September 27, 2010

Eine kleine feinschmecker elfen

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Tonight's dinner was two months in the making - literally.  I first sent out an invitation at the end of July, wishing to meet up with a couple of the city's foodies whose palate I have come to trust.  After 2 months and 2 venue changes - one of which was this afternoon - the meeting finally took place.

I first met Gourmet KC at a dinner last year, and I was immediately awed by his wealth of experience.  Here was a guy who really knew his food, and not just some schmuck who was full of himself and posted random comments on the web.  I also got to know Little Meg through the web, but somehow had never managed to meet up with her.

We finally ended up at Hakata Ichome (博多一丁目), a Japanese grilled meat joint whose specialty seemed to be offal (ホルモン).  This was of course right up my alley, and I was jumping for joy when KC suggested it as our final venue.  Not that I wouldn't have appreciated the other Cantonese restaurants... but this was sooooo much more interesting!

Of course, we must not forget Lady Elf, who - unfortunately - was relegated to her customary duties of sweating over the grill so that the rest of us could eat well.  Truth be told, ever since my first yakiniku experience with the elves I haven't been able to bring myself to help with grilling meat at dinner.  They just do such an awesome job it puts my pitiful efforts to shame.  My sincere gratitude to the unsung hero under the Michelin star...

I don't normally drink whisky with my meals, but KC brought a bottle of Nikka Whisky from the Barrel... I knew it'd be a bottle of brown...  He felt it would be the perfect drink for our meal, and who am I to argue with him?  This little blend - weighing in above 50% alcohol - was pretty nice straight in the glass, but also good with a single cube of ice.  My face was turning red before long...

We were here for ホルモン, so naturally ordered up the mixed platters and various offal.  The big intestines were chewy and crunchy, full of fatty goodness that only served to fan the flames of the grill. 

The small intestines practically oozed fat as they were being grilled... Heart, honeycomb and manyplies tripe, and other interesting parts were all pretty good.  The beef combination platter - with tongue - was tasty enough. 

The thin slices of oxtail didn't work so well for me. 

The intestine hotpot was interestingly spicy, with plenty of chopped chili peppers.  Good enough to have seconds and thirds.

I brought along one of my bottles of Bijofu Yuzu Liqueur (美丈夫ゆずリキュール) since Little Meg seemed really interested in it.  Maybe it was the smokiness of the place, but the nose didn't seem as explosive as I remembered.  Or maybe it was the fact that I was already buzzing from the Nikka... anyway my olfactory functions weren't exactly 100% tonight...

Food was nothing fancy, but very tasty - due in no small part to the skills of Lady Elf.  Of course the company tonight was sensational, as it's always fun to spend time with knowledgeable and fun foodies.  I hope we can catch up again soon.

September 24, 2010

Magical Marsanne

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I'd been looking forward to this dinner for a while.  My friend and I had been talking about putting together a tasting of different vintages of Château Haut-Brion Blanc - an interesting thing to do as these white wines don't show up very often.  Alas, a couple of people decided to pull out at the last minute, and without enough participants we decide to do a casual dinner instead.  We went back to Otto e Mezzo, as my friend seems to have really developed a liking for this place.

The amuse bouche was pear foam with Parmesan and crispy ham on top.

Roast Hokkaido scallop with spices, black olive, foie gas, pumpkin foam - the scallop was still raw inside and very sweet.  A little unexpected to find foie gras here...

8½ seafood soup, shellfish, zucchini "trombetta" and fresh herbs - I would have preferred for the shellfish to be a bit more raw and tender.  The soup was yummy.

Trenette "Latini", fresh tuna and Sardinian bottarga - definitely tasty, although I prefer my tuna belly to be either raw or grilled.  The fatty, fishy flavors were very yummy, and worked well with the tomatoes.  Bottarga is always a nice touch.

Roast pigeon from Bresse, served half with duck foie gras, figs, honey and spice sauce - kinda surprised to see this on the menu.  I love pigeon, although this wasn't the best execution... somehow it was a little tough and chewy.  I felt the sauce was a little heavy, and turns out that the chef added a pinch of chocolate to enhance the dish.

