July 24, 2013

Just ain't the way it was

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At long last, something we have been dreading for a while is about to happen.  Chef Vincent Thierry - who has overseen the kitchen of my beloved Caprice ever since its opening - is leaving Hong Kong for bigger and better things.  Over the years we have come to enjoy many wonderful meals and delicious creations from his team, including this mind-blowing lunch with a tailor made menu.  Naturally a few of us decided to visit the restaurant one more time before Chef Vincent's departure to the Land of (Fake) Smiles… We also know that it wouldn't be long before Jeremy, too, would leave us...

We had been reading about the latest New York Times' review of Daniel, where two reviewers booked separate tables on the same evening to see whether the familiar face would receive significantly different treatment from the unknown face.  The whole gang of us have profiles within the computer system at Caprice, and are lucky enough to receive special treatment when we visit.  However at the risk of sounding like complete spoiled brats, we have noticed that things haven't been the same recently…  Somehow, in very subtle ways, the atmosphere isn't as warm and welcoming as we have become accustomed to.  I guess it's only natural when there's a reasonable amount of staff turnover and you've got fewer familiar faces around...

Having said all that, I was fortunate to have bumped into Sebastien as soon as I went through the door. Ever with a smile on his face, my mood was lifted instantly.  I was also happy to see my friends, who have arrived and were busy posting an all-important picture…

Our evening started with the first amuse bouche, which were paninis with tomato, ham, (Gruyère?) cheese and green olives.

Our second amuse bouche came in an egg shell, filled with black truffle gelée, quail egg, white bean mousse, pancetta, black truffle coulis and topped with a piece of croûton.  It's hard not to like the egg and truffle combination…  Really hard…

Before we move on to our starter, though, the kitchen sent out something else… Ever since Catalunya opened a few months ago, the bikini has been all the rage around town.  Imagine my surprise when this showed up at our table: black truffle panini, Spanish ham and mixed green leaves.

This version, of course, was way, way better… instead of black truffle sauce, you've got a layer of fresh Australian black truffle slices.  Yum.

Langoustine lasagne, veal sweetbreads and chanterelle mushrooms in shellfish bisque - I ordered this because it's an old favorite of mine ever since I first tried it more than 3 years ago.  Tonight, however, I had the most disappointing version.  One of my langoustines was mushy, which isn't something I expect from a restaurant with 3 stars. I also felt that the shellfish bisque was terribly over seasoned tonight.  Normally I would want some bread to soak up the delicious nectar, but tonight I needed to rinse my tongue with water.

Iberico pork rack, buttered savoy cabbage and black truffle in natural jus - I did a double-take when this arrived… in fact there were two of us who did.  We thought we'd ordered the pork rack, but where was the bone?!  Cutting out the bone, the fat and leaving us with the lean hearts wasn't cool… we LIKE the fat!  I do have to say, though, that what was left was incredibly tender and succulent for what it was.  Perfect execution.  But please leave me with more fat next time and not just a thin sliver, especially since this was ibérico!  In the end, the two of us both enjoyed the savoy cabbage more than the pork…  Needless to say the black truffle slices and the jus were delicious.

We were all too full, so we passed up both cheese and dessert - something almost unprecedented for this lot.  I nibbled on some chocolates and caramels while trying to finish off the wine…

1986 Cos d'Estournel - drinking exactly as it should… with nose of smoke, ripe fruits and grilled meats.

As it turns out, neither Vincent nor Jeremy were in the house tonight, which was a little disappointing.  Ludovic, Sebastien and team did take pretty good care of us, but it just didn't feel the same.  It wasn't just the food but the atmosphere itself.  We would want to go back one more time while Vincent is still in town, but we're coming up to the end of an era - at least for a few of us.

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