Sunday, January 17, 2021

First Star of 2021

It just so happened Arbor was the first starred restaurant we visited in 2021 – a few weeks ago we went online to check the earliest availability for a table at the restaurant and January 2 it was, fell conveniently in the first weekend of the year. And of course with the dining restriction still in place the booking for 4 people became 2 adjacent tables separated by a partition – they already did the best they could to make us feel like sitting together. 

It’s been a long while since we last came – a table at this popular restaurant has been hard to come by, you know – and we decided to let Chef Eric decide the menu for us, knowing he’s been working on some new dishes. We began with a pair of bite-sized amuse-bouche courses, first the seafood broth served in a turban shell followed by an abalone tartlet, with both best summarize the unique approach by Chef Eric of combining Nordic and Asian cooking style with fine ingredients, many sourced from Japan. I especially like the abalone tartlet, with the piece of Japanese abalone slow-cooked, sliced and served in a rice-flour tart shell with vinegared Hokkaido Yumepirika rice covered with seaweed powder underneath. Like a very light sushi but the abalone in melt-in-your-mouth texture and good acidity from the rice working well together. 

Also worth mentioning was their bread, the soft and warm brioche with seaweed served with two kinds of butter - one whipped with miso and topped with shaved Parmigiano cheese, and the other with a touch of soy sauce. Both were lovely with layers of interesting flavor. 

The Nordic-Japanese theme continued with our next course, this time chef tried to present the same set of ingredients in two different ways. First was the piece of akami tuna (from Ehime Prefecture), slightly cured served with raw radish, horseradish cream and crème fraiche on the side, almost like a gravlax with rice underneath, and second was the piece of nigiri sushi with Tuna, which was also aged and marinated, and served with grated citrus zest and pickled ginger. I was looking for something more dramatically different between the two, but both were beautifully presented and were tasty, with the well-brined piece of tuna got a firmer texture and more intense flavor. 

Langoustine was another “fusion” dish, topped with Cantonese “XO sauce” (traditionally made with dried scallops, ham, chilies and scores of other ingredients), Japanese kabu radish cooked with dashi and served in a emulsion sauce made with the langoustine broth reduction. And on the side was a thin patty of tempura, with sakura shrimps covered with batter, deep-fried and served with dots of mayo on top. The XO sauce relish worked well with the piece of langoustine just barely cooked through and with good umami taste and provided the slight kick with the spicy flavor and the tempura patty was delicate but loaded with intense flavor too. 

We moved away from seafood with pigeon being our main course of the afternoon. The breast was cooked medium-rare and served with black garlic puree, oyster mushroom, celeriac pickled slices and puree, the reduction jus and shaved Perigord black truffles. The truffles with its nice earthy aroma worked beautifully with the rich pigeon meat and sauces and I also liked the contrasting textures and flavors from the celariac done two different ways. And the leg of the pigeon was roasted separately and served on the side, with more black truffles, this time grated. I love the tender texture of the pigeon leg with a more delicate flavor. 

We had tried the the traditional Karelian pies that Chef Eric developed with his wife Can at one of their pastry pop-ups, with now they have brought that (and other pastry dishes) to the restaurant in the form of an afternoon tea menu available for limited time. This time around, he sent us the piece served with black truffles as a comp dish just as we finished our main course. The rich buttery tart (in a boat-like shape) was made with rye flour and filled with rice porridge and on the side, a quenelle of crushd egg and whipped butter. I love everything butter so this is definitely heavenly. 

Our dessert was pavlova with a citrusy custard filling and blueberry sorbet on top. Then it’s the restaurant’s signature madeleines and dacquoise as “petit fours”, which by the way, was not petite at all. All of them were excellent, I especially loved the dacquoise topped with candied black and white soybeans with the little hint of savory sweet and soft and crumbly texture. 

I love the wine menu curated by their sommelier and our friend Sebastien with good variety in style and price range, and a lot of hidden gems if one looks closely to the menu. This time we went for the bottle of champagne, a much powerful Blanc de Noirs from a prominent grower loaded with minerals, aroma of dried flowers, some pears and ripe apples. We followed through with another beauty that we brought in, and the decade-old Bordeaux showed some violet and pencil shavings on the nose and restrained red fruits in the beginning, with more ripe black fruits, plum and velvety tannins developed after some time in the decanter and glass. Was just right to go with the richness of the pigeon main dish and I like its after-taste too.

More photos in my Flickr album:

When? January 2 2021
Where? Arbor, 25/F, H Queen's, 80 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Pigeon served 2 ways with Jus Reduction and Perigord Black Truffles
2018 Champagne Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Noirs Cote de Val Vilaine (Disgorged Apr 2020)
2009 Chateau Branaire Ducru, St Julien

No comments :