February 13, 2017

A lifetime of achievements

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I had the honor of being invited to dinner tonight at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, to celebrate the occasion of Chef Umberto Bombana being the recipient of the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award for Asia in 2017.  Chef Bombana has been a well-known personality in Hong Kong for the last two decades that I've been in town, and he's helped put Hong Kong on the global dining map - in part due to the white truffle feasts at his restaurants - so this is an award that I feel is well-deserved.

Chef Bombana made a very short speech thanking his supporters, and asked us to enjoy our dinner. I had no doubt that we would!  But first, a little aperitif...

Mattia Vezzola Costaripa Brut - very easy to drink.  A little floral, a hint of minerals, and a little toasty.

Purple potato emulsion, root in truffle jus, "melanosporum" black truffle - what a nice way to kick off dinner with this amuse bouche!  Below the delicious layer of purple potato emulsion was a pool of vegetable purée, with braised green vegetables like broccoli and root vegetables.  Of course, the slices of black truffle on top made all the difference.  Such amazing fragrance!

Confit abalone carpaccio, sweet pepper and semi-dried tomato, royal oscietra caviar - the red abalone from New Zealand was apparently cooked confit at 80°C for 18 hours, and those thin slices were indeed very tender.  With bell pepper and tomato compote on top, and not surprisingly, the caviar on top made its presence known by packing a punch.

2015 Argiolas Vermentino di Sardegna Merì - very floral and tropical fruits, with sweet peaches, and almost a hint of bergamot.

Royal langoustine, sea urchin, scampi jus - the langoustine from the Faroe Islands came with Hokkaido sea urchin at the bottom, confit tomato, eggplant, asparagus and zucchini, and langoustine jus.

The langoustine was crispy on the outside, and very, very delicious.  The langoustine jus was just... MUAH!

2014 La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva Mirum - aged in stainless steel on less and not in oak.  Actually I didn't find this interesting, but it's OK as a food wine.  Ripe on the palate with a little acidity.

Burrata cheese ravioli, cherry tomato and basil, zucchini compote - Bombana always delivers when it comes to pasta, and these ravioli were simple and beautiful.  The Burrata came with a little Marscapone inside the wrapper, and they were served with tomatoes, basil, and Taggiasca olives.  I just love how pure and classic the flavors were.

2012 Duemani CiFRA - nose of sweet fruit with lots of herbs, a bit of cedar.  Nice and fragrant nose.  No aging in oak here.

Challans duck, foie gras and spiced organic pear - now we had a little WTF moment here.  The restaurant manager serving us told us that Challans was situated "in the northern part of Bordeaux"... Nope.  Sorry.  Challans is in Loire, not Bordeaux.  Also a wine region, just the wrong one.  Of course, he's hardly the first guy to get it wrong when it comes to Challans.  A few years ago there was also this guy at Amber who told me that Challans was in Burgundy.  It really makes me wonder how people at 2- or 3-star restaurants get shit like this wrong.

But all was forgiven with the first bite of the duck.  Mon dieu!  This was perfect!  It's easy to see from the color that the execution was just about perfect - still rosé in the middle while the skin was crispy.  The chunk of foie gras on the side was soft like buttah, and the spiced pear was very, very nice.  Hands down my favorite dish tonight, by far.

2011 Pietradolce Archineri Rosso - more leather notes, very fragrant.  A little more tannic on the palate.

Before the next dish is served, Chef Bombana came in to do his thang... which was shaving truffle, of course.  I was seated at the opposite end of the long table, and I could smell the beautiful fragrance from my seat without having a plate in front of me.  These black beauties from Périgord were simply amazing.

Black truffle "fassone", braised green vegetables with "melanosporum" black truffle - the veal comes from the Fassone breed in Piedmont, and was coated with a nice layer of breading on the outside.  There was a pile of black truffle slices all over my plate, but I ain't complainin'!  Especially when a small chunk of truffle ended up on my plate.

The Piedmontese cattle carries a genetic mutation that causes excessive muscle growth that reduces marbling, and it's clear that this was a pretty lean piece of meat.  As this was a piece of veal, it was still very tender despite being very lean.

2009 Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino - this was reasonably fragrant, with a little bit of leather, and softer tannins.

Roasted Tasmanian cherry with honey gelato - the "roasting" didn't seem to have much effect on these cherries, which were very delicious on their own.  I could definitely taste the distinctive flavors from the honey, although the gelato was also pretty creamy and smooth.  Very nice and refreshing.  Such a simple and happy dessert.

2014 Tasca d'Almerita Capofaro Malvasia di Salina - the berries are harvested around mid-September and sun-dried.  Showing acetone, honey, and stone fruit notes.

Black truffle gelato, chantilly cream, crispy hazelnut and pistachio - YES!!! More truffle!!!  This was a beautiful dessert, even without the addition of black truffle on top.  The hazelnuts were a great addition, providing that wonderful fragrance inside the mouth after one chews on them.  The small pieces of millefoglie were pretty fluffy, and added to the illusion that this was a "light" dessert...

The petits fours here are always good, especially the nutty milk chocolate.

We were given these mini ceramic pots with chocolates inside as gifts.  So cute!

This was a wonderful dinner, and I was very grateful to have been able to be a part of Chef Bombana's celebrations for receiving this recognition.  I look forward to seeing him receive the physical award at the ceremony for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in Bangkok next week.

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