Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The First Taste

Once in a blue moon I was lucky enough to be given a sneak preview of something before everyone else – this time it’s for the soon-to-be-launched Tatler Dining Kitchen series by chef Antimo Maria Merone at the brand new venue at HAUS on Queen’s Road Central. 

Over the years the Tatler Dining team has been awesome hosts to one-of-a-kind events such as their annual Best Restaurant Guide award party, Dim Sum Duets or the Off-Menu series, showcasing some of the best kitchen talents or new culinary concepts in town. I am excited that they now have a permanent venue designed for similar events and more in this cozy Tatler Dining Kitchen space inside the lifestyle concept store HAUS by luxury brands IWC and Mercedes Benz. 

I like the no nonsense décor with 3 tables set up at the cozy dining room for the 10 of us, all with a clear view of the open kitchen which was neat and spacious. It’s the perfect setting for both the diners and chefs – while we could get to see what’s going on inside the kitchen with cooks applying the finishing touch at the pass, the kitchen team can easily interact with the customers, plus the dishes could be delivered to the table within seconds from the pass. 

I couldn’t recall having tried Chef Antimo’s cooking before, though I keep hearing good things about his dishes from his days at Otto e Mezzo Macau, a place he’s been working for the past 6 years, and before that, L’altro in Central.  But rather than reproducing some of the classic Italian dishes those places were known for, the special menu, which is going change every month during the 3-month run, has the theme of paying homage to his second home of Hong Kong with his attempt of combining traditional local Chinese ingredients with classic Italian cooking. 

We started with a few bite-sized canapes. The shiitake tartlet was served with the caramelized vidalia onion in the center in a shiitake mushroom-lined tart base and a dash of colatura fish sauce. The fish sauce was rather subtle but overall it’s tasty. One couldn’t go wrong with the mini cheese and egg brioche toast with slices of black truffles on top, and I love the gambero rosso wrapped in the deep-fried spring roll dim sum-style, combining two familiar yet unrelated tastes in one bite. 

A number of savory dishes were then served in bigger portion. I enjoyed the light texture of the soy sabayon with the perfectly-cooked piece of langoustine for the rich yet balanced umami taste, made using a locally-brewed soy sauce, and the squid course reminded me of the traditional Cantonese salt and pepper squid on top plus the tender squid ring stuffed with red prawn at the bottom and served with a tri-color sauce with red prawn, Chinese chives and squid ink being the ingredients. 

We jokingly complained the “small” portion of the fettucine with duck ragout, saffron and Sichuan pepper because it’s addictively gorgeous. Locally-raised chicken is the ingredient of choice of many western chefs in town, and here it’s slow-roasted with and minced chicken meat and truffles stuffed underneath the skin and served with cabbage and more truffles in a beautiful presentation, mashed potatoes and the rich and thick cooking jus reduction on the side. Our final savory course of Fish Maw was a fun one, with chunks of fish maw (a common ingredient in local cuisine) cooked in the Neapolitan puttanesca sauce (with tomatoes, garlic, olives and oil) and served with brown rice underneath for a nice combination of firm textures and interesting flavors. 

It’s hard to tell which of the sweet courses I like more – first was the citrus-based one with chunks of fruits and young ginger roots underneath a scoop of ice cream in the most airy texture with a hint of the aromatic sorrel; then it’s the hazelnut soup served with mochi rice flour dumplings, a rendition of the traditional Cantonese tong yuen crossed with the classic Piedmontese flavor. (I love everything hazelnuts so I will have to give the latter my vote)

I am already looking at my diary and set the reminder to get a table when the second series by Chef Antimo is unveiled in April with a totally different set of dishes. 

The event was by invitation based on a menu available only for limited time. See more photos here:

When? March 3 2021
Where? Tatler Dining Kitchen at Haus Hong Kong, Shop 38&40, 48 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Langoustine, Soy Sabayon, Bok Choi
Champagne Perrier-Jouet Blanc de Blancs NV
2018 Azienda Agricola Montonale Montunal, Lugana DOC
2017 Dirupi  Rosso di Valtellina 'Olè' Valtellina Rosso DOC

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