Chocolate mille-feuille, pistachio cream and mandarin sorbet - the mandarin sorbet was very, very delish... The pistachio cream was good and the chocolate bottom created the classic combo with the mandarin.  The millefeuille was flaky and light.

But the evening's highlight was always going to be the wines.  My friend brought a bottle of 1991 Chapoutier Ermitage de L'Orée to start off the evening.  I always found this to be an underrated wine...  This took a little time to really open up.  Fragrant and floral, with toasty popcorn notes, sweet and some minerals.  The wine was a little short mid-palate but had a long finish that was a little alcoholic.  Pretty good stuff.

My friend followed up by introducing me to the 1985 Louis Remy Latricières-Chambertin.  We had talked about drinking mature and good-valued wines from this little-known domaine, and tonight I finally had the opportunity to do it.  A little smoky, with notes of berries, dried strawberries and game meats.  A little alcoholic, and acidity was slightly high.

I knew we would be drinking a Rhone white, so I brought a half bottle of 1990 Chapoutier Hermitage Vin de Paille to match - not knowing the pairing would be so interesting.  What a lovely wine!  Very nutty and complex nose, very sweet like honeydew melon and Medjool dates, apricot, candied pineapple, botrytis, marmalade and a hint of acetone.  The wine was a little viscous, with rich, grapey flavors like eiswein.  Such a treat to drink this mature and interesting expression of Marsanne.

A pretty enjoyable evening, but the bottles of Haut-Brion Blanc will have to wait...

September 22, 2010

Family dinner hell

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It's Mid-Autumn Festival and that can only mean family gathering.  Four generations at the same dinner table, some of whom are not on speaking terms with each other.  A grandma (whom I love but) who has been increasingly annoying over the last 30 years; a younger cousin who's basically a vacuum cleaner for food and has zero regard for others at the table.  I was gonna have a good time... NOT!

I haven't stepped foot in Yin Yih Restaurant (銀翼餐廳) for ages.  During my childhood it was grandpa's favorite restaurant, and its proximity to their house meant it was a place we frequented.  Time for some more memories, only this time the memories weren't so happy...

We didn't order a set menu for the evening, but as usual there was just way too much food.

Stir-fried freshwater eel (炒鱓糊) - the first dish to arrive, and disappeared in no time.

Shredded tofu tossed with ham and bamboo shoots (拌豆腐絲)

Stir-fried dried tofu with shredded beef (豆干炒牛肉絲) - slightly spicier variation.

Braised sea cucumber and pork tendon (紅燒海參蹄筋) - I didn't have the sea cucumber but the tendons were pretty tasty.  The best thing about the dish was actually the leeks, since they were slightly charred on the outside and caramelized on the inside.

Marinated chicken (風雞?) - this was pretty good... enough flavor without being too heavy on the salt.

Tea-smoked duck (樟茶鴨) - pretty decent so I had a few pieces.

Xiaolongbao (小籠包) - nothing to write home about... Didn't even look appetizing.

Steamed vegetable dumplings (蒸素餃) - flavors were nice but they got a little too dry sitting underneath the basket of XLB...

Marinated hearts of Chinese cabbage (涼拌白菜心) - comped by the restaurant.  Not bad.

Noodles with freshwater eel (鱓糊拌麵) - this is the dish grandpa and I would always have all those years ago... still pretty yummy.

Candied lotus root with sticky rice and osmanthus sauce (桂花蓮藕) - very, very yummy... one of my favorite Chinese desserts.

While the food was pretty decent, the company tonight...left a lot to be desired.  Family bickering/nagging is never fun, and I tried hard to keep up my tolerance level tonight.  It also didn't help that we had neighbors who brought their dogs to their tables - with one of them sitting on a chair and putting its paws on the table.  I like dogs, but I don't think they belong at restaurant tables...

Let's hope for a happier family gathering next year... for me.

