December 22, 2014

The best pigeon in Hong Kong

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Now that the powers that be have decided that they'd like to see me continue skewering reviewing restaurants for them, it was time to pick another one.  Fortunately for me, one of the new places which has just opened up around here happens to be ON Dining Kitchen and Lounge - where two of the partners are people I've known and admired for a long time.

This being a review and all, I didn't want to alert anyone to my presence, so I had my dining companion make the reservation.  As we rounded the corner on the lounge level just before slipping quietly down the staircase, I caught a glimpse of my good friend Jeremy Evrard... and kinda hoped that he didn't see me.  Truth be told, any attempt to be incognito here was always bound to fail miserably, because before I even sat down at our table, Chef Philippe Orrico saw me and came over.  Ahhhh well, I tried...

Soon Jeremy came over to greet us, and wondered why he hadn't seen my name on the reservations list...  I'm glad to see my old friend, looking very chic and relaxed without his trademark suits.  The place is buzzing and I have no doubt they will be even more successful here than at Upper Modern Bistro.

We each got something to drink to start us off.  While my friend asked the sommelier to recommend a glass of red, I decided to try out the ONegroni that I've been reading about.  How many places have you been to where the barman (or shall we use the more chichi term of "mixologist"?) serves you a drink made from his own liquor (vermouth in this case)?  This was made with Mancino Vermouth, and left in clay pot to sit for a day.  This is said to allow the different elements to mesh together, and I gotta say... the result was stunning.  It really was much, much smoother than your average negroni - which could be aggressively bitter.  I didn't want to get buzzed quickly, so I nursed this over the course of dinner.  Very satisfying...

A little Parmesan wafer to start us off... which wasn't bad.

My friend and I have similar tastes and usually end up wanting to order the same dishes... so tonight we agreed that I would choose my dishes first.

63° eggs, sautéed mushrooms, bisque and yuzu - even though this was one of Philippe's signature dishes, I decided to leave this for my friend instead of ordering it myself.  Needless to say... this was beautiful.  The wobbly egg, with the hearty flavors of mushrooms and the wonderful fragrance of winter truffle... the crunch of croûtons, and the citrus perfume of yuzu.  The lobster bisque was rich but there was also a good amount of acidity for balance.  The perfect choice for a winter evening.

Tourteau crab, lobster, vegetables, chilled potato sauce - I had originally ordered something similar from the dinner menu, but Jeremy suggested that I take the variation that was on offer for lunch.  There was a bed of finely diced vegetables at the bottom, on top of which was a layer of tourteau crab meat, followed by lobster carpaccio at the top and garnished with frisée.  Finally, some chilled potato sauce and finely diced leeks - somewhat reminiscent of Vichyssoise - complete the dish.

I had just had something similar earlier this month, and I love this variation, too!  Very, very refreshing, and just wonderful flavors.

Quails and lobster pie, bisque sauce with piquillos - my friend took the pie stuffed with quail, lobster and foie gras.  Very hearty and rich, but it works.  The lobster bisque sauce was flavored with piquillos for a tiny bit of kick.

There was also a lobster salad on the side...

Roasted pigeon, artichokes, lemon chutney - O-M-G... I don't think I've tasted a better pigeon since... maybe this pop-up dinner earlier this year.  Or maybe even all the way back to Burgundy in 2010!  Jeremy asked me how I wanted my pigeon done, and I told him I'll take it the way Philippe himself would take it - rosé.

Yup, it's pink inside alright... and I was in heaven the second I put the first chunk of the Racan pigeon into my mouth.  This was so soft, so tender, silky smooth almost to the point of slippery.  Was this cooked sous vide?  I forgot to ask, but I honestly don't remember the last time the texture turned out as fine as this... Served with a fricassée of artichokes, greens, and a mix of pigeon jus, mustard seeds, and lemon chutney.

Oh yeah, I grabbed all the pieces by the bone with my hands and stripped them of as much of the meat as I could.  It was THAT good.

Warm madeleines, apple chantilly, cinnamon - the madeleines were a little dry...

...and I only had a tiny dab of the chantilly, which was OK.

Fresh mandarin, sorbet and tuile biscuit - a wonderfully refreshing dessert.  I've always had a soft spot for mandarin oranges, and this was just perfect.

The more concise review written for the South China Morning Post's 48 Hours is here (requires subscription).

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