June 17, 2017

Hitting the beetroot jackpot

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A while ago, Hello Kitty asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner.  She was clearly hoping that I wouldn't insist on having her treat me to dinner at Spaghetti House (as I did last year) or Pizza Hut, since both suggestions she offered were fine dining establishments.

One of them happened to be Caprice at the Four Seasons Hong Kong - an establishment both of us have banned ever since a particularly disastrous dinner.  But a lot has changed this year: Chef Guillaume Galliot - formerly of the Tasting Room at the Crown Towers in Macau - is now running the kitchen.  I'm a big fan of Guillaume's, and have been looking forward to trying his dishes after he settled in.  Long-time sommelier Sebastien Allano has moved on to Épure, and Four Seasons George V has transferred in one of theirs.  Given my personal relationship with Guillaume, I decided that I would use this "birthday dinner" to end our self-imposed exile from a restaurant that was once my favorite in Hong Kong.

Hello Kitty booked us a table under her name, although a few days ago I decided to tell Guillaume about our visit tonight.  He had offered to host me for a preview of his new dishes a few weeks ago, but I didn't think the kitchen would be fully ready only a couple of weeks after his arrival.  It's now been more than 6 weeks since he officially started, and I was hoping that the kitchen brigade would have gotten used to him by now.

We were seated at a table by the window, with great views of the harbor - as Hello Kitty requested.  Unfortunately this came with the downside of having very poor lighting, which made photography a challenge.  Oh well.

We were offered some Champagne to start, compliments of the chef.

Vouette et Sorbée Cuvée Blanc d'Argile, en magnum - a blanc de blancs extra brut.  Good acidity here, but also some sweetness.  Surprisingly showing some tropical fruits on the nose.

Guillaume came over to greet us, and of course we offered him carte blanche to send us whatever he felt we should have tonight.  Not being a seasoned front-of-house staff, naturally he assumed we would eat everything and neglected to ask us about our dietary restrictions.  After he walked back to the kitchen, Hello Kitty and I wondered whether we would get any beetroot tonight... but I decided that since Guillaume didn't ask us, we wouldn't volunteer any information... and just go with the flow.

Tuna tartare tart - with salmon roe, diced cucumber, and dill.

Cauliflower and bell pepper mousse - with sea urchin on top.  The cauliflower flavors were kinda buried underneath the bell pepper.

Pita pocket with chicken curry mousse - damn delicious!

Amuse bouche: Tartare bœuf-huître et caviar - the beef and Gillardeau oyster tartare came mixed with finely diced shallot confit, topped with a layer of Baeri de Sologne sturgeon caviar, and served with egg yolk confit as well as parsley gel on the side.  This was very delicious.  The stronger, salty flavors of the caviar were tempered by the softer flavors of the beef, and the Gillardeau was a little more briny than I had expected.  A really good start to our dinner.

Blue lobster, tomato and cucumber, gazpacho water - homard bleu from Brittany is always good, and this was lightly poached.  Along with tomatoes wedges and cucumber slices, we've also got some coriander and basil with really strong flavors.  The lukewarm "gazpacho water" - which seemed like Raymond Blanc's tomato water - had lots of sweetness, acidity, and umami.  Very, very clean flavors here... and very refreshing.

Even though we weren't done with our flute of Champagne - drinking slowly as usual - the sommelier offered us a glass of white to go with the lobster.

2015 Pascal Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés - very flinty and tropical, with stone fruits in the pretty sweet nose.  Body was on the light side.  After the gazpacho water, there was more body and sweetness on the palate.  Lovely, fragrant nose.

Slow cooked egg with onion and potato capuccino, Tasmanian truffle - Guillaume came over and told us matter-of-factly that he didn't need to introduce this dish, which was very true.  We knew exactly what this was, since it was hands down my favorite dish the last time I paid a visit to The Tasting Room.

Thankfully Guillaume had downsized the portion so that it was more manageable.  I gleefully took a spoon and folded the egg yolk into the potato, along with the caramelized onion compote, lots of chopped chives, crispy bacon bits, croûtons... and chopped Tasmanian truffle.

While this was delicious on its own, I couldn't resist spooning some of it on what was left of my little baguette... and watch the potato and onion drip down...  So.Fucking.Good.

The sommelier very kindly offered us another glass of wine to go with the egg dish, and I'd say it worked incredibly well with the richness and the caramelized onions.

1960 Barbeito Boal - very classic, with a very savory nose that reminds me of salted plum (話梅), minerals, and a little nutty.  Since it's a Boal, the palate wasn't as sweet as the Malvasias I normally prefer.  Still lovely.

L'Adour salmon confit with mint, tarragon, truffle, and fava beans - a special of the day.  Apparently the best season for wild salmon captured as they swim up the Adour River only lasts about a month, so we were pretty lucky.  This was the same type of salmon that I had seen Chef Alain Passard serve my friends in his private garden.

The salmon was absolutely beautiful.  Very silky smooth in terms of texture, and actually kinda slippery.  Bboth mint and tarragon are strong herbs, but there was just enough of both to make their presence known without grabbing one by the collar for attention.  The mint also delivered a subtle, cooling sensation.  The fava beans and green peas?  Beautiful.  Neither Hello Kitty and I were expecting a piece of salmon to deliver this kind of "wow", but this was damn good!

