Thursday, November 17, 2022

Antimo x Maxime

I wasn’t surprised the latest Tatler Dining Kitchen installment was sold out within hours – I was actually more surprised that I managed to read the announcement of the event at the right time and fetched two of the handful seats while still available. 

The great team of Tatler Dining Hong Kong has put together this series of one-off dining events featuring some of the best talents in town (or overseas) with special menu not normally available elsewhere. I have been to a few of those last year when they did that in an exclusive venue space in Central with all of them nothing short of memorable, and this time around, it’s held at Kin Food Hall, the casual dining space right in my hood, as if I need more reasons to visit again. 

Chefs Antimo Maria Merone (of Estro) and Maxime Gilbert (of Ecriture) collaborated for this Tatler Dining Kitchen event that we went in late October (night of Halloween, to be exact), in the theme of “Basically Bouillabaisse”.  That was all the information we got other than date and time and place. “Food Hall” may not sound all too fancy or cozy, but they did do a good job of keeping one corner with a long table counter (that can seat up to 12 comfortably) and a small open kitchen behind for event such as this, so everyone can see up close all the cooking actions and interact with chefs. 

Surprised to see only both chefs working in the kitchen when we arrived – no commis no sous no one else – so in a sense this was truly a four-hand event and I felt so special to be part of. Dinner began just as everyone arrived with so many familiar faces. The menu only listed in a series of single words and details of the dishes were to be revealed as the night went along. As chefs explained, basically they were trying to break down all ingredients that normally put into classic bouillabaisse and presented into multiple courses, in the style of “like cooking for friends at home”, as they put it. 

We began with something light, with the “tuna ham” being the special one, with tuna fillet cured and aged, and served in slices like ham. Love the intense flavor and firm texture, and I could definitely much on those taralli served with anchovy butter that reminded me of bagna cauda. 

Our next course was described as “cold shabu shabu”. Inside a deep porcelain plate was a handful of seafood ingredients, red mullet, sardine and sea bream, all gently cooked and served with sea urchins, clarified dashi bouillon and drizzle of basil oil. There’s a hint of spiciness and smokiness that brought out the umami flavor in this delicate, complex dish. Potatoes may only play the supporting role in the classic bouillabaisse but still a key ingredient, and here it’s served two ways with potato brunoise served with layers of vegetables, caviar, potato sabayon (in espuma form) and bottarga. They made this so straight forward yet so delicious. 

A gigantic brioche was served while the chefs worked on our next courses. The "Mussels" course reminded me of Chef Antimo’s signature Gemmina course served at his restaurant Estro, except it’s in smaller portion with a single piece of mussels, and that we have to cut the string open ourselves to reveal what’s inside the steamed mussel shell served in a bamboo basket. Inside was a piece of mussels, plump and juicy, and a mini meatball, steamed and soaked in the juice. It was delightful. Love the “pizza” that came next, with the deep-fried pizza pocket stuffed with picked crab meat served with aioli on top plus chili powder. Felt like they are channeling in some Tex-mex plus Chesapeake Bay vibes in this and reminded me of a crab cake-taco combo showered with Old Bay. 

The whole Basque Rascasse (rockfish) was shown to us before it’s being carved and cooked. It’s perfectly cooked, well-seasoned with flaky texture, and I love the Crustacean bisque sauce and basil oil poured on top adding on the intense flavor. The risotto took a bit of time to prepare but worth the wait, cooked with the seafood broth made using all the shells and bones used and served with crispy rice underneath and saffron crisp on top for the creative presentation. 

To end, it was the slice of rum baba served with Crème Chantilly espuma on the side and the generous pouring of Diplomatico Rum. No wines were offered on the menu so we brought our own. Thought the Bordeaux white would work with a seafood-focus menu and I was right, with a clean, mineral nose, with ripe citrus and peach on the palate given some good time to age for the roundedness. What a priceless moment.

When? October 31 2022
Where? Tatler Dining Kitchen x Kin Food Hall, 2/F Devon House, Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay
Menu Highlights? Shabu Shabu (seafood served in clarified dashi)
Drinks? 2016 Chateau Lynch-Bages Blanc de Lynch-Bages, Bordeaux

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