Sunday, May 2, 2021

Dinner For the First Time

With all our previous visits came during day time, we thought it would be great to check out Ando’s dinner menu in early April. With this being our third meal at this restaurant this year and with higher expectation after each meal, I did secretly wonder whether Chef Agustin and his team could once again wow us in the same way they did previously.

Happy to see the restaurant was filled to the capacity when I arrived – it showed all the hard efforts by the team is paying off – and they seated us in the private room again (hope that’s not their way of saying we were too loud and rowdy). They served a single tasting menu during dinner service, and instead of listing out the ingredients on a single sheet of paper, we were given a deck of postcards (commissioned by local artist Vanessa Leung, aka @Vansketcher) which illustrate the dishes we were going to have. With each showing items like a roller-coaster or stack of suitcases, they were all like riddles to us and that made it extra fun as we worked through the menu trying to guess which card to match which course.

We started with a few courses which we had tried previously – less of a surprise, but still impressed by the flavor and precise execution. The Mochida fruit tomatoes were much riper than the one we had last time, with sweeter flavor but still with the hint of tanginess. The pinch of salt and the sherry vinegar just brought out all those amazing flavors from this awesome spring-time appetizer. The same selection of raw seafood was presented – but this time I came to appreciate the hobo (John Dory) paired with Akegarashi more, with a dab of Japanese artisanal seasoning with koji and mustard spooned on top, giving it a slight mineral and sweet taste along with a kick from the pickled chilies.

Then we had a few more dishes slightly different than the ones we have tried. The lovely Hokkaido kinki fillet grilled with the delicate skin and fatty meat worked well with the mushroom sauce, green peas, morels and the dashi reduction sauce. 

Before the beef main course was served, we were given a choice between the Argentinian Angus beef and the Japanese Kumamoto Wagyu – both were grilled on charcoal and served with the seasonal Japanese mountain vegetables infused into the jus reduction. On the side was the green asparagus, pickled snow lotus and chilies, along with Kogomi (Japanese ostrich fern) with a hint of bitterness highlighting the signature flavor of spring season. Of course, we always ended up with a few bowlful of the restaurant’s favorite Caldoso casserole prepared with the rich broth infused with clam juice, tender baby squids and bits of Cecina.

I am always impressed by the intricate desserts created by Chef Joanna and her team. The piece prepared in traditional wagashi style known as Nerikiri was a true work of art with the shell made with soybean paste formed like a flower and the filling made with coffee custard and whisky jelly. Last time I didn’t manage to try all the beautiful Mignardises (because I was too full by then), but I ain’t going to let this happen again so I tried all six of them, neatly showcased in a wooden jewelry box. I love that that Sakura mochi done with pink sticky rice wrapped with cherry leaf and filled with sour cherry jam – that made me miss the Sakura season in Japan even more.

I went with the wine pairing prepared by Phenol their sommelier with some interesting selections, working through a couple unusual whites (an Austrian sauvignon blanc and an Etna Bianco by a Hong Kong-born winemaker), then a seasonal sake brew from Niigata (unpasteurized and unfiltered) with rich rice flavor and slightly off-dry.

A pair of wines from Spain were next - white for the fish, red for the beef. I do like the full-bodied Tempranillo with plenty of ripe black fruits going with the fatty piece of wagyu. For desserts, the special "rice whisky" aged in sherry cask gave amazing aroma which matched perfectly well with the coffee and whisky flavor from the dessert. That's the glass I always enjoyed having as a mild digestif. 

Overall, admittedly there's less of a surprise factor this time but I still enjoyed those interesting combination of ingredients and flavor with just the right portion that left us satisfied but not overstuffed. Can't wait for the new menu to come out, hopefully soon! 

When? April 10 2021
Where? Ando, 1/F, Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington St, Central
Menu Highlights? Risas del Jardin (Garden's Laugh) - Kumamoto wagyu beef, asparagus, Japanese sansai

2019 Eric Bordelet Poire Granit Cider
2017 Weingut Tement “Zeitspiel 2” Sauvignon Blanc Spatfullung, Sudsteiermark, Austria
2018 Azienda Agricola Sciara Vino Bianco “Aqua di Luna”, Etna, Sicily, Italy
Kiminoi Shibori-tate shun Junmai BY01, Kiminoi Shuzo, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
君の井 純米 しぼりたて旬 - 新潟県君の井酒造
2017 Enric Soler *Nun Vinya dels Taus, Penedes, Spain
2010 Bodega Pagos de Matanegra Tempranillo Ribera del Duero, Spain
Quita da Gaivosa 10-years-old Tawny Port
Ito Sherry Cask Brewed Rice Whisky - Koyama Honke Shuzo
( ito したシェリー樽熟成特別原酒 - 小山本家酒造)

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