December 14, 2017

Durian and French food

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I had big plans for tonight.  I was re-introducing Petrus at the Island Shangri-La to not only Hello Kitty but also to Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf.  It's been a few months since we last had a meal together, and I was rather insistent on the venue.  I like what Chef Ricardo Chaneton is doing there, and I've kinda been on a mission to spread the word to my friends.

Ricardo's always been very good to me,  and I know that each time I come, he would do what he can to show me his best dishes. So tonight would definitely be a feast.

However, a few days ago my friend L pinged me to let me know about the party she's arranging for clients at the Island Shangri-La.  She was bringing in Malaysian durian, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to miss this opportunity.

So... about an hour before I was to start what turned out to be a 14-course feast, I would myself by the pool of the hotel, wolfing down a plate of delicious durian... as a pre-dinner snack!

Malaysian Black Gold durian (黑金榴蓮) - WOW!  This has got to be the best durian I have ever had!  Incredibly creamy yet dense, the texture reminded me of certain types of French goat cheese - except a little more moist.  While initially very sweet, the finish turns bitter - and some of them actually end up being surprisingly bitter... a little too much for me, in fact.  But what an eye-opening experience!

By the time I hauled my ass upstairs for dinner - after watching the crowd devour 300kg of durian in 2 hours - I wasn't the least bit hungry.  In fact, I was a little stuffed...

But Ricardo had prepared a nice array of his creations for us... so I tried to power through.

Foie gras / tonka bean - creamy as expected, and kinda savory.  The distinct fragrance of tonka beans was a nice touch.

Walnut / smoked eel - the walnut-shaped walnut mousse contained small chunks of smoked eel inside, with slices of eel and chunks of toasty walnuts at the bottom along with some horseradish.  This was a nice idea, but I felt the walnuts chunks were a little too bitter and overpowering.

Green leaf / cucumber - I've known about Ricardo's hydroponic garden on the rooftop of the building for a while, and this wasn't surprising knowing his time spent at Mirazur.

He's put together a collection of 15 ingredients in a bowl, with no seasoning whatsoever other than the pickled baby snake cucumber.  Ricardo suggested that we at them "as is" - without adding the Sicilian olive oil he provided on the side - as each of the leaves would provide its own seasoning.  I understood what he was trying to do, but still found the result a little bland.

Carrot / uni / ginger - the slender heart of carrot looked beautiful as the ginger gel glistened under the lights.  The exterior of the carrot has been made into a purée and garnished with the flowers and baby leaves of the carrot.

Cutting open the heart, one finds sea urchin stuffed inside...  This would, of course, appeal to Mrs. Birdiegolf.  But I did wonder whether this was enough to satiate her...

Lentils / Colonnata / ham - apparently Ricardo calls this a "salad"... even though there is clearly plenty of lardo di Colonnata with the slightly toasty lentil germs, lentil sprouts, and tarragon.  The dish was finished with some broth made with jamón ibérico de bellota.  Nice and light, n'est-ce pas?

Taleggio / Cevennes / tuber melanosporum - without a doubt my favorite dish of the evening.  The Cevennes onion was filled with a Taleggio cream with bits of black Périgord truffles, then topped with thin discs of truffles, and finished with truffle coulis and Taleggio coulis.

A real warm and comforting dish.  Such wintery flavors.  The Taleggio cream was soooo satisfying, working well with the sweetness from the onion.  I was a real happy camper after this dish.

Octopus / romesco / shallot - the grilled octopus was very tender, with nice, smoky flavors.  The confit shallot delivered some beautiful sweetness, and romesco made with smoked pimenton de La Vera - with some buckwheat sprinkled on top of the romesco.

Blood pudding "mole" / Gala apple - the mole was made with 65 ingredients including black pudding, and I could certainly detect the fragrance of fennel and anise.  Very deep and complex flavors here.  Nicely paired with the sweetness of Gala apple chunks of purée.

Oh, the juvenile in me couldn't help but flashback to this scene in Austin Powers in Goldmember...

Duck foie gras / golden turnip / chrysanthemum - the poached chunks of foie gras were perfectly tender and melted in the mouth.  Along with the consommé we've also got thin slices of turnip as well as pickled chunks.  The smoked trout roe complemented the slightly browned exterior of the foie pretty well.

Meagre / chickpeas / calamari / chorizo - I find that corvina does have an interesting flaky texture, but sometimes I find it a little bland - as it was tonight.  In this case it was helped by an eclectic mix of calamari, fish guts, chorizo, and chick peas.  The fish guts gave the mixture a milky texture, with acidity and smokiness coming from the chorizo.

I was too full by this point, and did not finish the dish.

Veal sweetbread / Parmesan / Swiss chard - the breaded sweetbread was pretty nice, but once again I could not it.  Served on top of a bed of Swiss chard and something with acidity... was it rhubarb, perhaps?

Lièvre à la Royale - I knew we would be having this tonight, as Ricardo had already posted pictures of it on Instagram.  Ricardo announced that he was serving us "a classic dish, in a classic restaurant, with classic service" as cloches were lifted from the plates.

Hare rolled up with foie gras at the center and some black truffle inside, and of course drenched in the blood sauce.  Served with celeriac purée on the side.  I would have inhaled this dish on any other night, but failed completely tonight. 

Peanut / sunchoke / magnatum pico - the "peanuts" molded from peanut mousse was OK, but the Jerusalem artichoke ice cream was interesting, especially with the crunchy skin of the root with some toffee.  And just to make things a little more luxe, a few shavings of white truffle.

Truffle de chocolat blanc

We brought 2 bottles of wine tonight - the limit imposed by the restaurant's corkage policy.  This was just as well, since I had plenty of durian before dinner and was watching my alcohol intake...

2012 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles - served from a decanter.  Toasty notes, nice and buttery, with good citrus notes.  Good acidity on the palate.

2005 Ponsot Chapelle Chambertin - served 1 hour after decanting.  There is some black fruit like plum.  Lean and astringent on the palate, with more acidity than expected.  Later on showed a whiff of sweet honeydew melon.  Very disappointed.  Second pour showed savory, black olive notes.

This was a fun dinner.  I would have enjoyed it more had I actually been hungry, but I could still appreciate the thought process and worked that Ricardo put into all the dishes.  Hopefully he can continue to develop his repertoire, and it would be interesting to watch him come into his own over the next few years.

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