Thursday, January 10, 2019

Once a year

Kudos to the Michelin Guide Hong Kong/Macau team for putting together another fabulous event at City of Dreams Macau yet again where restaurants were awarded and chefs were celebrated over an evening of festivities at the black-tie Gala Dinner mid-December last year.

Was happy and excited to have received the invitation for the event this time, and this time, I decided to stay a little longer instead of having to rush in and out of Macau like I did last year. They were nice to put me up at Grand Hyatt Macau, which was right next to the party venue, so I have a few hours before the event to rest and settle (and get changed). The hotel may not be the newest and the most splendid in town (at least not anymore), but I thought it was still gorgeous and adequate, with the well-equipped room and the view looking over the rest of Cotai Strip.

When it’s time for the event, I donned my tux (still fits after 10-odd years, something I was proud of) and walked straight into the mezzanine floor where the pre-dinner reception was held. Great to see many friends and chefs and restauranteurs taking the night off when someone else’s cooking and they got to sit back and enjoy a little. I bet especially happy were the ones whose restaurants were awarded star for the first time, or received an upgraded one – like Belon and Caprice, both restaurants we adored, or Arbor, which I thought was one of the best openings in 2018. All were well-deserved.

Also it’s good to see many familiar faces around the table as we made our way into the ballroom after glasses of champagne, cocktails and much mingling. This evening we were treated with six courses all prepared by chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants, plus desserts presented by the culinary team of Pierre Herme. We began with a beautiful dish of Gillardeau oyster, shellfish tartare and seawater jelly served with caviar underneath in an oyster shell. Chef Fabrice of The Tasting Room gave me a preview of this dish when I visited him a month ago so there’s less of a surprise here, but I thought it was great with good combination of ingredients and flavor, plus well-suited in the setting as the team has to created literally hundreds of this at the same time and travelled a distance from the kitchen to our table.

We had more of caviar in the form of toro tartare topped with a generous quenelle of caviar, served on a martini glass with brioche toast on the side. Again, one couldn’t go wrong with this, and it’s the first time I tried something by Chef Masa Takayama of the renowned Masa in New York City. Following that it was 3 courses of seafood dishes – among them the fish maw in rabbitfish soup and crab meat rolls was my choice of the best presentation. The gigantic fish maw – soft but with a bite – and the crab meat roll underneath, sat right in the middle of the earthenware deep dish and took up all the flavor from the fish soup, thickened by the collagen of the fish maw.

The one presented by Chef Alain Ducasse (in his absence) was served in his signature cookpot, with blue lobsters and potatoes in a bisque and topped with julienned black truffles, and lastly, and my favorite in terms of flavor, was Chef Chan Yan-tak’s (of Lung King Heen) steamed black cod with fermented black bean sauce. I love the silky texture of the fish and served at just the right temperature.

We finished our savory courses with grilled Kagoshima ribeye with charred cabbage, black truffles and “jus corse”. This one by Chef David Kinch of Manresa (in San Francisco) was probably the more predictable dish among all that were served this evening, but well executed, and I also loved the wine that went with the dish too – a classic Pomerol with just the right body to go with the rich flavor of the beef. Probably the best match among an all-French line-up of wines poured throughout the evening, I reckon.

This year we were deprived a good laugh by a cook wannabe with his over-the-top "show" last time around, but instead it’s the masterful dessert of a chocolate dome by Pierre Herme, served in much low profile manner but equally stunning (in a good way this time). Inside the dome was a combination of hazelnut cream and sponge cake, and topped with black truffles. This one won hands-down, of course.

And with all the fanfare of chefs on stage receiving the applause and praise from all those in attendance and the performance by singer Kay Tse in between courses, turned out the gala night was only the beginning of my evening feasts, with an impromptu after-party awaits not far away where we were treated with even more dishes and booze and much laughter. Of course, that’s another story may or may not be left untold. And many thanks to the kind host for extending the invite to me again - it's an honor.

Here's more photos for the event:

When? December 11 2018
Where? City of Dreams Macau, Estrada do Istmo, Cotai Strip, Macau
Menu Highlights? Poached Gillardeau oyster No. 3, shellfish tartare, sea water jelly, ginger cream and lemon confit from Menton
Champagne Mumm Grand Cordon Brut NV
2012 Lucien Le Moine Corton Grand Cru Blanc
2010 M.Chapoutier Ermitage "Le Meal" Blanc
2014 Domaine Matrot Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru "La Quintessence"
2015 Domaine Henri Magnien Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru "Estournelles St Jacques"
2008 Chateau La Fleur-Petrus Pomerol
2002 Chateau Doisy-Daene Sauternes
Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau:
City of Dreams Macau:

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