October 8, 2016

La grande dame de Hong Kong

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After our planned birthday meal was knocked off the tracks by force majeure, tonight we did a proper celebration for Hello Kitty.  When I asked where she wanted to go for her birthday, she surprised me by telling me she wanted to try Gaddi's.

Gaddi's in the Peninsula Hong Kong is the grande dame of French haute cuisine in Hong Kong, having been around for more than 6 decades.  It was one of the first fine dining restaurants I ever dined in after I arrived in Hong Kong, and it was the first time I'd ever sat at a chef's table inside the kitchen back around 2001 or so.  But it's been off my radar for a long, long time... and my last visit for more than 5 years ago - or should I say two chefs ago?  But I did hear that the kitchen is now helmed by Xavier Boyer - who has spent years in the Robuchon empire, so I had high expectations for the cuisine.

When I called to make a reservation, I was a little surprised to be reminded that the dress code for gentlemen included a jacket.  In an era where everything is getting more casual, I guess time kinda stands still in that dining room...

We both took the 8-course tasting menu, even though there is a starter on the à la carte menu that I'm dying to try - with crab, lobster jelly, cauliflower cream, and caviar.  A Robuchon classic.  But that will have to wait...

The amuse bouche was a cube of confit chicken in parsley cream sauce, topped with a wafer of Parmesan.

Langoustine des côtes bretonnes en carpaccio, langue d'oursin et caviar de France au yuzu - probably our favorite dish of the evening.  The langoustine carpaccio was good, but it was the combination of everything that made it work so well.  The fragrance of yuzu (柚子) drifted into our nostrils mere seconds after the cloches were lifted.  The sea urchin tongues were creamy and sweet, and were countered by the savory flavors coming from the French 'imperial caviar' - as well as the salty crisp rolls.  Add into this mix some dill and perilla flowers - each delivering its distinctive and intense flavors - as well as a generous sprinkle of poppy seeds for a little extra crunchy texture.  Very busy, but very good.  The only thing was that with some bites, there seemed to be a little too much salt for my liking.

Les saint Jacques d'Hokkaido sur fregola sarda comme un risotto, émulsion coraline au vin d'arbois - like Pavlov's dog, I knew that I would be ordering the 8-course tasting menu the second I saw the words 'fregola sarda'.  The execution for the scallop was good, and there was a coating of finely diced chives and ginger on top, as well as a crisp with a sprinkle of piment d'espelette on top.  The fregola, though, was a little disappointing.  Some of the fregola had been roasted before cooking, and the texture became harder and powdery in the middle.

Les cèpes en royale et poêlés aux saveurs ibériques - this worked really nicely with the bottle of wine I brought.  It is ceps season, so were presented with a custard made of the mushroom, along with thin, dehydrated cep wafers, as well as parsley sponge cake and parsley "chutney", all topped with some hazelnut bits and thin strips of jamón ibérico.

There were also diced cubes of ceps that had been pan-fried.  Basically, 'shroom heaven.

Le foie gras chaud de canard accompagné d'une mandarine flambée au Grand Marnier - a very pretty presentation.  Unfortunately, while the execution of the foie was fine, I had two problems with the foie itself.  It was a little on the thin side, so it didn't deliver enough satisfaction from chomping into a thick, fatty piece of liver.  The other problem was that it was veiny.  That detracted from the pleasure of eating something creamy and fatty.

I liked the pairing with Japanese mandarin, although I must admit I didn't taste the Grand Marnier.  But the perilla leaves on top were cool.  The chef also shaved a fine powder of the Japanese mandarins and mixed it with some flour before sprinkling it in a circular pattern on the plate.  Interesting.

Le  cabillaud noir mariné au miso - miso-marinated cod.  Hmmm... where have I seen that before?  Well in this case, the black cod was marinated in white miso (味噌).  Very familiar flavors.  Slices of fresh and pickled carrots on top.  There was a "swoosh" of ginger carrot purée, and some saffron cappuccino sauce.  Very nice.

