Saturday, February 8, 2020

Four hands and a few more wines

Last month was the first time I returned to Tosca at The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong since Chef Angelo Agliano took over at the kitchen. They have even changed the name to Tosca di Angelo for the new era. We were there on the final night of the special collaboration dinner series featuring guest chef Antonia Klugmann from Friuli–Venezia Giulia.

I have never been to the Friuli–Venezia Giulia region, let alone trying Chef Antonia’s dishes at her restaurant L’Argine a Venco in the town of Gorizia near the Slovenian border, so to me this was an opportunity to check out the cooking of two new chefs within the same evening. And with the Hong Kong-based Italian wine merchant Certa being the host for the dinner, I also got to try some of their wines to go with the food too.

But before we got to the wine and food, we started with a bit of olive oil tasting, with the single origin extra virgin oil by the Sicilian Tasca d'Almerita winery. As the olive trees were grown along side with the grape vines, their oil was bottled separately according to the region where they were grown. I personally like the one from Tascante which exhibits hint of green apple and citrus and mildly bitter, which went well with the warm house-made sourdough bread.

We went on for a few seafood dishes first, some by Chef Angelo, some by Chef Antonia, and some a joint effort between the two. The amuse-bouche of salmon and fennel was refreshing, with salmon tartare mixed with fennel foam topped with salmon roes served in a small glass, with every bit of umami flavor popped in your mouth. Then it’s the blue fin tuna tartare well mixed with olive oil with eggplant puree and caviar on top for the classic combination of rich sea flavor.

The cuttlefish course looked simple but turned out to be complex and intense. The piece of braised cuttlefish was served in a deep dish with a dab of “sausage puree” and the ham broth was poured on top. The smoky sausage taste with the rich broth (probably a bit too heavy on salt) worked decently well to contrast the mild flavor (but with amazing texture) of the cuttlefish. It’s rustic yet delicate.

The next course was described as the surprise dish created by both chefs for this event, with polenta served with a rich tomato sauce and topped with sea urchins and fish maw. The polenta was amazing, soft with refreshing taste from the tart tomatoes, and it paired well with the umami-rich sea urchin. The fish maw has a hint of sweetness and well-cooked with a slightly bouncy texture.

Chef Angelo was famous for his classic risotto and the one we had didn’t disappoint, with the perfectly cooked rice mixed with chunks of Mediterranean red prawn and lardo – this is the ultimate comfort food and clearly the best of the evening.

The pasta course was an interesting one, with wild boar cappelletti served with prunes broth. The broth reminded me of the Chinese version which was often served as refreshing drinks, but here the sweetness mixed with acidity paired surprisingly well with the meat pasta with a mild gamey flavor. Our main course of veal sweet bread was braised and served with radicchio and shallots – I thought it tasted alright, but probably the sweet bread was a bit too soft to my liking.

Two desserts were served. First was the peanut pannacotta, with the creamy peanut espuma served with a soft meringue like panna cotta in a small glass bowl with crushed peanuts and yuzu zest on top. I personally liked this better than the second dessert of clementine, which was a clementine ice cream wrapped with sponge cake soaked in clementine grappa and finished with three kinds of clementine glaze on top.

We had quite a number of bottles to go around, courtesy of Certa and Leo, the sommelier at Tosca. Most of the wines came from the estates owned by the Sicilian Tasca d’Almerita family. This evening we began with the vintage 2014 of the Almerita Brut, the sparkling wine made of 100% chardonnay with lively citrus taste. Then we moved to a pair from Abruzzo, first the Trebbiano made using biodynamic methods with refreshing white flower aroma and stone fruit on the palate, and the second a rose from the small appellation of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, aged almost like a red with plum, espresso and toffee on the palate with just a tint of color from the brief skin maceration.

After the pinot from Lombardy region (served with the polenta and risotto), we went with an Etna Rosso then a Sardinia red. Always enjoyed a well-made Etna wine, soft and elegant with some red fruits (strawberries, cherries) with a hint of smoke at the end and some tannins. We were asked to taste blind for the one from Sardinia. I wouldn’t have expected one that’s 20 years old, loaded with ripe red fruits and still have a lot to give in terms of aging potential.

We thought we would finish with the Passito, but actually we had one more for the road after that, which is another blanc de blancs sparkling wine, this time from Champagne and went through prolonged fermentation in the bottle. More yeasty than our first glass, beautiful white flower aroma with a hint of oak. Needless to say all of us went home feeling a little tipsy after the long but enjoyable evening.

More photos here:

When? January 15 2020
Where? Tosca di Angelo, The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, West Kowloon, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Black cabbage and Red Shrimp risotto with Lardo di Colonnata
2014 Tasca d’Almerita Almerita Brut, Sicilia DOC
2018 Azienda Agricola Valle Reale Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC
2010 Azienda Agricola Valentini Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo DOC
2013 Vigne Olcru “Coppiere Nero” Provincia di Pavia IGT
2015 Graci "Arcuria" Etna Rosso DOC
2000 Cantine Argiolas “Turriga” Isola dei Nuraghi Rosso IGT
2015 Diamante d’Almerita Sicilia IGT
Champagne Bonnaire Variance Blanc de Blancs Brut NV (Assemblage 2008/2007, Disgorged February 2018)

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