Saturday, April 2, 2022

Weekday Lunch

When we saw a lunch spot open up at Ando in the middle of last month (probably due to some last minute cancellations), we didn’t hesitate to fetch it and call this a mini accomplishment of sorts. While dine-in for evenings is still out of the question, Ando is by all means still very popular during the day – the dining room was filled to the capacity when we arrived slightly after noon for our lunch reservation. Quite a contrast to the quiet streets even in the middle of Central business district in the middle of a weekday. 

We went for the six-course Experience menu and Chef Agustin and his team made a few adjustments for us along the way. A trio of small bites appeared just when our glasses were filled (with no less than the lovely Krug). The burdock velouté served in a small glass was lovely, with a creamy and comforting flavor. I felt our first “proper” course of blue lobster was the one designed specifically for social media shots with such colorful presentation. In the center was a piece of blue lobster tail, perfectly cooked, with a generous heapful of Kristal caviar on top. Underneath was the bright sauce (in color and flavor) prepared with piquillo peppers drizzled with lobster oil. It was delightful to eat and look at. 

I salute Chef Agustin’s decision to move on from the quintet of seasonal fish which gave him so much success and praise since the restaurant’s opening. I enjoyed that course too but sometimes changes can be a good thing. And here it is the “evolved” dish, with slices of olive cured hamachi dressed with “umami essence” and crispy ribbons of white konbu. The umami essence – an intense reduction of broth made with umami-rich natural ingredients, mirin and soy sauce – worked perfectly well with the thick slices of fatty hamachi, cured with olive for the hint of saltiness. 

The bread course was served in the usual manner with the pairing butter and olive oil. The brioche with chorizo butter was the new one, but I still loved the rye bread with whipped seaweed butter most. Our fish course was amadai, finished with the crispy scales and served with the white bean stew with nameko mushrooms and smoked tocino. It’s probably the mildest course of the whole menu, but the bits of tocino (Spanish bacon) did provide the right accent and comforting taste overall. 

I love the combination of the beef course, with the piece of dry-aged Argenintian Hereford beef, well-executed as usual, served with bamboo shoots and a medley of Japanese mountain vegetables (or sansai, which came into season comes early Spring). While I thought the dish could improve with the vegetables served less-cooked (to retain more the crunchy texture), I love this rather unusual combination, a marriage of Spanish and Japanese cooking, and that slightly bitter aftertaste (typical of sansai) combined well with the rich jus reduction and added a level of complexity. The Caldoso was the last savory course, and this time, it’s done with Japanese snow crab and a rich crustacean broth with a touch of chili and smoked ham. The rich flavor and texture of the crab did bring a sense of comfort and smoothness to this already comforting finale course. 

Dessert this time was a “Japanese rendition” of the traditional garrapinada dessert with peanuts, pecans and maple syrup done in wagashi-style. And as it turned out, this was our last dessert prepared by their pastry chef Joanna before she moves on to her next gig. After that of course was the impressive display of mignardises by the pastry team. 

Went with a few glasses since it’s our day off and we weren’t driving. The glass of white from Hokkaido made using Kerner grapes was the interesting one – dry, very aromatic, nice acidity with some ripe citrus taste made it a good matching with the seafood dishes. 

More photos:

When? March 17 2022
Where? Ando, 1/F, Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington St, Central
Menu Highlights? Departir: Olive-cured Hamachi, Umami Essence, Crispy White Kombu
Champagne Krug Grande Cuvee 169eme Edition Brut
2020 Hirakawa Winery Purete Cuvee Gastronomique, Hokkaido, Japan
2018 Catena Zapata Adianna Vineyard White Stones Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina

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