September 11, 2017

Why I don't go to brand new restaurants

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Last week Chaxiubao pinged me, asking if I wanted to join him for dinner at Terroir Parisien - Yannick Alleno's first foray into Hong Kong.  I knew that the restaurant is brand new, and as most of my friends know, I have a habit of not going to brand new restaurants.  I was hesitant, as the chance of stepping on landmines is high.  I was then told that a few of our other friends are coming along.  I relented and agreed to go along, against my better judgement.

The address indicated that it is on the Mezzanine Floor of the Prince's Building, so I figured they had taken over the space previous occupied by can.teen.  But when I rode up the escalators from the front entrance of the building, I found that there was no access to the space.  The old entrance had been boarded up.  So I went around the floor.  No other entrance.  Nothing remotely that tells you there's a restaurant around.

I wasn't the only one.  I saw others looking lost, and I bet they, too, were looking for the restaurant.  I decided to go up to the Second Floor, as I remembered that the space used to have two entrances - one accessible from the walkway between Prince's Building and Alexandra House.  Sure enough, the restaurant's only entrance is from that side, and is best accessed by coming in from another building.  That's just plain stupid.

While we waited for everyone to arrive, we were persuaded by the staff to order something to start with. 

Charcuteries artisanales, terrine de foie de volailles, rillettes de poulet rôti, rillettes de lapin à la moutarde, tranches de museau à la vinaigrette - lots of things happening on this platter... with charcuterie; chicken rillettes in a jar; chicken liver terrine, rabbit rillettes, and a slice of pig's snout jelly terrine.  All delicious except for the chicken rillettes that I found boring.

Croques-Monsieur - looks pretty but didn't care for the taste.  I would have preferred a more traditional take, with slightly crispy, burnt cheese on the outside instead of the creamy Comté filling.

Then Chaxiubao took charge and ordered a bunch of starters for everyone to share...

Salade de frisée, cresson à l'oeuf mollet et croûtons au lard - this was pretty nice.  The soft-boiled egg is always a crowd-pleaser, and I didn't notice those big blocks of lardons (I thought they were croûtons) until I bit into one.  Then it was just a bite of heaven.

Bouchées de champignons de Paris aux escargots - another crowd-pleaser.  Covering snails in parsley and garlic butter never fails, and here they are sitting on little mushroom caps.  Needless to say we were encouraged to take our pieces of baguette and wipe the pan with them...

Oeufs en gelée à la "frou-frou" - a very traditional egg dish, with petits pois peas and asparagus tips in beef consommé gelée at the bottom topped with an egg in chaud-froid cream with mustard mayo, served with fresh herbs.  Surprising kick of acidity from the mustard, but pretty delish.

Filet de boeuf Charolais, sauce Café de Paris - I originally opted for something else, but ultimately couldn't resist the Charolais calling my name... even if I chose a cut that's not very interesting.  After all, it's not a breed one sees in Hong Kong often.

I asked for rare, and it did come out rare.  In France they would have given it to me bleu without even asking, which would have been fine with me.  The beef itself was pretty good, but somehow the sauce Café de Paris was a little milder than I had expected.

Pommes allumettes - these fries were everyone's favorite dish for the evening.  They really were very good, and I think the 10 of us got 4 servings... or was it 5?

Purée pommes de terre - I will never love another mash as much as I love the one from Oncle Joël (Robuchon), but this one had plenty of butter, too.

Citron complètement givré - I really didn't have room for dessert, but I'm always itching to try desserts.  This was half a lemon which had been hollowed out, and filled with lemon sorbet, mint jelly, and topped with lemon cream.  Pretty good, and the acidity kinda helps soothe my very full stomach.

Naturally a couple of us brought our own wines, and a friend negotiated with the staff on corkage by buying bottles off the restaurant's wine list.

2008 Château de Puligny-Montrachet Meursault 1er Cru Les Poruzots - nice and ripe.  Acidity not too high.

1970 Marqués de Murrietta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, from magnum - no decanted so lots of sediment in glass.  Very smooth on the palate, with a bit more acidity than expected.  Nose of stewed fruits like blackberry compote.

This would have been a pretty good evening for me, as the dishes I tasted were pretty decent.  A few others at the table, however, were not so lucky...

An entrecôte was overcooked and had to be sent back.  An order of beef tartare apparently came without much seasoning - it was lacking in salt, in Worcestershire as well as Tabasco sauce.  One plate of "sea scallops" (why do they have to specify "sea" when scallops are never found in freshwater?) first came out overcooked and "rubbery".  It was sent back, only for a second plate to come out undercooked and raw - not mi-cuit.  One of the victims ended up asking me why we bothered to come at such an early stage in the restaurant's life.

Yes... I wondered, too, why I agreed to come along.  Even though I escaped relatively unscathed, it was clear that the execution was so random that I probably wouldn't be so lucky on my next visit.  So I guess I won't be seeing the inside of this place again until 2018...

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