April 5, 2008

An evening cut short

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Last night I got together with some friends for dinner at a new venue for me. A few of my friends know the owner of Agura Creative Dining, so suggested that we dine there before moving on to karaoke in Causeway Bay. I was eager to try out a new restaurant and looked forward to the experience.

We were in a reasonably large group, and decided to ask the chef to bring out the specialties. We had also brought along a few bottles of wine that hopefully would match the food. These are the courses for the evening:

Raw oysters topped with garnish - I guess I should have asked what type of oysters were being served but couldn't be bothered. It was not too large, and more on the creamy side (not Belon 000 or Fine de Claire).

Not bad, but the pairing with the bottle of Perrier Jouet NV Grand Brut seemed a bit off...the after palate of mixing the two elements wasn't what I was expecting. I think Kami no Shizuku (神の雫) really hit it on the spot - raw oysters need to be paired with very dry, village level Chablis. Still, the Perrier Jouet is a good Champagne and I really enjoyed drinking it.

Shima aji (縞鯵) sashimi with some salad and light dressing - this was OK - the slices are larger than what you would find in a traditional Japanese place, but then again they'd never serve it with Romaine lettuce...

Steak tartare bruschetta - a few people didn't like the idea of eating raw beef, but I love steak tartare. The seasoning on this one was pretty good, with both raw and sauteed onions. The only fault here is that the beef isn't as finely chopped as one would find in a fine dining establishment. I devour two of these, and it goes reasonably well with the 1990 Jayer-Gilles Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Hauts Poirets, as the acidity of the wine works well with the Worcestershire sauce.

Softshell crab roll - topped with a sliver of avocado but nothing to write home about.

Fried fishcake - different from the standard Thai fishcakes, and somewhere between Thai prawn cakes and Japanese fishcakes. I like the consistency and the dip which is lighter than your boring tartar sauce.

Foie gras roll - I measure every foie gras sushi against the one at San San Trois, and this one fell short since it came in a maki and not a nigiri, and the piece of foie is tiny. This was also done inside out with seasame, so it's missing the nori that normally works so well.

Lobster linguine - now this one was a winner! The light cream sauce was very yummy, and everything just worked together. Paired so well with the bottle of Cloudy Bay that my friend Lai-man brought (uh...didn't check the vintage, or whether it was a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc - but it tasted like the SB...)

At this point something disastrous happened...the feeling of nausea started to build, and I realized that this was likely the onset of a reaction to food poisoning. I bid a quick farewell to my friends and rushed to get home. I just needed to rest on my couch. It didn't help that at the restaurant, we were sitting Japanese style and I had no way to lean back on anything.

I stumble into the elevator, getting weaker by the second. The door opens and in walks a colleague and his wife. I manage a feeble response to his greeting - no doubt he would have thought I was rude. I leave the elevator and stumble onto the street, feeling very dizzy at this stage and unable to keep to a straight line as I start breaking out into cold sweat. Thankfully the taxi rank isn't far away, and I manage to get home in one piece.

P.S. I managed to recover once I settled and fell asleep on my couch. Nothing ever happened afterwards, so was it really food poisoning? Perhaps. I have never had an experience like this, and can only think of the fact that I ate some raw food at the start of dinner. While it is unfair to pin the problem to the restaurant, I think I'll wait a while before going back to Agura...

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