Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Quick Return

“Come back soon to try our regular menu!” said Chef Ricardo as we parted ways after the special seafood-themed dinner at Mono the other night. So one week later, I did return to the restaurant to check out more of his cooking at his new restaurant in Central.

Did feel an upgrade of sort when I was given a counter seat as from there I could get a much better view of all the kitchen action, as opposed to the regular table further away in the main dining area like I did last time. I was joined by a few friends for the tasting of the dinner menu, the first series since the restaurant opens a few months ago. The menu was divided into 4 parts - showcasing the diversified background of Chef Ricardo both from his family and his professional training.

We began with an amuse-bouche dish served in a rustic porcelain finger bowl. Inside was a small dab of creamy potato puree paired with sea urchins and caviar, and topped with the green parsley vichyssoise foam. I do love the overwhelmingly rich seafood umami flavor but I thought more of the potato puree would give it a better land and see balance. Next course was another seafood dish - this time the ocean crudo with scores of ingredients (carabineros from Spain, scallops from Hokkaido, oysters from Brittany) and the cirtus dressing giving this a punchy acidity taste. This traced back to the South American root of Chef Ricardo and I thought it paired well with the white wine from Veneto with strong mineral on the palate.

The "salad" course took a turn to the stronger flavor side, with Chef Ricardo sharing with us his Italian heritage. Chunks of broccolini and romanesco - some slightly charred - was served with dollops of creme fraiche and smoked sardine, and on top, Colatura di alici Romanesco was drizzled over along with bits of finger lime. Colatura di alici, which Ricardo described that as "sorta like fish oil in Southeast Asian culinary culture", was essentially anchovy oil with the taste of the fish really steeped into the deep-colored oil, but without the fermented flavor in the Asian-style fish sauce.

The lobster dish was on the traditional French side – chunks of Nova Scotia lobster poached, served with truffle and mushroom puree and vin jaune sauce underneath, plus more shaved winter black truffles on top. Nice lobster texture, earthy aroma from the truffles and the rich sauce… chef went for a safe and classic combination and executed well. A small loaf of house-made sour-dough was served ceremoniously with the Catalunya olive oil poured on a small dish on the side, same as last time… so good we asked for a second and got more to take home with. Chef explained he wanted this course served as a break for his customer to really sink in and savor the dishes and the moment. Fair enough.

The next three courses were more on the adventurous side, and in my opinion they were what set Chef Ricardo’s cooking apart – it’s really showtime. The arctic char was served in tasting portion, poached with skin charred, and interestingly paired with veal tendon underneath, braised in a Japanese-style sauce and finished with yuzu zest and oba leaf on top. Next course was described as “Monkbread”, with monkfish fillet and veal sweetbread tied together when raw, then steamed en papillote, roasted then grilled. It’s served with charred leek and some green curry sauce on the plate. I thought the land and sea combination has the perfect texture, soft with a bouncy bite, and the exotic flavor of the sauce really did bring the dish to the next level.

The pigeon was truly magical. Before the dish was served, the mole sauce was prepared right in front of us, with a mixture of grounded chilies, herbs, cocoa and cane sugar grinded in a heated mortar, then finished with grated lime zest. It’s not spicy at all but punchy with the exotic chili flavor and a hint of sweetness. With a bit of the mole sauce on the plate and more on a separate bowl, the pigeon breast was served as a whole piece cut in half and on the side, crosnes (aka Chinese artichokes), plus spinach bonbon wrapped with pigeon foie. The pigeon was perfectly cooked with the right pinkish color in the middle and very tender, and the rich gamey flavor worked well with the equally rich mole.

After the pigeon, we were served a cup of traditional mate cocido, then the pre-dessert of tonka bean espuma with mandarin slices, and finally, the dessert of rosemary icecream with Venezuelan chocolate crepe and Silician olive oil, and cocoa nibs on top. This pretty much summed up Chef Ricardo’s multi-cultural background. Before we go, a small white chocolate and coconut macaron was served as petit fours.

Quite a few wines were poured throughout the evening. I love the full-bodied Savoie, buttery (from the malolactic fermentation, I guess?), ripe stone fruits and some jasmine aroma and slight hint of smoke, which went well with the Romanesco salad dish with surprisingly strong flavor. The monk-bread dish was paired with Junmai Daiginjo from Chiba Prefecture – rounded, very expressive with melon aroma and mellow.

This is a good follow-up dinner with totally different food, but equally enjoyable experience.

(Dinner was by invitation)

When? January 23 2020
Where? MONO Hong Kong, 5/F, 18 On Lan Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Mieral Pigeon/Mole
NV Andreola Dirupo, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG
2014 Vignaioli Contra Soarda Breganze Vespaiolo DOC
2018 La Source Gabriel Cotes de Provence Rose
2014 Les fils de René Quenard Vin de Savoie Chignin-Bergeron La Bergeronnelle
1BY Fukuiwai Junmai Daiginjo Unfiltered Yamadanishiki 50, Tohei Brewery, Chiba Prefecture
(福祝 純米大吟醸 播州特A山田錦五割き - 千葉県藤平酒造)
2017 Weingut Aldinger Unterturkheimer Gips Spatburgunder Trocken, Wurttemberg, Germany
2000 Familia Zuccardi Q Malbec

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