September 21, 2010

The great northwest

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It's been a while since I last met up with my Taiwanese colleagues from my banking career, and I was glad to catch up with them.  Qin Restaurant (秦味舘) is close to the office, and I welcomed the chance to revisit the place.  Not surprisingly we ordered up a storm...

Hot and sour shredded potato (酸嗆土豆絲) - pretty typical of the region.

Crispy lamb (香酥羊塊) - very yummy with lots of spices like cumin.  Felt like I was back in Xinjiang (新疆).

Rice with egg in Qin style (秦味蛋飯) - pretty good, and I managed to have only one bowl while others had three...  Rice is mixed with fried egg, sauce and lard.  No wonder it's so popular...  We ended up ordering another portion, which I did not partake...

Lamb hotpot (羊骨鍋子) - this was very, yummy...and I had 3 bowls of this instead of the rice.  Lots of chopped lamb parts with meat, skin and fat.  Thrown together with spices and lots of veggies and tofu.

Tossed flat noodle (油潑麵) - the noodles were flat and wide, and tossed simply with some oil, sauce, sesame seeds and chopped spring onions.

Dumplings (一兩元寳) - not bad.

Baked pork ribs (炙子骨牌) - this chunk of ribs was marinated, steamed, fried and baked...  The result is a soft and moist interior and crispy on the outside.  Done with lots of different spices, so flavors are a little similar to the lamb we had earlier.

Braised tiger skin (虎皮燴) - OK, so this isn't really the skin of the tiger... just a braised tofu dish.

Spicy pork tendons (椒麻蹄筋) - these were really nice... just the right balance between soft and a little bit chewy, while there's a nice little kick thanks to the chili.

Stir-fried cabbage with pork (嗆肉高麗) - cabbage is good with anything...

We ordered their specialty dessert - deep-fried Mongolian milky tofu (蒙古炸奶豆腐).  Basically this is like a sopapilla that's filled with cheese inside, and sprinkled with caster sugar.  Pretty good...

There's dessert, and then there's after-dessert.  I dropped by Le Salon de The de Joël Robuchon in the afternoon to pick up some nibbles - after nibbling a little something first at Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki Paris (パティスリー・サダハル・アオキ・パリ)...  Anyway, since I still haven't had the opportunity to sample Big Mac's canelés, I decided to buy some for us to try.  Big mistake.  While the big canelés looked perfect on the outside - consistent color all over, and dark brown enough to be almost purple - biting into one revealed it to be a total failure.  The thing was mushy!  The outer layer is supposed to be a little hard and chewy, but this was totally soft and squeezable... The texture inside was also a little too mushy and creamy.  Sigh...

I also picked up some macarons, since I really enjoyed Chef Kazu's macarons on my previous visits to the restaurant.  I dunno what the heck happened, but these were sorry excuses for macarons...  Admittedly I like my macarons to be a little soft, like the way Pierre Hermé does them.  But this was way overboard!  And what's with the filling?!  It was so liquid that any pressure on the outside practically squished it all out like ketchup from a burger!

Well, I did have a really good evening, as dinner was tasty and reasonably-priced.  I still wonder what happened to the pastries at Robuchon, though... and wonder how an establishment like that could have failed so badly...

September 20, 2010

Paying for a home-cooked meal

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I'm getting together with a few friends in Taipei, and the venue is usually "Western" because of the presence of wine.  Tonight, however, we met somewhere that seems to have gathered a fair amount of praise lately.  D-Jen Food (鼎珍坊) seemed like one of those restaurants I'd always complain about - mixing dishes from various cuisines together so it's no longer simply Cantonese, Shanghainese, or whatever.

The restaurant was busy, and the evening was pretty hectic in terms of the arrival of dishes.  We started with one of the signatures here - tongue-swallowing good (吞舌菜).  This combination of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, edamame (毛豆), black fungus and tofu (素雞) is supposed to be so good that one would accidentally swallow one's tongue while enjoying the dish.  I didn't.  And I didn't think it was anything special, either... It's a homey dish, and mom would definitely kick the chef's ass on this one.

Braised goose web (燉鵝掌) - pretty good in terms of the soft texture as well as the flavor.  Didn't see anything accompanying the webs, so a little plain...

