April 16, 2016

A feminine touch

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It's been a while since I last saw My Aussie Cousin, so I was pretty happy that she came to town for a couple of days and gave me the chance to meet up with her... as well as My Birdbrain Cousin.  Not surprisingly I was tasked with choosing the venue for our dinner, and I was choosing between a couple of places that I wanted to revisit.  In the end I decided to go back and have another nibble of Tate Dining Room and Bar.

Chef Vicky Lau was in the house tonight on my second visit, looking pretty focused.  Something that I noticed on my last visit - which became all the more obvious tonight - was that the interiors of the space definitely had the feminine touch.  It's no secret that most fine dining establishments are run and likely financed by men, so it's kinda nice to find subtle evidence of the mistress in charge.

This was my third evening in a row dining out, so I decided once again to choose the shorter Sensualist Menu - despite the fact that the longer menu had carabinero as one of the dishes.  I figured the Bresse chicken and the Alphonso mango would make me happy enough...

Amuse bouche tonight came in a very different presentation compared to my last visit.  The shiso and apple kombucha in the test tube - also flavored with jasmine - was pretty sour on the palate and made me wince a little.  The tomato panna cotta was alright, and the green pea tartlet was pretty tasty.

Shima aji : cauliflower purée / tomato marinated shima aji / tomato sorbet / bonito gelée - from my last visit I know the chef's fondness for tomatoes, so it's not surprising to see it here.  The diced cucumber and tomato sorbet on top of the striped jack was nice, and there was both sweetness and acidity from the cauliflower purée and lemon cream on the side.  I suppose the most interesting aspect of this dish has got to be the bonito gelée...

Scallop : scallop espuma in brik pastry / kimchi daikon / taraba crab meat / black vinegar gel / caviar - kinda interesting (and unexpected) when the stated main ingredient of the dish doesn't come in solid state... but I definitely tasted the flavors of the scallops.  The two small piles red king crab (鱈場蟹) with marinated jellyfish were pretty tasty, as were the discs of kimchi-flavored radish.  Kinda fun to dab some of the avocado cream and black vinegar gel on the crab, too.

Firefly squid : seasonal firefly squid with innards / Taiyouran egg yolk / bread crouton / fermented tofu lime sauce - Japanese firefly squids (螢烏賊) are in season, but I wouldn't have chosen to deep-fry them.  We were asked to break the slow-cooked yolk and dip the squids in it.

Duck foie gras chawanmushi : sweet corn espuma / duck fat maitake mushroom / chestnut / sliced breast of duck - nice and warm comfort food, with soft chunks of chestnut buried in the custard along with foie gras.  The corn espuma on top was a nice touch, but although the small slices of duck breast were very tender, I wasn't really sure why they were there in the first place.

The maitake (舞茸) mushroom was pan-fried in duck fat, but the flavors weren't as rich as I had expected.

Bresse chicken : slow cooked breast of chicken / chicken thigh with shrimp paste / chicken jus / Japanese spring vegetables - the biggest disappointment tonight.  Seriously, to this day I still firmly believe that although Bresse chicken is arguably my favorite breed of chicken to eat, it doesn't work when chefs try to make them into fancy schmancy dishes.  It's best just to grill the damn bird so that the diner can enjoy the crispy, delicious skin.

The two chunks of thigh did come with some skin on top, but honestly they were surprisingly bland.  On the other hand, the slow-cooked breast was surprisingly tender and juicy, but I thought that the accompanying shrimp paste was totally weird.  Alas, this was not a dish that could be saved by a few sautéed girolles or Japanese fiddleheads...

Alphonso mango : exotic flower foam / passion fruit mousse / exotic fruit sauce / alphonso mango frozen parfait / coconut dacquoise - yet another disappointment... Oh, this was a delicious dessert, no doubt.  The "exotic" fruit soup was made with a mixture of pineapple, banana, and mango.  Starting from the bottom, the four layers of the "tower" were: coconut dacquoise, mango parfait, passion fruit mousse, and exotic foam on top.

Very fruity and tropical, and a great way to finish the meal.  But what I really, really wanted during this Alphonso mango season was a dessert where the mango took center stage!  With this thing, the glorious mango just kinda got buried underneath all the other flavors.  Boo!

Zen garden - ah yes, the chef's signature mignardises collection... with passion fruit marshmallow, matcha opéra cake, dark chocolate with sesame ganache, and the "rocher" that looked like black volcanic rocks.  All on a bed of charcoal sugar that we are encouraged to play with using the small rake provided...

Sesame ice cream with matcha foam - this was alright.

Thanks to me playing "big head shrimp" for the day, I wasn't able to pick up the two bottles of wine that I had prepared for dinner tonight... So I decided to stay dry while the ladies picked out some cocktails.

A pretty tasty meal overall, although I missed out on a few other dishes that looked pretty and tasty.  Maybe next time I'll have enough stomach space for the bigger menu.

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