July 11, 2011

Black truffles and red prawns

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As I seem to be doing the rounds through some of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, I guess it made sense to go back to 8½ Otto e Mezzo.  It's got to be the one "Western" restaurant I have dined at the most over the last year or so, due in no small part to the generous policy on corkage.

I didn't want to be totally boring, so I actually picked something that's in season and not on the menu... although I really was tempted to order two pastas, just so I could have more of the awesome carbonara...

Smoked salmon with vodka cream - not bad.

Confit of organic egg, celery root purée, hazelnut oil, roast chanterelle mushroom and black winter truffle - my little Birdbrain, who calls herself Australian, asked why the Australian truffles were called "winter truffle" when we're having it during (our) summer...  Danilo came over and shaved a generous heap of truffles into the bowl.

Needless to say, the scent of the tuber dominated and very little else mattered... although the egg was definitely very delish.  The chanterelle was a nice touch, but more of a sideshow.  Mmm mmm good.  Used up some bread so I could scoop up the runny yolk and soft egg white.

Artisanal chitarra with tomato and red king prawns - how could I say no to more carabineros, especially when they're in season?!  Very savory and full of the ocean's flavors.  The chitarra had lots of bite, and the tomato sauce was just lovely.  As usual, I worked my way through the entire head with my hands and mouth, and the prawn flavors were all over my lips... so much so that I couldn't get rid of it even when I tried.

Crispy pear tart - I had about half of this thing, and it was delicious as usual.  The vanilla ice cream was good, too.  Nice pairing with the wine.

1971 Egon Muller Riesling Scharzhofberger Auslese - a very special wine, and it drank beautifully tonight.  Lots of plastic, mushrooms and minerals on the nose.  Actually it was softer than I expected, with lemon and honey. White flower and other floral notes came out mid-way, and the classic petrol notes finally emerged after a while.  Acidity was surprisingly high, but that's probably the reason why wines from this stellar vintage can last so long.  As I expected, though, this wine needs to be drunk fairly cold, as acidity becomes really prominent once it warms up.

This was another lovely meal, but once again it was marred by sub-par service.  While the tall and dashing (at least Birdbrain thought so) sommelier took very good care of the wine - including filtering it so that no glass shards from the broken neck got into our glasses, the same couldn't be said of the other staff.

The bespectacled Chinese captain-dude - who took the decanter out of the bucket without any idea which table it belonged to, let alone what treasure was inside the decanter - decided to give me a huge pour of the wine mere seconds after I had just told him I only wanted a little.  I was fuming again.  I hate having wine poured for me at restaurants, especially by idiots who don't know anything about a bottle of wine unless it was purchased from the restaurant list with a huge price tag.  I subsequently reverted back to my usual practice of forbidding anyone else touching my bottle or decanter.

The other waiters didn't fare much better.  Why do they insist on clearing your plate quickly, when the positioning of your silverware clearly indicates that you are not finished with your plate?  This place has 2 Michelin stars, for chrissake!  Don't they even provide basic training to their waitstaff?!  And when there's still food on the guest's plate, shouldn't you at least ask if the guest is finished, before reaching out to grab the plate?

It's such a shame.  I loooooove the food here, but lately the service quality has been dismal.  I would have thought that after 3 years of having the rubberman around, we could expect improvement in all areas including service.  Guess not...

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