Braised pig trotter (豬手) - these trotters weren't braised with soy sauce, and retained their pale, pinkish color.  A little on the salty side, but certainly soft and tender - unlike the chewier Taiwanese style trotters.

There were a series of dishes like stir-fried beef with scallions (蔥爆牛肉), stir-fried shredded cuttlefish (炒雙絲), steamed minced pork patty (蒸肉餅)... which were alright.

The house specialty beef noodle (牛肉麵) came but I didn't see the big bowl.  It was served to us in small bowls, but the waitress didn't tell me what it was, so I let it sit in the bowl for a long time...  The beef in clear broth (清燉牛肉) was tasty, but the handmade noodle squares - a little like the northern Chinese 饃 or 麵疙瘩 - had soaked up all the soup and became soggy.

A second round of orders went to the kitchen, and out came dishes like these deep-fried fish... Not sure which variety but they sure were yummy!  There was also some stir-fried omelette that was pretty good.

Finally, there were the pan-fried dumplings (生煎包).  These were definitely not OK.  Has the chef ever had an authentic one from Shanghai?  I think not.  These should be pan-fried until the skin on the contact side with the pan is golden brown and crispy.  Preferably, there should be enough meat juices inside the dumplings.  Definitely not the case here.  A very, very far cry from what I would get in Shanghai... or even in Hong Kong!

I should know better than to bring wine to a Chinese restaurant in Taipei... but we always drink wine, so we opened the 2004 Kistler Chardonnay McCrea Vineyard.  Classic Kistler Chard with that heavy, toasty oak and vanilla.  Rich and buttery.

The waitress took away the next two bottles of red and didn't come back for a long time.  When I offered to open the wines myself, she felt embarrassed and insisted on doing it, even though it should have been done half an hour before.  I should have insisted on opening the wine myself...  She ended up breaking the cork of the 2001 Kongsgaard Syrah, leaving half of it in the bottle.  She then tried to salvage the situation by pouring the wine into a pitcher, but somehow decided to use one that had just been washed in very hot water.  As if the room temperature wasn't warm enough, we would now be drinking hot wine...  I was livid.  I tried to get as much of the floating bits of broken cork as I could into my tiny glass.  The wine was still fairly fruity and sweet, with prominent cassis notes.

Finally there was the 2005 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvnignon, which was nice and young, and typical Californian Cab.

I thought the food was decent, but more like a home-cooked meal than a real "foodie" or classy restaurant.  But the price was a little more than what one should be paying for food of this caliber.  Given that mom can do a better job on at least half the dishes we had tonight, what would be my incentive to return?

September 12, 2010

Palate fatigue

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I was exhausted today. The long dinner, the wines, and the late-night ferry ride back to Hong Kong took a lot out of me. For the first time, I was dreading an MNSC gathering and wished I didn't have to attend. But I dragged my ass uphill to the Jockey Club anyway...

Lord Rayas played host tonight and booked a function room so we didn't have to abide by the dress code of the Derby Room. The club have themselves a new chef, and it would be our first time sampling his cuisine. Knowing my strong dislike for blind tastings, Lord Rayas also intended to reveal the identities of the wines quickly, to allow us the pleasure of appreciating the wines without the pressure of guessing.  The menu was designed entirely with red wines in mind.

I arrived a little late and got to have the last slice - literally - of jamón from Joselito. Apparently Lord Rayas ordered it as a result of the SCMP article a few days ago...

Surprisingly we went full-steam ahead with the first course, taking down roasted pork belly, red wine reduction, spider crab, rocket. There wasn't a whole lot of skin, which was a little disappointing to me. The meat was tender, although the lean meat at the bottom wasn't as soft as I'd like.

Fricassée of frog's legs, scallops and vea sweetbreads, Madeira jus, green asparagus, grapes - kinda interesting, yet I wonder if this was just too many ingredients being thrown together? The scallops were good but definitely not red wine friendly. The frog legs were pretty good, and the sweetbreads were nicely browned but somehow I wish they were a little creamier.  The bits of bacon were very, very yummy...

