I received a ping from the Man in White T-Shirt, telling me that Gert de Mangeleer was coming to town and doing a pop-up at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It took all of 3 seconds for my excitement level to go from zero to 150%. I absolutely loved the dishes I had when Gert came to do a pop-up last year, and I had just been talking to Mr. Ho about going to Hertog Jan and dining in their farmhouse. So I couldn't be happier to find him back in town again.
And it took me less than a minute to ping the Fergies... since they're members of the club and can actually book us a table. After a quick check, we realized that booking didn't open for another 12 days, so I was tasked with reminding Fergie to make that booking - when it opened at 9:00 a.m. on the day.
Funny thing is... I didn't have to. Small Person pinged to remind her husband half an hour before booking started, and Fergie took a break from his session with the trainer to make the call. So we had our table. And because we had quite a few of us... and because Fergie's reputation precedes him... we were given the private room at Derby Restaurant - so we could be as loud and obnoxious as we pleased without disturbing the other members too much.
Having met him briefly last year, I pinged Gert and told him that I was coming tonight. So when Hello Kitty and I arrived before anyone else in our party, Manager Nicolas Caupain invited me into the kitchen for a quick catch-up with Gert. It was good to see him again before things started getting busy during service, although he was already timing his ducks as we chatted...
After everyone has arrived and all the wine bottles laid out next to us, it was time for the food to come our way...
The giant poster displayed at the front of the clubhouse publicizing this pop-up prominently announced "Simplicity is not simple". I think that's exactly right.
Not surprisingly, the sweet watermelon paired well with the caviar. And the creaminess from the Mozzarella also helped to temper the savory flavors of the caviar. When I discussed this with Gert at the end of our meal, he felt that this version of the dish was "more pure". I could not disagree with him.
The flavors here were just so complex... You've got the umami from the langoustine broth; exotic, tropical fruitiness and acidity from the passion fruit; sweetness from the vanilla; some lovely cacao; and an exotic spice that I mistook for cloves, but which in fact turned out to be wattleseeds. A lot of distinctive flavors here, but they all seemed to come together without any one of them feeling out of place. Wow!
The smoked eel (probably from the Oosterschelde delta like last year) was wrapped around the foie gras terrine, and topped with slices of kohlrabi and beets, and garnished with pickled beets and flowers. The dashi was a little smoky and sprinkled with cumin seeds. The lovely fragrance of bergamot seemed to emanate from the kohlrabi. Just an incredibly lovely dish.
This was a drinking crowd, and the 9 of us (with one not drinking much) managed to polish off 8 bottles' worth of wine on a Sunday night...