Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tin Anniversary, or we call it an annual gourmet celebration

Just when I was plotting where we go to celebrate our wedding anniversary in early December, I remembered Chef Fabrice of Caprice mentioned the upcoming chef's table behind the kitchen when I visited the restaurant a few months ago.

With Caprice being the venue for a number of our special occasions in the past bringing us great memories, I couldn't think of a better place to celebrate a milestone of our marriage. So I shot them an email checking whether it's available, and while they did reply saying they are still finalizing the details for the chef's table, they could make the arrangement to set that up for us. Wow - how could we turn down such an unique opportunity?

Despite the evening peak hour traffic in Central, we arrived right on time and was led into our table located in the room behind the open kitchen.  This is the room where they keep the cheese and some of their wines, and in front was a big window facing the kitchen so we felt up close and personal with all the cooking actions while being shielded away from the noise and heat. This certainly is one of the best chef's table setups we have experienced.

While the special chef's table menu is not yet ready, we entrusted Chef Fabrice to decide on the dishes for the evening, and the menu was partly based on the degustation menu with some off-menu items. We started with a sumptuous amuse bouche which was a vichyssoise with lobster carpaccio - it's rich yet refreshing with the umami crustacean flavor going well with the chilled leek veloute.

Our next course was a smoked duck foie gras served on a poultry consomme with celery and granny smith, with a glass of Madeira Sebastien the sommelier poured to match. It's a humongous portion of the liver, but instead of searing as it would be normally prepared, it's gently poached and then smoked right before serving. Traditional wisdom called for something sweet to cut down the fat from the liver, but here Chef Fabrice opted for a clear but full-flavored consomme with just a hint of sweetness from that of the celery in the bottom, and apple on top. That's where the Madeira came in, matching perfectly well the smokiness of the foie gras with the hint of smoke and nuttiness of the wine.  The piece - with a delicate texture reminded me of a creamed clarified butter - just melted slowly in our mouths. 

Our eyes glowed when Chef Fabrice brought in a large piece of white truffle with our next dish - I know we had our more than fair share this season already but who would say no for more? Inside the deep dish was petite-sized Colonnata pork ravioli, poached meditteranean red shrimps and violet artichokes, before the artichokes veloute was poured in and generous serving of white truffles being shaved on top at the table. I loved the complex flavors presented in this dish, especially the artichoke cream combined with the earthy truffle aromas.

Our next two courses carried the theme of game meat since we were now in the season for such - both similar in a sense but quite different in tastes. First was the Pithivier with wild duck, pork and foie gras cooked and baked inside a crumbly and rich shortcrust pastry. The crust has a nice golden color and beautifully shaped - almost like a Galette des Rois except it's savory. Chef Fabrice brought that in, served each of us a generous slice by the table, with the jus reduction poured on the side. I don't know how he did it but the meat flavors simply infused well into the pastry without making it all soggy. The meat was moist and rich, and the flavor was greatly enhanced in the presence of the thick, almost gelatinous sauce made of the meat jus. To me, this is flawless in both execution and taste under Chef Fabrice's masterful cooking skills, and so good that we "shamelessly" asked for a second serving.

The next dish - also our last savory course - was the seared venison fillet served with pumpkin puree and sangria reduction sauce. On the side was a mini "mille-feuille" stack of vegetables including carrots, onions, celeriac, thin slices of white truffles and topped with "pommes souffle" - thin slice of potatoes deep-fried and puffed up to become like a little crispy ball. The heavy-flavored and tender meat - cooked sous vide then seared on the outside - and the light medley of vegetables formed an interesting contrast and just the right balance, brought together by the tasty sauce and pumpkin puree with a hint of sweetness. I love the simple yet colorful presentation too.

We didn't ask for the details of our dishes before they were served to keep the suspense, but the wine we picked turned out to be matching well, especially with the 2 meat courses. Ruby color, an expressive floral, violet-like nose matched by an equally expressive red fruit and licorice note on the palate with some cumin spice at the back. An elegant, mature wine with a good, medium finish.

Cheese Course: (from left to right) Bottom: St Felicien, Anneau du Vic Bilh, Mimolette extra vieille, Mont D'or. Top: Comet de Garde, Petit Fiance des Pyrenees, Langres
It would be a mistake not going for some cheese especially we were sitting right outside the cheese room, so we were led into the room to pick a few to taste. Apart from a handful we know we must get - the aged Comte, Mimolette and for this time of year, the Mont d'Or - they also brought us a few others. I am usually not a huge fan of cheese made of goat's milk, but I found both the Aneau du Vic Bilh and Petit Fiance has just the right richness and creaminess without being predominantly "gamey".

Two desserts were served before we called it a night - and both were marvelous, starting with the mille-feuille then the strawberry-chocolate marshmallow "sandwich" with banana icecream and blackberries. I am glad we saved enough appetite for them - well, almost, as we had to pack up half the mille-feuille and that made a extra sweet breakfast for myself the next day.

I found it hard to pinpoint any particular dish as my favorite of the evening, as all of them were "jaw-dropping" good. It's fascinating to see dishes being prepared from the kitchen and delivered to our table spot-on, and all done right in front of us. This was no doubt one memorable meal and an unique dining experience, with an absolutely stunning view and excellent dishes. Having described our previous meals at the restaurant as "impeccable" and "beyond impeccable", I am amazed that they still managed to up the ante exceeding our expectations.

The restaurant was recently named among the Top 20 in Hong Kong by one of the leading local restaurant guides, and here let me quote my friend Charmaine who wrote in the book, that "since (Fabrice) Vulin debuted his menu in February, we have witnessed a beautiful evolution of Caprice’s culinary offerings, and the progression of a chef who has hit his stride in a foreign land." I cannot agree more.

Thank you Four Seasons Hong Kong and the Caprice team for the kind arrangement and for making our wedding anniversary extra special for us.

Full picture album on my flickr page:

When? December 4 2014
Where? Caprice at Four Seasons Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Le Foie Gras de Canard - Smoked Duck Liver, Double Poultry and Mushroom Consommé, Celery and Granny Smith
Egly-Ouriet Tradition Grand Cru NV Brut
D'Oliveiras Sercial Vintage Madeira 1971
Domaine Frederic Magnien Chames Chambertin Grand Cru 2004

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