Slow cooked foie gras, beetroot reduction, cherry purée, toasted almonds, tea jelly - one of the sweetest versions of foie I can remember.  Nicely done.  Not sure the almonds were needed but the cherries on the side were great.

Roasted Boston lobster, red wine jus, celery, leek, Parmesan compote - roasting makes the lobster meat a little chewier, but I appreciated the flavors from the process.  The celery, leek and cheese combination at the bottom was pretty yummy.  The funniest quote of the evening has got to be from Dayliao, who blurted something along the lines of :"This was lobster, yeah?"

Seared sea bass, port wine essence, white bean purée, artichoke, Perigord black truffle - I must say the chef did a very good job with the sea bass, as the skin was soooo perfectly browned.  The fragrance of the truffles was very obvious, and I inhaled that purée...

Australian Black Angus "cote de bœuf", sauce bordelaise, roasted shallots, sautéed potatoes and bone marrow - by this time I've hit against the wall... my exhaustion and consumption of the previous courses have taken their toll, and I barely managed to finish one slice of the beef.  The beef itself was reasonably tasty, as were the greens on the side.  The best part, of course, was the bone marrow...

No cheese or dessert for me.  I didn't even take my usual espresso for digestion, as I simply didn't have space...

There was a lot of wine, which I couldn't finish due to the physical condition I was in, but they were pretty enjoyable.

I only got to take a couple of sips of the 1990 Krug. The nose was oxidized, with candied pineapple, straw and marmalade notes. Acidity was fairly high.

1971 Cheval Blanc - smoky, minty, a little salty - almost like soy sauce, and a little sweet, with gamey, grilled meats.  92 points.

1971 Voguë Musigny Vieilles Vignes - kinda funky at first, definitely sweet like cherries.  Very smooth, light and thin on the body.  94 points.

1978 Vieux Telegraphe - nose was very Rhone-liked, with ripe, almost stewed fruits.  Kinda became muted after a while in the glass.  92 points.

1978 DRC Echezeaux - I don't mind wines with oxidation, since I love drinking Madeira and Tawny Ports.  But this was way too oxidized for most people's liking.  The nose was sweet, nutty and ripe, while the palate was dry.  This was purchased off the Jockey Club's wine list, and we asked Leo to waive the charge for this bottle.

1978 Solaia - Lord Rayas ordered this bottle after the DRC was taken back by the Club.  Minty, funky, a little chalky with some caramel.  94 points.  An enjoyable wine but far from the one I tasted at the Solaia vertical...

1990 La Dominique - I can say that with more than 10 years of wine tasting under my belt, this was the very first red wine where I could smell nothing but lobster bisque.  Yes, lobster bisque!  And Dayliao concurred with me on this.  At first I thought it was soy sauce or tomalley, but then I've been having so much lobster lately that it hit me...  There were also some ripe prunes in the nose.  85 points.

1990 Troplong Mondot - very alcoholic, a little salty, and...I don't believe it!...also a hint of lobster bisque.  I think my sensory organs must be suffering a complete breakdown... or my neurons just shorted and got completely rewired...  90 points.

1990 Angelus - most certainly the wine of the evening for most of us.  Lovely nose of grass, a little potpourri, a bit smoky and some coffee grinds.    96 points.

I was over the edge, and wanted to go home and sleep.  Alexandre was already nodding off at the table.  So we called it a night, and I rolled back downhill and promptly hit the sack...

September 11, 2010

A date with Joël

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I've been looking forward to today for some time.  I went back to Macau and made a long-overdue visit to Robuchon a Galera.  The man himself was in town and in the kitchen, and I wanted to see what he would come up with for these gala dinners.

After barely catching the scheduled ferry, Froggie and I made our way to Henri's Galley for lunch.  At the launch party for WOM Guide Macau a couple of days ago, Fergus had recommended this as the place he goes to when in Macau, so we decided to check it out.  Actually Froggie flipped a coin, and the other side was Afonso III.

