Saturday, February 25, 2017

Meatless Night

Admittedly, I normally would not fancy much of a vegetarian special menu, but I do like Chef Peggy’s cooking and her innovative take on meatless dishes, and enjoyed quite a few relaxing afternoons at her Grassroot Pantry restaurant on Hollywood Road. So I thought I would give it a shot when she collaborated with Chef Nate of Rhoda for an one-night only crossover event at the restaurant.

I arrived a bit early, just as the customers at the early seating were finishing up with the desserts. Looking from their satisfying faces I was confident that meal was going to be epic. And soon enough the five of us settled at the table at the far corner by the window and began our 6-course feast.

We started with something light and straight-forward named “Mid-Winter Ode”. A medley of seasonal vegetables were poached in a vegetable broth then served with fermented tofu mustard mayo and pickled Chioggia beets on a plate. The clear broth has amazing flavor, and the sweet taste of the vegetables - sourced from local farms - contrasted well with the rich fermented tofu with a hint of acidity from the pickled beets.

The next two courses could probably be some of the most memorable western meatless dishes I have tried. First was the soft-cooked egg served with burnt cauliflower and celeriac puree mixed with coriander seeds. I love the smokiness from the charring of cauliflower floret chunks combined with the complex flavor of the puree, brought together by the runny egg yolk. Chef Nate was known for the meat dishes at his restaurant Rhoda, and I was pleasantly surprised he came up with this meatless dish with such great flavor done without his favorite ingredient. Well done.

The second course was just as rich, with the thick slices of Japanese daikon topped with finely diced odd ends of vegetables, a fennel and caper dressing and grilled savoy cabbage. The menu, dubbed “Nose-to-tail”, followed the noble zero-waste approach, made full use of every bits of the food ingredients. I thought this is a clever dish doing just that, with great flavor and textures to show forth as well.

Mushroom was the main theme of our final savory course, with shiitake-teff gnocchi served with maitake, broccolini with walnut pesto sauce and smoked macadamia parmesan shaved on top. Interesting combination for sure and individual components tasted decent though it’s not my favorite course of the evening. Somehow I felt it’s lacking something to bring all flavor together, or it's just overshadowed by the earlier courses which I love.

Two desserts were served, in addition to the petit fours snacks. The Rhubarb dessert was the one I loved best, with rhubarb done two ways – poached with syrup and granite, then served with a simple vanilla custard. It’s refreshing with that pleasant aroma and sweetness. I also loved the petit fours – especially the nut buttercup. Did remind me of the familiar Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups but with even better nutty taste.

The dinner was paired with natural wines by the nearby La Cabane wine shop. Still not completely sold on the organic, all-natural wine concept, but I did enjoy the semillon from Australia’s Hunter Valley. The acidity did go especially well with the complex cauliflower dish with rich floral aroma too. I also loved the clean flavor of the pear cider served towards the end, perfectly matched with our last dessert course of pears!

We were told that the dinner was part of the monthly event called “The Collective’s Table”, with Chef Peggy working with chefs around town for an unique menu. It’s a great idea really to draw on collective mind of culinary talents around town for something new and different. I do look forward to more collaborations of this sort to make the local culinary scene more interesting!

(The dinner was by invitation)

When? February 22 2017
Where? Grassroots Pantry, 108 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Grilled Savoy Cabbage, Turnips, Fennel and Caper Dressing
2014 Louis-Antoine Lyut Carignan Legro Duro Cuvee Mathilde, Chile
2015 Harkarm Winery Aziza Semillon, Hunter Valley, Australia
2015 Mas del Perie Escures, Cahors, France
Eric Bordelet Poire Authentique, Normandie France

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