Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Onion Crossover

The other day I took the afternoon off from work to join a few friends on a champagne “run”… to be exact, a Krug run when we went from places to places drinking and eating. It’s part of their annual (and now global) campaign by the champagne house working with a few chefs in town (as Krug Ambassadors) to each create an unique dish with a common ingredient theme, to go with their champagne, that goes without saying. This year that ingredient is Onion, and I am glad to go along with a group of friends to visit some of those chefs and checking out some of those dishes (and more).

Our first stop was VEA. It’s always a special occasion for me coming to this restaurant during day time (as they normally only opened for dinner service), and this time even more special to be sitting in their private room next to the kitchen. And our host Chef Vicky not only served us one but four different courses, making our stopover like a mini-lunch by itself. We began with a few finger-sized nibbles, including the mini tartlets with Ishigaki-gai (Bering Sea cockle), fish rilettes “sandwich” and foie gras cannoli. Then it’s the sumptuous caviar “tart” with picked king crab meat, apple jelly and diced Chinese celery covered by Kristal caviar on top, and it’s kinda cute serving with a piece of steamed “mantou” bun on the side, instead of the more traditional blini. I actually thought that worked perfectly well with the champagne too, with the fine combination of different levels of umami flavor.,

Then it was the onion dish. Described as “French Onion Soup with Grilled Cheese”, and you would need some imagination associating the name to the actual dish. What’s presented in front of us was a beautiful tart with caramelized onion filling, and on top, a few more types of onions (white onions, red onions, shallots, cipollini onions and chives) done in different ways – some pickled, some roasted, some pureed… and served with the rich demi-glace spooned on the side. The sauce worked wonders as its intense flavor and smooth texture brought all ingredients together. And to pair with this memorable dish was the bottle of Krug Rose 24th Edition, slightly floral to start but went on with more ripe citrus and stone-fruits, and the mineral hint was perfect with food. The dessert was another beauty, with the piece of Yamanashi Peach, perfectly ripe with great fragrance, served with a soft sponge cake underneath and jasmine espuma on top. The sweetness was just right and it was mind-blowingly good. 

We hopped to Ando next, just a quick 10 minute drive away (probably even faster if we walked). Lovely to see Chef Agustin and his team busy preparing for the next service at the restaurant by the time we got there, and he also brought us a few dishes. To start was “Tardes en San Telmo” (Afternoons in San Telmo), his special onion dish featuring red onion consommé, Kristal caviar, almond cream and Carabinero prawns in an artsy presentation. The umami flavor of caviar and prawn, and the sweet nutty taste from the combination of onion and almond was in harmony, and the touch of fresh almonds taste worked well with the champagne, the 169th Edition of the Krug Grande Cuvee, with the similar note of marzipan in addition to plenty of citrus, dried fruits and acidity on the palate. 

We had two more dishes plus the mignardises. The lobster caldoso served at my last meal here (last month) was the best I had and so I am excited he brought the same to us again. Excellent flavor from the broth with such comforting taste and texture altogether. Our dessert was mikan sorbet (Japanese mandarin) served in a delicate meringue shell and topped with the aromatic Osmanthus espuma, and I also loved the mini mochi with candied ginger served as one of the Mignardise selection.   

Our third and final stop was The Krug Room (appropriately so!) at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong hosted by Chef Robin Zavou. It’s been a long while since I last set foot in this exclusive dining venue, with the entrance through the backdoor of The Chinnery, the little pub on the mezzanine floor of the hotel. Chef Robin’s onion dish made use of the French Roscoff onion done in several ways, first the whole onion was braised in chicken stock with the center filled with caramelized onion puree and underneath was the onion soup reduction. It was also served with black garlic and onion puree on the side and thin slices of Australian winter black truffles on top. The overall taste was punchy with a hint of earthiness, which did go well with the full-bodied glass of bubbly. And before our main dish, we also got to enjoy some “snacks” normally served as the starter course of their tasting menu – a playful interpretation of donuts and egg waffles but as savory bites with caviar and truffles.

Not often can I tell people I went on drinking Krug all afternoon, and even better with lovely dishes that seem to keep coming without end. What a crazy day, which I don't mind having more of. 

(Event was by Invitation) 

When? September 14 2021
VEA, 30/F The Wellington, 198 Wellington St, Central
Ando, 1/F Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington St, Central
The Krug Room at The Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road, Central
Menu Highlights?
VEA: French Onion Soup with Grilled Cheese
Ando: Tardes en San Telmo – Red Onion Consomme, Almond Cream, Carabinero Prawns.
Krug Room: Roscoff Onion Puree, Black Onion Powder, Black Truffle, Chicken Stock
Champagne Krug Rose 24eme Edition Brut MV
Champagne Krug "Grande Cuvee" 169eme Edition Brut MV

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