Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pre-opening Dinner

My friend E has been working on this new restaurant concept for a while at the site under the same roof as his wine cellar venture. It's good to see that the project is near completion and last weekend, we were there to give it a try.

The space for this new project went under some slight renovations after its former occupant moved out a few months ago. Gone were the rooster-themed interior and the pink color scheme, but the decor remained relaxed and elegant, with new art pieces being installed in the three inter-connecting rooms which could be used separately for more privacy or together to seat up to 40+ people.

A new culinary team was also brought in to manage the day-to-day operation of the kitchen, with the guidance of Chef David from California, who was recruited as the consultant chef responsible for the overall menu design and will make regular visits to the kitchen from time to time to introduce new dishes and make sure everything is in order. He's busy working in the kitchen as we arrived, supervising the team on the preparation and execution as we enjoyed the beautiful view at the lounge area next door.

Chef David - with his long CV at a number of finest restaurants in the States either as chef and/or owner - is no stranger to Asia, currently associated with a few outlets in Tokyo and Singapore, serving contemporary Asian-inspired western cuisine. In Hong Kong, the restaurant goes in a similar direction, serving up Californian cuisine heavily influenced by Asian, particular Japanese, cooking style and ingredients.

While the exact menu is still being formulated before the official opening, we were given a glimpse of the style of the food served here with a number of dishes presented in a customized menu that evening. We began with an amuse-bouche of raw pink radishes served with salted butter and pickled mustard seeds and on the side, a piece of botan ebi wrapped inside shiso leaf with sour cream. It's a fun way to start a meal and I loved this interesting combination.

Then a number of different dishes were served - some cold, some hot, some veggies, some seafood and some meat courses. While I think some dishes still need minor adjustments here and there - understandably so given the place is still in the final stage of planning - the food was promising. The Hokkaido squash soup was sweet and creamy, working well with the smokiness from the bits of toasted hazelnuts and drizzles of beurre noisette, and hint of cardamom spice. That would be great for the autumn menu.

I could live with a richer-tasted shellfish bisque sauce and perhaps more butter in the rice but I thought the Maine Lobster Risotto with shreds of kaffir lime and shellfish emulsion on top has good exotic flavors, offering something different than the usual risotto dish. The next course - with a piece of roasted arctic char with crispy skin served with buckwheat "risotto" with Japanese hiijiki and honshimeji mushrooms - was probably my favorite dish of the evening. Both parts were excellently prepared and were delicious with a hint of umami taste coming from the yuzu-kosho paste, hiijiki - a kind of Japanese seaweed with a crunchy texture - and the sauteed hon-shimeji mushrooms.

I couldn't really fault the presentation of the bresse pigeon - cooked to the right doneness and served with the smooth parsnip puree, foie gras "french toast" and cherry jus, except it's a bit too sweet to my liking and I would prefer a simple toasted brioche with the foie gras. But both the pigeon and the parsnip puree was superb. The onion jam on the wagyu strip loin in the next course was still too much on the sweet side, but I love the roasted fingerling potato sprinkled with sea salt and black truffles.

Most of us were pretty full by the time we finished 7 courses of savory dishes, served in full portion, but there were two desserts to come before we called it a night. Comparing the two desserts, I probably preferred the Cacao Pot de Creme with burnt marshmallow on top better for the overall richness, but the matching of lychee sorbet with the creamy yogurt was more interesting.

We went quite light on the wine - didn't even manage one bottle per person. Guess everyone's too busy with the food. I love the simple village wine of Chassagne-Montrachet with good dry, mineral flavors with hint of peony aroma and salted-lemon taste, and the Bordeaux red we brought over, with expressive nose, deep, fruity taste and smooth and rather restrained tannins. A sip of the smooth Japanese whisky with a sweet note was just the perfect digestif we needed to end our evening with.

While it's only fair that I reserve my judgment until the place has properly run in, so far I like what we had that evening and am certainly hopeful. Looking forward to coming back after it's officially open for business, and perhaps next time, we will tap more into my friend's excellent wine collection stored next door as well.

When? September 13 2015
Where? To be disclosed
Menu Highlights? Roasted Arctic Char, buckwheat-hiijiki-honshimeji mushrooms
Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet 2009
K1 by Geoff Hardy Semillon Viognier 2008
Chateau de Fieuzal 2009
Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron 2008
Chateau Giscours 2004
Ichiro's Malt & Grain Blended Whisky


Anonymous said...

Is the restaurant open yet? If so, can you provide the details? Would love to try this!

gary s said...

Yes, the restaurant is finally ready for opening so here you are: