Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Everything Seafood

A few of us gathered at Neighborhood to eat, drink (and most important of all, chit-chat and gossip) recently. It's been a few months since my last visit so this time we were able to check out some new seasonal dishes that Chef David prepared for us.

We began with the usual dishes - a platter of cold cuts with Italian culatello and Basque sausages, roast Padron peppers and sourdough bread. Sea Bream Crudo was the blackboard special at the restaurant on the day of our visit – one can’t go wrong with any daily special dishes David prepared at his restaurant especially when it came to seafood. The slices of raw fish were slightly cured and served with salad greens, toasted almonds and thick slices of house-cured bottarga for the rich umami kick. The next course came like a sea of reds with all ingredients in the same color scheme – tomatoes, roasted bell peppers and strawberries – with a dash of extra virgin olive oil. The sweetness of all components came together nicely, with a touch of salt-cured sakura bulbs providing the hint of salty touch. With travel restrictions this is probably as close as we got in terms of enjoying the hanami/cherry blossom season.

Next was another seafood dish, with a batch of small whiting fish caught in local waters deep-fried as whole and served with a creamy dipping sauce. I love the delicate texture with just the lightest batter coated. That was followed by baby squids served on a sizzling pan – these came slightly bigger than the ones usually seen in Japanese cuisine and I love the tender texture with the simplest seasoning of parsley, scallions and oil and done on a cast iron pan. These must be well in season as I have seen plenty of those in the local markets lately, and Chef David always came up with the best way to cook them.

The Mimolette Gratin was one of the two dishes served in gigantic portion. Scores of ingredients such as cauliflowers (of several colors) and mussels were put in and baked with a creamy sauce in a large rectangular roasting tray. I could live with a richer sauce but we all appreciate the inclusion of fukinoto (butterbur bulb) with this seasonal Japanese mountain vegetables adding to a hint of bitter flavor.

It did feel like there’s unlimited flow of food coming our way from the kitchen. Next was our second main course – the bouillabaisse served in another roasting tray on a portable gas stove top. In the tray was countless types of seafood – lobsters, crabs, plus a few kinds of fish of various sizes – it’s as if David grabbed everything from the seafood stall and put them all in one dish. It could easily feed 12.  And then there’s the hearty soupe de poisson served in bowls, and a pot of rice to go along. It’s straight forward cooking at its best, just showing off the original flavor of these wonderful local ingredients using classic French cooking. Then there’s also a small bowlful of house-made tagliolini with the fatty pork jowl as our final savory courses - love the fatty slices of cured meat with the pasta cooked in the simplest way and finished with just the slightly reduced pasta water to bring all the flavor together.

Of course we didn’t leave the place without some desserts. This time, other than our forever favorite chocolate palette, there’s also the French Toast served with a scoop of ice-cream, caramel and hazelnut plus grated black truffles– the combination that never grew old. A few bottles of wines were poured. My favorite was the Bordeaux white blend from Napa - jasmine floral aroma, the nice acidity and some citrus notes plus the long finish just worked well with the seafood dishes. So much wine that we just forgot what we talked about afterwards - well, what happened at the dinner stays at the dinner.

When? March 16 2020
Where? Neighborhood, Man Hing Lane near Hollywood Road/Peel Street junction, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Sauteed Baby Squids with Pesto Sauce
Champagne Pommery Brut Royal NV
2010 Arietta "On the White Keys" Napa Valley
2010 Clos Floridene Blanc, Graves
2005 Pax "Kobler Family" Russian River Valley Syrah
2010 San Filippo "Le Lucere" Brunello di Montalcino
Web: http://www.facebook.com/neighborhoodhk/

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