Friday, November 1, 2019

Ta Vie Celebration

"Pure, Simple, Seasonal" - what's written on the menu by Chef Hideaki Sato seems to have captured the true spirit of the dishes served at his restaurant Ta Vie. There were only a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants in town that I have yet tried, and I was eager to cross Ta Vie out of that list after hearing all the good comments from my foodie friends. And what's more appropriate than to go on a day of celebration with a special meal there?

The interior of Ta Vie was unusually casual - I literally felt like we were walking into someone's home when we got through the door of the restaurant, located inside a boutique hotel in Central. There's a handful of tables in a narrow dining room, with a private room at the back. To be honest I found it slightly awkward that our table near to the entrance was set with both seats facing out instead of each other (like a booth), with the kitchen door right in front of us and with people constantly walking by as they came in and out of the restaurant. Not to mention the floor lamp next to our table made it difficult for us to get in to our seats. But anyway, not the extent that I was hugely bothered.

The restaurant serves a single tasting menu featuring (mostly) seasonal Asian ingredients, with all together 8 courses served. We began with the cucumber dish, garnished with kegani (Japanese hairy crab) and shiso and served with a gazpacho sauce. The cucumber was crunchy and refreshing with a slight hint of umami flavor from the little bits of crabs placed on top. I like the next dish of marinated raw sardine served with smoked Oscietra caviar and potato confit underneath – the difference in temperature was played nicely to get the balanced and rich flavor, with the fatty sardine served in room temperature and potato served warm and cooked soft but not mushy, well matched with the mineral caviar flavor.

The uni pasta is Chef Hideaki Sato’s signature dish and one that tend to stick around all year round. Housemade pasta was tossed with an aonori seaweed sauce and topped with tongues of Hokkaido bafun sea urchins. It’s filled with sea and mineral flavor and served at the perfect temperature to bring out the great taste of the sea urchins. Two kinds of bread were served, both arrived warm and soft with a nice crust, and we enjoyed the homemade butter served with them too, including one made with sake lees with the unique sweet and fermented flavor.

I was most amazed at the abalone course that’s served next. Plating was simple – just a piece of cooked abalone cut into half and served in an antique deep dish with a spoonful of jus in which the abalone was cooked in. But this must have been one of the most tender abalone I have tasted, with deep taste from the 20-years Shanghainese Shaoxing wine and sake well infused through the slow cooking process. Later chef explained the abalone (kuroawabi from Chiba) was cooked in a pressure cooker in the braising liquid hence getting this unique texture and flavor.

I felt like we had our fair share of fish course prepared by different Japanese chefs in various styles in recent times, and the Kinmedai prepared by Chef Sato-san was right on par among the best we have had. The piece of fish with fatty and delicate meat was cooked with the scales on with the skin crisped up. On the side was a “acqua pazza” sauce, made with the reduction of fish broth made using the fish head and bones with the addition of tomatoes and capers for that sharp acidity which balanced well with the rich fish flavor. It certainly looked more substantial than it seems in photo.

Our main course was veal, with two pieces of veal in different cuts slow roasted and served with a thick slice of Yunnan porcini mushroom, spinach, meat jus and a low-temperature cooked egg yolk confit topped with grated cheese. I love the texture of the meat and the egg yolk giving it a creamy touch.

Two desserts were served after a small cup of rosselle lemon juice as palate cleanser. First a shine muscat “ball” which was a jelly sphere made with grape juice, and aloe vera and slices of shine muscat and topped with shiso flower (and served with sake espuma) Then a peach sabayon dessert with golden peach icecream and Osmanthus blossom sabayon sauce served in a deep dish. I like the sequence of stepping up in flavor and both were well executed using seasonal fruits.

We went with a single bottle of Burgundy white for the menu. The seafood-focused menu called for a full-bodied white which was what we have picked, and that worked reasonably well even for our main course of veal. I think the meal was everything that I expected and I could see why some considered this to be one of the best restaurant in town. It’s consistently well from start to finish with great ingredients used, and true to chef's words.

More pictures can be found here:

When? October 12 2019
Where? Level 3, 21 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Simmered Aka Abalone from Bousou Peninsula cooked with 20-years-aged Shaoxing wine and Kombu
Drinks? 2012 Domaine Vincent et Sophie Morey Chassagne Montrachet Vieille Vignes

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