Pigeon Rôti, Cuisses Confites, Variation de Betteraves - Guillaume knows we like pigeon, and while I knew that he came from the Loire Valley, I didn't realize he's from Racan... where this pigeon came from.

But we started chuckling when he introduced the dish.  Spread out all around the plate, in addition to the pigeon, was - you guessed it - BEETROOT!  Guillaume didn't understand why we were laughing.  You should have seen his face when I asked him: "Nobody ever told you that we don't like beetroot?"  He was mortified, as if he had just committed the ultimate faux pas of offering a slab of delicious pork belly to a Muslim.  He offered to change the dish, but we declined.  It wasn't his fault, after all. For several minutes afterwards, we giggled hysterically like teenagers who are high on weed...  And to think he had taken all that trouble to give us all those variations on something we hated... gel, purée, and cuit à l'anglaise...

The breast came with a nice little pile of truffle shavings on top.  Almost perfect doneness.  Absolutely delicious.

I never figured that the leg would be so much tastier than the breast, but that was exactly what happened.  The flavors of fat coming from the skin - not to mention the rest of the leg - were pretty amazing.

Oh yeah, that's the finger I'd normally be giving any beetroot that comes my way...

Agneau de l’Aubrac en 2 façons, caviar d’aubergine -  aaaaaand we also love lamb!  So we've got it two ways: the shoulder was done as méchoui and shredded.  It was incredibly tender, and very, very tasty - topped with a quenelle of eggplant caviar seasoned with Middle Eastern spices.  The two gnocchi were pretty tasty, too...  Oh... and where have I seen this plate before...?

The lamb rack was roasted, and very tasty, too.  And that sprinkle of cauliflower couscous - done with a knife and not with a blender - with the argan oil is classic Guillaume.

1970 Jaboulet La Chapelle - not decanted.  Initially showing plenty of soy sauce, savory black olives and tapenade, with perhaps a hint of coconut butter underneath, and definitely some fruit there, but more stewed prunes instead of fresh and sweet.  A bit of smoke, too.

Melon verveine - a very nice pre-dessert.  It's Cavaillon melon season, so we've got some diced cubes at the bottom, with some melon sorbet, and verbena foam on top.  Very clean and refreshing flavors, and best of all, not too sweet for Hello Kitty.

Fraisier Gariguette - if there's a dessert that I've been dying to try, it's the signature raspberry from Nicolas Lambert.  I've seen pictures of it over and over on his Instagram, but since I haven't walked through the front doors of this restaurant for the last 18 months, I've never had an opportunity to taste it.  So I decided to walk up to the kitchen and ask Nicolas for this particular dessert... until I see him working with a bunch of strawberries.  I beat a hasty retreat to our table, knowing that whatever is coming my way would be awesome.

What we have here is a failure to communicate base of almond biscuit soaked in strawberry juice, with Gariguette strawberry marmalade, sorbet of Ruinart Rosé Champagne, some vanilla cream, and topped with a raviolo with strawberry juice reduction inside - along with Gariguette strawberries and seasonal fraises de bois.

This was absolutely fantastic.  Breaking the raviolo released the contents, which tasted just like one spooning strawberry jam straight from a jar.  The Gariguettes and fraises de bois have some acidity in them, so they balanced out the sticky sweetness of the reduction.  I was in strawberry heaven.

Caramelized puff with vanilla cream and strawberries - this, too, was delicious.  Same ingredients, different experience.

Mignardises - the coffee profiteroles were really, really good.  The raspberry macaron was as expected, and the dark chocolate had plenty of coconut filling along with desiccated coconut.

The filling of the passion fruit chocolate was very, very tasty.

The orange chocolate was probably one of the best I've tasted - leaving that beautiful fragrance inside one's mouth from the candied orange peel.

Raspberry and pistachio financiers - plenty of pistachio flavors here, along with a surprising kick of acidity.

Dark chocolate with sea salt

This was a really, really good meal. I was so glad that Hello Kitty took me here for my birthday.  Every single dish was excellent - including the amuses bouches and the pre-dessert.  I've watched Guillaume's career progress and tasted his cuisine sporadically over the last 3 years, and I can see that he's on an upward trajectory.  Clearly that was what the management at the Four Seasons Hong Kong had in mind when they hired him.

There was a complete change in the front-of-house, too.  With Sebastien Boudon now in the Four Seasons Beijing, and a couple of other departures, I now recognize just about no one.  Thankfully they have been able to hire new staff who are clearly passionate and knowledgeable, and our server Ken, in particular, made an impression on both Hello Kitty and I.  With fantastic food from the kitchen and attentive service from staff who do more than just recite a script, I can see Caprice becoming my favorite fine dining restaurant in town once again...


Anonymous said...

Pita pocket with chicken curry mouse - damn delicious! - I hope that's a typo.

Peech said...

LOL! Thanks for catching the typo... Still managed to miss it after proofreading


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