Thursday, December 20, 2018

Five stars (and counting) plus the First Growth

Just a glance at the menu put on the table one would know this is going to be an extraordinary night of wining and dining. On one side was 8 courses of dishes including items like beef tartare with oyster and caviar, or double-boiled sea whelk soup with walnut and conpoy. Then on the other side was the flight of wines, including a few different vintages by one of the best known names spanning over 4 decades. And all of these were put together by two amazing chefs and a prominent local wine merchant featuring one of the most well-known wine estates.

The team of Omtis Fine Wines hosted this unique event with a dinner menu featuring dishes by Chef Guillaume Galliot of Caprice and Chef Chan Yan-tak of Lung King Heen and wines (mostly) from Chateau Mouton Rothschild and asked me to come along. If there’s something I felt I couldn’t miss it for the world, this is definitely one of those occasions. And for this to happen in the private dining room at the back of Caprice was just the icing on the cake, with the best dining venue and the nice view to show forth on a clear evening and the best service team in any restaurant one could find in town – at least in my own opinion.

The menu worked as each chef presented some of the signature dishes in turns. After the champagne and a trio of amuse bouche (salmon confit, a mini pita with curry chicken and a parmesan puff with tomato concasse, first we had Chef Guillaume’s land and sea tartare, with chopped Australian wagyu beef mixed with Gillardeau oyster and topped with Kristal Caviar. It was solidly executed with loads of umami flavor went into every single bite.

Next was Chef Tak’s turn, with a trio of appetizer served side by side followed by the soup. Among them my favorite was the crispy scallop with fresh pears which is one of my favorite dishes at Lung King Heen, and this time, the sweetness of the pear worked amazingly well with the crisp acidity in the wine paired, which was the 2015 Aile d’Argent. And the hint of nuttiness of the wine also worked equally well with the soup course served next, with sea whelk, walnut and dried conpoy went into the traditional Chinese double-boiled soup.

We kicked up the notch in richness of the dishes with the next course of the roast French sea bass fillet with sweet soy sauce. What looked like a western style of food presentation was every bit of traditional Chinese cooking prepared by Chef Tak’s team inside Caprice's open kitchen – a scene not commonly seen. The fish was of perfect texture, firm with a sweet soy sauce glaze, and on top, finely shredded dried ginger and underneath was the seasonal pea shoot which was sautéed. And it was matched with the first of Chateau Mouton Rothschild of the evening, which was of the 2009 vintage. Full-bodied and in dark ruby color, it was ripe and full of red fruit taste with a slight hint of soy at the back, and the tannin was silky smooth with a long after-taste.

Then it was a pair of meat courses presented by Chef Guillaume. First was the pigeon dish, done slightly different than the one I had at the restaurant a few months ago when it's done whole inside a cocoa pod. This time, the pigeon was wrapped in fig leaf and roasted, with the breast carved and served with a nutty crust, with beetroot sauce and marinated figs on the side. Then it was followed by the Aubrac lamb, with the saddle fillet roasted and finished on the pan and shoulder meat shredded and done as confit, then on the side, quenelles of eggplant caviar and sweet pepper piperade. I thought there’s a hint of Middle eastern herbs somewhere and altogether it was well cooked – rich but not overpowering. Same can be said with the wines served – starting with the 2005 vintage, then the 1996 and lastly, 1988 poured from magnum bottle. Among these 3 I probably loved the 1996 vintage most, which aged well after 20 odd years with a concentrated palate full of ripe dark fruit, some leather and a hint of smoky cedar. It was beautiful.

After the brief cheese course – with only 3 types but they were all decent – we finished with a quince dessert in various shapes and forms. At first I thought it would be a bit unbalanced with everything done with that sharp acidity of the seasonal quince but turned out it was quite pleasant, with the caramel popcorn and a touch of creamy cheese providing some contrast in flavor and texture. And the petit fours served in a jewelry box was the winner this time, with no less than 6 different mini sweet bites offering a perfect conclusion of a meal filled with great food, great wines and lots of interesting conversations. What a special night.

More photos can be found here:

(Dinner was by invitation and happened 2 weeks before Caprice was elevated from 2 stars to 3 in the latest edition of Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau)

When? November 30 2018
Where? Caprice, Level 6, Four Seasons Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Roast French Sea Bass Fillet with Sweet Soy Sauce
2006 Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Palms d'Or Brut (en Magnum)
2015 Aile d'Argent Blanc du Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Bordeaux
2009 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux
2005 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux
1996 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux
1988 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux (en Magnum)
2003 Chateau Coutet Cuvee Madame, Sauternes 
Omtis Fine Wines:
Chateau Mouton Rothschild:

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