October 30, 2016

Pen Stay(ca)tion: The 21-year wait

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When I arrived in Hong Kong in the middle of 1995, I was taken almost immediately to Felix at the Peninsula Hong Kong by my architect friends.  It was new, and designed by Philippe Starck - of whom my friends and I were big fans.  The place had an incredibly cool vibe, and would remain my go-to bar to take visiting friends for that million dollar view of Hong Kong.

But in the 21 years since my very first visit, I have never eaten at Felix.  The reputation of the place has always been as a place for drinks, and no one I know ever raved about its food.  Since there are plenty of places in Hong Kong serving great food, I always chose to dine elsewhere.

That all changed tonight.  As part of our staycation, we booked ourselves a table at Felix for dinner.  None of the tables by the window were available, but that didn't matter much to me.  We ended up at a table on the stage behind the white sheer curtains, which offered me marginally better light for photography.

We decided to go for "The Felix Experience", as a quick glance through the menu didn't yield anything that particularly stood out.  But there were some pleasant surprises coming our way...

Skipjack tataki and poached eggplant with miso dressing, purple shiso and spring onion salad - this didn't look like a very promising start to dinner, especially when the toppings on one of the skipjack slices fell off before the dish got to me.  Not surprisingly, the ponzu (ポン酢) jelly on the side worked well with the skipjack tataki (タタキ), but the slices of eggplant underneath didn't seem to jive with the rest.  Lots of raw Japanese leeks on top of the skipjack, which gave a certain amount of kick that kinda overwhelmed the saffron chips on top.  The puffed rice on the side was on the sweet side, and the baby red perilla leaves and perilla flowers added some nice fragrance to the dish.

Pan-seared scallop and poached mussels with Malabar pepper, red cabbage consommé, poached quail egg and scallop cracker - this was much, much better than our first course.  The red cabbage consommé turned out nicely with some kick from the pepper, and the mussels were fine.  I thought there were even slices of cuttlefish at first, but the texture told me that they were likely just konjac (蒟蒻).

The Hokkaido scallop was seared to mi-cuit.  Very nicely done.

The scallop cracker was pretty interesting, although it was starting to absorb the moisture in the air.  There was a poached quail egg on top with spicy and sour dressing and a little bit of nori (のり) seaweed.  This part of the dish was pretty nice, too.

White wine braised pork belly with tomato-garlic sautéed squid, deep-fried mushroom ravioli and grilled mutsutake - it's hard for me not to like pork belly, and this one was alright.  The diced squid sautéed with tomato and garlic was alright, but the deep-fried squid ink pasta on top offered little more than a crunchy texture.

The wrapper of the deep-fried raviolo reminded me of deep-fried wontons.

But the fundamental question remains:  how are the pork belly, squid, deep-fried squid ink noodles, and the mushroom raviolo all supposed to come together?  They might taste fine individually, but what exactly do they have to do with each other?

Baked Pacific cutlassfish and shrimp cake with white wine sauce, sautéed baby spinach - this looked rather unassuming at first, although the prawns were actually very tasty - nicely seasoned with good texture.

The "cake" was made with shrimp mousse and covered in cutlassfish.  The surprise was the hollow center, and liquid white wine sauce ooozed out as I cut into it.  Not bad.

Coconut brûlèe and pear with pear sherbert, yuzu-saffron marinated pear, almond chip - I really liked this dessert.  The anjou pear was baked with the coconut brûlèe inside.  The pear sorbet on the side was pretty tasty, but the surprise came as the pear slices seemed to be marinated in alcohol.  The slice of almond chip wasn't bad, either.

Petits fours
Lavender chocolate - the flavors from the lavender were very strong.
Palmiers and coffee cookies - the palmiers were nicely done, and for some reason the coffee cookies reminded me of the ones from Jenny Bakery...
Chocolate madeleines and blueberry vanilla tarts - going with the Halloween theme here, today being October 30th and all...

I took a glass of wine during dinner, and chose the 2012 Château Brown Blanc which was initially served too cold.  A little ripe, and kinda round on the palate, with some sweetness here.

We adjourned to the American Bar inside Felix, and I took another one of my famous girlie drinks...

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rich - VCP created Rich to be made into cocktails, and this was classified as Doux with a whoping 60g/L of sugar... That's even higher than Moët's Ice Imperial, which has 45g/L...

I chose the cocktail made with grapefruit twist, and it was nice with lots of citrus notes.  We were surprised to find that after adding ice and the grapefruit, the drink wasn't as sweet as we thought it would be.

Well, I finally dined at Felix.  The food wasn't terrible, but neither did it offer enough excitement to warrant a return visit in the foreseeable future...

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