Saturday, December 12, 2015

Celebrate at Tate Dining Room

We wanted to check out Tate Dining Room for some time already, but haven't been able to nail it down on our diary until last week. We have heard great things about Chef Vicky Lau's cooking at this Michelin-starred restaurant in Soho, so we thought it would be the perfect place for our wedding anniversary celebration in early December.

Considered the need to seat 25 or so covers in a rather compact space which also included a bar on the side and an open kitchen at the back, I reckon the dining area was surprisingly comfortable with high ceiling, minimalist decor in a light color theme and reasonably-spaced tables. The restaurant opens for dinners only, with two different set menus - the 6-course "sensualist" and 8-course "gastronomy" tasting menus - both of which change regularly according to the season with some variation of dishes, plus a decent wine list with okay variety of selection and a wine-pairing option for either of the menu.

We were in the mood for a shorter meal so "sensualist" menu we picked. We started with a little bowl of tofu pudding as the amuse bouche. The homemade tofu was delicate and soft with distinctive soy flavor and on top was a dab of sea urchin, a touch of ginger and yuba, some edible flower petals as garnishes, and a few small drops of smoked soy sauce added in at table-side (more for the theatrical effect I reckon). It was a simple but beautiful pre-dinner course, which also said a lot about Vicky's "East meets West" cooking style and what was to come for the rest of our meal.

The first few courses were light and all well-designed, both in terms of presentations and the combination of flavors. The first course was a beautiful dish of hiramasa (yellow amberjack), a fish commonly served as sashimi or sushi, which was cured with tomato for this version. Underneath the few pieces of the fish were some light cauliflower espuma, and on top, a thin, round gelee sheet made with ponzu sauce, with avocado cream, mustard seed and almond powder on the side. Overall the dish was well-balanced, and I particularly liked that touch of pickled mustard seed giving a hint of racy acidity accent to the overall smooth flavor.

Next was what Chef Vicky described as "The Sea", with a "sea" of scallop espuma with picked taraba crab meat, yuzu gelee and croutons inside, then on top was a small quenelle of caviars, and a large crispy ricepaper infused with fish stock with some dried sakura ebi on the side which looked like a sail on the boat. It was pretty to look at and added to the overall presentation of "The Sea", and the espuma was well-prepared with a subtle umami taste. And I thought that touch of shiso at the end was neat and gave the dish an interesting after-taste.

I must admit I wasn't a fan of our next course of "Abalone". A couple thin slices of slow-cooked Dalian Abalone was served with an egg-yolk confit cooked at 65C on top of a flaky round crouton and lemongrass foam on the side. The abalone didn't look all too pleasing to  and lacked the right texture nor flavor - I usually like abalone dishes but this time, I wonder if a thicker slice of something else, say, a slow-braised octopus, would have worked better. It was an interesting attempt for an unusual combination of ingredients, just that I wasn't 100% sold on this, unfortunately.

Turned out that would be my only complaint of the entire meal. Two poultry dishes then followed - first the duck foie gras chawanmushi topped with a couple slices of duck breast and jerusalem artichoke espuma, and a skewer of grilled maitake mushroom on the side. Individually both were decent, especially the tender duck breast and the rich egg custard, though I didn't quite get how the two matched with each other.

The second, which was also our main course, was a classic presentation of the Bresse pigeon, with the breast cooked sous-vide and served as two thick slices with thickened meat jus, then the thigh meat diced and wrapped with filo pastry and baked into a small dumpling, with a roasted baby artichoke and celeriac root puree on the side. The pigeon breast was very tender, almost effortless when I slid the knife through and had great gamey flavors. It was excellent.

Chef Vicky definitely took a cue from the Japanese style of plating in presenting the dessert called "Caramel". Wrapped underneath a banana leaf was a medley of desserts, which were supposed to be eaten together, including a quenelle of pineapple-banana sorbet, salted caramel mousse, pumpkin brunoise, Lapsang Souchang dark chocolate mousse and a maply-syrup cookies. I thought overall it looked kind of cute and harmonious, and individual items taste good too, all with different tastes going well with one another.

The Mignardises after dessert was amazingly aesthetic, with a few mini cakes placed on top of some edible "sand", styled like a traditional Japanese zen garden. There's even a little bamboo "rake" on the side that you could draw your own pattern on the sand. It probably has my vote for the best-looking petit fours presentation in town.

Overall I thought Chef Vicky's cooking was spot-on and the menu was well-planned with a coherent and aesthetic style. Not a lot of fancy, extravagant ingredients were utilized but she made the best use of what she got to deliver a delightful meal loaded with surprises. We enjoyed our evening and can totally see ourselves returning for more.

More photos on my Flickr album:

When? December 4 2015
Where? Tate Dining Room & Bar, 59 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? "The Sea" - Scallop espuma, taraba crab meat, yuzu gelee, marinated jelly fish, ostera schrencki caviar, rice paper
Champagne Nomine Renard Brut NV
2013 Domaine Long-Depaquit Premier Cru Les Vaillons
2012 Weingut Knoll, Gruner Veltliner Federspiel, Wachau Austria
2008 Domaine Didier Fornerol, Cotes de Nuits-Villages
2013 La Spinetta Biancospino Moscato d'Asti

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