Le  faux filet de bœuf "Black Market" assaisonne de condiments aux câpres, ravioli de queue de bœuf, purée de céleri et truffe - we were told by the waitstaff that Black Market is a mixed breed coming from wagyu and Angus cattle, although some quick research indicates that it's actually a brand moniker given to pure Black Angus cattle with highly-marbled meat.  In addition to the striploin, there was also a single raviolo stuffed with delicious oxtail, along with some celeriac (not celery as we were told) purée and truffle dots.

Nick the manager suggested that I opt for "rare" instead of "bleu".  The sides were nicely seared and delivered good, smoky flavors.  The texture of the beef was pretty springy and bouncy.  Very nice.  Topped with some capers, diced tomato and parsley, along with some celeriac chips.  The birthday girl was happy.

L'assiette de fromages affinés de France - from the house of Bernard Antony.
Brillat-Savarin - I would never pass up an opportunity to have this "ice cream", and tonight this was very, very ripe... with the rind giving off some ammonia.  Savory with some acidity.

Langres - farmy, a little nutty.  Thick and creamy.

Croix Cathare - salty and pretty goaty.

Gruyère - a hint of nuttiness here.  A little bit of age but not too old, so not very salty and still a little sweetness here.

La  compotée de figues et son crumble aux amandes, crème glacée au Porto et espuma à la mascarpone - the fig compote paired nicely with the Port and sabayon ice cream, as well as the mascarpone espuma.  The creaminess and acidity just worked.  The crunchy almond crumble added some nice textural balance, and you've got some pretty, white verbena flowers here.  The Port tuile on top was pretty nice.

Les mignardises -


Sakura chocolate - I kinda expected more Japanese sakura (桜) flavors here, but in the end this just tasted like a regular cherry ganache inside.

This being a birthday dinner, naturally I brought an appropriate bottle of wine for the occasion...

1982 Grand-Puy-Lacoste - decanted upon opening, served immediately.  It took a couple of minutes for the hint of musty nose to dissipate, but once it did the wine just got better and better.  A classic claret, with earthy, smoky notes.  Very silky smooth on the palate, with acidity in the middle.  Not a whole lotta fruit here, with more grilled meats instead.  Later on showing more cedar and a little more sweetness.  A beautiful bottle of wine.

Having mentioned to Nick that I'm familiar with Chef Xavier's history, Xavier came to greet us after our meal, and we chatted a little about a few things - including our mutual friend Vincent Thierry.  I would be curious to come back and try a few more dishes.

One thing is for sure: there is no other dining room in Hong Kong like Gaddi's.  It looks almost exactly like it did when I first arrived in Hong Kong.  The chandeliers, the polished sterling silver candelabra, and a live band!

Speaking of the band: the singer had a beautiful voice and was performing many classics, from The Tennessee Waltz to The Beatles' Michelle, Christopher Cross' Arthur's Theme (The Best that You Can Do), and (as we were told to expect by friends) Teresa Teng (鄧麗君)'s immortal classic The Moon Represents My Heart (月亮代表我的心).  For some reason the band also really liked songs from Disney's animation movies, so we got Colors of the Wind from Pochahontas, A Whole New World from Aladdin, and Can You Feel the Love Tonight from The Lion King.

While I was chatting with Xavier, Hello Kitty was speaking with Nick about the band, and Nick reminded her that the band entertains requests - as long as it's not something like a song from Rihanna.  While I was joking with Hello Kitty earlier about ordering up Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk, Nick's mention of Rihanna got Hello Kitty's wheels spinning inside her head, and all she could think of was what the room would look like if the band played THIS SONG from Rihanna...


PuzzleMaster7 said...

This is an interesting blog you have here. I may not like your stance on politics, but your choice of cuisine is on point.

Peech said...

Thanks! Glad to see that we could at least agree on something.


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