Sunday, May 17, 2020

Two Tables

The Front of the House team at Caprice did a fine job of making special arrangement for us to eat at their restaurant recently. With the government rule still in place restricting a maximum of 8 people per table, they managed to set up two "separate" tables of five inside their private room so we could "eat together". And all these were done at a rather short notice – kudos to them for being accommodative.

It’s only been a couple of months since we were last here so I did give a shout out to Chef Guillaume beforehand asking for some new dishes to keep the menu more interesting. At the end we ended up with something different with the exception of the amuse-bouche at the start and petit fours at the end. But this time I did find myself enjoying more of the identical amuse-bouche course with better combination of flavor between the smoked salmon and the espuma made of bonito broth, and that right hint of acidity from the calamansi juice underneath done just enough for the balance.

My first course of foie gras terrine was beautifully plated. The long bloc of terrine - injected with port reduction for the marble effect - was placed in the middle with the thin layer of duck jus jelly on top, and on the side, raspberry mousse covered with chutney jelly with thin slices of pickled rhubarb underneath. The stunning presentation was only part of the perfect execution, with the foie gras terrine smooth and rich and went well with the sweet chutney and a thin slice of bread. 
“Lobster Bisque?” I did have the question mark hanging over my head as I glanced through the menu with this being offered as the only choice for the soup course, but the team did one heck of a job of impressing us with something seemingly commonplace. In the middle of the deep dish was a couple of hotaru-ika, or Firefly Squid, gently grilled with tender and almost creamy texture, with soft sautéed leek underneath. This special species of squid came into season only during late spring/early summer in Japan’s Toyama Prefecture and what we had were the ones at its peak with decent sizes. I was impressed with the balance of rich tastes of the bisque as well, between the crustacean umami flavor at the backbone, to the dash of liqueur as accent and the creaminess. Chef Guillaume also revealed to us the secret ingredient he added in - “Coconut Milk,” he said as he dropped by at the end of our meal. Certainly did the trick of turning this into something extraordinary.

I was glad I went with chef’s recommendation for the off-menu salmon dish as my main course. “The fish was absolutely beautiful and only available for a couple of months every year”… when he said this not once but twice, I knew I gotta take his word and try it. And it’s indeed top-notch. The salmon was caught wild in the river of Adour in the French Basque Region in the southwest, and must have come in huge size judging from the piece of fillets that were served to us (originally 6kg, we were later told). The meat had the lovely tint of pinkish-orange color, and was soft and almost melt-in-your-mouth while only just cooked through. Could taste the fat but didn’t leave you with a mouthful of oily feeling - which often happens for ordinary salmon dish. Apparently it’s done nice and slow on the side of a warm grill and finished with the heat lamp on top – way to slow cook without the plastic pouch. The sides worked perfectly well too – the saffron sauce with the hint of acidity and sweetness cut down some of the fatty taste from the fish, and one couldn’t went wrong with the seasonal white asparagus and caviar on top for the extra flavor and textures. I personally could live without the skin which was left on (though i sort of understood why that was so) but that certainly didn’t take away this being one of the most memorable dishes I had this year so far.

My grapefruit dessert was fine but pale in comparison despite the grand presentation in an earthenware dome. Chunks of candied grapefruits were served with grapefruit jelly, dots of meringues and creamy mint espuma. Thought it’s a bit one-dimensional and probably worked better as a pre-dessert or palate cleanser than a main dessert course. 

Wines were another highlight of the meal. Our friends graced us with a few fine bottles of red – with that inadvertently this will probably turn out to be one of those afternoons better remembered by the wines we drank. Started with a pair of white as warm-up – an interesting sparkling wine from Savoie which was bone-dry and lively, with floral, apple and some minerals on the palate. Next was a serious Muscadet that I like, full-bodied and held up well with the Foie Gras Terrine with its richness and acidity.

The wines of the moment were a pair of vintage First Growth Bordeaux which were harvested 10 years apart and both served with a brief decanting in the bottle. We started with the 1991 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, light ruby color and medium bodied.  Started off with an earthy note then some tobacco and spices. More red fruits than black for sure and I love the smooth tannins that filled the mouth nicely with a medium finish. The 1983 vintage of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild was poured right next (so we could taste both side by side) – slightly deeper in color with a more solid rim, and slightly fuller. Opened with a deep forest/earthy notes, then cedar, vanilla and some ripe red fruits. What surprised me was the firm and creamy tannins still remaining and lasted long – this bottle has some strength to go on a few more years I reckon. For dessert, we went for a Colheita Port which was even older than the Mouton (by a few decades) – beautifully made and great on its own as digestif with some dates, plums and toffee on the palate and smell of cocoa.

It is good to be back on this beautiful day with everything just seems to be perfect, mood and company included.

When? May 9 2020
Where? Caprice, Level 6, Four Seasons Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Wild Adour Salmon with White Asparagus, Caviar and Saffron Sauce
2015 Domaine Belluard Vin de Savoie Ayse Les Perles du Mont Blanc
2012 Domaine de l'Ecu "Taurus" Muscadet Sevre et Maine
1991 Chateau Lafite-Rothchild, Pauillac, Bordeaux
1983 Chateau Mouton-Rothchild, Pauillac, Bordeaux
1969 Taylor Fladgate “Very Old Single Harvest” Tawny Port

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