Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Long Lunch on Boxing Day

At our last outing to Ando a few months ago I did tell myself we needed to go back soon when dinner service was resumed (we went on the first week the government banned all dine-in after 6pm) Turned out 5 months on we were back to square one in terms of dinner lockdown, but at least we did make it back to Chef Agustin’s restaurant for another meal on the Boxing Day. Call this part of our holiday celebrations with friends. 

We were impressed with how the kitchen team at Ando managed to adapt and change given the challenges due to the pandemic. With dinner service out of the equation for foreseeable future they extended the hours for lunch with a takeaway menu available in the evening, and during the Christmas weekend they also offered the special celebration menu which was what we had, with a few twists Chef Agustin decided to do for us. 

We started with what was described as the “chawanmushi”, or Japanese steamed egg custard typically served in a tea cup. But what’s usually served as a light and delicate starter was given a facelift by the chef, with the rich Spanish blood sausages mashed and served on top of the silky soft egg custard. I love the contrasting flavor inside the small porcelain cup and what an unusual start with something so rich. 

The “raw seafood selection” was our favorite course last time, and they won our hearts this time as well with a slight variations to the version we had. The idea was the same - five different types of raw seafood (with most of the ingredients came from Kyushu, Japan except the Carabineros, or red prawns, which were from Spain) with five different sauces to pair with like five mini courses in one. My favorite this time was the hotate (or scallops), dressed with shallot oil and citrus sauce – it’s less acidic than the traditional leche de tigre but rather, a more balanced and worked well with the delicate scallop which was thinly sliced. Sayori (needle-fish) was another I like, with the delicate seasonal fish carefully filleted and served with the equally delicate white soy sauce and a touch of sudachi zest.

Bread course was then served in rather ceremonial manner, with three types of bread and three types of flavored butter to go with. To me, the simpler was the better which in this case was the whipped Japanese butter with salt. They also served olive oil on the side, with a limited edition bottle pressed using hand-picked olives from a millenia-old tree in Spain’s El Maestrat region. The smoked idiazabal was served as an in-between course, with the espuma made using the sheep’s milk cheese from Basque Region covering the soft-boiled egg yolk at the bottom, and on top, a quenelle of Kristal caviar with the mild mineral, umami flavor going well with the rich and creamy cheese.

Our main courses were fish, followed by a beef dish. The Japanese suzuki, or sea bass, was pan-seared with the crispy skin on and served with a black Romanesco sauce prepared with black olives plus some pickled baby paprika peppers on the side. I love the smooth and rich sauce with a hint of nuttiness paired with the firm, flaky and well-seasoned fish fillet (and the baby paprika providing a hint of acidity and spiciness, other than being cute on the plate). 

I was also amazed at how tender the Argentinian lomo was in our second main course, with the beef tenderloin briefly pan-seared (with the center still in pinkish color, and served with Hijiki (wild brown seaweed), kabocha (butternut squash) puree, meat jus reduction, and topped with a spoonful of chimichurri sauce on top of the meat. 

Caldoso has become one of the Chef Agustin’s signature dishes these days, presented to us in a large casserole before serving in small ceramics bowl individually. Ingredients change from season to season and the one we had this time was an off-menu version, made using baby squids and a richer than expected broth with nice sea flavor and a touch of acidity and herbs. I thought the soft and tender mini squids worked well with the soupy rice in terms of texture too. 

Two desserts were served – the first one with Japanese apples served in various shapes and form (candied, mousse and sorbet) was nice but I liked the second one more this time, with the traditional crème caramel made with Hibiki whisky mixed in to the custard base, and served with sea salt ice cream and a white chocolate tuile on top. More sweets came our way at the end, with the cutest wagashi made by their talented pastry chef Joanna, plus a mini madeleine. 

We stayed back on alcohol after the whole Christmas weekend of (over) drinking and went with a single bottle of orange wine from Liguria – full-bodied and dry, lots of minerals on the palate and some dried fruits. Worked well with the seafood dishes. 

When? December 26 2020
Where? Ando, 1/F, Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Five Raw Seafood Selection – Carabineros, Hirame, Hotate, Sayori and Akami
Drink? 2017 Tenuta Selvadolce “Rucantu” Pigato Terrazze dell'Imperiese IGT

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