September 11, 2010

A date with Joël

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I've been looking forward to today for some time.  I went back to Macau and made a long-overdue visit to Robuchon a Galera.  The man himself was in town and in the kitchen, and I wanted to see what he would come up with for these gala dinners.

After barely catching the scheduled ferry, Froggie and I made our way to Henri's Galley for lunch.  At the launch party for WOM Guide Macau a couple of days ago, Fergus had recommended this as the place he goes to when in Macau, so we decided to check it out.  Actually Froggie flipped a coin, and the other side was Afonso III.

Not wanting to get the same dishes I'd always go for, I left the ordering to Froggie.  She started with caldo verde - which I didn't have coz I knew I didn't have the capacity for it.  Soon the ameijoas a portuguesa came and I dug in right away.  The clams were pretty tasty in the white wine sauce, and the cilantro added the fragrance while red chili peppers provided a little kick.  Yum.

Even though I wasn't responsible for the ordering, we ended up having bacalao à brás anyway! This was such an interesting version... The potato on top were in such thin shreds, then deep-fried in very high heat... making them very fluffy.  The bacalao came in larger chunks, making them extra chewy.  Very delicious.

We asked the waiter for recommendation on rice, and he pointed us to arroz chau chau.  I've always thought this was a hilarious name for fried rice...  Anyway, this was something that I wouldn't normally order, but it turned out to be pretty good.  The rice was fried with minced beef, tomato, smoky chouriço and ham.  Tomatoes in the fried rice... definitely ain't Chinese!

We were stuffed, so walked around a little in the old city center.  I picked up a few jars of shrimp roe at Loja Sopa da Fita Cheong Kei (祥記麵家), and eventually we made our way to Margaret's Cafe e Nata for their famous Portuguese egg tarts.  I managed to try out the "original" from Lord Stowe's earlier this year, and was curious to see what the ex-wife offered.  There were simply too many people around, so we grabbed a couple to go and had them back at the Mandarin Oriental Macau, where Froggie was staying.  The tarts were definitely pretty custard-y, more eggy than creamy - closer to the Cantonese egg tarts than the Portuguese pasteis.  Pretty yummy nontheless.

We met up with our friends for a quick drink at Bar Cristal at Encore - mocktail for me - before crossing the road to dinner.  We ran into SONFA and her hubby, who also had reservations for dinner.

While we waited for our last dinner guest, we started on the 1989 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste Hune Vendages Tardives.   Definitely petrol, and the nose was very ripe, round and sweet.  Notes of peaches, botrytis, orange marmalade, a little floral... and some butter in the end.  Definitely some residual sugar, something between kabinett and spätlese.  A very beautiful wine.

The bread trolley was rolled around and we chose from the wide selection.  Bread at Robuchon has always been a serious affair, and it was not different here.

But the real excitement tonight was the butter.  They finally got around to getting themselves some from Bordier!  Waiters came and used a dinner spoon to scrape butter from these two big lumps... very impressive indeed.  Robuchon bread + Bordier butter... heaven!

We started with tarte fine croustillante aux cèpes de sous-bois.  Cèpes are in season, and shrooms are always yummy when you sautée them.  Nice layer of finely chopped cèpes in between thin layers of crispy filo.

Le gazpacho de cerises avec un lacté de brebis givré aux éclats de pistaches à l'huile de basilic - interesting to see that this was made with some cherries, which gave it a deeper color and slightly higher acidity.  The goat's milk sorbet was really milky, and the interplay between savory and sour flavors was fun.  We also saw the first appearance of the gold foil...

We ran out of the white wine but weren't ready for the red, so we asked for the wine list to get ourselves another bottle.  We must have looked like tech retards, because they didn't give us their new, cool iPad-based wine list...which my friends at the other table got to play with.  We got the traditional big book instead.  Pout.  OK... so the wine list is impressive in its original form, too... It is, after all, pretty much the largest and best wine list in Asia!

The 1992 Henri Clerc Batard-Montrachet took a bit of time, but we had a fine bottle of wine in front of us when it finally opened up.  The nose was pretty funky at first, with a hint of straw, wheat and definitely camphor - smelling like some kind of Chinese medicinal tonic that one rubs on oneself to relieve muscle aches...  From the second pour, some toast emerged along with ripeness and sweetness, with corn and almost nutty nose.  Very perfurmed on the palate as well as the finish.  Not bad at all!

Le duo de foie gras d'oie et d'artichaut violet en salade mêlée aux copeaux de parmigiano reggiano - nice, but honestly I was disappointed in the quantity of foie.  For the first time that I can remember, I actually thought artichoke was delicious - which is kind of an achievement.

