Thursday, November 4, 2021

Louder Than Words

Chef Ricardo may not be the one with many words – you hardly see him hyperactive on social media sharing every single bits of his life, nor he’s the type seen screaming and yelling at the kitchen constantly. But dishes at his restaurant Mono cannot be more expressive, uniquely reflective of his own heritage and culinary journey and his vision of a “perfect meal” for his customers who dined there.

And recently we were that lucky few who got to enjoy all these. There’s no way we would say no when Chef Ricardo asked us to check out some new dishes on his menu. And there were plenty of highlights really. A simple and neatly plated geoduck ceviche with leche de tigre, chayote and a kernel of charred corn got us started, followed by what chef described as “Andes Mountain Salad” with all ingredients coming from the region and served with a rich tomatillo sauce. Both has amazing – a touch of acidity and plenty of interesting flavor. 

The restaurant baked their own bread for everyone based on their own masa madre and arrived piping hot each time. The coarse texture from the quinoa and crispy crust worked perfectly well with rich olive oil poured on the side. We continued with the langoustine, only slightly cooked and served with fresh cocoa fruits and fermented nibs, and the most amazing sauce, rich and full of umami taste. The next course of onion was similar to what he presented, with the French Cevennes Onions, perfectly caramelized and braised with mushroom jus, served with “sesame condiment” with toasted black sesame, balsamic, olive oil and a touch of soy sauce, with a dollop of cream infused with shallots, chives and vinegar, plus a small dollop of caviar on the side. Lots of flavors were in play here – nutty, sweet, a touch of acidity, and plenty of deliciousness, and the contrast in temperature was interesting with the warm onions and the cold dollop of whipped cream. 

Two fish courses followed in two totally different styles. First the meagre fillet, seared on the grill on skin-side only, and served with vegetables jus, prepared by roasting and steaming, and a piece of corn taco underneath. Again, so many things going on in one plate with all these exotic ingredients native in South America, and I enjoyed sipping through the different layer of sweetness in the vegetables. The second course was sea bass, if I remembered correctly, served with the fattier than the meagre but with richer flavor. Underneath was the smoky Recado Negro sauce, dark chimichurri sauce, Mashua and a piece of purple corn taco on the side. 

The ceremonious making of their signature Mole sauce was always delightful to watch, and more so when tasted. This time it was paired with pigeon, and on the side, the rich demi-glace and oca roasted with quinoa which served like a mini risotto. I love the meat which was roasted to the perfect pinkish color in the center with the rustic but refined taste, if that’s such a thing. 

We had our fair share of sweets after – the chocolate dessert was certainly the highlight of them all, with them roasting their own chocolate from raw fruit and served in various forms with a light drizzle of olive oil. The way they turned up such a stunningly plated dish within such a short period of time was impressive to look at. Went with a few glasses Mauricio their “front-of-the-house man” poured us, starting with the champagne (Krug), a Burgundy white, Chilean red (can’t go wrong with a Sena), and to finish, a sweet muscat from Spain which was only off-dry and worked well with the rich chocolate dessert. 

As the old saying goes, let “actions speak louder than words”. There can’t be more truth to that with Chef Ricardo’s cooking. 

When? October 14 2021
Where? Mono, Level 5, 18 On Lan Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Racan Pigeon/Oca/Mole
Champagne Krug "Grande Cuvee" 169eme Edition Brut MV
2015 Domaine Guy Amiot et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet "Vieilles Vignes"
2011 Sena, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
2016 Jorge Ordonez No 1 Seleccion Especial, Malaga, Spain

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