September 26, 2017

A private preview

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It's no secret that I'm a fan of Uwe Opocensky's, and I'm lucky to have him as a friend.  When he made the decision to leave the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, my friends and I were fortunate enough to be in the Krug Room for his last service.  After prepping for his pet project for the last year, his eponymous restaurant Uwe is finally ready to open its doors to the public.  And tonight, The Great One and I had the privilege of getting a sneak preview.

As is usual for our meet-ups, I brought the wines and Uwe chose the restaurant.  Given that the restaurant begins service tomorrow, I had expected to be dining here tonight.  But Uwe tried to be a little tricky to confuse me... He knows very well that I avoid brand new restaurants like the plague, so he told me that we'd be meeting at the new place for a drink before we "go around the corner for some food."  I didn't know what else was around the corner besides Trattoria Queen Hollywood, but whatever.  I wouldn't have any issues with wherever Uwe takes me.

The front door opened just as I reached for it, and I immediately saw three guys dressed in the same uniform of white dress shirts, black jeans, and white canvas sneakers.  In addition to Uwe, the other two other familiar faces belonged to Ken and Luke - both formerly of the Mandarin Oriental.  I was ever so happy to know that diners would be in good hands with these two.

And wouldn't you know it, Nena's 99 Luftballons was playing as I walked in... as if I didn't know the guy running this place was German...  And throughout the evening, the playlist included mostly tunes from the 80s and the 70s... with maybe a few 90s' hits thrown in.  As Uwe said : "our generation".

Courtesy of Uwe
Courtesy of Uwe
Uwe asked whether I would like to start with some Krug.  Would I?  Mais, bien sûr! The Krug Grande Cuvée, 159éme édition, ID 313052 was mature and beautiful, with toasty nose and lovely sweetness.

After The Great One arrived - having gotten a little lost - Uwe confessed that we were, in fact, dining in.  He had spoken to me months ago about the possibility of hosting me on the first night that his pet project opens, and here we have it - The Great One and I were getting a very private preview.

From then on, food started arriving at the table, and Uwe was back to his old tricks... trying to kill me by feeding me a ton of food.

Autumn landscape - well, Uwe's swiped one of those trees that he used to decorate the Mandarin Oriental Christmas party with, along with a bunch of fallen leaves.  It now stands in the middle of the restaurant, and naturally the canapés would go along with this theme...

Pumpkin leaves

Parsnip leaves

Finnish reindeer moss - with freshly-grated horseradish.

Malt breadsticks with pickles - always fun to eat.

Smoked salmon with caviar - I would never complain about Uwe's smoked salmon... especially with those little thingies on top!

Venison tartare with mushrooms - I love venison, and the tartare has such a nice and firm texture, delivering a lot of bite.  Looks like it came with some raw cep slices and wood sorrel.

Pickled Japanese radish - the acidity was definitely there, and kinda helped whet the appetite... although that was hardly necessary!

Bone marrow candle - we ripped pieces from the grilled sourdough bread and dipped them into the melting "candle"...

Very, very decadent, but oh-so-good!  I could never resist bone marrow...

Egg with mushrooms and pickled mushrooms - so... Krug x Egg and Krug x Mushroom continues... This was very tasty, but I felt it was over-seasoned and heavy-handed with the salt.

Cep mushroom tart - with scrambled duck egg and girolles.  The tart crust was made with mushrooms.

Grouse pithiviers - it's game season, and pithiviers is a great way to serve up game birds.  The grouse came from Rhug Estate and has been hung for 10 days.

The minced grouse was stuffed inside the pastry along with cabbage and rosemary, then served with some jus.  Delicious.  Warm and comforting.

Oh, by the way... everything up to this point has been part of the "Autumn landscape".  So we've only just got done with the FIRST course out of the six-course menu.

King crab spring roll - shredded Alaskan king crab filling, served with yuzu-flavored mayo.  When I was almost done, a couple of bites near the end delivered some sharp and unpleasant ammonia.  It turns out that Uwe mixed in the crab tomalley.  Now this is strange... Normally I love tomalley and couldn't get enough, but for some reason this was a little too much for me tonight.

Celeriac pasta - a spiralizer is used to turn celeriac into ribbon "pasta".  Cooked with seasonal wild mushrooms such as girolles and morels, veal stock, and Japanese cream.  Then we had a good amount of Australian black truffle shaved on top of it all.  This was mostly veg and really delicious.  Too bad we had run out of Krug by now... or this would be yet another Krug x Mushroom dish.

Lamb - the Rhug Estate lamb shoulder was hung for 8 hours over fire.  It was very, very tender and was pretty easy to cut through.  In fact, the ribs and spine were easy to separate with one's hands.

Very, very delish.  We were even provided with little cabbage discs so that we could wrap the lamb inside like bossam (보쌈).

Uwe also tossed part of the spine onto my plate, so I dutifully gnawed on it and stripped it of any delicious meat...

And in lieu of raw garlic in the Korean version, here it was served with a really strong garlic mayo. Guess I won't be kissing anyone tonight!

A couple of other side dishes came alongside the roasted lamb shoulder, including cucumber with mint and parsnip purée.

Pineapple - the sauce which was drizzled over the pineapple was made with roasted pineapple jus, and this was garnished with mint leaves and mint flowers.

We then found out that they make their ice cream the old-fashioned way - by churning with a hand crank!

The ice cream was made with Japanese 48% double-cream, and drizzled with Captain Morgan rum raisins.  Very, very rich.  Very, very sweet.  Oh-so-delicious. Somehow this reminded me of the ice cream I had at Saison.

Apparently the porcelain bowls in which our ice cream was served date from the Ming Dynasty...

We finished the meal with some peppermint tea, served in cups made around the Roaring Twenties.

Petit fours - these chocolate truffles came with black truffle on the outside.  They were so rich and creamy - and also seemed slightly savory - that I actually asked Uwe if he made them with foie gras...

I figured since I was drinking with Uwe and he was treating me to dinner and all, I would bring along something a little special...

The first bottle was purchased at the Sotheby's elBullicellar auction in 2013.  The bottle was signed by both Ferran Adrià and the late Juli Soler.  This was meaningful because Uwe spent 6 months (one season) at elBulli.

2009 Hospices de Beaune Corton-Vergennes Cuvée Paul Chanson par Lucien Le Moine pour El Bulli - very dry with lots of minerals, beautiful and flinty.  Later on buttery and sweet, with a nose that was soooo toasty.

The second bottle came from Sine Qua Non, because I know it's something Uwe always wanted to drink and never gets the chance to.  And as someone who fell in love with this winery back in 2001, I have a few in my collection to share with good friends. 

2001 Sine Qua Non Ventriloquist - opened for 45 minutes prior to decanting, and served 2 hours after opening.  Bouquet was really sweet and jammy as expected, then turned very floral and violet.  More than 3 hours after opening a little cotton candy developed.

The Great One and I were stuffed.  And a little buzzed.  But we were so, so happy... and honored that we had the privilege to be given a preview of what Uwe's fans are about to experience for themselves after waiting for more than a year.  I wish my friend lots of success, and I can only hope that he can find a few seats for me from time to time in his 16-seater...

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