Thursday, October 17, 2019

Start of the Season

It’s somewhat a rare sight these days in this town – with a restaurant filled to its capacity, but Nicholini’s at Conrad was packed with customers on a Friday evening. I guess partly because everyone are just itching to be out and about freely as things got stabilized a little bit and partly because the white truffle season has officially begun and the restaurant received its first batch today.

Chef Ricardo prepared this special menu making use of the white truffles in almost all courses and it completed with wine pairing, appropriately using bottles from Piedmont where the truffles came from. That even included the negroni infused with white truffles as our aperitif, or the loaf of bread served before the start of the meal served with a touch of grated cheese and plenty shaved white truffles on top. All that’s needed was dipping it in extra virgin olive oil.

There’s nothing more comforting than a simple scrambled eggs served with the white truffles, which was what we had as the first course. This time it’s cooked with fontina cheese and served with a thin slice of crispy toast and caviar. I could live without but it did add a luxury touch to the dish. And I like the combination of foie gras and Jerusalem artichokes, with the foie seared and served with a shallots velouté and crispy slices of Jerusalem artichokes on top, and of course, more shaved white truffles. The fatty flavor did bring out the enticing aroma of the truffles that are usually available from October until December. The bottle of white made from indigenous grapes (Favorita) was rounded and rich, standing up well with the creamy flavor of the egg and truffle dish, and a straight forward Nebbiolo paired with the foie gras got us in the right mood for the more sophisticated Barolo in later courses.

Our pasta course was ravioli this time – to be exact, a open-faced ravioli with chunks of poached blue lobster served underneath a hand-cut pasta sheet with  a tomato-based cacciucco sauce and creamy burrata cheese on the side. I thought it’s somewhat overwhelming with too much flavors but every components were well made and it’s enjoyable. My main course of veal was another rich course, this time with a medallion of veal tenderloin served with burnt Brussels sprouts, morels, potatoes and colonnata pork. The white truffles flavor was more subtle but did compliment well with the other mushroom flavors in the dish. Dolcetto was poured for the pasta course, followed by a pair of Barolo which is obviously the highlight of the evening as far as wines were concerned. The 2011 vintage was the one I prefer, with ripe black fruit, plum, some espresso, spice and pencil shavings, and round, velvety tannins. And the 2014 was not far behind either.

We finished with a pair of desserts – first the traditional zabaione prepared by chef in front of us by the table, followed by a white truffle chocolate parfait with hazelnuts. And we also got to enjoy a special piano performance with pieces specifically picked to go with the flow of the menu. If this is a sign of what is to come, I am hopeful it's going to be fine.

(The dinner is by invitation)

When? October 11 2019
Where? Nicholini's, Conrad Hong Kong, Level 8, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Scrambled Organic Eggs, Fontina Cheese, White Truffles
2017 Gianni Gagliardo "Gallegro" Favorita, Langhe DOC
2017 Gianni Gagliardo "DaBatie" Langhe Nebbiolo DOC
2017 Gianni Gagliardo "Paulin" Dolcetto d'Alba DOC
2014 Gianni Gagliardo Barolo DOCG
2014 Gianni Gagliardo Barolo DOCG
2017 Rivetto Moscato d'Asti DOC

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