Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Main Attraction

A lucky few of us were given the opportunity to preview the tasting menu by visiting guest chef Daniel Calvert before his pop-up stint at MGM Cotai. I still haven't had a chance to visit Tokyo and to Chef Dan's restaurant Sezanne so this was as close as I got reminiscing the good old days and his wonderful cooking since he moved from Hong Kong. 

For a few weeks (starting in early August) the team took up temporary residence at what used to be the Aji restaurant at MGM Cotai featuring an open kitchen and counter with only 8 seats at each service, so every diners got up close and personal with all the kitchen actions. The 10-course "French Degustation Tasting Menu" was said to be similar to what Chef Dan and his team prepared at his restaurant at Four Seasons Marunochi, making use of seasonal ingredients (predominantly local-sourced) and classic French cooking. 

Our lunch began with the presentation of cheese gougere with glass of champagne with Chef Dan making a quick introduction as we arrived. The bite-sized canapes with rich, creamy filling of 48-month aged Comte brought us right in the mood for a classic French feast - that with the glass of the Blanc de Blancs bubbly. 

The second and third course were served in tasting portion just as we slowly settled in our seats surrounding the open "kitchen theater". The prawn tartare tartlet was prepared with two different kinds of prawns and a gentle brush of sudachi zest - shiro-ebi from Toyama Prefecture and botan-ebi from Hokkaido. The former was delicate and mineral-rich, and the latter with richer flavor and firmer texture - the refreshing after-taste was memorable. The uni tartlet was a "playful rendition" of sushi and tribute to the traditional ingredients, with tongues of Murasaki sea urchins served on top of steamed Koshihikari rice in a thin rice cracker pastry shell. It's very French but also very Japanese all in a single bite with wonderful ingredients to show forth. 

Dan explained a little more about this cooking philosophy at Sezanne as the next course of corn soup was presented with ingredients sourced from the best region with no specific boundary set and prepared in the way he thought most suitable to showcase the flavor and texture and characteristics of the ingredients. Inside an espresso-sized cup was the hearty sweet corn potage using ingredients from Yamanashi Prefecture mixed with bits of black truffles from Australia. Summer corn and winter truffles may not be the most natural combinations but it worked perfectly well with the wonderful sweet flavor from the corn with the soup prepared with nothing more than the hush and kernels cooking over a long period of time and repeat reduction until the flavor intensified and natural sweetness pushed to the limit, then mixed with grated truffles for the earthy flavor and subtly seductive aroma. 

The avocado course is one of the signature courses at Sezanne. Slices of ripe avocado was served with smooth and creamy avocado-dashi mousse in between. On top was dried cilantro powder, sudachi zest and heap of Beluga caviar in the center, all presented in the shape of a halved avocado. Luxurious, tasty, playful... everything that encapsulates Chef Daniel's cooking and the style that propels him to be one of the brightest in contemporary culinary world.  

Drunken pigeon was a carry-over from his days in Belon, his previous restaurant in Hong Kong, and inspired by the Shanghainese classic dish. Cases of Vin Jaune from Jura were imported to Macau for the sole purpose of recreating this dish with the wine used to marinate the bird as well as preparing the sauce that went with it. The breast part of the pigeon was slow-poached and marinated for days and on the side, a "cabbage dumpling" with edamame. While the meat was impeccable, the sauce was heavenly. I loved this dish back then, and I am loving it even more now - I spent no time scooping up every last bit of the dish, including the extra sauce chef passed me on the side. 

There's nothing overly innovative about the next course in terms of ingredient (Kinki fish from Hokkaido) or techniques (Uroko-yaki, or cooking with the scales on for the crispy texture) but the dish was just perfect. Kinki (a.k.a. thornyhead) was known for its delicate texture and fatty flavor. The piece of fillet was seared skin-down with scales on with a couple pieces of Hokkaido baby potatoes served on the side. Underneath was the creamy sauce prepared with reduced fish broth and saffron (from Oita Prefecture) So good that I didn't hesitate to lick my plate clean despite being warned by chef to show proper table manner. "We ain't in Soho anymore," as he jokingly reminded us. I guess same can be said about the evolution of his cooking over the past few years, from the more rustic bistro style from his Soho outpost in the past to something more elegant and finesse, served in the culinary capital in the world. 

Our second main course of venison probably saw the least of Japanese influence, with the piece of Canadian venison fillet served with Provencal girolle mushrooms, reduced jus and a thin slice of house-smoked pancetta on top. Seasonal Japanese fruits were featured prominently in the two desserts, first granita with Kyoho grapes and champagnes, then the Miyazaki mango sorbet topped with shortbread Creme Chantilly.

Wines selected were on the conservative side but still well-chosen for the dishes. The Meursault was lovely with ripe stone fruits and plenty of mineral on the palate. The mature Sauternes showed good balance with acidity backbone and nice, golden color. 

More photos:

When? August 17 2023
Where? MGM Cotai, Avenida da Nave Desportiva, Cotai, Macau
Menu Highlights? Marinated Pigeon with Vin Jaune and Edamame
Champagne Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
2020 Domaine Jobard Morey Meursault AOC
2015 Chateau Monbousquet Saint-Emilion
2006 Chateau Climens, Sauternes
MGM Cotai:
Sezanne Tokyo:

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