Saturday, May 8, 2021

Two Month Wait

Batard is arguably the local restaurant with the longest waiting list right now. When I contacted the place back in February (as soon as the dining restriction was lifted) trying to get a booking, I was told the only available timeslot within the foreseeable future was a random Monday in April. I am cool with that, but then at the same time thinking, “it’d better be real good”, with all the fuss and hoopla that I need to go through. 

Well fast forward 2 months later here we are at this bistro-style eatery located at the back end of a huge wine shop in Sai Ying Pun neighborhood. The cozy dining room, which can seat around 20, was packed, as you would imagine, including those long tables outside which normally were used for wine-tasting sessions at the shop. We have heard great things about Singaporean chef Aven’s exquisite interpretation of classic French cuisine, and couldn’t wait to try some of those dishes available at the a la carte menu which changes regularly based on seasonal ingredients. 

The menu bore resemblance to the one at what used to be our favorite restaurant Belon, which is of no surprise given Aven spent time working with Chef Dan in the kitchen before going on its own at Batard. And traits of the cooking style too – a lot of baked dishes, ingredient-centric, attention to details and precise execution were all evident throughout our meal. Even the sourdough using the same starter – that certainly gave us the déjà vu feeling – I must have half of dozen of slices and a few plates of Bordier butter to go with. 

With our main course (roast chicken) already pre-ordered in advance, we were recommended to pick a few more appetizer dishes to complete our dinner menu. The oyster was a simple one, but instead of the sharp vinaigrette that most chef decided to pair with, here the dressing was much milder but with a more distinct umami flavor thanks to the addition of kombu dashi. The trout roe tartlets were a lovely bite, with the Australian trout roes smoked in-house and served in a delicate tart shell. I love the mineral flavor. 

The asparagus dish was another one that looked straight forward but mind-blowingly delicious. The huge stalk of green asparagus, coming from an artisanal farm in Provence I was told (by the chef-turned-farmer Jerome Gallis who supply his produce to only the who’s who in the restaurant world), has the most amazing crunchy texture yet well infused with flavor. Wrapped around the stalk was milk jelly combined with preserved black truffles, with a dab of truffle coulis on the side for the extra aroma and flavor. This is unbelievably good. 

We defied the recommendation of ordering one main course only and ordered a second in addition to the chicken, and we didn’t regret doing so. Skate Grenobloise, albeit classic, was not something commonly found on the menu in any restaurant in town, so this is handily one of the best we had in this part of the world. The skate wing was not of the biggest we have tried, but it’s well-cooked, with the thin layer of flour batter in golden color after sauteing with butter, and on top, bits of capers, croutons and parsley for the extra flavor. If they offered the whole fish on the menu I would happily order every single time.

Then here’s the chicken – presented whole at our table before bringing back to the kitchen to be carved. One could be tempted to compare this to the one elsewhere, after all it did look similar in appearance, but this is a simpler version sans the meat farce stuffed between the skin and the demi-glace reduced with the meat jus, and instead served with pilaf rice underneath the pan rather than the bowl of green peas on the side. Nonetheless, this is definitely a close second, with the skin fatty and crispy, and the meat juicy and tender. The rice soaked in all the flavor from the oil and meat jus and with a touch of turmeric, it does taste like those from the classic Singaporean Hainan Chicken dish. 

We enjoyed the restaurant’s Madeleines a few months ago when we ordered our takeaway dinner here and we certainly didn’t mind a repeat and for the freshly-baked and served version. But before than, Chef Aven generously passed us a few more desserts to try. The rhubarb and pistachio cake was light and refreshing, perfect as a pre-dessert, and I loved the sweet quenelle of ice-cream served on the freshly baked apple tart made with Japanese apples which were sweeter and less tart. Then it’s the half-dozen Madeleines, taken out of the oven and within a couple of minutes, landed on our table, with the slightly crispy crust, soft texture, buttery with a hint of citrus zest, pleasant to smell and warm and fluffy to touch. We finished all of them in no time and wanting more – only the restaurant need to close before we were able to re-order. 

A bit bummed to realize that with the two of us we couldn’t drink much, considered the restaurant literally have thousands of wines on their list with one of the most impressive collection in town. Went with a bottle of Burgundy red this time. The 20-year-old vintage opened up beautifully well midway through our meal. Plenty of red fruits with a hint of earthiness at the back. I like the silky texture and nice concentration too, working well for our dishes from Asparagus on, and I actually thought it worked well with just the memorable sourdough bread with a full dab of butter on top. 

So yes, it's really that good like everyone's been saying. We will definitely be back whenever we managed to get our next table booking. That unfortunately, may take a while. 

When? April 12 2021
Where? Batard at The Fine Wine Experience, 165-166 Connaught Rd West, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Signature Roast Chicken with warm Pilaf Rice
Drink? 2011 Domaine Laurent Roumier Clos Vougeot Grand Cru

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