Saturday, August 13, 2016

Crossover at Test Kitchen

Test Kitchen is an admirable project founded by Vincent, providing an unique and exclusive culinary stage to link up visiting chefs and adventurous diners right in Hong Kong for a series of one-off dinner events regularly held. One particular event caught our eyes recently, featuring the cooking of Chef Victoria Eliasdóttir, an up-and-coming young chef from Dottir Restaurant in Berlin.

Well to be honest, not familiar with the Berlin dining scene, I have not heard of Chef Victoria previously, but the description from Test Kitchen's email about Dottir, being named the most exciting restaurant openings in town by Eater and rated 5 out of 5 stars by Time Out Berlin, is convincing enough for me (and for the seven other friends) to sign up for the pop-up dinner, held only for four nights at the end of July.

As we arrived at this quiet neighborhood near the waterfront at Sai Ying Pun, I was fascinated by the space of Test Kitchen, a loft-style unit on the ground floor of an old industrial building. Apparently they just finished the re-modelling of the place inside out on time for the event, turning what used to be a warehouse into a loft with 3 levels of dining space (which can seat approximately 30 diners altogether) with a professional kitchen in the middle level. I also loved the Nordic-style, nature-themed table decorations, just like those aesthetic dining tables featured in Kinfolk magazine or something.

We were glad to have picked the early seating starting at 6:30pm because the dinner ended up lasting almost 4 hours with 10 courses being served with wine pairings. I would say most of the dishes were quite spectacular and I enjoyed trying every single one of them and the entire dining experience of something different. Of course there were some dishes that I liked more than the others, but in general I appreciated the innovations and thoughts put in each of the dishes by Chef Victoria’s team. And by saying the cooking was innovative I didn't mean the dishes were prepared using avant-garde techniques or state-of-the-art equipment or obscure chemicals. In fact there's none of those present, well except maybe a dehydrator or a siphon. It has more to do with the innovative combination of ingredients, flavors and textures.

A few dishes particularly stood out. We started with some breads made in-house and I enjoyed the malt bread with a sweet crust with the melted brown butter served on the side for dipping. Right afterwards was the grey mullet crudo, served underneath some smoked buttermilk espuma, pea puree and shoots, pickled horseradish, finely diced apples and onions, and a piece of crispy fish skin on top, mixing and matching various flavors in addition to all those textures present. The fourth course of long carrot was halved and cooked in oven in low temperature for 3 hours, with the outside caramelized and inside soft and sweet. On the side was kvarg cheese foam, toasted oats, fried kale and candied seaweed.

The "main course" of the evening was a thick slab of cod fillet cooked sous vide served with a cream sauce made from the mullet we had earlier, then on the side was crisp sunchokes, sautéed oyster mushrooms, plus bits of pickled apple and the green parsley oil. The creamy, rounded flavor from the fish combined with that silky, delicate texture served as an interesting contrast to the earthiness from that of the sunchokes and mushrooms and the tartness of the apple bits. The cooking was simple but the matching of all these seemingly random ingredients to harmonious effect was not.

I probably didn't like the dessert and cheese as much as I did with the savory dishes – just not a fan of the combination of cassis granita with the savory sweet creamy whey cheese, white chocolate espuma, blueberries and toasted almonds, and the cheeses were a bit too strong to my liking (but I did like the fennel chutney which came with the cheese course)

The menu came with wine "matching", but I was somewhat bewildered by the choices. I didn't expect something overly fancy to be poured given the price we paid but I did expect more interesting selection rather than generic bottles introduced to us as "Champagne from France" or "Riesling from Germany", and ended with a red wine that didn't seem to match with anything that was served during the meal, with half of the table being poured an entirely different wine because they ran out of the original one.

But overall this is an impressive pop-up dinner and I loved this venue (except if one thing I could change, it would be the chairs - I think something other than one made of plastic would be nice). Hopefully I will come back to other events to be held here. More photos in my Flickr album:

When? July 31 2016
Where? Test Kitchen, Shop 3, 158A Connaught Road West, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Grey Mullet – Peas – Smoked Buttermilk - Horseradish
2014 Domaine Vincent Dampt Chablis Premier Cru “Les Lys”
2013 Schloss Schonborn Estate Riesling, Rheingau
2011 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Meursault Tillets
2012 Tenuta di Trinoro “Le Cupole” Toscana Rosso IGT
Test Kitchen:
Dottir Restaurant Berlin:

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