Thursday, December 29, 2022

Spoiled Once Again

Time and time again our dining experience at Ando was nothing short of outstanding, but especially so this time as we were approaching the festive season and we got to catch up with our friends A and I over lunch at the restaurant one weekend in mid December. 

With a streak of feasts during the week and days after, we opted for the shorter version of their tasting menu, but Chef Agustin still passed us a few additional off-menu items at the end. Not good to our waistline obviously but nonetheless we were thankful. As our afternoon progressed, we kept asking ourselves, "how many courses are there in our '4-course' lunch menu actually?"

We began with a trio of canapes served over dry ice for the special visual effect, with the creamy burdock soup served in a small cup the most impressive with the hearty flavor, and good to start with something warm in the winter. Chunks of Hokkaido scallops were slightly cured and served with bits of shio kombu and pickled green apples in a citrusy leche de tigre sauce made milder than usual. I liked the balanced flavor with the hint of sweet, ripe lemon citrus taste. 

The “Cured Fish” course was next. Unlike the previous versions called “Departure” when they paired five different kind of fish with five different condiments, now it became an “abbreviated” version with smaller portion and featured a single type of fish and this time it was Hamachi (yellowtail) with five different seasonings. Hmm… not too sure about this one as I reckon the differences in preparation were small when tasted side by side and there’s no difference in texture given it’s the same fish. (Please bring the old version back!) 

After the cured fish course, Lobster “Chawanmushi” was sent to us as a comp dish. Chunks of Brittany blue lobsters, poached just right, were served on the bed of the silky, soft and warm egg custard, steamed Japanese style but with a twist. While dashi was the ingredient of choice in the traditional version, here chef chose the richer broth made with lobster shells instead and paired with shimeji mushrooms for the texture. It’s very enjoyable. 

The pan-seared sea bass was excellent with the piece of line-caught fish cooked skin side down for the perfectly-crisped skin and on the side, the yellow wine beurre blanc with chives, lily bulbs and razor clams. I liked the attempt to bring the dimension of Asian ingredients into this and it totally worked with the rich flavor of the sauce complimented well with the firm and fatty piece of fish. From Asian influence we moved back to the chef’s Latin American root with the main course of beef. The meat (from the tenderloin cut) was from Argentina with great meaty flavor, juicy and tender. On the side was the creamy parsnip puree, piece of deep-fried Cavolo Nero (kale), crosne (common ingredients in Latin America similar to Jerusalem artichokes) and meat jus demi-glace. Very straight forward but perfectly done.

Same could be said about our last savory course of Caldoso. Countless version we have tried of this signature dish at the restaurant and this one is probably the simplest with chorizo and parsley, but again, it’s just the home-style flavor we needed to end out meal with. Dessert was a new dish I think with the classic (and my favorite) combination of hazelnut and chocolate in alfajor form and topped with black tea sorbet, plus the impressive array of mignardises. 

Went with the alcohol pairing recommended by our friend Carlito their somm with a few wines plus some different choices. A champagne to start (a blanc de noirs from a grower house) followed by the Muscadet with the familiar buttery, mineral note. We enjoyed the bottle of Iwa 5 sake produced by a French sake master and this one (now in its third edition) was no exception. The fortified Adorado from Spain made with indigenous grapes (Verdejo and Palomino) with traditional methods of Solera system (how Sherry was usually made) – candied fruit with a hint of vanilla and smoke worked well with the seafood courses. We were told the Rioja was of limited edition and made by a Hong Kong-born law student turned chef turned winemaker. A serious bottle with medium body, light tannins and plenty of red fruit characters and hint of vanilla. Last but not least was the glass of Koucha Umeshu from Japan – tea infused plum liqueur paired well with the sweet mignardises served at the end of our meal. 

Not the first time we left the building feeling we were so spoiled by the chef, and love everything about our meal.  

More photos here:

When? December 17 2022
Where? Ando, 1/F, Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Line-caught Sea Bass, Lily Bulb, Razor Clam, Yellow Wine
Champagne Francoise Bedel Entre Ciel & Terre Brut NV
2020 Domaine de Bellevue Muscadet Sevre & Maine
Iwa 5 Assemblage 3 (2021) - Shiraiwa Brewery, Toyama Prefecture (富山縣白岩酒造)
Adorado de Menade NV, Rueda, Spain
2019 Domaine Leflaive Macon Verze "Les Chenes"
2020 Jade Gross “Piano, piano” Rioja
Chiebijin Koucha Umeshu – Nakano Shuzo, Oita Prefecture

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