Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Back to School at SAAM

There were way too many restaurant openings in Hong Kong throughout the year, which inadvertently means some just never got on my radar. SAAM in Soho was one of them - I sort of heard about it when it opened late last year, but I never got around to check it out. But last week I was invited to a dinner tasting for their new seasonal menu.

With some minor adjustments to their dishes since they opened for almost one year, the restaurant now offered a tasting menu to be changing regularly with a specific theme. Currently they are running one called "A School Day", which put a twist to "regular" boarding school food with some creative cooking and imaginations by Chef-owner Patrick Dang. There's an option for the 5 or 7 courses and we went for the longer version.

The restaurant sat on Graham Street which was just slightly off the busiest area in Soho. The dining area was cozy with 5 or so tables with dark and comfortable decor. And I love those pop art pieces by Romero Britto on the wall. At the back is the semi-open kitchen and guests can get a glimpse at the actions inside as the food was prepared and dished out through the pass.

We began with the amuse-bouche of a piece of Irish rock oyster served on a tray laden with small pebbles. On top was a dash of horseradish and ponzu sauce, mentaiko and salmon roes. Next up was "Nutella & Toast" with an unusual pairing of scallop crudo with truffle "nutella" panna cotta. The dish was dominated by hazelnut flavor but overall it's interestingly tasty.

"Cereal & Yogurt" was perhaps my favorite dish of the evening. The dish was presented in a small ceramic bowl, layered with ingredients such as granola, foie gras parfait, almond yogurt and peppered pineapples. Mixed everything up and in everything spoonful I got a good combo of different flavors and textures. It's creamy, sweet and enhanced by the nuttiness in each crunchy bite. It was a fun in-between course.

The name of the next dish "Sausage & Egg" only described the appearance but it's nothing like what you thought. The "egg" was presented sunny side up, but made of coconut cream (representing the egg white) and pumpkin puree (the yolk). On the side was the "sausage" of poached lobster served with madras curry crumbs. The presentation was playful but I think Chef Patrick matched up well with the equally playful flavors.

"Fish & Chip" was another dish made "upside down", where fish (turbot) was poached but the tartar sauce was "fried" like a croquette. Still came with a thin potato crisps on top and mushy peas at the bottom. I gave good mark on creativity on that dish. I am still a bit torn on my opinion on the noodle soup, our fifth course. Well there's nothing wrong with the taste - the noodle was actually mashed chicken meat with abalone broth poured over at the table. But beyond the presentation, I wasn't particularly wow-ed by the dish, unlike the previous few courses.

To be honest, I wasn't particularly fond of the main course of "School Roast Dinner". A small piece of wagyu short rib was cooked sous vide and served with roast vegetables and "umami gravy". Sounded good but I think the flavor went way overboard. The gravy was over-loaded with mushroom flavor - it's like tasting a mushroom concentrate, and while the beef was super tender cooking in low temperature, it doesn't have any texture to hold up the taste. A bit unbalanced, I would say, and my palate was numbed up after that.

The dessert of PB&J - short for Peanut Butter & Jelly - was pretty decent, with grapes done 2 way - sorbet and fluid gel, combined with peanut butter parfait and banana "pudding". I like the presentation and the combination of ingredients.

Overall the meal was good - some individual courses were a bit of hit-and-miss but I suppose for a creative menu there will always be some you liked more than the other. Most importantly we all had a good time at the table. I am curious to see what Chef Patrick may come up in the next menu... heard it's something to do with Japanese-style cooking. Will wait and see.

When? September 10 2015
Where? SAAM, 51 Graham Street, Central
Menu Highlights? "Cereal & Yogurt"- foie gras parfait, savory granola, almond yogurt and peppered pineapples.
Web: www.saam.hk

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