April 28, 2017

Rediscovering an old favorite

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The Specialist wanted to get together for dinner and some wine, and after our original plans of finding a suitable venue with Japanese cuisine fell through, we found ourselves back at Upper Modern Bistro on a Friday evening.  It's always good to be back here, and nowadays this short little stretch of road has two very good restaurants.

I've always gone à la carte here, but tonight the three of us figured we'd give their Discovery Pairing Menu a try.  Naturally we didn't take the wine pairing option, since we have each brought along a bottle for the evening.

Provençal green asparagus, orange sabayon, lemon caviar - it's the perfect time to have some seasonal spring asparagus, and this one was very sweet and delicious.  In lieu of the usual classic - and perhaps somewhat boring - hollandaise, we had some orange sabayon with lemon (finger lime perhaps?) caviar, topped with some orange zest.  The sabayon was very fruity and citrusy, with a pleasant sweetness - until one bites into the lemon caviar which delivered a stinging shot of acidity that jolts the tastebuds out of their slumber.  Nicely done.

Squid carbonara, marinated Japanese egg yolk, roasted hazelnut - we've seen squid carbonara before, but instead of coming as thin ribbons, the squid came like spaghetti alla chittara.  The texture was very bouncy like konjac (蒟蒻), so it was kinda fun to bite down and feel the bounce.  The Japanese egg yolk was such a deep hue of red that I thought it was tomato sauce... but it turned out to have been marinated in soy sauce and mirin (味醂).  This was a really tasty dish - especially for someone like myself who loves carbonara - even though this isn't the most traditional in the sense that the sauce was creamy.  The smoked bacon as well as the roasted hazelnuts really made the dish stand out.

Scottish salmon teriyaki, caramelized nasu, spicy condiment, salmon roe - the execution of the salmon was pretty good, and although some of us would normally object to being served teriyaki (照り焼き) sauce at an establishment like this, this was an enjoyable piece of salmon.  The Japanese eggplant as well as eggplant purée were decent, and there was a nice little kick in there.  I joked about the chef playing around with the Japanese concept of oyako (親子), since the salmon came with unseasoned salmon roe.

Roasted Racan pigeon, beetroots, red wine sauce - one should always order pigeon in a Philippe Orrico restaurant, and we were glad to see the bird as part of the tasting menu.  Given the description contained the word beetroots, I asked for its removal.  Instead the chef delivered a celeriac and Jerusalem artichoke purée, mixed with poire Williams.  I could certainly taste the sweetness and distinctive flavors of the pear.  The nuts were tasty, too.

I ordered mine 'rosé' as usual, but it came a little more cooked and veered towards 'pink'.  In spite of that, it was still a very, very delicious pigeon.

Cheese platter - cheese isn't part of the tasting menu, but how could we come here and not have cheese?!  That would be sacrilege, indeed!  So I asked for a selection of whatever was ripe and in season, and was expecting to be shown a small selection of five... But there's at least one person here who knows who I am, so we got a lot more than expected...

Pavé du Quercy - thick and a little dry, with nutty, creamy, and gamey flavors.

Galet de Bigorre - even denser than the Pavé du Quercy.  Creamy, not as gamey, with higher acidity.

Bonde de Gâtine - ripe and soft on the outside but very dense in the middle.  High acidity, pretty strong after palate with lots of ammonia, as well as being slightly bitter.

Brin d'Amour - as usual the creamy texture came with an overwhelming mix of herbs such as rosemary.

Saint-Marcellin - very ripe, very rich, and as usual a little bitter.

Tête de Moine - fairly strong flavors and more on the salty side.

Comté, 4 years - LOVE.

Munster - fairly ripe with strong flavors, some ammonia, with bitterness on mid-palate as well as finish.

Fourme d'Ambert - very classic.  Strong and very salty.

And of course, a jar of Christine Ferber's Mirabelles d'Alsace came along with the bread and cheese.  Needless to say it was fantastic.

Shiso mojito, mint jelly, lime, crumble, shiso ice cream - shiso (紫蘇) ice cream at the bottom, with mint jelly and lime above, then shiso and lime-flavored foam on top, with shiso leaves.  In the low-lighting environment this didn't look like much, but DAMN!  It was delicious!  I love me a mojito or two when I go out, and shiso is just about my favorite herb (not dill, like ILoveLubutin), so putting them together made me very, very happy.  In the middle were also some crumble for a savory side and texture, as well as little cubes of poached pear.  Oh, I could see myself having this dessert again... and again...

We took it easy with the wines tonight, only bringing 1 bottle per person.  I was ordered to bring a bottle of white, and not surprisingly my choice was met with scorn by the Specialist... because I didn't take the hint and bring the wine that she wanted me to bring.  Sigh...

1999 Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill - very nice, with a hint of yeast and a hint of floral notes.  Very well-balanced and smooth on the palate, neither too ripe nor too acidic.  Such a pleasure to drink.

2005 Vincent Girardin Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes-Dessus - overripe and oxidized.  No longer appealing to many, although I found it acceptable.

2007 Lafleur - opened but not decanted for close to 2 hours.  Smoky with some eucalyptus and mint, and slightly earthy.  Some sweet fruit showed up a little later.

This was a really good dinner - and pretty damn good value, too!  The five-course set menu from Chef Julien Cadiou came in at just under HKD 800, and for the quality of the food that's a pretty good bargain in this town these days.  Many thanks to management for waiving our corkage... and I'd definitely be back soon for that dessert!

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