Saturday, April 1, 2017

New age with the new Rech

We made our way to the other side of the harbor to have dinner at the new Rech by Alain Ducasse in Tsimshatsui on a Friday evening. The restaurant took over the space formerly occupied by Spoon, another dining outlet under the Alain Ducasse "empire", on the ground floor of Intercontinental Hong Kong. Well, I did bemoan the closure of Spoon for a little while – after all the place always has a special place in my heart as being the subject of my first blog post (wait, is that 10 years ago already?) – but I am also hopeful of this new concept of a casual, Parisian style seafood restaurant taking its place, suitably located by the harbor front with the most gorgeous view. Sometimes change is for the good.

A few weeks ago I was at the restaurant on their opening night with the opportunity to meet Alain Ducasse in person at the cocktail reception, and I was impressed with the dishes that were passed around as canapes. So that pretty much set the yardstick for this time as we had our chance to sit down for a proper meal.

While keeping the general layout intact, the space underwent quite significant makeover with an entirely new look – think of it as a crossover between Nordic aesthetic and Japanese minimalism in an ocean theme. I love the relaxing decor along with all the tableware used throughout our meal - silverware with fish-scale pattern, commissioned handmade stoneware pieces in earthy tones, the timeless sky blue-colored glass serveware by ittala... all pointing you to a seaside resort-like ambiance. We were seated in the middle of the dining room, with the clear city skyline right before us and the kitchen not far from us behind letting us a glimpse of all the actions inside – that’s the best table in my opinion as far as dining experience is concerned.

The menu has a good variety of dishes but very focused – in seafood of course. On one side was the "raw" selection including a series of cold appetizers, the selection of their signature oysters or if you want them all, the royal platter served on a silver-plated, multi-layered tray. Both oysters we tried were excellent – came in decent size, creamy and rich in brine and mineral flavors. I was also impressed with the small dishes of marinated seafood with interesting combination of ingredients and cooking, which reminded me of tapas served at Spanish bars. Among those my favorite was the bonito fish coated with crusted peanuts and served with Romanesco sauce. The fish was done like the traditional Japanese Katsuo no Tataki with the surface seared while keeping the center raw, with the crunchy and aromatic condiment and a rich sauce with a slight spicy kick. It certainly went well with a glass of crisp white wine (or in our case, Champagne in Alain Ducasse’s own label, available only at its dining outlets worldwide)

A handful of starter and main course selections created quite a dilemma for us – this being a new restaurant and a new menu it’s very tempting to try as many and as different as possible. At the end I think we did manage to order most of them so everyone had a bite of almost everything on the menu. The cookpot of tiny spelt, squid and sesame seeds was of very generous portion as an appetizer course. Served in the aesthetically-shaped trademark “cookpot” designed by Chef Alain Ducasse himself, beautifully-sliced and tenderly-cooked squid was served with a creamy sesame sauce on top and spelt risotto with a crispy crust underneath. Not a whole lot of flavor in the risotto itself per se, but worked as the perfect backdrop to the rest of the ingredients and gave an interesting texture.

All the main course dishes we tried were outstanding. The skate wing was prepared in classic French style a la Grenobloise, with the top part of the fish fillet dredged in flour and pan-fried, giving the piece a bit of a crispy golden crust, with the sauce made of brown butter, capers and parsley spooned on top. It’s a bit old-fashioned, but timeless with the best ingredients used. I loved it when I tried it on their opening reception and I loved this "full-version" of the dish just as much. Likewise for the sea bass, which was cooked with the scales on giving it a crispy and slightly puffed skin and served with a medley of shellfish and root vegetables brunoise in an “iodized cooking jus”. Again, straight-forward preparation pulling right from the textbook, but executed perfectly.

A couple of dishes were available in sharing portion – we tried the Sole Meuniere, with the whole dover sole coated in a light batter, sautéed and then carefully deboned by the tableside by Alex the restaurant manager. We were told it’s a small sized one for us as our extra course (the dish was varied by the size of the fish and priced by weight), but I reckon the 800g portion was definitely sufficient for three persons or even four as a light main course. I also loved the tiny pommes fondants served in a mini saucepan by the side, along with the simple brown butter sauce for the fish. Such a classy dish and I bet only a few places around that could do even half as good.

We had our eyes on the dessert choices before dinner even started and jokingly said we should just order one of each to share. At the end we had a double portion of their signature dessert called “Mr Rech” but skipped the rum baba, so yeah, we had our fair share of sweets to end our meal with. Mr Rech is their seasonal dessert offered only during the colder seasons (in summer taking its place would be one called Mrs Rech which was something totally different). Mr Rech is hazelnut ice-cream sandwiched between two giant hazelnut cookies with additional hazelnut bits coated on the side and Alain Ducasse’s signature chocolate sauce poured on top as it’s served. We finished the two portions in no time so you could imagine how good they were. 

I also liked the tropical-style baked pineapple served in the mini-sized cookpot with coconut ice-cream on the side. I was actually happy with just the thinly shaved pineapples baked with liquor (rum?) for the sweet and rich taste but the coconut ice-cream, served in a chilled silver-plated coupe, added the creaminess. That would be my choice if I want something lighter than Mr Rech. And the madeleine, brought to our table oven-fresh still in the hot baking pan, was to die for.

(Dinner by Invitation - more pictures can be found in my Flickr album:

When? March 17 2017
Where? Rech by Alain Ducasse, Intercontinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, TST, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Pan-seared Large Sole with half-salted butter, tiny potatoes
Champagne Selection Alain Ducasse Brut MV
2014 Domaine Henri Bourgeois Pouilly Fume "En Travertin" (served from a Jeroboam)

No comments :