February 26, 2018

Le "steak sandwich"

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I'm in Macau again for the annual conference, and once again I have chosen not to dine with the other conference delegates, instead venturing out on my own.  I hadn't shown much love for restaurants within the City of Dreams over the last few months, so I thought it was high time I did so.  As Shinji by Kanesaka isn't open on Mondays, I decided to walk in to the Tasting Room without a prior reservation.

Before I stepped foot into the restaurant, I had already decided not to do the usual thing of taking the tasting menu.  I had found a couple of dishes from the menu which appealed to me, so I would simply order à la carte.  I really didn't want to get too stuffed tonight.

Even though David wasn't working the room tonight, I was still kinda recognized.  I guess that's what happens when you bring a big camera to dinner...

I started with a trio of amuses bouches:

Tourteau crab claw tempura

Fried potato with salmon roe and smoked salmon - very nice.

Foie gras éclair - pretty nice, with foie gras cream inside and passion fruit sauce on top.

Poached Gillardeau oyster, shellfish tartare, sea water jelly, ginger cream, lemon confit - the sea water jelly on top of the oyster was fairly mild, but the briny flavors were certainly there.  The herb salad on top of the ginger cream came with green apple and melba toast.  A nice little bite compliments of the chef.

Les grenouilles de chez monsieur Fivaz à Vallorbe - it's been some time since I last had frogs' legs the same way, and I was really looking forward to it. 

The garlic and parsley cream was, as one would expect, delicious. Besides the herbs, there were also bits of purée made with lemon pith.  The presentation was elegant and  delicate.

The frogs come from Mont d'Or, and were coated with garlic and parsley before being wrapped in a "bell" made of a thin strand of potato.  It was then deep-fried to deliver its golden color and crispy texture.  Absolutely delicious.

Langoustine ravioli with foie gras, lobster cream sauce - the wrapper of the "raviolo" was actually a cabbage leaf, and carried langoustine, foie gras, and diced carrots inside.  There was also little bit of foie on top, buried underneath the chiffonade of black truffle.

Oh yes, this was a delicious mouthful...  One that I could have done without, but when it was very kindly offered by the kitchen, it was received with gratitude.

Filet de bœuf de chez Alexandre Polmard, le foie de canard des Landes - and now for the pièce de résistance.  This was the famous "vintage beef" from Alexandre Polmard.  The beef that is among the most expensive in the world, and indeed a rarity.  The meat comes from female Blonde d’Aquitaine cows raised in Meuse.  After slaughter, the meat was aged for 2 weeks, then undergoes long-term preservation (or "hibernation") by having cold air (-43°C) blasted continuously at a speed of 120 km/h.  The slices I had before me came from a cow slaughtered in 2004.

The macaroni gratin on the side was pretty nice.

From the description on the menu, I was expecting a tournedos Rossini.  But when I saw how the dish was plated, the first thought that came to mind was "club sandwich".  So I picked it up just like a sandwich, and pretended that the beef was "bread" and the foie gras was "meat"...  I'm not sure if that's what Chef Fabrice Vulin was thinking when he came up with the plating...

So after all this, what did I think of the beef?  Well, I'll be honest and start by saying that I'm not a steak guy.  I'm no connoisseur when it comes to beef, and someone like Hello Kitty or Ro Ro would probably have been able to appreciate this a helluva lot more.

These were tasty pieces of beef, to be sure, and the execution was perfect.  But perhaps I came in with some misconceptions.  When people speak of "vintage", I immediately think of "aging", which implies a maturation process where the matter is transformed.  As vintage wine ages and matures, it slowly changes - shedding tannins and softens on the palate while becoming more complex.  When beef is dry-aged, the enzymes break down the connective tissues, resulting in a more tender texture.  Flavors are concentrated.  I gotta say that over the last few years, I have grown very fond of the strong, sometimes cheesy flavors of dry-aged beef.  That isn't what this "vintage beef" is all about.  This had neither those concentrated flavors nor the sinfully satisfying flavors of marbled, fatty beef.

So what was the whole point of this "vintage beef", then?  I guess from the Polmards' point of view, they see their beef as possessing a perfect set of flavors, which they wish to capture and have it frozen in time, so to speak.  The "hibernation" process enables the Polmards to maintain the same flavors just about indefinitely, keeping them at a plateau / flatline without significant drop-off, until the beef is ready to be consumed.  But the process doesn't do anything to enhance the beef, to transform it into something better.  Perhaps because the starting assumption is that it is already perfect.

I was very full by this point, and decided to pass on dessert.  I accepted the offer of mignardises to round out the evening.

Chocolate sphere with coconut ice cream - very yum.

Mint and chocolate macaron

Dark chocolate with ganache

Raspberry puff with Marscapone cream

Crispy 66% chocolate

This was a delicious meal, and I'm happy to have had the chance to finally see for myself what the vintage beef was all about. Now I just have to come back with Hello Kitty so that she could have a bite...

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