October 30, 2009

Another 3-star day

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Today was another big day in terms of dining.  Both my lunch and dinner appointments were at Michelin starred restaurants, and I was really looking forward to a great Friday.

Our Lunch Club has been kinda falling apart lately, and two of the four members didn't make it today.  Nevertheless, the resident Froggie and I had an immensely enjoyable lunch at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

Our amuse bouche was a shot glass of foie gras and pumpkin custard with bacon foam.  Maybe my taste buds were on strike today, but I really didn't taste much - if any - foie in the glass.  The resident Froggie also declared that it was butternut squash, not pumpkin.  The bacon foam on top was pretty nice, though...

The first course was le foie gras - which was 5 alternating layers of foie gras terrine and caramelized eel.  The eel was definitely Japanese, and pretty much a cold version of 浦焼き.  The dish fully showcased the creativity of Robuchon, as the flavors of both elements - which were simultaneously sweet and savory on their own - melded together perfectly.  And there was even a bit of shichimi (七味) on the side. I was oohing and aahing by this point...

My main course was le canard - duck confit topped with buttered mash and Comté.  How could I possibly resist both duck confit and Comté?  I was already licking my lips in anticipation when the dish arrived in front of me.  Unfortunately, this was not a perfect experience.  The contents were lukewarm, and I was expecting things to be piping hot.  Disregarding the serving temperature, the dish was a success.  I was thinking that whoever invented duck confit should be given a place in the Légion d'honneur... and who could ever complain about the mash at Robuchon, especially when Comté is involved?

We decided to have a bit of wine, and I took a glass of 1998 Bacio Divino.  This was pretty fruity and a little earthy.  The Sangiovese was immediately apparent.  Initially the nose was a little alcoholic, but this faded to reveal smoke, toasted nuts and sweet fruit.  The tannins were soft and supple, with good concentration on the palate.  A very nice wine to drink.

My dessert was le citron - lemon tart with coconut sorbet topped with raspberries.  I love a good lemon tart, and the execution here was flawless.  The sweet coconut sorbet softened the tartness of the lemon, and the dabs of gold foil and sprinkle of pistachio provided the finishing touches.  Oh and the hazelnuts were a nice surprise.

Yet another very satisfying lunch thanks to Joël...

For dinner we went back to Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) to celebrate a friend's birthday...belatedly.  There were only five of us tonight, and we were trying to stay away from the usual selection of dishes.

We first had a couple of steamed xiaolongbao with crab roe (蟹粉小籠包).  Initially I was a bit skeptical just looking at the skin.  It looked a little overdone and not very appetizing.  But the skin was actually reasonably thin and soft, although still not at the quality of the best xiaolongbao specialists.  The flavor of the crab roe was a bit weak, though...

The one obligatory dish while dining at Fook Lam Moon must be the roast suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬).  It is without a doubt one of the best suckling pigs in Hong Kong.  The crackling was just amazing, and I got a little taste of heaven while gnawing on one of the legs as the crispy skin gave way to semi-liquified fat underneath...

I brought a bottle of 1996 Troplong Mondot to go with the pig, which was drinking well.  Nose of coffee and smoke, and a bit alcoholic at the beginning.  Good concentration but very smooth on the palate.  Pretty classic Bordeaux.

Then came a huge bowl of snake soup (菊花燴蛇羹).  I wa shocked when the bowl was placed in front of me, as it could have easily served two people.  It is beginning to be the season for snake soup, and this was pretty nice with the usual condiments of fritters, chrysanthemum petals, coriander and shredded kaffir lime leaves.  The lime leaves along with citrus rind in the soup would provide a strong and refreshing taste.

I also brought along a bottle of the 2002 François et Antoine Jobard Meursault En La Barre.  This turned out better than I expected, with ripe nose of sweet corn and butter that was pretty wonderful.  Initially the finish was slightly acidic, but then turned into something that reminded me of the classic French candied soft citrus jelly.

I could have gone home after the soup...it was THAT filling.  But we still had a couple of small dishes to come.  The stir-fried prawns (油泡大蝦球) had a light starch coating with a nice garlic sauce and springy texture.  The stir-fried beef cubes with garlic (蒜茸牛柳粒) were pretty decent, too.

It's hairy crab season and we had a plate of stir-fried pea shoots with crab roe (蟹粉扒豆苗).  The pea shoots were young and tender, and the starchy crab roe sauce was pretty yummy.  We finished with a simple bowl of noodles in superior broth (上湯生麵) to wish longevity to the birthday girl.  The broth from Chinese ham was just awesome, and I would have drunk a large bowl of it if I wasn't already bursting.

The final touches came with fresh fruit and the steamed longevity buns (壽桃飽) - with a yummy filling of lotus seed paste and egg yolk.  Needless to say I carried my stomach out of the restaurant, yet again...


Anonymous said...

Any more news on when the Taipei branch opens?

Peech said...

Apparently the man himself said something about November 6th, although the last time I checked local press reports indicate a late-Nov opening. Bella Vita is still mostly empty.


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