November 30, 2017

Week of drunkenness: A Night Among the Stars

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The 10th edition of the Michelin Red Guide for Hong Kong and Macau was rolled out today, and in conjunction with the announcement, title partner Melco Resorts and Entertainment once again hosted a gala dinner at one of their properties.  6 chefs - each with at least two Michelin stars at their restaurants - coming together to cook for a few hundred guests at the Grand Hyatt Macau, with wine pairing.  The entry price this year was MOP 4,888 - a reduction of 15% from last year, but still nothing to scoff at.

Thankfully, I received another invitation to attend the gala.  I initially had a scheduling conflict which would have prevented me from coming, but that gathering was moved to last night.  Which was how I found myself on the ferry to Macau while still a little hung over...

After checking into the Countdown Hotel, I quickly changed into my penguin outfit for the black tie event.  There were already plenty of people outside the ballroom at the Grand Hyatt Macau when I arrived, and I got a chance to catch up with quite a few friends and congratulate chefs for their awards.

Given last year's experience, I had toned down my expectations regarding tonight's dishes.  Perhaps half of the chefs have previous experience with catering large parties, so execution might be an issue.

With the first course, the organizers wanted to make sure we have a dramatic start to the evening.  As an army of waiters entered the ballroom with dish on their hands, the DJ decided to play The Uruk-hai from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.  Sure, it's a piece that makes a dramatic impact, but is there a subtext here I don't know about?

This year the organizers also presented a short video from each chef describing the story behind the creation of each dish, which made things a lot more interesting.

Riviera Reverie: gamberoni, delicate jelly and caviar, by Alain Ducasse - the gemberoni from the Gulf of Genoa were lightly cooked, and paired with a delicate gelée made with rockfish broth, then topped with Chinese caviar (Kaviari Kristal?).  A very delicious start to our dinner.

Paired with Mumm Grand Cordon Brut.

Reunion: poached free range chicken in ginseng broth, by Tam Kwok Fung - unfortunately, despite only removing the lids to the clay pots after they have arrived at the table, the broth was only lukewarm.  The chicken was very tender, although there was a surprising amount of fat.  I thought the strong ginseng flavors in the broth were pretty good, but I was slightly disappointed by the fact that the wolfberries (枸杞子) were still dry and had not been cooked - just sprinkled on at the last minute.

2012 Château des Quarts Pouilly-Fuissé Clos des Quarts - nice and toasty on the nose.  Very ripe and soft on the palate, almost limp, and no finish other than the feeling of alcohol burning the back of my throat.

Perfect Day: Brittany blue lobster tart, watermelon and yuzu vinaigrette, by Fabrice Vulin - this is a dish I've had before, most recently when Fabrice invited me to The Tasting Room a few months ago.  Putting different parts of homard bleu together with lobster bisque, lobster gelée, avocado, green apple, watermelon, Kaviari Kristal caviar, and cream... makes for a refreshingly delicious dish with a symphony of different flavors.

2013 Pernot-Belicard Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain - nose fairly aromatic, with surprisingly good ripeness.  Minerality came out when paired with the homard bleu, with some acidity at the back.

Dual Heritage: chilled Miyazaki wagyu beef shabu shabu, Hokkaido sea urchin and Chinese supreme broth jelly, by Hidemichi Seki - a very interesting presentation, and an even interesting mix of ingredients.

The cubes of Japanese beef worked seamlessly with the soft and creamy tongues of sea urchin as well as the refreshing jelly made with Chinese superior stock (上湯), and here Seki-san draws inspiration from his father - who ran a Cantonese restaurant.  The crunchy seaweed, wasabi, white miso, and perilla flowers all contributed to the dish, and the mélange inside one's mouth appeared to blend harmoniously - both in terms of flavors as well as textures.

The real surprise was how well the dish worked with a glass of red wine.  One would have thought that with sea urchin, seaweed, and wasabi, any one of those ingredients could have clashed with the red.  Turned out not to be the case at all.  I guess it just goes to show how little I know about food and wine matching...

