Monday, January 23, 2023

Aulis Pop Up

“Chef Oli in town, special menu, wanna go?” My friend V pinged me about the recent special event at Aulis/Roganic Hong Kong hosted by Chef Oli Marlow coming in from the UK for a short visit. And we were able to snap up the seats on a Saturday evening just before the 10-night-only event was sold out within days.  

Chef Oli was no stranger to town actually, having spent quite a bit of time overseeing both Roganic and Aulis in Hong Kong since the beginning. Of course, that’s before he became a mini celebrity with his strong showing at the Great British Menu show on BBC a couple of years ago. Met him a couple of times at the restaurant and each time I was left impressive with the dishes served. 

This time was no different. I have only eaten at Aulis a few times before, the 12-seater “chef’s table and development kitchen” next to the main dining area which usually serves a slightly different menu with more refined, avant garde cooking and offer customers a great opportunity to observe chef’s actions up close and personal through the counter seats. Best Chef’s Table experience in town in my opinion. We were told to arrive promptly at 7pm so dinner can start for everyone and we did. Menu was revealed through a QR code on the table and it was a 12-course affair. 

The first “course” of preserved beetroot was a beautiful one, with the leaf candied and topped with beetroot gel, and on the side was a small cup of house-made kombucha as an aperitif of sorts. Both delicate and tasty. "Berkswell, smoked cod roe biscuit" was similar to what I had at lunch at Roganic just a few weeks ago with grated cheese and fish roes on top of a thick slice of "biscuit" in cake-like texture. 

Then it was what’s described as “Pig and eel doughnut”. Chef Oli and his sous carefully took the mini doughnut balls out from the oven and began final assembly with a piece of lardo placed on top and torched, then topped with a generous amount of caviar. The lardo worked almost like a “blanket” on top and added to the flavor. “Shall we do it in one bite?” we looked at each other slightly puzzled, but at the end I did, by pushing the whole doughnut ball into my mouth. It’s absolutely delightful with the soft and rich filling (pork and eel) mixed well with the fatty lardo and mineral-rich caviar flavor, served in perfect temperature for finishing this in one bite and all the flavor going in at once.

Love how the piece of Hokkaido scallop was rolled and carved and served with a creamy and slightly acidic buttermilk sauce mixed with smoked pike perch roes. The course after required quite a bit of assembly action by the kitchen team duo with various parts of squash went in the same dish, with the soft and pillowy dumpling with squash puree served on top of a piece of roasted squash served with a light broth and roasted squash seeds as garnishes. For those who love pumpkin or squash, you got the cleanest flavor of that in this well-created and well-assembled dish.  

More fancy assembly was shown off with the next course of potato, horseradish and crab. The crab meat was picked, mixed with mayo and placed in the middle of a deep dish, surrounded by pieces of fermented potatoes and topped with dehydrated chicken skin crumbles. Poured on top was the chicken sauce, heavily reduced chicken broth, and a creamy sauce made with horseradish and wild garlic. A lot of going on in this one dish and all ingredients worked well with one another, amazingly. 

Ok, I am going to stop calling the next dish a “Chawanmushi” and it seems like everyone is doing one version or another of this steamed egg custard thing originated from Japan. This version was decent, with a silky and soft egg custard base contrasting with the rich flavor of the frothy mussel and shrimp broth with bits of slightly poached razor clams in the cup. Thought maybe some crunchy textures could elevate the dish further. 

The fish course of turbot reminded me of the Singaporean otak-otak , with fish mousse "cake" stuffed on top of a turbot fillet carved roulade style and served with a rich sauce made of smoked fish bones. The bouncy fish cake with a touch of spices combined so perfectly well with the fish fillet that I almost didn’t realize there’s two components in a single piece. Our main course was lamb – the gamey Cornish lamb loin was cooked medium rare with the pinkish center and served with the reduced jus and trout roes. Sounded like an interesting combination but it worked. On the side was a piece of Parker House rolls with whipped butter – which I finished in no time. 

The cheese course was not really a cheese course per se, but a pre-dessert with frozen tunsworth cheese crumbled, mixed with candied buckwheat and figs jam and served in a porcelain “pocket”. We got two desserts, starting with something lighter and sweeter with meadowsweet icecream with strawberries and a syrupy bee pollen cake underneath, then the Guinness icecream with slightly burnt “milk skin” and coffee molasses sauce. 

The menu included two optional choices of wine or non-alcoholic pairings. I went for the more intriguing latter option and six different drinks were served throughout the evening. There were some unusual combinations but still a safe choice, for stuff like Green Grape, Cucumber and Verjus to start, or Hojicha with local honey, or green apple, calamansi and green pea pods. I know I was going to like those just by the sound of it. Then we moved onto even more unusual drinks, including the one with cold-brewed pu-eh with cherry, ginger and eucalyptus. Only a hint of tartness and mild flavor from the pu-eh and overall a refreshing drinks with nice floral notes. Only drink pairing I didn’t like was the last one of Oat Milk, Persimmon, and “spices”. I felt it’s neither here or there with the flavor profile too similar to the food served hence didn’t add much. 

More photos here:

When? January 7 2023
Where? Aulis, Shop UG08, Sino Plaza, 255 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Fermented Potato, Horseradish and Crab

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