Thursday, December 2, 2021

Off Menu Unplugged

There are a few things I seldom said no to, one of which is when chefs invited you over for an off-menu party to their restaurants. Chef Ricardo was celebrating the 2nd Anniversary of their restaurant Mono and he and his team prepared a special menu for a few of us with new dishes that he specifically prepared just for an evening of fun and eye-opening dining experience. 

When chef mentioned it's going to be a party, I expected just something casual with food and drinks passing around, but turned out it's more an elaborate affair with proper courses being served in a seated setting. "Mono Unplugged II", as the dinner theme was so named, paid tribute to chef's Latin American roots and cooking style with a series of unique dishes.

We started with a few finger bites - the avocado and erizo infladita brought together avocado and sea urchins - 2 creamy and rich ingredients inside a crispy wafer shell. (reminded me of Pani Puri) I love that contrast of flavor especially when the sea urchins were twice as much as the avocado puree inside. The empanada was another salivating dish, with chunks of Brittany Blue Lobster sandwiched inside thin pastry sheet and served with the smooth guasacaca sauce which was good with just about everything. 

And there were a few other dishes when Chef Ricardo tried his hands on something adventurous, making use of traditional Chinese ingredients. Just like the Prawn Ceviche, done in the traditional Peruvian way of "cooking" by curing with Leche de Tigre, then it's served with Cantonese XO sauce spooned on top for a touch of spicy taste. "Taco Pekin" was a play on the classic Northern Chinese Peking Duck dish but made with duck prepared barbacoa-style, smothered in spices, slow-cooked and carved at the table. It's then served with corn tortillas and Pico de Gallo on the side. The meat has more of a smoky hint than the conventional Peking Duck, but I like it well-seasoned and juicy. "El Taco de Daniel" was a nod to the famous Char Siu dish from Danny Yip's The Chairman restaurant served with slices of young ginger roots also from the restaurant. I prefer the original but this version was fun to eat. 

The corn cachapas were stunningly good, with the traditional Venezuela pancakes made with corn flour served with melted Queso Fresno cheese in the middle and topped with a generous dollop of Ossetra Caviar from the Hong Kong-based purveyor NOMAD. The rich creamy cheese worked very well with the equally rich caviar - the more the merrier if you ask me. 

After the hearty bowl of Sancocho Cruzado, another Venezuelan dish was served as main course. Hallaca was made with meat stew stuffed inside a soft corn masa wrapped with corn leaf - the appearance reminded me of the Chinese rice dumplings. Xnipec, pickled salsa, served on the side added a hint of acidity for good balance. 

Wine selection followed the similar theme with bottles from Latin America - sparkling wine from Brazil, white and red from Peru and Argentina. 

We finished with two desserts - the classic flan (Quesilo de coco) and the rice pudding (arroz con leche y canela) - that's when the bottles of Tequila were pulled out and we all had a great time celebrating a milestone for a restaurant at what was a challenging time and for even better things to come. 

When? November 1 2021
Where? Mono, 5th Floor, 18 On Lan Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Sweet Corn Cachapa, Queso Fresco and Ossetra Caviar
Miolo Cuvee Brut NV, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil
2018 Intipalka Valle del Sol Malbec, Ica Valley, Peru
2018 Otronia 45 Rugientes Corte de Blancas, Patagonia, Argentina
Tequila/7 Angeles

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