Friday, June 25, 2021

New Gig in the Old Clubhouse

We went along with our friends H and A for dinner at Derby Restaurant at the Hong Kong Jockey Club recently, checking out the tasting menu by their new chef Francky Semblat. Chef Francky shouldn't be an unfamiliar name for many who stuck around long enough, with him being a rare few holding the helm at a Michelin 3-starred restaurant in the region, being the executive chef at Robuchon Macao (first the Robuchon a Galera when it first opened in 2001 and later Robuchon au Dome across the street until 2015). 

It's no surprise the Tasting Menu resembled more of the style at chef’s former restaurants rather than the classic steakhouse dishes that the good old Derby Restaurant was known for. Wanting the full dining experience, this time we went for the 6-course menu with the wine-pairing option. And we started with bread service, with three types of Bordier butter plus oil and vinegar offered from a wooden cart along with the sourdough bread. (nice move, but no, it's not the same as the most elaborate version at Robuchon, in case you wonder) That, along with the amuse-bouche of mozarella espuma and spherified piquillo juice (served on a mini olive cookie) gave us a glimpse of transformation Chef Francky embarks on for this classic institution. 

Our first 2 courses were the crab "ravioli" followed by uni and white asparagus. The "ravioli" was named in the most liberal sense, with blobs of picked Alaskan crab meat served underneath slices of slightly pickled daikon (as ravioli "dough") with avocado mousse and citrus dressing on the side. I reckon it made a good starter course with refreshing umami flavor. The second course was my first white asparagus dish this season and this came in good size (and perfect texture), served with the calamansi-bernaise emulsion and some Hokkaido sea urchins with squid ink crackers on the side. 

Chef built upon the conventional foie gras and cherries combination for something impressive for our third course. To start with, the foie was perfectly seared with the slightly crispy crust, and to complete, it’s the candied cherries topped with fresh almond and sherry vinegar foam which cut down on the fatty flavor from the foie gras and provided the right balance. Torched langoustine was another amazing course, with the piece of langoustine from New Zealand (at least that’s what we were told) with the rich arbois yellow wine sauce and sweet peas underneath. Excellent texture and flavor from the large langoustine and the sauce just augmented the dish to the next level. 

We have a choice of mains, and I picked Wagyu at the end just because I wanted to have the side dish of pommes souffle. The Australian wagyu tenderloin was done just right on the grill, and served with a “virtual bernaise” sauce (whatever that means), fig sauce, deep-fried artichoke and a splash of jus. The Pommes Souffles were addictively good – not a lot of places are making those these days. 

The dessert was my favorite of the night, nicely presented with a chocolate “dome” with white chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse and cookie crumb underneath. The presentation and taste were definitely on par with any high-end restaurant in town. 

Nothing out of extraordinary with the three glasses of wines poured for our dishes, but they were well chosen. We started with a vintage Blanc du Noir champagne, followed by a Riesling (presumably for the foie gras dishes with its off-dry flavor). Then for my main it’s a Petit Verdot from southern Spain – big with good red fruits on the palate and a hint of herbs. 

When? May 27 2021
Where? Derby Restaurant, Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Old Clubhouse
Menu Highlights? Chocolate Sensation - creamy mousse, white chocolate ice cream, cookie crumb
2005 Champagne Duval-Leroy Precious Parcel Cumieres Vintage 
2018 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
2010 Bodegas Munana Petit Verdot

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