Not wanting to get the same dishes I'd always go for, I left the ordering to Froggie.  She started with caldo verde - which I didn't have coz I knew I didn't have the capacity for it.  Soon the ameijoas a portuguesa came and I dug in right away.  The clams were pretty tasty in the white wine sauce, and the cilantro added the fragrance while red chili peppers provided a little kick.  Yum.

Even though I wasn't responsible for the ordering, we ended up having bacalao à brás anyway! This was such an interesting version... The potato on top were in such thin shreds, then deep-fried in very high heat... making them very fluffy.  The bacalao came in larger chunks, making them extra chewy.  Very delicious.

We asked the waiter for recommendation on rice, and he pointed us to arroz chau chau.  I've always thought this was a hilarious name for fried rice...  Anyway, this was something that I wouldn't normally order, but it turned out to be pretty good.  The rice was fried with minced beef, tomato, smoky chouriço and ham.  Tomatoes in the fried rice... definitely ain't Chinese!

We were stuffed, so walked around a little in the old city center.  I picked up a few jars of shrimp roe at Loja Sopa da Fita Cheong Kei (祥記麵家), and eventually we made our way to Margaret's Cafe e Nata for their famous Portuguese egg tarts.  I managed to try out the "original" from Lord Stowe's earlier this year, and was curious to see what the ex-wife offered.  There were simply too many people around, so we grabbed a couple to go and had them back at the Mandarin Oriental Macau, where Froggie was staying.  The tarts were definitely pretty custard-y, more eggy than creamy - closer to the Cantonese egg tarts than the Portuguese pasteis.  Pretty yummy nontheless.

We met up with our friends for a quick drink at Bar Cristal at Encore - mocktail for me - before crossing the road to dinner.  We ran into SONFA and her hubby, who also had reservations for dinner.

While we waited for our last dinner guest, we started on the 1989 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste Hune Vendages Tardives.   Definitely petrol, and the nose was very ripe, round and sweet.  Notes of peaches, botrytis, orange marmalade, a little floral... and some butter in the end.  Definitely some residual sugar, something between kabinett and spätlese.  A very beautiful wine.

The bread trolley was rolled around and we chose from the wide selection.  Bread at Robuchon has always been a serious affair, and it was not different here.

But the real excitement tonight was the butter.  They finally got around to getting themselves some from Bordier!  Waiters came and used a dinner spoon to scrape butter from these two big lumps... very impressive indeed.  Robuchon bread + Bordier butter... heaven!

We started with tarte fine croustillante aux cèpes de sous-bois.  Cèpes are in season, and shrooms are always yummy when you sautée them.  Nice layer of finely chopped cèpes in between thin layers of crispy filo.

Le gazpacho de cerises avec un lacté de brebis givré aux éclats de pistaches à l'huile de basilic - interesting to see that this was made with some cherries, which gave it a deeper color and slightly higher acidity.  The goat's milk sorbet was really milky, and the interplay between savory and sour flavors was fun.  We also saw the first appearance of the gold foil...

We ran out of the white wine but weren't ready for the red, so we asked for the wine list to get ourselves another bottle.  We must have looked like tech retards, because they didn't give us their new, cool iPad-based wine list...which my friends at the other table got to play with.  We got the traditional big book instead.  Pout.  OK... so the wine list is impressive in its original form, too... It is, after all, pretty much the largest and best wine list in Asia!

The 1992 Henri Clerc Batard-Montrachet took a bit of time, but we had a fine bottle of wine in front of us when it finally opened up.  The nose was pretty funky at first, with a hint of straw, wheat and definitely camphor - smelling like some kind of Chinese medicinal tonic that one rubs on oneself to relieve muscle aches...  From the second pour, some toast emerged along with ripeness and sweetness, with corn and almost nutty nose.  Very perfurmed on the palate as well as the finish.  Not bad at all!

Le duo de foie gras d'oie et d'artichaut violet en salade mêlée aux copeaux de parmigiano reggiano - nice, but honestly I was disappointed in the quantity of foie.  For the first time that I can remember, I actually thought artichoke was delicious - which is kind of an achievement.

