April 3, 2016

Three-eighths lunch

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The Man in the White T-Shirt pinged me.  Would I be free for lunch today?  I had plans to be somewhere during the day, but I figured that my plans could be rejigged.  After all, he usually calls me when there's a guest chef around at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.  And sure enough, André Chiang from Restaurant André is in town for a couple of days.  So I made sure I was available for lunch.

A quick glance at the menu today confirmed that I hadn't had any of them before, which was a relief.  It's been a couple of years since I was last at André, and it's good to see what he's come up with during this time.

Stone crab and sea urchin tartar, elderflower-pickled cucumber, ice pebbles of cucumber drops - from the 'puréte' side of André's Octaphilosophy, most of the ingredients here were raw and retained their purity of flavors.  Compressed cucumber discs, cucumber flowers, cucumber sorbet made into ice pebbles, raw rings of (pearl?) onions, sea urchin, crab meat, fromage blanc, and even a little spring of sansho leaves (木の芽) as garnish.

The dish was everything I would expect from André - exactly demonstrating the purity of flavors.  Thanks to the cucumber you have very light, clean, and refreshing flavors - helped by the cool temperature of the sorbet.  Then the lightness continues with the fromage blanc, progressing to slightly stronger and sweeter flavors of the crab, and finally the sea urchin.

Just beautiful.  I'm a happy camper just after the first dish.  And a big step forward compared to the puréte dish I had twice in Singapore.

Squid spaghetti cooked in kelp jus, crispy rice soufflé and silky potato mousse - from the 'sel' side of Octaphilosophy - which means no salt was actually added to the dish.  I thought this might be similar to what I had at RAW earlier this year, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

The double-boiled squid ribbons were certainly more fully-cooked than I had expected, but the texture was just about perfect - delivering a springy, bouncy feedback on the bite while still being soft.  The umami from the kelp powder was incredible.  Then you've got some caviar on top, although the staff from André admitted she didn't know what type of caviar was being used today (they use Kristal at André).  Finally you've got the rice crispies sprinkled on top like the Japanese furikake (振り掛け) - added both a little crunch as well as some nice toasty notes.  Interestingly, there was a bed of mashed potatoes at the bottom of it all, and some diced onions mixed in.

"Granola" of wild grains, black garlic tapenade and kurobuta pork belly with black truffle, potato skin-cacao broth - don't recall being told which part of Octaphilosophy this was, but possible 'texture'?  A savory version with lemon confit, multi-grains on top of tranches of delicious pork belly.  There were also Brussels sprouts and pearl onions in the mix.  Yum.

Carbonated red grapes, white peach parfait, honey ice cream on raspberry ice - we were asked to break the top layer of raspberry ice to get to the contents below.

Underneath the ice, there were raspberries, strawberries, 'carbonated' grapes (which were macerated and left to ferment for 48 hours before put into a freezer), pomegranate seeds, red currants, chiffonade of perilla leaves, jelly that seemed to be made of bergamot, and both honey and white peach flavors in the mix.  Purple perilla leaves on top made it look extra pretty.  Loved this as it combined acidity, sweetness, a little creaminess... all in a cool, refreshing spoonful.

Restaurant André Camembert - this wasn't on the lunch menu but somehow arrived at our tables.  Apparently it's now André's signature pre-dessert, which came in a little box designed to look like it's Camembert...

And it sure does look like a petit Camembert, n'est-ce pas?

We were asked to eat a chunk first, and of course this ain't no Camembert.  It's actually a bavarois with burrata and fromage blanc inside, which was fairly light and airy.  The "cheese" did come with a "rind", which was a thin layer of yuba (湯葉).  With a corner missing, a quenelle of hay ice cream was wedged into the opening.  We were told that the hay came from the Jockey Club's Beas River Country Club.  Very nice.

We had gotten into the habit of BYO at these lunches, and today we ended up opening 4 bottles... which wasn't bad at all.

2003 Penfolds Yattarna - pretty ripe nose with notes of straw.  Surprisingly good acidity despite the ripeness, and kinda fat on the palate instead of being lean.  Still very sweet on the nose after 1½ hours.

Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru - sweet and caramelized nose.  Ripe on the palate but still retains nice acidity.

2000 Bernard Morey Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Vide Bourse - buttery and very toasty nose.  Ripe and sweet on the palate.

2007 Henri Bonneau Châteauneuf-du-Pape - sooooo fragrant and beautiful.  Minty with ripe fruit and a bit of leather.  Such a pleasure to drink now.  What a treat this was!  Very grateful to Jonas for bringing this as we both mourn Henri's passing.

We took the opportunity to snap a nice picture of the four chefs together including André...

A very enjoyable afternoon with great food, good wines, and wonderful company.  Many thanks to the Man in the White T-Shirt for the kind invitation.  Glad to have had an update on André's creations, and surprised to hear that - contrary to what you see across Oncle Joël's empire - there are no overlapping dishes among the handful of restaurants under André's flag... across Paris, Singapore, and Taipei.  That can't be easy...

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