2012 La Tour Figeac - pretty ripe and sweet, but not quite jammy.  A little smoke in the fragrant and floral nose.  Still rather tannic.  Surprise on the upside.

Opulent Expression: braised South African abalone with shiitake mushroom, by Kwong Wai Keung - I'm not an expert on abalone, but I thought this was just OK.  Then again, cooking 600 portions can't be easy.

Texture-wise the fresh South African abalone - each weighing about 4 taels (四頭鮑) and which had been steamed for 6 hours before going through a second steaming with abalone jus - was more crunchy than I had expected.

2012 François Feuillet Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers - pretty heavy, toasty nose, nice and floral, with sweet fruit notes.  Seemed a little cloudy and dirty...

Balancing Act: cured and roasted Racan pigeon breast, charred cippolini onions, smoked black pepper and dried blueberries, by Noah Sandoval - I was probably most disappointed with this dish, because Racan pigeon normally is something I really, really love.  The pan-fried foie gras on the side was flawlessly executed and melted in my mouth.  But zee pigeon...

First of all, for reasons I could not fathom, the pigeon breast was cured - which gave it flavors not unlike pastrami.  Then it was coated with a powder made of charred onions - in a fashion similar to what is done for the beef at Narisawa.  However, for me this ended up ruining the flavors because the ratio of meat to powder was all wrong, and we've got entirely too much carbon in each mouthful.

2011 Ogier Côte-Rôtie - lovely floral and lavender notes, with some leather and eucalyptus.  A little sharp from the alcohol.

After a musical interlude where Cantonese pop superstar Joey Yung (容祖兒) came on stage and delivered 3 of her hits, it was time for "Chef Nic" to come out.  He had the title of "Friend of Michelin" (whatever the hell that means) bestowed on him at last year's gala dinner, and this year he was also contributing a dish to our evening - only this time it was a dessert, instead of an amuse bouche as he had done last year.

Unlike last year - when he came on stage in proper chef's whites and introduced his contribution via a pre-recorded clip, Chef Nic decided to make a theatrical entrance tonight.  What happened for the next 5 minutes or so - can't say I actually timed it - can only described as a SHITSHOWA TOTAL FUCKING JOKE.

In case anyone was wondering, our celebrity "chef" - dressed up in a costume one friend referred to as "organ grinder monkey" while another thought to be "high school marching band" - squeezed white and dark chocolate onto wooden serving boards in a frenzy.  While some would comment that he was trying to emulate either Jackson Pollock or Grant Achatz, to me he just looked like a male porn star finishing up for the money shot.

Every single person at my table watched first in amazement, then cracked up as expletives began flying around... and F-bombs were dropping left and right in multiple languages.  What a fucking disgrace!  What the fuck did he think he was doing?!  And to think that he was doing it in front of legends like Alain Ducasse - not to mentioned all the other chefs who worked hard to enable their restaurants to earn the coveted Michelin stars.  Imagine how they must have felt watching him make an idiot of himself.

Rose blossom, by Nicholas Tse a.k.a. Chef Nic - so what we got here is a rather large profiterole, filled with rose-flavored cream.  This was OK, but nobody needs such a huge choux at the end of a long meal.  On the side was a thin bread stick with caraway seeds.  Then you've got two clumps of jelly - one with lychee and one with rose water/petals - both of which I regretted putting in my mouth.  Oh and let's not forget the dried remnants of white and dark jizz caked onto the board.

Paired with Jean-Marc Roulot l'Abricot du Roulot

This evening turned out rather differently than I had expected.  Overall the dishes from the chefs - and I meant the real ones - tasted better than the ones from last year.  I think they learned from experience, and 3 of the chefs offered chilled dishes which would be easier to serve to such a large crowd.  Perhaps due to a budget reduction - the ticket price was lower this year, and they did have to pay for Joey Yung's performance, after all - the wines served tonight were not nearly as good as the ones last year, but the reds were certainly very decent.

Many thanks to the powers that be for the kind invitation.  I was especially glad to be able to slink back into my room after the festivities, so that I wouldn't have to take a late ferry back home looking like a penguin... Finally, congratulations to all the restaurants for earning their stars!

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