Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Le Grand Petit-Dejeuner

While being a perfect day to stay outdoors to enjoy the gorgeous sunny day on a Sunday afternoon, I opted to spend time on top of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong to check out the new Sunday brunch menu at Pierre with a group of food-loving friends. It’s been years since I last ate at this Michelin-starred restaurant (and never during the day before) and with their new Sunday brunch offering only introduced in mid-January, I was curious to try what’s on offer and see how the place now stacks up against other restaurants of similar calibre.

With seven of us, we easily took up their biggest long table on the far end of the dining room, with a great view of the harborfront right behind us. While I sometimes found their décor to be too uptight and almost uneasy at night, it was stunningly beautiful during the day, with neat table arrangement, and good contrast with the dark interior and the bright sunshine beaming in from outside. And on our way in, we were given a sneak preview of what’s on the menu with the sight of all the pastries and desserts being laid out in a table in the middle of the dining area – we all couldn’t wait to get to that later.

It’s said the menu, called “Le Grand Petit-Dejeuner”, was the first brunch service at any of Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant worldwide. The all-inclusive prix-fixe menu consists of a series of drinks to be served before, during and after the meal, starter courses served family-style, a choice of egg and main courses served in individual portion, then cheeses and desserts available at the centerpiece table. It sounds like a lot of food and it is.

We started with a bang with a beautiful appetizer platter brought to our table after the bread basket was served with butter and marmalade. With jelly of Jerusalem artichoke consommé as a “backdrop”, a few colorful, bite-sized appetizers were laid on top with microgreens and bits of mango adding to the overall presentation. All were good, but I loved the beef most, with the tender, raw wagyu beef and caramelized onions wrapped inside. You can’t get a more picturesque dish than this.

A few more starter dishes were served in the middle of our table at almost the same time – all of them creative and delicious, often with a touch of oriental style. Among them the caviar tartlet (not in the picture) was another well-presented dish that I like, with the soft and airy cauliflower espuma as filling underneath the generous spread of caviar.

We were asked to choose between the three egg dishes, to be served after we finished with our starters. The poached egg (cooked at 64.5-65 degrees, if I have to guess) was of perfect texture, with the runny egg white and gluey egg yolk at the center. It was served with baby spinach underneath and foie gras veloute ladled on top at the table. The veloute was on the salty side, making the dish slightly unbalanced, but other than that, it was quite decent.

More choices had to be make for our main courses, with six options given from seafood to chicken to steak to pasta. I picked the cocotte of scallops and razor clams, which was probably the lightest of all choices. It was a simple dish with grilled scallops, sautéed razor clams, chucks of salsify and leeks, dressed with a light cream sauce served in a deep dish. The portion was generous and all the ingredients were well-prepared and cooked just right.

After a brief intermission after so many dishes, we made our way out to the dessert table to pick the many creations by their pastry chef Alexandre Brusquet. My favorite was the hazelnut Paris-brest. It was classic with rich hazelnut cream and bits of toasted nuts sandwiched between the fluffy pastry. Other than the usual coffee and tea selection, one could also pick some of the unique drinks, like the hot chocolate with juniper (with the rich Valrhona chocolate poured in a glass with dollop of cream) , or the Masala Chai said to be based on Pierre’s special recipe. I tried both and they were great, though my favorite would have been the white chocolate drink with chestnut paste, if I didn’t think it was a bit lukewarm when served.

The staff was friendly and accommodative, though I wish they were more knowledgeable and familiar with the dishes served. Two minutes into introducing the menu to us, it's apparent that our waiter has not seen nor tasted the dishes, let alone knowing any details of how they were prepared. I felt a bit misinformed when the flat Vietnamese omelette, one of the menu items, turned out to be topped with seafood, instead of just "coriander and bean sprouts" as it was described, not once but twice. Would have picked that in a snap if I knew, and the restaurant should count themselves lucky that no one at our table chose it thinking it's vegetarian and turned out it's not, or someone could have been allergic to seafood.

Nonetheless it was an enjoyable brunch and I definitely will come back, especially when they introduce new dishes to the menu later. Definitely on my list as one of the best, and grandest, Sunday brunches in town.

More photos on Flickr:

When? January 22 2017
Where? Pierre at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong,
Menu Highlights?
Drinks? Champagne Ruinart Blancs de Blancs Brut NV (from magnum)

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