December 20, 2015

A very Grand lunch

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We're a couple of days away from the Winter Solstice, when Chinese families typically gather and celebrate.  I'm perennially away from the Parental Units on this day, so I only occasionally get to celebrate it when someone else takes me in (kinda like a stray dog...) out of the kindness of their hearts.  This year it would be Hello Kitty's turn, who was celebrating it a little early with her family.

At the beginning of the year, I was invited by the PR team of the Hotel Lisboa to check out the new The Grand Buffet (自助山) at the top of Hopewell Centre.  They were excited about bringing the brand to Hong Kong and wanted to see what I thought.  Now, this Arrogant Prick normally gives PR teams the cold shoulder, and I normally avoid buffets like the plague, but the team at the Lisboa is one I pay attention to.  Unfortunately it was right before my mega eating trip to Tokyo, which would be followed by more eating during Lunar New Year, so I never got around to accepting that invitation.

Almost a year later, I finally had the chance to see it for myself.  I was pretty excited about doing lunch there today, especially since Hello Kitty had told me about her earlier, positive experience.

I knew I was in for a good time the minute we were seated at our table.  Instead of getting a great view of the Hong Kong skyline like most people in the restaurant, we were seated directly in front of the restaurant's signature wine bar.  A total of 60 bottles sit inside the long array of Enomatic machines, with 4 sakes, 8 Champagnes / sparkling wines, 4 dessert wines, and the rest divided between whites and reds.  Why do I need to look out the window when I got the best view of the house?!

The range is pretty diverse here... starting with Krug Grande Cuvée and 2004 Dom Pérignon on tap.  And they've even got a bottle of 2007 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne.  So I asked for a wine card, and went about trying a bunch of wines.

In terms of food, one would expect a large selection of choices.  But it's a lot more than that.  The selling point of this place was that a lot of stuff was done à la minute at the various stations.  For starters, they've got a couple of guys shucking oysters...

So I started with with Alaskan king crab legs and some crab...  Pretty satisfying.

They also have a station for tempura (天ぷら), also done à la minute...

They also got a guy pan-frying slices of duck foie gras to order.  I'll admit that these weren't the smoothest foie gras I've ever had at them Michelin-starred restaurants, as the veins were a little distracting, but they were still pretty tasty... And for a buffet, I ain't gonna complain too much!

There were also some crab roe xiaolongbao (蟹粉小籠包) in individual steamers.  Of course there was more pork than crab roe here, but once again, the quality was pretty good and I'm happy to pop a few more of these into my mouth.

I happened to be standing by when the kitchen brought out a whole steamed garoupa... and I watched as the first girl immediately used the spoon to dig out one of the cheeks - commonly seen as the best part of the fish - before taking a piece of the body.  Then the guy in front of me - who cut in line - proceeded to remove about 2/3 of the fish for himself...  I took only a small part of the collar and the surrounding flesh.  Although I found it to be ever-so-slightly overcooked, the fish was still very delicious, and the execution impressive for a buffet.

I also grabbed a bowl of laksa from the noodle station, and picked out the ingredients I wanted.  Not bad at all.

Passing by the dessert area, one can't help but take note of this fountain...

And this being Christmas season and all, I decided to grab a slice of panettone from Pasticceria Fraccaro.

I also grabbed a madeleine, but this was a FAIL.  Too dense and dry.  Not worth the calories.

Since there were 60 selections on offer, I had a good time tasting through a bunch of different wines.  With the exception of the first wine - where I took 2 pours of 25ml each, I decided to get just 25ml of each wine for a taste.

This turns out to be a good strategy, because I realized that during the 2 hours that I was at the table - OK, I did go around to grab some food, so I wasn't seated at our table for 2 hours non-stop - I did not see a single person get wine from any of the machines.  Zero.  The few people who did drink opted for the more economical, free-flow Champagne option featuring regular Moët et Chandon.

It's no wonder that I found more than a few wines to be a little off, even though the bottles are supposed to be topped off with gas (I don't know whether they chose nitrogen or argon).  So the wines that drank best today were also the biggest wines, as the big nose can overpower and still come through relatively unscathed.

2010 Kongsgaard VioRus - I couldn't believe it when I saw this bottle, because so little of this is produced that the winery mailing list sells out quickly.  Nose was a little pungent and metallic, probably from being opened for too long.  Sugary, candy notes.  The palate was a little flat at first, then it was just overripe.

2008 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Rangen de Thann - also pungent nose from the gas interaction.  Overripe on the palate, with a little bit of finty notes on the nose.

2005 Rieussec - really ripe on the palate, and really sweet, with plastic and honey notes.

2011 Joh.Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese - palate was sweeter than expected, but there's still good acidity here.  Nose was mineral and flinty.

2000 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon - again, nose was a little chemical thanks to the gas.  Still full-bodied here but smooth on the palate now.  Some forest notes.

1999 Yalumba The Octavius - lots of herbs, forest pine, and almost frankincense notes, with tons of vanilla and oak.  Good acidity on the palate.  Best wine of the meal.

2009 de Myrat - tons of honey, orange blossom, pineapple, and acetone in the nose.

2007 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance - nose of honey, beeswax, acetone, orange marmalade, and very grapey.  Very sweet on the palate.

1950 Piétri Géraud Banyuls - very grapey, with sour plum and a little nutty notes.  Wine seems a little cloudy.  Definitely fortified.

I think we had a couple of happy faces around our table... mine for sure from drinking at lunch.  I don't normally do buffet, but I guess if I HAD to, this is where I would come spend my money.

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