon. Remove the heat once the sugar’s fully dissolved. Cool to room temperature. (You will end up more miso sauce than enough - put the extra into the refrigerator and it can be used as a marinate for fish later)

4. Add the diced oranges and orange juice into the Saikyo Miso sauce. Mix them together well.

5. To make butternut squash foam. Preheat oven to 400F (190C). Coat the halved butternut squash in butter and place in a baking dish. Roast butternut squash for 1 hour until soft and caramelized. Spoon out the flesh into the blender, add chicken stock and puree. Pour puree and heavy cream into a saucepan, stir with a wooden spoon and gently reheat – don’t boil. Sieve through the creamy puree into the espuma gun (make sure there’s no lumps in the mixture) Inject one NO2 cartridge and shake.
6. Turn down the oven to 350F (175C). Cut scallops in half, season gently with salt and pepper, and portion 2 scallops in each orange cup. Pour saikyo miso sauce into orange cup to ¾ full (and make sure all scallops are covered).

7. Put orange cup into oven and bake for 15 minutes (without the lids).
I used the iSi Thermo Whip so the foam can be kept warm for a short period of time 
8. Give the espuma gun a few additional shakes and splash out the foam into a bowl. Spoon the foam onto each of the orange cup in abundance – I don’t care if it overflows.

9. Serve warm with the reserved lids by the side as garnish.