April 24, 2010

La Nuit à Saint George

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At long last, I got my first chance to sample the cuisine at St. George, the upscale restaurant at Hullet House.  I'm a big fan of Philippe Orrico, who used to run the kitchen at Pierre, and have been wanting to see what he's been able to do outside the world of Pierre Gagnaire.  I've gotten very positive feedback from my friends, so expectations were high.

I browsed through the menu, delighted that many of the dishes can be ordered in smaller portions.  My friends weren't that hungry after their big meals, but surprisingly my stomach was growling a little... After some hesitation, I decided to order the 8-course tasting menu since there is no rule dictating that tasting menus have to be ordered by the entire table.

The amuse bouche was a cup of white asparagus cream soup with crispy orange and pistachio.  This was pretty nice, with additional ingredients providing a pick-up to the subtle flavors of the asparagus.

Gillardeau oyster, pink radish with horseradish and parsley water served with 2 wild caviar - Sevruga and Osetra - Gillardeau is my favorite oyster, and the flavors were so nicely balanced between the sweetness, creaminess and a little bit of brine.  The Osetra caviar packed so much flavor in such a small serving... Wow!

Duck foie gras, pan seared with ginger, Lebanese tabouleh & watermelon with Coleman's mustard - the foie was absolutely perfect.  Lightly seared on the outside and the entire block was so soft and wobbly as I tried to cut into it.  The tablouleh was an interesting touch, and the watermelon added an interesting sweet and refreshing element to the dish.  One of my favorite dishes of the evening.

Roasted langoustine with Colonnata, roasted almonds avocado and green asparagus - slightly disappointing.  The flavors here all worked together, from the nicely roasted almonds to the asparagus, avocado, pear and the thin slivers of lardo di Colonnata - one of my favorite things to buy at a deli counter.  But the problem was with the langoustine...it was juicy, a little mushy and almost liquid in some parts...leading me to wonder about the freshness.  Given that air shipments from Europe has only resumed in the last day or two, I guess this may be from an earlier shipment before the volcano eruption?

Atlantic scallops, creamy potato with sherry wine and seaweed, baby leek with mustard and smoked milk foam - very nicely done... lightly seared on the outside and still fresh on the inside.  The creamy potato was very yummy, and the crunchy seaweed was interesting.

Roasted veal sweetbread, with espelette pepper, red apple confit with reduce farm cider, crab meat, baby spinach and green olive - very creamy and nice.  Interesting pairing with the crab meat...and the apple confit was really nice.

Pink Champagne granite, tomato jelly and prawn Obsiblue served cold with a cocktail sauce - the granite was probably my least favorite part of the meal... The combination of the Champagne and savory tomato jelly just tasted a little bitter in the mouth...  Not a fan.

The Obsiblue prawn was pretty decent, but I'm not sure I appreciate it being served with cocktail sauce, even though it's served in similar fashion around the world...

Pigeon Mieral, couscous, piquillos, foie gras, sultana and crispy curry - this was very, very nice.  The pigeon was definitely very gamey, just the way I like it.  The foie was battered and deep-fried, which is kinda weird and interesting.  The white sticks are made with curry and sweet at the same time, which kinda screwed with my head.  But the combination worked, and I liked it a lot.  I also got a slice of goat cheese, which I ate after the pigeon.

Just like at Pierre, St. George's kitchen also sends out multiple desserts in waves.  There was a pre-dessert of citron sorbet, which was really interesting as they used chili powder to make it really spicy.  I think it went far beyond waking up my palate, it kinda killed it for a while...

Rose ice cream with wild berries and raspberries - this was pretty nice...the rose flavor wasn't overpowering, and I just loooove wild strawberries...

Pistachio custard with sago - now this was interesting...the roasted pistachios were really fragrant, and once you add in the pomelo pulp and candied pomelo rind, it almost feels like a pistachio flavored 楊枝甘露...

Vanilla cream with coffee granite - pretty tasty and reminds me of the taste of affogato.

Chocolate-covered pop rocks - what is it with people making desserts out of pop rocks these days?

Hot chocolate - nice and yummy with orange and cinnamon.

Finally, the petits-fours which included a nice little marzipan and white truffle macaron.

I brought two bottles of wine tonight, expecting to be charged HKD 350 per bottle for corkage.  I was informed that it had been raised to HKD 500 a few months ago.  Huh?  Raising the corkage and you've only been open for a few months?  WTF...

I handed the two bottles to a waitress, instructing her to open both, chill the white and decant the red.  Twenty minutes later, the head waiter approached me and asked whether it would be time to open the bottle of white.  Huh?  Shouldn't it have been opened when I arrived?

2000 Bouchard Corton-Charlemagne - elegant nose of flint, toast, white flowers, tangerine and sweet corn, with the sweetness dominating after a while.  Medium to high acidity on the palate.  Very nice.

2005 Mugnier Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Clos e la Marechale - I was a little playful and wanted to drink a NSG at night in a place called St. George... unfortunately this wine really disappointed, and was nothing like what I had last year with the winemaker.  Nose was very muted, with a little sous bois but basically it never opened up.  Very smooth on the palate, almost a little flat.

I thought the food here was excellent.  My friends were right - Philippe has only gotten better after leaving Pierre.  But months after opening, the service still needs a lot of work. 10 minutes after sitting down, no one had come to ask if we wanted any water.  The local staff really don't speak English well, and couldn't distinguish between citron/Sichuan and pistachio/prosciutto.  And what's with dimming the lights after 10pm?  I could barely see my food...and the freezing air conditioning... were they trying to kick us out?

Regardless of how good the food is, a restaurant needs to provide good and friendly service so that customers would think about going back.  For the price that I was paying, I expected 5-star hotel service but definitely didn't get it.  I hope the people at Aqua can fix that, or it's back to hotel dining for me again...

1 comment:

Hong Kong & Macau Fine Food said...

Very nice review! I've only tried Philippe Orrico's food once right before he left Pierre and it was very good indeed! Have always been hesitant about coming to here as its part of the AQUA group - but glad to see that Philippe not only hasn't lost his touch but seems like he's still improving!

Thanks for the details... and can't believe you had so many desserts! :P

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