Le crémeux d'oursins tremblotant sous une émulsion mousseuse au wasabi - very interesting dish, except for another appearance of the cursed gold foil.  The sea urchin was creamy and sweet, while I was surprised by the light flavors of the wasabi emulsion.  Underneath it all was a delicious lobster mousseline.  The most interesting dish of the evening.

Le homard des Iles Chausey Rôti au beurre salé et un bouillon épicé de riz nacré aux pistils de safran - a very yummy dish, flavor-wise.  Soooo full of lobster flavor... I couldn't help but lap up the bouillon.  The young peas were not peeled, and I found a couple of them with pretty thick skins.  The lobster was unevenly cooked, and I found a couple of pieces to be a little overdone.  Downright disappointing in this respect.  An opinion which SONFA expressed and I concurred.

Le poulet fermier ivre de Château Chalon mitonné doucement en cocotte, fricassée de craterelles et de girolles au jus - Froggie just about flew off the handle when we received the menu by email.  Initially it was "poulet de Loue", which is nothing special and one can buy in any Froggie supermarket...  It did turn out to be an interesting way to do chicken, broiled in a cocotte with fragrant shrooms like girolles and black trumpets.  The use of Château Chalon was pretty interesting, and the fragrance somehow reminded me of Taiwanese sesame oil chicken (麻油雞), where rice wine was used.  Chicken itself was pretty tender and juicy... The famous Robuchon mash was as divine as ever, but I was already too stuffed to be able to finish it...

1985 Dominique Laurent Latricieres-Chambertin - we pre-ordered this bottle, and the sommelier decided to open it as we were running out of our first bottle of white - without realizing that we would be ordering another bottle.  It was a while before we got to taste the bottle, and we were concerned that there would be too much aeration.  Nose of mushrooms and grilled meats.  Pretty muted at first but developed well after a while.  Light and elegant.

Les baies noires de Bourgogne glacées, lait d'amande douce, caramel Bourdaloue, paillettes de cassis - the kitchen redeemed itself somewhat with the first dessert.  Lots of cassis around, which I love dearly, and the sweet almond cream was pretty rich and yummy.  But the killer was the Bourdaloue - a mini version that was simply awesome... especially the caramel on top.  Wow!

Une symphonie chocolatée, compote de mendiants à la liqueur de mirabelles - the chocolate thingy was pretty good... nicely balanced by the slightly sour compote at the bottom.

These were pretty cute, but I just didn't have any room for them...  I was way too stuffed, and just a little buzzed from all the wine...

We were all given bags containing a very love lemon pound cake on the way out.  This moist, fragrant cake made for a great breakfast the next morning...

Joël and his team came out to greet the diners, as was expected.  Just when it was to be our turn, he and the team abruptly ran off somewhere else.  I thought it was gonna be a repeat of what happened to be at Arzak, where Juan Marie Arzak repeatedly dissed my friends and I by running off and not talking to us.  Fortunately Joël did return some time later, and Froggie totally became a groupie by yapping with the man in French.  She got her wish of hugging him and didn't even come close to be tackled by his team of security guards...

Honestly, the dinner was a little disappointing.  While there weren't any "bad" dishes, there were very few surprises - and not a whole lot of creativity.  I guess the premium I paid was for the opportunity to take a picture with Joël...

The wine service was... shall we say... "commercial".  Basically Mathieu Gaignon - the sommelier - and his staff just kept refilling our glasses quickly.  I guess they were trying to sell more bottles of wine... and I find this type of behavior really annoying.  What had me really fuming, though, took place before we even arrived in Macau.  We had asked Mathieu for the evening's menu since we wanted to choose the right wines to match our food.  Mathieu replied that the menu had yet to be finalized, then proceeded to suggest that we "start with some Champagne, have some white wines then a red wine."  OH REALLY.....?!  Is THAT how you're supposed to do it...?  What a revelation....

Anyway... I made the mistake of booking a late-night ferry as I didn't want to stay in Macau overnight.  It was definitely a painful journey back to Hong Kong...


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