Le crémeux d'oursins tremblotant sous une émulsion mousseuse au wasabi - very interesting dish, except for another appearance of the cursed gold foil.  The sea urchin was creamy and sweet, while I was surprised by the light flavors of the wasabi emulsion.  Underneath it all was a delicious lobster mousseline.  The most interesting dish of the evening.

Le homard des Iles Chausey Rôti au beurre salé et un bouillon épicé de riz nacré aux pistils de safran - a very yummy dish, flavor-wise.  Soooo full of lobster flavor... I couldn't help but lap up the bouillon.  The young peas were not peeled, and I found a couple of them with pretty thick skins.  The lobster was unevenly cooked, and I found a couple of pieces to be a little overdone.  Downright disappointing in this respect.  An opinion which SONFA expressed and I concurred.

Le poulet fermier ivre de Château Chalon mitonné doucement en cocotte, fricassée de craterelles et de girolles au jus - Froggie just about flew off the handle when we received the menu by email.  Initially it was "poulet de Loue", which is nothing special and one can buy in any Froggie supermarket...  It did turn out to be an interesting way to do chicken, broiled in a cocotte with fragrant shrooms like girolles and black trumpets.  The use of Château Chalon was pretty interesting, and the fragrance somehow reminded me of Taiwanese sesame oil chicken (麻油雞), where rice wine was used.  Chicken itself was pretty tender and juicy... The famous Robuchon mash was as divine as ever, but I was already too stuffed to be able to finish it...

1985 Dominique Laurent Latricieres-Chambertin - we pre-ordered this bottle, and the sommelier decided to open it as we were running out of our first bottle of white - without realizing that we would be ordering another bottle.  It was a while before we got to taste the bottle, and we were concerned that there would be too much aeration.  Nose of mushrooms and grilled meats.  Pretty muted at first but developed well after a while.  Light and elegant.

Les baies noires de Bourgogne glacées, lait d'amande douce, caramel Bourdaloue, paillettes de cassis - the kitchen redeemed itself somewhat with the first dessert.  Lots of cassis around, which I love dearly, and the sweet almond cream was pretty rich and yummy.  But the killer was the Bourdaloue - a mini version that was simply awesome... especially the caramel on top.  Wow!

Une symphonie chocolatée, compote de mendiants à la liqueur de mirabelles - the chocolate thingy was pretty good... nicely balanced by the slightly sour compote at the bottom.

These were pretty cute, but I just didn't have any room for them...  I was way too stuffed, and just a little buzzed from all the wine...

We were all given bags containing a very love lemon pound cake on the way out.  This moist, fragrant cake made for a great breakfast the next morning...

Joël and his team came out to greet the diners, as was expected.  Just when it was to be our turn, he and the team abruptly ran off somewhere else.  I thought it was gonna be a repeat of what happened to be at Arzak, where Juan Marie Arzak repeatedly dissed my friends and I by running off and not talking to us.  Fortunately Joël did return some time later, and Froggie totally became a groupie by yapping with the man in French.  She got her wish of hugging him and didn't even come close to be tackled by his team of security guards...

Honestly, the dinner was a little disappointing.  While there weren't any "bad" dishes, there were very few surprises - and not a whole lot of creativity.  I guess the premium I paid was for the opportunity to take a picture with Joël...

The wine service was... shall we say... "commercial".  Basically Mathieu Gaignon - the sommelier - and his staff just kept refilling our glasses quickly.  I guess they were trying to sell more bottles of wine... and I find this type of behavior really annoying.  What had me really fuming, though, took place before we even arrived in Macau.  We had asked Mathieu for the evening's menu since we wanted to choose the right wines to match our food.  Mathieu replied that the menu had yet to be finalized, then proceeded to suggest that we "start with some Champagne, have some white wines then a red wine."  OH REALLY.....?!  Is THAT how you're supposed to do it...?  What a revelation....

Anyway... I made the mistake of booking a late-night ferry as I didn't want to stay in Macau overnight.  It was definitely a painful journey back to Hong Kong...


Unknown said...

Hello Peech! i recently stumbled onto your blog and find your comments real, and you eat and drink very very well. kudos!

ill be eating in macau robuchon galera this week and was wondering if you can recommend what wine (red) should i order. i ate there last year and the sommelier recommended the wines but we werent wowed. our budget is around 1000-2000 mop.. also would you know how much the markup in robuchon wines are?

what other restos would you recommend in macau? im not too fond of macanese food. we're thinking of trying beijing kitchen, aurora or the 8?


Peech said...

You can browse the entire winelist online. I'd go for older, good vintage Burgundies from lesser-known producers. Markup is not as bad as elsewhere and it is honestly the best list in Asia that I have seen.

I mostly prefer Macanese/Portuguese food when I'm in Macau, but occasionally I'll do Tim's Kitchen. Dunno about the others you mentioned...


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