Thursday, November 23, 2023

Looking Back, and Looking Ahead

It's a pure coincidence that we dined at 3 Michelin 2-starred restaurants within the same week in early October, and Arbor was one of them during that crazy eating week. 

Now in its sixth year (it first opened the door in Spring 2018) the restaurant continues to evolve and progress and I love how Chef Eric Raty and his team kept coming up with new dishes drawing inspirations from Nordic cooking, French techniques and Japanese ingredients for something unique. The tasting menu Chef Eric prepared for us was exactly that - part of it their 5th Anniversary menu looking back at some of their signature dishes, and some new ones that we could have a glimpse of what's coming ahead. 

The first few dishes set the tone for the rest of the evening with the common Nordic-Japanese theme - trout cold-cured with sushi vinegar and served with ikura (salmon roes) from Hokkaido with a dab of horseradish felt like a marriage between gravlax and sashimi; likewise for the small glass of fish soup garnished with dill. Chef Eric came to explain the tartlet with abalone and liver sauce with rice filling was inspired in part by Karelian pies in which rice was the common filling for this Finnish traditional pastry snack and in part by the slow-poached Abalone cooked in kombu dashi served in many Japanese sushi-ya. 

Next was the Maine Lobster tail poached and served chilled with fruit tomato and the salivating kimchi and wakame jelly. The acidity from the fermented sauce was well balanced by the sweet tomato from Kyushu Japan, right in season during late summer. The tuna tartare served in a buckwheat pancake was another interesting combo, even better with caviar on top and mixed in with seaweed and pickled radish in the center. Another seafood course quickly followed, this time the Hokkigai clam poached, cut int slices and served in its own shell with butter-glazed petit pois and a champagne cream foam. I love the rich umami flavor in this one. 

Rabbit “Tsukune”… I don’t remember whether they described the dish that way or the dish reminded me of the traditional chicken tsukune so that’s what I put down in my note, with Bretagne rabbit meatball served on a skewer with rabbit liver pate on the side. Serving at the same time was a bowl of ramen, made in house with buckwheat with a bit of a bite, in a creamy mushroom-hojicha broth, an egg yolk, plus more winter truffles shaved on top. That was pretty mind-blowing and the ingredients worked well together unexpectedly. The next course was kinmedai, the Japanese goldeneye snapper which was grilled with skin-on and served with Murasaki uni (purple sea urchin from Kyushu) and the butternut squash puree and toasted seeds. 

Sorrell sorbet was served as my palate cleanser course after I confessed to Chef Eric that I was allergic to kiwi. And then we were served a third main course of pigeon, with the leg served whole with a thin chicken skin crisp on top and the breast roasted with onion puree, black garlic coulis and citrus mayo on the side – I like the sansho pepper added on for a hint of tingling heat and nutty aroma. We finished with two desserts – first their signature genmaicha ice-cream and mochi topped with caviar and kombu oil, then the new course of nashi pear served three ways with milk crisp on top. Of course, we wouldn’t leave without their shell-shaped madeleine, served oven-fresh and still too hot to handle and the chocolate petit fours. 

We didn’t go over the top of wines and went with just 3 glasses prepared by their sommelier to accompany the dishes. Lovely bottle of Junmai daiginjo sake to start, followed by the off-dry Mosel Riesling Auslese. The sweetness of the wine worked very well with a few seafood dishes that was prepared with a touch of acidity. The black fruit forward bottle of Hermitage paired perfectly with the pigeon dish with rounded tannin just fine without being over-powering. 

With such impressive menu and precise execution, there were definitely plenty to look forward to until next time we came back for a visit. 

More photos here:

When? October 6 2023
Where? Arbor, 25/F, H Queen's, 80 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Bretagne Rabbit with Ramen
Houou Biden Hige-ban Kissui Junmai Daiginjo - Koyabashi Shuzo, Tochigi Prefecture
鳳凰美田 髭判 亀粋 純米大吟醸 生詰 - 栃木県 小林酒造
2017 Markus Molitor Wehlener Klosterberg Riesling
2016 Gabriel Meffre Hermitage Laurus

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