February 26, 2015

The touring chef

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Tonight was one of those rare occasions when I accepted an invitation from a PR to attend a tasting.  Most of the handful of invites that come my way really aren't all that interesting, but this was different.  Chef Alain Devahive Tolosa - whose cuisine I first came across at my dinner with Ferran Adria - is embarking on an Asian tour with Ritz-Carlton Hotels, and for the next few days he's at Ozone in the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong.  This guy's one of Ferran's disciples, and I wanted to see what he's up to after parting ways with the guys at Catalunya.

We started the evening with a couple of cocktails at the bar...

This melon cocktail - done as a spherification - was served on melon cubes topped with bits of jamón serrano.

The sangria was served with a layer of fruit foam, along with thin slices of strawberries and kumquat.

We moved to our private dining area just outside the kitchen, and the chef proceeded to give us a demonstration of spherification - which naturally led to the first in a series of snacks...

Spherical olive - very true to the original at elBulli, which was no surprise...

Peanuts with crystallized honey - pretty nice, although these would be better as petits fours, no?

2009 Parés Baltà Cava Blanca Cuisiné - rounded on the palate with a slight bitter finish.  Not a fan.

The next two definitely reminded me of the deep-fried seafood snacks I had at elBulli.

Nori seaweed with sesame

Calamari with saffron and kimchi salt - nice little kick.

Ibérico ham croquette - more spherification, and this time it's a new take on jamön croquetas.  Very nice.

Mollete bun with hare royale - I was sooo looking forward to this, but alas, this was disappointing.  I absolutely love lièvre à la royale, especially all the rich, heavy flavors from blood, liver...etc.  This, however, was a very, very toned-down version.

2012 Belondrade y Lurton - fresh, fruity, and tropical nose, with a little minerals.  Completely unoaked, which may account for the very bland palate and zero finish.  Almost like a Pinot Grigio... which makes it a great food wine since it can't interfere with anything...

Oyster with white gazpacho and impregnated cucumber - this was really nice... especially the gazpacho and the cucumber.  Wonderful acidity along with salty flavors - as well as cold and refreshing.

Avocado and king crab wrap with caviar - a dish that I've had at Catalunya before, and tonight it was simply beautiful.  The king crab in the middle, the salmon roe, caviar... and that amazing shellfish sauce.  Wow!  Almost my favorite dish of the evening.  Almost.

Mushroom infusion with tofu, Parmesan cheese and truffle air - very delish, with all the mushroom and truffle flavors coming together.  The little enoki mushrooms were a nice touch.

Mediterranean red prawn carpaccio - O-M-F-G!!!  By far the best dish of the evening, this was so awesome I would happily give up just about everything else for another serving of this.  Very, very thin slices of gambas de Palamós, with deep-fried garlic chips to deliver that feel of gambas al ajillo.  The taste of it was just amazing.  To make it even better, this was served with a pool of foam made from the prawn heads... and some of the prawn legs which have been deep-fried.

Every part of this amazing prawn was put to good use, and I kept licking my lips after everything was gone.  In fact, I wanted to lick my plate.

2012 Vizcarra Ramos Venta las Vacas - nose of ripe fruit, forest, and vanilla.  Still pretty young, but the tannins weren't too harsh.

Crispy suckling pig belly with scallop and artichoke - we didn't ask about the origin of the suckling pig, but g4gary suspects it to be cochinillo from Segovia - since that's what is served at Catalunya.  Pretty tasty for sure, with very strong pork flavors that I like.  They weren't kidding about "scallop"... since there was just one, but it was cooked mi-cuit.  The artichoke chips were nice.

Popcorn with lactic caramel - this was done as a "sandwich", with delicious popcorn ice cream and caramelized Marscapone.  Very nice hazelnut crunch at the bottom.

Kumquat crystals, miso and bitter almonds - I gotta be honest... I wasn't a big fan of the layer of miso cream at the bottom.  At least, not on its own... because I don't like desserts that are savory.  But once you started mixing it with the kumquat jelly dots, the sweetness and savory flavors neutralized each other to create beautiful harmony on the tongue.  Those toasted white sesame seeds also add a nice little touch.  I've never been a fan of the sponge cakes that pastry chefs seem to love these days, so the black sesame sponge cake didn't do anything for me.  But that quenelle of kumquat sorbet?  SUBLIME.  No, fucking kick-ass!  Once you put all the elements together in the mouth... a little slice of heaven.

A very delicious meal from start to finish, with quite a few home runs.  The menu was also priced fairly, although a few of us were left somewhat unsatiated thanks to the small portion sizes.  The PR asked us whether we were still hungry... Well, the truth was that we weren't left hungry, but we just wanted a few more bites...

So after bidding farewell to our hosts, g4gary and I decided to hit a place supposedly famous for steamed rice flour rolls (腸粉).  Apparently Tong Kee (堂記腸粉) had lost its lease but had moved into Tong Shui Po (糖水舖), a neighboring shop selling desserts.  Unfortunately, the cook responsible for the rice flour rolls was still on holiday, so we couldn't order the good stuff...

Rice flour rolls with dried shrimp (蝦米腸)

Stir-fried rice vermicelli (炒米粉) - ordered this because it's less common on menus, but this wasn't anything special.  But hey, the price was right...

A little too much cheap food at the end of the evening... which I kinda regret.  I'll just have to go back another night for the real rice flour rolls...

1 comment:

Jack said...

Nice to read about your very honest review. I appreciate how were vocal about what you liked and what you didn’t. it will help the chef improve and create even better dishes in the future.


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