Saturday, November 15, 2014

Edible Jewelry - Tosca x Damiani Dinner

With the holiday mood from our Piedmont travel still pretty much hanging in my mind, I headed up to Tosca at Ritz Carlton Hong Kong for a tasting of their special dinner menu, created in collaboration with Damiani, an Italian jeweler celebrating its 90th Anniversary this year.

I have been to the restaurant a few times, but not since the current chef Pino Lavarra came on board late last year who since then managed to retain the Michelin star for the restaurant for the second consecutive year in the just-released Michelin Guide 2015. The group of us took over the long table at the far end of the restaurant, giving us a sense of privacy away from the crowd, with a good view of Hong Kong Island skyline at the window behind, and on the side, the view of the open kitchen where all the actions were with the culinary team bussing out dishes after dishes at the prep stations for what seems to be a busy night.

The menu was specially designed by Chef Pino, with a choice of either 4 or 5 courses, and each course inspired by a piece of classic jewelry presented by the legendary Damiani as part of their limited-edition Ninety Collection, reflecting either the design or concept or mood (or all of the above) through the creative use of luxury food ingredients in stunningly pretty presentations.

Cured salmon with beluga and snail caviar, porcini mushroom and creamed risotto
We started with a cold appetizer of cured salmon with beluga and snail caviar, inspired by a 1930s-designed, art deco-style, black and white diamond bracelet named Cascade. Using the black beluga caviar to represent the black diamond seems to be a logical choice, and similarly Chef Pino uses snail caviar, which is of white, almost translucent color to represent the white diamond. Both caviars each sat on a piece of perfectly cured salmon, and the dish was completed with thin slices of raw porcini mushrooms, "creamed risotto" on the side, and underneath was a razor-thin slice of guanciale, plus an edible flower petal bringing the final touch to the dish. It's so beautiful to look at, and I like the firm texture of the salmon, lightly cured to the right balance of flavors.

Squid ink fettuccelle pasta with scallops, lobster, zucchini and tomato
Our second course was the pasta course, a squid ink fettuccelle with scallops, lobsters, tomatoes and zucchini. Chef uses the ribbon-shaped pasta to "emulate" the minimalist design of Bloom with floral motif in colored stones set on a simple, black ribbon necklace. Once again, the presentation was playful and flawless, and the taste was fine - nothing really surprising but execution was spot on with both the piece of lobster and scallop were succulent and well-cooked, and I liked the subtle inclusion of the diced zucchini in the sauce. Pasta was done on the soft side but I reckon it's just about the right texture for this kind of super-thin noodles.

Stewed oxtail served on potato with foie gras, balsamic mushroom sauce and crystals

The other main course choice: crispy monkfish served with chickpeas cream sauce and fried sage
There's a choice of mains - between fish and meat - for the 4-course menu (or you would get both if you went for the full 5 courses). My meat course was the stewed oxtail served on a potato puree with foie gras. The oxtail was wrapped with foie gras and slow-cooked, and the result was a delicious braised meat well-coated with a balsamic mushroom sauce enriched by collagen-rich jus. The oxtail sat on a bed of potato puree, and on the side there was a quenelle of creamy foie gras and more mushrooms. The meat was super-tender and integrated well with the thick, rich sauce. It's another tasty dish with nice presentation, inspired by the Optical earrings designed in the 60s, an elegant yet simple piece featuring large circles made of different materials.

Pain d'epice parfait with chocolate ring hazelnuts and five spices sauce
We finished with the dessert of "pain d'epice" parfait sandwiched between two thin pieces of chocolate dusted with gold powder with hazelnuts and five spices sauce. Whether you look at it in a presentation or taste standpoint, the dessert was definitely the highlight of the evening. The dessert resembled the Tribute bracelet with the round shape and the colorful dotted sauce on the plate represents the different jewelry stones embedded on the face of the bracelet. I didn't quite taste the five spices - which I presumed to be the Asian spice mix with cinnamon and cloves and others - I did like the unusual taste of the spiced parfait and it wasn't too sweet. The dish actually reminded me of gingerbread in Christmas time, so maybe the dish will work just as appropriate as part of the holiday menu.

Damiani box collection
Apart from the "usual" petit fours of several small pastry items served on a "cloud" of cotton candy, with the special menu there's also 3 pieces of chocolates served in a Damiani jewelry box, designed after the two designs of modern Damianissima pendant, and completed with the third piece of white chocolate truffle with the Damiani brand printed on top. I give them 100 points for wow factors, and probably 120 points for the taste, which brought the dinner to a delightful end.

The sommelier also helped us paired the menu with a few wines - starting with an elegant sparkling wine by Bellevista, followed by a copper-colored, mineral-rich Pinot Grigio, and then a Barolo - which by now has become somewhat a familiar drink after going through something like 15 bottles in the past month - for the main course. They were all interesting and enjoyable.

I personally thought the menu was on the pricey side but given it's an one time off tasting menu and with the creativity and effort Chef Pino's team put in to make the dishes look so beautiful, I reckon it's still worth a try especially if you are into fine jewelry and fine food. With such marvelous Italian food even after we returned from an Italian vacation, I felt like I haven't really left. It probably didn't help me to get over the post-holiday blues, but with Christmas literally just round the corner, who cares?

Thanks Ritz Carlton Hong Kong for the invitation and the generous treat of such an appetizing array of edible jewelry.

For more pictures, please check out the full photo album on my Flickr page:

When? November 11 2014
Where? Tosca, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Pain d'epice parfait with chocolate ring hazelnuts and five spices sauce
Bellavista Franciacorta Brut Sboccatura 2012
Vin di Romans Dessimis Pinot Grigio 2012
Clabot Berton Barolo DOCG 2009

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