Saturday, May 22, 2021

Dinner #36

Ten of us were more than happy to take up the table at Mesa Private Kitchen on Sunday evening, made available because someone cancelled at the last minute. We haven't heard about the place but we are always up for good food when C asked whether we were interested to join for the meal.  

We came to learn more about this place after we arrived. Chef Fred and interior designer Tiffany (who's also our host that evening) set up this supper club space inside a non-descript commercial building in Sheung Wan two months ago after stints in other restaurants in town with a simple set-up of one table per night (for 6-10 persons) four times a week with a fixed tasting menu served each time. "You guys are already Dinner number 36", as Tiffany told us, and with tables now booked as far as a month in advance, this showed how popular this place despite keeping a low profile in its short history.

The tiny studio which functions as an interior design atelier during the day was converted into a makeshift dining area with one long table plus a narrow kitchen on the side. Decor was tastefully done, like taken out from a page of Monocle, and how Chef Fred managed to cook up a full meal day in, day out, by himself in such a confined space and equipment was beyond me. Everything was served family style with the exception of our final course of dessert, and we began with the appetizers which were of smaller portion before moving to the more substantial main courses. And before the first course was served, we were already wowed by the bread and the jar of smoked brown butter brought to our table. The nutty, smoky and slightly burnt flavor was simply just too addictive and worked perfectly well with the warm loaf of crusty bread and I kept asking for refills for both! 

Our first course was the colorful presentation of seabream ceviche with chunks of cured fish along with sweet potato mousse, charred sweet corns and dressed with the green "Leite de Tigre". The sauce was not as tangy as I expected and I loved its balanced flavor and creamy texture, loaded with pleasant aroma from the dill. My only complaint was the chunks of corn didn't do much to the dish and was too sinewy to chew. 

The next few courses picked up in richness progressively. I like the bold and strong flavor of the baby carrots, charred and sprinkled with dukkah spices on top, served with the crispy kale leaves on top and exotic hazelnut cream generously spooned at the bottom. The beef tendon stew was said to be coming from the hometown recipe of Chef Fred, and the best part was definitely the sauce, thickened by the beef tendon slow simmered along with the thick slices of Portuguese chorizo which gave it a nice meaty flavor, along with the tender chickpeas, soaked and added into the stew at a later stage to retain the firm texture. Not so much of a smoky flavor from the Brussels sprouts in spite of what's described on the menu, but with plenty of flavor from the sauteing with crispy pancetta and toasted breadcrumbs. 

Two different main courses were served along with one side dish. The ruby snapper was straight-forward, with the piece of fish fillet pan-seared with the skin on and served with butter beans, tomatoes and swiss chard. The fish was perfectly done with the meat moist and the skin slightly crisp, served nice and hot straight from the kitchen. The duck rice served in the cast-iron casserole was to die for, with the rice braised in the rich meat jus from the duck and pieces of duck meat and Portuguese chorizo mixed in. That's my favorite course of the evening. Serving in between the 2 main courses was a bowl of tomato salad, with cherry tomatoes of different colors and with skin removed served with plenty of cilantro and herbs on top. It's delightful and refreshing, served in an equally nice earthenware bowl made by one of our favorite local ceramicist. 

"You can call this the Portuguese Toast", quipped Chef Fred as he brought us the final course of Rabanada. Similar to what's commonly known as the French Toast, the piece of bread was dipped in egg wash and deep-fried and served with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream and spiced berry coulis on the side. 

Everyone coincidentally contributed bottles of white to go with the meal, along with the sparkling tea for those who didn't drink. My favorite was the one from Rueda, Spain - rich and powerful, plenty of mineral notes and some toast and stone fruits on the palate which seem to work well with the Mediterranean style dishes. The one we brought, a bottle of Loire Chenin Blanc, showed nice depth with creamy texture and nice floral aromas - that paired well with our first course of ceviche, and even the bread and brown butter. 

We are definitely in next time when we managed to get a booking ourselves in the coming months, or if there's any more last-minute cancellation like what we had this time. And hopefully we don't need to wait til their Dinner #136. 

When? May 2 2021
Where? Mesa Private Kitchen, at an undisclosed location in Sheung Wan.
Menu Highlights? Mom's Duck Rice with Portuguese chorizos
2018 Domaine Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc "a Francoise"
2014 Belondrade Belondrade y Lurton Rueda
2017 Domaine Lucien Muzard & Fils Santenay Maladiere
2015 Beurer Schilfsandstein Stettener Pulvermacher Riesling
Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Company Lyserod NV

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