Saturday, December 15, 2018

Four-Hands Menu at Nicholini's

As I returned to Hong Kong on late Saturday afternoon after a “whirlwind staycation” in Macau, I headed straight to Nicholini’s of Conrad for a special dinner featuring a guest chef from Tuscany. Chef Gaetano Trovato of Arnolfo Ristorante in Northern Tuscany joined hands with Chef Riccardo Catarsi of Nicholini’s joined hands to present a special 6-course dinner menu, with both chefs taking turns in presenting each course.

There’s no surprise that the restaurant was filled to its capacity given this is an one night only event, and we started as soon as everyone at our table arrived and settled. The style of Arnolfo Ristorante, part of the Relais & Chateaux group and with 2 Michelin stars, was based in classic Tuscan ingredients with a creative touch using contemporary cooking methods, which showed in the dishes presented by Chef Gaetano this evening. We began with our first course of cantaloupe melon with avocado, basil and tomatoes, with the cubes of melon served with avocado puree, basil sponge cake and drizzles of tomato water. A simple salad yet in a slightly different presentation.

Our next course was a seafood dish served with the seasonal white truffles, with a poached lobster tail, pickled baby radishes and celery root puree, topped with shaved white truffles on top. I couldn’t remember ever tried pairing lobsters with white truffles and I thought it was interesting. Then we moved back to something more traditional, with small raviolis served with pickled red onion, saffron crackers and pecorino Toscano cheese sauce.

Two main courses were served for the evening – first the turbot fillet with pumpkin, cauliflower, olives and vermentino wine reduction, then the pigeon with mustard and plum. I preferred the latter this time – the one done by Chef Gaetano, with the pigeon (breast roasted as whole and leg meat minced, battered and deep-fried with a hint of cumin?) cooked to perfection with the meat tender and in pinkish color in the center and matched with the plum puree for the touch of sweetness. And after the berries sorbet as palate cleanser, we finished with our dessert of coffee macaron and icecream with chocolate mousse, sesame crisp and lemon sponge cake.

The wine flight for the evening was exceptional, highlighted by the 2012 Sassicaia poured en magnum which was paired with the pigeon dish. Can’t go wrong with this classic with expressive floral aroma and ripe dark fruit (cassis and plum) on the palate. Was surprised our last glass of Vin Santo wasn’t served with Cantucci as per Tuscan tradition; nonetheless it was a fine sip to conclude our evening with, well-aged with dark amber color, and full of honeysuckle and nutty flavor.

(Dinner was by invitation)

When? November 10 2018
Where? Nicholini's, Level 8, Conrad Hong Kong, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Pigeon, Mustard, Plum, Cinnamon
Champagne Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV
2014 Montevertine "Le Pergole Torte" Toscana IGT
2015 Podere Forte "Petruccino" Orcia DOC
1990 Castello di Ama "La Casuccia" Chianti Classico DOCG
2012 Tenuta San Guido "Sassicaia" Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC
2004 Il Palazzino Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC
Alnolfo Ristorante –
Nicholini’s -

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