January 20, 2017

The seal claps still

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We were graced by another visit from the King, who is in town for a few days for an event.  A few of us were around to catch up with him, and guess who got to pick the restaurant?  Well... I was trying to pick something interesting without a lengthy tasting menu, since there would only be three or four of us - which pretty much ruled out Chinese.  I was already visiting two of my favorite restaurants earlier in the week, so I was forced to pick something else.

As the King was staying in Wanchai, the idea of revisiting Serge et le Phoque popped into my head.  I had heard that these guys were gonna close up shop, which was surprising given that they had managed to retain their coveted macaron back in November, but hey... what the hell do I know?  It's no secret that lots of restaurants in town were having a hard time, what with ever rising rents and other costs.

So I was kinda surprised when someone actually picked up the phone when I called.  The person on the line was equally surprised, upon hearing me inquire whether they were closing.  Well, I guess that means they ain't going nowhere...

I do have to say, though, that I was remiss in not giving out instructions on getting there to the others.  I was the only one who had visited the restaurant before, and the others all had some trouble finding the rather non-descript space, walking back and forth on the street a few times before suddenly seeing the small neon letters above the door.

The gang even left it up to me to decide whether we would order à la carte or take the chef's menu.  As much as I was tempted to cherry pick exactly what I wanted to eat - and be able to take the dry-aged Galician cote de boeuf - in the end I chickened out and went back to the chef's menu.

Our amuse bouche was half a cherry sitting in a bowl of cherry juice.  The acidity certainly helped whet our appetites, and the toasted buckwheat was a real nice touch.

Buchot mussels: with karashi miso - pretty decent, with a slight kick.

Tapioca: deep fried with Comté cheese and harissa - honestly didn't taste too much of the Comté, although the harissa dip on the side gave things a little kick.

Ylellow tail: cevich, avocado, raspberry - the yellowtail was pretty good, and this being a ceviche and all, it wasn't surprising that the acidity was pretty high.  I guess the raspberry was meant to deliver some sweetness to balance out the acidity, while the avocado would add a little creamy smoothness in the mouth.  Interesting addition, though, of the red onion and celery leaves.

Scallops: pan fried with Cantabria anchovies and yuzu kosho - a dish I remember well from my last visit.  The scallops were nicely done, and the salty flavors came primarily from the Cantabrian anchovy fillet.  The deep-fried garlic leek roots were delicious, and there was some additional umami coming from wafers of shiitake (椎茸) mushrooms.  While the dish was delicious as is, dabbing a little of the yuzukosho (柚子胡椒) on the side of the plate got the tastebuds dancing (and flaming) a little...

Red Mullet: with octopus, squid ink - pretty decent, although I found the octopus (both tentacle as well as the head) to be a lot more interesting than the mullet itself.  The squid ink with smoked garlic on the side added a slightly heavier and more interesting touch.

Cabbage: grilled with beurre noisette - I thought I tasted a slight hint of cumin.  In any case, a generous serving of green veg was much appreciated.

Charlotte potatoes: crushed with salted butter - this was very, very yummy.  If I weren't on a diet, I would have asked for another plate.

Lamb: milk fed from Pyrenees with cauliflower and potatoes - the lamb was absolutely delicious - especially the chop.  I would have gladly taken another two of those...

I decided to go for dessert instead of cheese, and ended up with ones I have already tasted on previous visits.

Lemon cream: with capsicum jelly - always thought the use of capsicum here was interesting.

Dacquoise: almond biscuit, vanilla cream and nougatine - always a crowd favorite, and the chilled vanilla cream was very nice.

Chocolate: tart with umeboshi salt - another crowd favorite.  Can't fault them on this, and the salted plum salt always adds an interesting twist.

I brought a bottle of red, and we decided to order a bottle off the list from a winery that I've been wanting to try for a long time.  This meant the corkage was waived on the bottle I brought.

2013 Gauby Côtes Catalanes Blanc Vieilles Vignes - very cloudy due to extended skin contact and non-filtration.  Initially it smelled like cider and a little pear.  Ripe on the nose and a little honey, but also has a little pungent side to it... a little jarring and elements not integrating well.  Pretty short finish.

2004 Ponsot Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes - opened for 1½ hours prior to serving.  Very fragrant nose with nice fruit, very sweet.  After 2 hours the sweetness in the nose intensified even further, but the palate deteriorated and was no longer pleasant.

It was good to see my old friends again, and I am glad that Serge et le Phoque is still around.  Perhaps I should think about going a little more frequently than once a year...

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