Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Whimsical Celebration

We were at Chef Uwe Opocensky’s namesake restaurant a few weeks ago for our annual celebration. The restaurant, called Uwe and opened slightly over a year ago, is the chef’s next big project since his days at Mandarin Oriental – and in between, a hugely successful casual dining chain Beef and Liberty in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The restaurant took up a cozy space on Hollywood Road in the neighbourhood known as Noho, and its décor reminded me of someone’s countryside cottage, with recessed lighting, dark wooden furniture and lots of colorful foliage (on the floor and our table) to match the seasonal theme of autumn. The dining area was a bit tight – don’t expect a lot of privacy while eating - but not to the point of being uncomfortable, and it was packed when we arrived slightly late for our original booking time.

There’s no menu for our meal per se; Chef Uwe even made a point of not providing us the slightest clue of what we were having until when the dishes were brought to our table. And with his avant-garde cooking style, sometimes it took us a few bites to realize what went into each course. Guess that’s part of the fun of a surprise tasting menu. We began with slices of housemade sourdough bread served with a beef bone marrow “candle” on the side. The drippings from the candle and the bread worked perfectly well, other than the practical use of the candle lighting up the otherwise dim dining area. It’s quickly followed by a cup of tea – mushroom consommé to be exact, but in the form of a tea bag in a Victorian-style cup. It has an intense flavor.

Moving on a tree was carted in an on the “bark” was a few pieces of mushrooms which Chef Uwe carefully plucked and served on the plate for us. Turned out those “mushrooms” were foie gras and served with more (real) mushrooms and polenta. Next was the celeriac and chestnut dish which brought in typical autumn flavor using seasonal produce.

Two seafood courses were then served – first was the more conventional style of creamy pasta served with scallops, sea urchin and caviar (it was delicious, especially the perfectly seared scallops), and then sea bass fillet steamed in fresh seaweed and served with pickled mushrooms. I like that contrast of mild flavored fish fillet infused with the mineral hint of seaweed with the sharp acidity from the mushrooms.

Our main courses were a pair of poultry dishes. The piece of quail leg was tender and super juicy, and same can be said of the duck breast served in rustic style with thick slices of pink meat and the rich jus reduction. The dessert was served with much theatrical style like the rest of our meal, with props and fancy crockery that gave a sense of us being in a forest. My favorite bit was the apple strudel, a subtle reminder from the chef of his German roots, perhaps. That capped our whimsical evening at Chef Uwe’s cottage with a series of creative but well-executed and thought of dishes for something different, and thanks for your generous treat, Chef.

When? December 4 2018
Where? Uwe, 252 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Mushroom Tree
Drink? 2011 Domaine Chevillon Nuits Saint George Premier Cru "Les Cailles"
Web: www.uwe.com.hk

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