April 2, 2017

Golden Waves of the Riviera

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It's only been 12 hours since the end of our wonderful dinner last night, but Hello Kitty dragged ourselves out of bed this morning and made our way to the Centurion Restaurant at the Hong Kong Jockey Club in Shatin.  They've invited another chef from a restaurant with 3 macarons, and this time it was Arnaud Donckele from La Vague d'Or in St. Tropez.

None of us are regular visitors to the Riviera, so to be honest, we weren't familiar with the chef who, back in 2013, supposedly became the youngest 3-star chef that year.  But we were looking forward to getting a taste of the south of France.

We started with a few amuses bouches:
Carrot fritters picked up by hand, Cajun sauce - I don't know how the sauce was "Cajun", but there was plenty of acidity there.

Local shellfish coated with a lemon balm and cardamom cloud - raw Fine de Claire oyster with lemongrass mousse, and some herring caviar that I could have sworn was Avruga caviar.

Black truffle and onion country style tarte - the warm brioche with some cheese on top was pretty tasty, thanks to the black truffle and onion stuffing.

We were also served two different types of bread from the chef.  I don't recall many guest chefs who insisted on making their own breads to go with the menu...

Black olive bread - one could certainly see plenty of black olive bits scattered within the loaf, and the distinctive fragrance made its presence known.  Served in a stone "bibimbap" bowl.

Rosemary bread - this was the tastier of the two with a crispier crust, although I must confess that the fragrance of rosemary wasn't obvious to me - even though it's my least favorite herb.  Served in a Chinese bamboo steamer.

Zitone pasta stuffed with foie gras and truffles with melted mountain Parmesan - with artichoke purée, black truffle duck jus, basil cappuccino, and topped with purple artichokes stewed with basil as well as fresh black truffle.  An hommage to Jean-Louis Nomicos, who helmed Lasserre when Chef Donckele worked there.  This was hearty and delicious.  Cutting or biting into the tubular pasta would force the foie and truffle stuffing to ooze out, and when that takes place in your mouth... the feeling is pretty satisfying.  The dish still feels a little wintery.

Braised codfish, delicately smoked - with this dish, we are definitely basking in the sunshine of the French Riviera. The tender and succulent cod - slow-cooked for 45 minutes - did indeed impart light, smoky flavors from quick grilling.  The "fish soup from southern France", which didn't taste like bouillabaisse with its acidity, came with clams, tomatoes and zucchini scented with verbena.  Garnished with a green and yellow zucchini rose on top of the cod, and a sprinkle of roasted pine nuts.

Granite of thyme flower, sorbet of fennel of Florence - with a splash of Absinthe at the table.

This was meant as a palate cleanser, but it was sooo damn delicious!  The fennel in the sorbet was pretty strong, and the 69 types of herbs that went into the Absinthe made it outstanding.

Veal tenderloin a la Carqueirannaise - with cherry tomatoes, sage gnocchi, and "dentelle" of tête de veau.  The veal was very, very tender.  Just perfect.

Before moving on to desserts, a glass of citrus juice with herbs was poured as another palate cleanser.  Very smooth.

And this is where service went wrong.  We still had plenty of wine with us, and some of us wanted to finish the wines before we get to dessert, so we asked the waitstaff to hold off on serving us dessert.

But they either didn't hear us - which was unlikely because several of us voiced our preference - or they just completely ignored us and didn't tell the kitchen.  Our dessert came a few minutes later.

Delicate layers of citrus - a very interesting millefeuille, with what looked like orange and grapefruit slices topped with a layer of citrus sorbet, with another layer of cream on top.  On the side you've got lines of citrus pulp, powder, as well as a drizzle of olive oil flavored with Buddha's hand citrus.  This was refreshing and delicious.

Aaaaand some of us finally got to witness the transformation of Ro Ro into Good Chucky.  She was upset that the waiters ignored our request to hold the dessert, so she refused to touch her plate.  It sat there until the sorbet melted into a puddle...  And when Chef Donckele came out to greet us with Chef Shaun Anthony, this was brought to their attention.  A new serving was promptly delivered, and Good Chucky slowly went back to being the Ro Ro that we know and love.

End of desires "Fragrances of My Native Normandy"
Sorbet of baked apples and kaffir lime

Manosque apple rolled into an open rose - served on meringue and purée of green apple enhanced with kaffir lime.

This was an extra dessert from the kitchen.  Chocolate mousse at the bottom, with coffee ice cream, and topped with a ginger and cardamom-scented coffee cream.  Very yum.

As usual us winos brought our own alcohol...

2003 Françoise Bedel L'Âme de la Terre - nicely oxidized and caramelized nose with minerals.

2004 Philipponnat Clos de Goisses - leaner and more elegant, more focused.  A little sweet on the nose.

2011 Ram's Hill Sauvignon Blanc - surprisingly very oxidized and probably too ripe. Fragrant with lots of honey on the nose, along with sweet grass, water chestnut, and a little poached pear.

2004 Nicolas Joly Clos de la Coulée Serrant - pretty fragrant nose with lots of herbs.  Kinda ripe on the palate but still got that acidity for balance.

2012 Dominus Napanook - served slightly too warm.  A little coconut and exotic spices, smoke, and some pungent animal notes.  Still tannic.

This was a nice and relaxing long lunch on a beautiful Sunday. As it was a race day, we even stuck around and watched one of the races from the balcony outside the restaurant...

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