June 22, 2015

Killer birthday dinner

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It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Uwe Opocensky's.  I have never had anything less than a fun and fantastic meal every time I visit one of the two outlets whose kitchens he helms, and despite his repeated attempts to "kill me" with too much food, I keep on going back to see him.  As I'm not spending my birthday with the parental units this year, I decided that I would take the Tiggers to Mandarin Grill + Bar and see what new stuff Uwe has come up with.  As usual, I gave him advanced warning and told him to show me what he's got...

Someone arrived a little early and let slip that it was my birthday, so what was already meant to be a pampering meal actually went up a couple of notches in terms of VIP treatment...  Oh well, if one were to choose a day to be pampered, this would certainly be a good day!

As soon as we were seated, Ken brought over a bottle of Champagne that with compliments from Uwe.  This bottle of 2004 Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs was really easy to drink.  Pretty smooth on the palate, and the acidity was surprisingly not as high as I expected for a blanc de blancs.  A little ripe on the palate, with slight bitterness on the finish.

Then came the first of many courses for the evening.  This was apparently a last-minute special when they found out about my birthday... and another very generous gesture from Uwe.

Caviar hands - on a block of ice shaped like a hand sits 5 lumps of caviar.  These come from sturgeon farmed in Lake Qiandao (千島湖) near Hangzhou (杭州) in China.  The 5 different types were:


Golden Kristal


Golden Sevruga

Beluga - coming from the first harvest after 17 years.

I tasted some of these on their own, and other spoonfuls were placed on blinis.  I do have to say, though, that while I was very grateful for Uwe's generosity, I probably should have just given my portion to Babu.  Babu is a huge fan of caviar, and truth be told... my palate isn't fine enough to detect all the nuances between the different types of caviar.  At least, not tonight.

The other aspect which turned out to be a shame was that as the caviar was placed directly on a large block of cold ice, the bottom layer in contact with the ice was quickly frozen.  Maybe I should have just eaten the caviar quickly instead of spending a minute (or maybe two) taking pictures...

Hands - I had seen pictures of these posted on social media from friends' visits to the Krug Room.  These represent farmers' hands, as the Mandarin has now begun to source their vegetables, herbs, and flowers from an organic farm on Cheung Chau (長洲).

Pea tarts - very nice and sweet peas.

Flower pot : organic, soil, cress, salad, kombucha, camomile - now the signature salad, with brown and green "soil" at the bottom.  Camomile and kombucha dressing.

Tomatoes - tomatoes on the vine, with freeze-dried tomato sponge at the bottom, topped with olive oil caviar.

Radishes - with garlic herb butter.

Baby carrots - with crème fraîche and chives.

Mini taco shells - with herbs and cresses and truffle.

New potatoes - steamed with the same soil they were grown in.

Complemented with organic sea salt from a Japanese farm.  Gotta say these flakes were pretty big!

White asparagus - coming from Uwe's mother.  Yum.

Cauliflower - battered and fried, with Madagascan spices.  Very yummy.

Escargot - of course, there are snails in the garden, too!

With mushrooms and flowers on top.

Frog's legs - and yes, there are also frogs in the garden.  Deep-fried frog's legs are always good to nibble on...

Matcha : Japanese, tea, whisk - ah, the familiar "green tea" from Uwe.  This is a DIY course, and this time Uwe's decided that I will have to mix it up on my own.  We are presented with a traditional Japanese set for tea ceremony, with ground basil powder in the bowl.  Then tomato consommé is poured on top, and one takes the bamboo whisk and quickly whip things up.  I showed Uwe the foam created by my whisking, and he wasn't exactly impressed...

Anyway, I still love this.  Fragrant with clean, pure flavors.  And pretty to look at, too.

Scallop : Japanese, seared, salad - the Japanese scallop is served two ways, with a sprinkle (ふりかけ) of sesame seeds, nori (のり) seaweed, and smoked paprika on the side.

Marinated in kombucha and served with a salad.

And also seared on a hot stone.

Nicely done.

Red mullet : French, clam, mussel, squid, octopus - the red mullet was covered with a layer of lardo on top.  Incredibly, as big of a fan as I am of lardo, I actually wished for crispy red mullet skin instead... and the mullet was ever-so-slightly on the overcooked side.  There was shellfish ragù with mussels and razor clams.

On the side was an octopus salad with gazpacho, along with some croûtons.

1970 La Lagune - birthday means birth-year wine, so I fished this out of my cellar for this quiet evening.  Opened for 1 hour without decanting.  Nice acidity and still some tannins here, but otherwise a pretty typical claret.

Pork : Spanish, suckling - look at this beautiful chunk of suckling pig... and that crackling!

This was chopped into a few pieces and served with a fennel salad and a couple of dots of apple sauce.  There was also of quenelle of homemade kimchi mixed with panko (パン粉).  The suckling pig was incredibly succulent and tender, although the crackling was slightly on the salty side.  I thought the kimchi/panko mix paired really well with the pig.

Beef : U.S., Brandt, short rib, cutlet, artichoke, girolle - this came with both a slice of côte de bœuf (which would be the daintiest piece of côte de bœuf I have ever seen) and piece of short rib slow-cooked for 36 hours.  Served with artichoke slices, crispy artichoke chips, and girolles.  Jus and homemade tomato paste on the side.

Not surprisingly, the short rib was very, very tender.  The côte de bœuf, however, was surprisingly a little tough and chewy... due to the specific cut and not as a result of overcooking.

Cherries - I had apparently complained about not getting these (although I have no recollection of that...) so Uwe decided to send me some cherries.  Pitted, of course, with stems made of candy.  Served on a bed of cream.  Very nice.

Mango : Japanese, puff, vanilla, ice cream - the mango is from an 89-year-old gentleman in Miyazaki Prefecture (宮崎県), who has 25 trees and places nets below each fruit so that it can be caught as it ripens and falls.  Definitely very ripe and sweet.  Served as a "millefeuille" with the puff pastry - which was incredibly flaky - and a quenelle of delish vanilla ice cream.  At this point I'm thinking that Uwe doesn't know me well enough, because mango is just about my favorite fruit in the world and he actually served this dessert to Hello Kitty instead of me...

Ham and cheese - this is actually two separate items... and also something I've seen on social media.  A leg of "jamón" is rolled out in front of us.   Uwe takes a knife and starts slicing...

...which yields not slices of savory ham but ice cream made to look like ham.  Another fun dish.

The "cheese" is actually a warm cheesecake, which was so liquid that it almost resembled a fully mature Cabri Ariégeois or Vacheron-Mont d'Or... where one just spoons it from the container.

Soooooo rich... I wish I had more room in my stomach.

Once again Uwe presented us mignardises in a setting resembling a garden in spring and summer.

We got some "tomatoes", made with what seemed to be Marscapone cheese filling.  And chocolates looking like lady bugs.

Also "carrots" made with what seemed similar in texture to marzipan.

Plus lots of bite-sized muffins, daisies made of sugar...etc.  There was no hope of us finishing them, so we asked the staff to pack them away for my godson Bear.

This was a lot of food... AGAIN.  I was pushed almost to the point where I would be tempted to call an ambulance, but thankfully didn't cross that line tonight.  Many, many thanks to Uwe, Ken, and everyone for a very fun evening.

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