Friday, September 27, 2019

The Re-invented Tate

I cannot believe it's only my first time sitting down at Chef Vicky Lau's restaurant at its current venue for her full tasting menu when I visited a couple of weeks ago (previously I was there for one of those "four-hands" meal thing - and that's late last year already). I am always impressed by Chef Vicky's spot-on techniques and aesthetic presentation in her beautifully designed dining room up on Hollywood Road, and I think over the years, she has begun to develop a consistent theme of taking on ingredients more common in Asian cuisine with her interpretation to create something unique.

And those efforts clearly showed with flying colors with this seasonal menu launched only recently. Not a lot of changes in terms of how the menu was organized, with a single 8-course "All the odes" tasting menu offered and each course highlights a particular ingredient. What's even better was we enjoyed the meal in the comfort of the private room in between the main dining area and the kitchen at the back, with the long table that could seat up to 10.

We began with a pair of bite-sized tartlets (one with drunken clams and one with Chinese sausage) and a delightful tofu espuma served with century egg yolk mayo in a stemmed shot glass, a twist to the classic Taiwanese snack with super creamy texture. I also loved the warm loaf of sourdough served with kombu butter.

We then went on with a few seafood courses. I could totally see the conch dish becoming the most instagrammed dish in the menu, with a mixture of seafood jelly and cauliflower puree stuffed in a conch shell and served with thin slices of raw conch meat and caviar. It's an elegant dish with well-balanced flavor.

But my favorite went to the scallop dish, as an “Ode to Kumquat”, with the piece of giant scallop cooked a la plancha and served with a grenobloise sauce made using aged and mildly cured kumquat. That distinct acidity from the kumquat worked perfectly well with the buttery sauce and the pickled daikon on top. I am glad that Chef Vicky has kept this dish on her new menu. Another dish that stayed included the brioche with fermented tofu butter that served as an “intermission” course – I personally could live with a more pungent fermented tofu flavor but overall it’s well executed. Same can be said about the lobster course, using a mild version of the traditional Cantonese nam yu sauce (made using red fermented tofu) and contrasted with a hint of sweetness in the pineapples to go with the piece of blue lobster.

There’s a choice of main course and I went for the duck, with Challans duck breast pan-roasted and served with a fig and dates compote, beetroot chip and duck jus. The touch of Chinese black bean dusted on top of the crispy duck skin gave a hint of fermented savory and umami flavor and the baby shiso on top left a slight tingling on the tongue. On the side was a small bowl of duck consommé with “night fragrant flower” (seasonal herbs commonly used in Cantonese cuisine during summer time) – it’s mild but refreshing as a palate cleanser.

The cheese course before dessert was offered as an add-on but it’s hard to resist with a slice of soft and creamy brillat-savarin cheese was offered. And what’s most fun in the dish was the traditional Cantonese dried fruits offered as condiments. I wouldn’t have imagined stuff like dried bergamot and hawthorn, or aged ginger candy, or salted aged plum would work with the clean taste from the cow cheese. And after the pre-dessert of yogurt meringue tartlet with guava sorbet, our final course was the dessert paying tribute to the local sago pudding dessert, with souffle mixed with sago and chestnut puree alongside with a quenelle of pu’er icecream.

A compact but precise list of cocktails and juices were available to accompany the dishes plus the wine pairing options. I started champagne and a gin-based osmanthus cocktails served in a gimlet which was light and refreshing, then some more wines throughout the evening. There’s a good mix of something familiar, and something less so, for example a Chinese chardonnay from Gobi, or a Junmai Ginjo Nihonshu. My favorite of the evening was the viognier from Rhone Valley – some mineral with pleasant floral aroma, exotic fruit on the palate – paired well with the lemon jam and yellow wine espuma used in the turbot dish.

Before we called it a night, an antique looking cupboard was carted in and inside was filled with all the sweet goodies for our petit fours. I have seen it several times on my friends’ social media pages already so didn’t come as a total surprise to me, who would resist having a few of those lovely lollipops or nicely decorated chocolates? (somehow it reminded me of the fancy cheese cart at Inn at Little Washington - don't ask me why) Of course, food should always come first for a perfect meal, but some styles certainly don't hurt the cause. A thumb up for me for this eloquent dining experience!

Meal was by invitation and more photos can be found in my Flickr album:

When? September 18 2019
Where? Tate Dining Room and Bar, 210 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights?  Ode to Kumquat: Warm Sea Scallop accompanied by Aged Kumquat Grenobloise style sauce.
Champagne Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV
2018 Matsunotsuka Junmai Ginjo BY30, Matsuse Sake Brewery, Shiga Prefecture
2011 Domaine Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Vertige, Rhone Valley
2017 Domain Lebrun Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley
2017 Tiansai, Skyline of Gobi Reserve Chardonnay, Xinjiang, China
2017 Famille Perrin Gingondas “La Gille”, AOC Gigon, France
2011 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines, Sauternes

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