Thursday, February 28, 2019

Two-Third of a Four-Hands Menu

While I was pretty tied up the entire week to go to the special 4-hands dinner featuring Chef Vicky Cheng of VEA and Chef Julien Royer of Odette happening in late February, I was lucky that Vicky asked me to come along for a preview at his restaurant the day before the actual event. 

I was just having some of the dishes by Chef Vicky a few days before the lunch at another occasion, but I ain’t going to complain for a repeat that quickly, as his creativity never ceases to amaze me. And though I still haven’t been to Chef Julien’s restaurant Odette in Singapore (and that’s only because I haven’t been to Singapore for the last few years), I was a huge fan of his food when he’s cooking up a storm at JAAN, where he became famous for his modern take on classic French cuisine, before he went solo and opened Odette in 2015.

VEA normally does not open for lunch service, but the team was well ready for a few of us when I walked in, just as both chefs giving the team the final briefing before this special meal service. I was expecting an abbreviated menu from what they would be serving at night, but they decided to serve the entire 10-course menu to us. We started with a pair of amuse-bouche bites presented by Chef Julien – the mini tartlet of kegani (Japanese hairy crab), cauliflower and “vadowan” spices (with curry-like flavor) was refreshing with a good kick, but the uni “French toast” was the one that truly wow, with fresh sea urchins served on a round of brown butter toast (in black color) with finger lime zest and garnishes on top. It’s a delightful bite with a hint of fragrance.

Chef Vicky then presented an equally impressive course – this time it’s a “pigeon assiette” with pigeon done a few different ways in a spectacular presentation. Inside the wooden board with floral decoration (and completed with the sound of bird chimes for special effect) was a smoked pigeon egg topped with caviar and the deep-fried pigeon leg coated with spices. The egg was slightly pickled giving it a complex flavor which matched well with the golden caviar, and the tiny pigeon leg has a crispy crust that I enjoyed too. Then from a tea pot poured into our small glass in ceremonious fashion was the pigeon soup (“done Cantonese double-boiled style”, according to Chef Vicky, and what I thought would be an intense meat broth was actually dominated by the soothing taste of jujube and chrysanthemum, which was a good palate cleanser to start.

More caviar was on our way, and this time it’s Chef Julien’s confit beets arranged beautifully in a glass bowl with horseradish and smoked herring mixed and put underneath, and topped with the dark Oscietra caviar. It’s well balanced with the tiny blini served on the side. 

Our next course by Chef Vicky looked similar to what we had just a few days ago, but the preparation was completely different. The fillet of local “Ma Yau” (or threadfin) was pan-fried with crumbs mixed with preserved black bean (a common ingredient used in Cantonese cuisine), then served with celeriac mousse mixed with mandarin peel and the beurre blanc sauce plus a dash of basil oil. It’s a clever course making use of local ingredients in a totally unexpected way.

Next was another seafood course, this time presented by Chef Julien. The piece of “XXL Langoustine” (an accurate description given its size) was slightly poached and served with a few different fruits – a few types of apples and pears – plus bergamot zest with the refreshing aroma (smelling it I felt like I was in a spa). And in the dish there was local prawns (the “red rice” prawns) and a creamy sauce infused with seaweed flavor. So many ingredients went in and they all matched with one another harmoniously.

The sea cucumber dish has become a “symbolic course” of VEA of sort, with many variations that changed regularly. And I must say the one I had this time was the most memorable one to date, with the piece of sea cucumber roasted with a crispy crust, matched with a sauce made with female mud crab (with both the meat and roes giving it a golden color), ginger and egg drop. And at the table, 22-years Hua Diao wine was sprayed with a diffuser for that unique aroma of a well-aged Shanghainese rice wine (which traditionally was paired with crab dish) Somehow this reminded me of the Singaporean chili crab with the similar thickened sauce (sans the chilies) and it was delicious.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get to finish the whole menu and I had to stop at the last course by Chef Julien, which is his loose interpretation of “Chicken Rice”. We were shown of the whole roast chicken with black truffles stuffed between the skin, which was then carved (with the skin on), a Albufera sauce plus more truffles shaved in front of us. On the side was the rice cooked in a stone casserole with chicken jus and more truffles mixed in. The chicken breast was impeccable, tender and flavorful, and I thought the rice worked best mixing with the sauce on the plate.

A few cocktails and wines were served along with the dish and they were well thought out. My favorite was the one with shiso, apple, elderflower and gin, which I thought went well with the few seafood courses.  I am grateful for this 2/3 tasting menu experience – just wish I could stay til the end as I would love to see how Chef Vicky uses “Lotus Seed Paste” in one of his dessert courses. Definitely next time.

(The meal is by invitation and based on a special guest chef's menu. More photos in my Flickr album at

Where? VEA Restaurant & Lounge, 29 & 30/F The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Threadfin "Ma Yau" with Preserved Black Bean, Mandarin Peel and Celeriac
2016 Domaine Alain Chavy Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Les Folatieres"
2006 Domain Faiveley Nuit-St-George 1er Cru "Les Damodes"

No comments :