Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ode to Eggs (and Wines)

It seems perfectly appropriate that Chef Vicky of TATE Dining Room chose egg to be the main theme for her restaurant’s inaugural weekend lunch menu. After all this is the perennial staple ingredient for morning meals and symbolic of a new beginning too. I always think the cozy dining room of TATE Dining Room at Hollywood Road during day time with natural lights beaming in from the windows, so when I heard Chef Vicky finally launched the weekend lunch menu (available twice every month), we booked the table at the first day of service in early March to check it out.

The restaurant was operating in full-house but it never felt overly packed with just a handful of tables spread across the main dining area plus the private room on the side. I am impressed with the caring touch by the front house team of providing hand sanitizers and face mask pouches at every table - well, unusual circumstances did call for unusual measures to make everyone comfortable about eating out.

A single tasting menu was served for lunch service with six different courses and egg being the main feature for this round. Egg can be a very versatile ingredient to work with, but then with so many common ways of preparing it this can be a challenge to come up with something totally new, but at the end I thought Chef Vicky and her team did a fine job to introduce something unique, and typical of her style with attention-to-detail presentation and delicate balance of flavors, but in a simpler form than her more elaborate dinner menu.

We began our afternoon with Century Egg and Tofu, a take on the common Taiwanese dish of “Pi Dan Dou Fu” (皮蛋豆腐). Here the golden century eggs were used with lighter flavor than the traditional dark-colored ones. The egg was finely chopped (think egg mimosa), mixed with dried tofu skin, topped with the soft tofu espuma and garnished with parsley, flowers and herbs. It’s much milder than the traditional version (which was usually served with a dash of vinegar) but the soybean flavor came out nicely.

We kicked up a slight notch in richness with a second appetizer dish. Inside a cut egg shell was egg espuma mixed with crab meat and pickled radish (“Choi Po” 菜脯 in Chinese). I like the crunchy radish adding a new dimension of texture and flavor of what looked like a straight-forward combination of egg and crab – that along with a small piece of dehydrated beetroot giving a hint of acidity. Along the way two different types of bread were served, first the sourdough bread with seaweed butter, the second one brioche with a bloc of fu yu (fermented tofu 腐乳) butter. Both were outstanding.

We slowly worked towards the more substantial hot dishes. Cuttlefish “noodles” and warm egg yolk was served with the cuttlefish cut into thin ribbons then served with a soft-boiled egg yolk (looked to have been cooked at 65C if you need to be specific). So it looked just like a fettucine carbonara but with a totally different flavor profile. Nothing wrong with it but I was looking for something even more adventurous – just thinking out loud, perhaps something like a Chiuchow-style fish noodles (made using mashed fish meat and cooked into noodle shape) instead of just the thinly-cut cuttlefish?

On a similar note, the second egg dish of fried egg and salmon was great in execution – the egg was perfectly done with a crispy crust and runny yolk (similar to Scotch eggs) which certainly looked great in pictures, and the pairing with the mildly-smoked salmon was nice, but I was looking for something more punchy or something to add to the surprise factor – to start I couldn’t taste much of the black bean flavor in the black bean hollandaise that was in the menu description. Again, perhaps with a generous sprinkle of dehydrated black bean powder so its flavor became more distinct?

The last savory course (and our main) was duck and it was exquisite. The thick slices of Challans duck breast was cooked just to the right doneness with seared skin and pinkish meat in the center, and it’s served with cubes of foie gras on a bed of silky steamed egg custard and dressed with a mild soy glaze. Again, Chef Vicky managed to turn something simple and common into an extraordinary form, and that’s one impressive east-meet-west dish following the egg theme. We finished with the dessert of almond custard with grape jelly – I love the soft and slightly sweet almond custard with the acidity from the jelly and sorbet on top.

The menu came with an optional wine pairing, but this time we went with our own bottles because our friend wanted to share with us a special bottle of his in particular. The 1950 Cheval-Blanc was opened the moment we walked into the restaurant, double-decanted and served some 30 minutes later. Opened up finely after a while with aged mandarin peel, chocolate, leather, soy, and a little ripe fruit taking the back seat. Not much of the tannins left obviously but I love the long and complex aftertaste of the well-aged wine still going nicely after 70 years.

More pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/albums/72157713395676091

When? March 7 2020
Where? TATE Dining Room, 210 Hollywood Road, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Custard with Soy Marinated Duck Breast
Maison Mumm RSRV Cuvee 4.5 Brut Champagne NV
Henri Giraud Code Noir Brut Champagne NV
Manotsuru Daiginjo Maho, Obata Shuzo, Niigata Prefecture
真野鶴・万穂 山田錦磨35大吟醸 - 新潟県尾畑酒造
2006 Dog Point Vineyard “Section 94” Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
1950 Chateau Cheval-Blanc, St Emilion
2009 Chateau Batailley Pauillac
Web: www.tate.com.hk

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