Tuesday, January 25, 2022

End of Year

I just love the lingering aroma from the fresh Christmas tree sitting at the corner as I was led into the private dining room at VEA one evening. The festive celebration might have been over (with the dinner happening in the last week of December) but we never needed an excuse to get together and eat (and drink) something nice, and make this a special occasion by itself. 

The restaurant was busy as ever with another full house of customers and with the service team well into third gear by the time we arrived and settled, but looking out from the private room through the window to the kitchen gave us a sense of serenity sans the sound from the kitchen and the counter table. Menu was a simple one – if there’s such a thing here – but Chef Vicky did grace us with a few extras along the way. We started with something familiar as “snacks”, including the new iteration of canapes prepared with salted fish and cabbage, a play on the lyrics of one Cantopop classic. This time it’s a puff pastry “sandwich” with rillette in the same cute presentation on top of a musical box. The small piece of local venus clam served with celtuce espuma was another one of the "mini-courses" I enjoyed, with the subtle mineral flavor and excellent texture using the most straight forward preparation. 

Our tasting menu of the evening was seafood focused with the exception of the main course (which was lamb). The wild mackerel was slightly cured and seared skin-side down to firm up the texture and it was served with finger limes, Taiwanese tomatoes and generous spoonful of Kristal caviar on top. The balance of acidity, minerality with the firm, fatty texture of the fish and a hint of smokiness was perfectly done. The next course of king crab turned a little more to the sweet side, with the crab leg grilled on applewood served with the sweet Japanese apple on the side, and underneath, Chef Vicky’s signature champagne beurre blanc, this time mixed with dill for the distinct aroma. 

The presentation of the langoustine dish reminded me of the gyoza potsticker, with spring roll wrapper placed on top of the piece of langoustine and deep-fried for the crispy top, and on the side, thin slices of pears and watercress. Star of the dish was definitely the sauce, made with the heads and shells for the bright orange color and rich flavor. 

Calling our next dish an “Abalone Risotto” didn’t serve it any justice, with bits of sauteed Japanese Yamaguchi red abalone diced into size of rice and mixed with Arborio rice and cooked with the abalone liver sauce and broth, Chef Vicky explained to us that he put as much abalones into the dish as rice – no wonder every bite was bombed with umami flavor and the nice bouncy texture. And Oh, the generous shaving of winter black truffles on top added to the overall aroma and a hint of earthiness too. 

I am normally not a fan of lamb, but I always enjoyed how chef prepared the lamb dish here and this time was no exception. The pieces of Quercy lamb were super tender and mildly gamey, and I enjoyed the Potato Pave served on the side too, which soaked up the flavor from the sauce with a charred crust.

Our first dessert course of muscat tartlet looked ordinary until the spoonful of tea-infused Crème Chantilly was served on top. The refreshing jasmine tea aroma brought this to a different level. Of course same can be said for the white truffles which were shaved on top of the roasted sweet potatoes for the second dessert course, though I thought the truffles probably worked better with something creamier rather than the starch-rich sweet potatoes done in the classic street food style broiling underneath heat source. 

Friends graciously shared some of their nice bottles with us so we ended up with a very decent flight. Trying the two Krug Grand Cuvee bottled at different times was interesting – one being the current 169th edition, and one a few years back (161th edition, to be exact). The slight aging gave the bottle more distinct secondary taste of rich brioche, some caramel and apples on the palate and a better acidity balance, though both were excellent. And the 2001 Chateau d’Yquem matched with our white truffle dessert perfectly – not that it needed to be paired with anything to make it more enjoyable or special. 

By all accounts 2021 may not be the year to be for most of us, but we certainly ended this eventful year with a dinner we can remember by, something of a silver lining.

More photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/albums/72177720295909603

When? December 29 2021
Where? VEA, 30/F The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Yamaguchi Red Abalone, Black Truffle, Arborio Rice
Champagne Andre Clouet Brut
Champagne Krug Grande Cuvee 169eme Edition
Champagne Krug Grande Cuvee 161eme Edition (en magnum)
1994 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien
2001 Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes
2016 Domain Marc Morey & Fils Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru "Morgoet"
Web: vea.hk 

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