Monday, February 1, 2021

Ando Encore

“Show us something different from the last one” was my only request to Chef Agustin when we visited his restaurant Ando for a second time within a month. We were here during the Christmas week last time with their festive menu, so we were glad to come back so soon for more new dishes by the talented team. 

This time we came on a Friday afternoon at the peak hour, so no surprise the place was packed with every table filled – something we were more than happy to see. This time we were seated right in front of the open kitchen – giving us unobstructed view with all actions happening inside with Agustin and his sous chef Luis manning the kitchen pass by the counter. 

We started with beef tartare, something seemingly straight forward but there were subtle twists in this amuse-bouche course. The chopped Angus beef was aged, giving it good meaty flavor. On top there were the fried shallots and Kristal caviar – former for the texture, latter for the texture and the mineral flavor. The beef was slightly marinated with citrus juice but rather than it being overly acidic like most people do with this dish, I got more of the zesty flavor which I thought was more balanced. Rounding all up were the kombu juice and chive oil at the bottom. 

Second course was a repeat from last time but not without some finer adjustments. The “Chawanmushi” was served with chopped morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) on top – but this time, the baby perilla leave on top gave it a slightest hint of grassy taste and tingling feel on the tongue, and I thought the egg custard was done softer than the one we tasted. Next was chef’s take on a ceviche-style dish but much modified. Thick slices of hamachi (yellowtail) was served with leche de tigre, pickled baby paprika and coriander. Like the beef tartare in the beginning, the acidity flavor that usually came with ceviche was held back, and instead there’s a touch of spices and the refreshing cilantro taste that worked well with the lightly cured hamachi. I love the presentation too – full of colors and served in a nice glass plate. 

The most elaborate bread course in town made the appearance next, and this time I love the seaweed bread and the bottarga whipper butter pairing the most. Continuing with the theme, our next course was lobster, with the succulent piece of blue lobster tail served with soba noodles underneath with a generous portion of the XO bisque sauce, taking in all the creaminess and rich flavor. That’s followed by the Kinmedai, the Japanese goldeneye snapper, slow-cooked and served with classic romesco sauce underneath and julienned daikon on the side. I thought the dish best showcased Chef Agustin’s culinary philosophy of integrating ingredients from this part of the world with Hispanic cooking style – I guess that’s what he meant by “Medio Mundo” (Half World) as it’s written on the menu. 

The same theme continued in our main course of beef but represented in a slightly different style. The piece of fatty and flavorful Kumamoto wagyu was served with parsnip puree, truffle jus reduction sauce, chestnut mushrooms, horenso (Japanese spinach) and more Perigord truffles shaved on top by Julien the restaurant manager at our table. But there’s something more in the sauce, with the taste of smoked sardine came out of it later on, for a touch of mineral umami flavor. Caldoso was our last savory course – while it’s similar to the last one we had with baby squids being the main ingredients, this time I thought the broth has more of the Cecina (air-dried meat) flavor to it. So good that we asked for a second serving. 

Two desserts were served in addition to the mignadrises at the end. I particularly loved the wagashi piece,  with coffee icecream and whisky jelly encased in the Nerikiri-style sweets – another impressive presentation by Chef Joanna with the perfect balance of sweetness. 

We enjoyed the wine pairing for this afternoon too, starting with a Junmai Ginjo from Gifu Prefecture – dry with a pleasant bouquet of aroma and some clean, sweet peach/honeydew taste on the palate. For our seafood courses, we went with the glass of white wine from the Spanish Pyrenees region made from the indigenous Xarello grapes. But it did remind me of a Grand Cru Chablis with white flower aroma, powerful minerals and some ripe citrus taste. Our last glass was an interesting one, with the Japanese “rice whisky” undergoing the similar distilling process of grain and malt whisky but using rice as ingredient, first undergoing fermentation like sake production before distilled and stored in sherry cask. Much milder in alcohol and none of the peaty flavor, but retained a slight hint of smoke and woody taste. Worked well with the caldoso with the rich broth. 

(Meal was by invitation and a big congratulations to Chef Agustin and his team for the restaurant's first Michelin star announced just a few days ago!) 

When? January 22 2021
Where? Ando, 1/F, Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington St, Central
Menu Highlights? Risas del Jardin – Wagyu, Horenso, Parsnip, Smoked Sardine, Perigord Truffles
Renjisi Junmai Ginjo Jikagumi Muruka Nama Genshu, Hayashi Honten, Gifu Prefecture
(百十郎 純米吟醸 直汲み無濾過生原酒 - 岐阜県林本店)
2017 Enric Soler Nun Vinya Dels Taus, D.O. Penedes
Ito Sherry Cask Brewed Unblended Whisky - Koyama Honke Shuzo
(絲 ito したシェリー樽熟成特別原酒 - 小山本家酒造)

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