April 25, 2018

Au revoir, Nicolas!

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So the time has finally come - a time that I have been dreading since late last year.  Nicolas Lambert - my favorite pâtissier in Hong Kong - is leaving Caprice.  He's been in Hong Kong for 3 years, and it was time for him to see another part of the world.  After all, he's just picked up the title of Asia's Best Pastry Chef Award, sponsored by Valrhona, as well as the Best Pastry Chef Award from T.Dining.

Nicolas had been traveling around a lot, and I wanted to make sure that we saw him one last time before his departure.  He was only going to be back in town for 3 days, so Hello Kitty and I grabbed Chef DaRC - who had his first taste of Nicolas' creations at the lunch table with me - and we made arrangements with Hairy Legs to hit Caprice tonight.

We were fortunate to have the chef's table to ourselves.  Hairy Legs knew that our focus tonight was on the desserts, so he put together a couple of savory dishes without trying to overwhelm our stomach capacity...

We started with two nibbles:

Crispy tube with cream, lemon, sea urchin, and dill

Pita with chicken curry mousse

I couldn't resist taking some bread tonight... especially the challah with chilies.  Of course, the sesame roll was as tempting as ever.

White asparagus velouté, Hokkaido sea urchin, caviar - the chilled velouté was refreshing as expected; the sea urchin sweet and creamy.  I assumed the quenelle was Shadi Caviar from La Maison Nordique.

Anguille fumée, brunoise de légumes et Caviar Shadi - the smoked eel was fine and had enough seasoning, veering towards the Japanese side.  The brunoise at the bottom came with a little miso to deliver some sweetness.  But the caviar on top was completely unnecessary, and in fact pushed the whole dish into salty territory - where it became imperative to have the vegetables in the same mouthful for balance.  The only upside of having the caviar was the interplay between the little pearls and the little cubes of vegetables.

Homard bleu with morels, asparagus, chicken jus, Comté foam - this was lovely.  The quality of the French blue lobster was top-notch, and there was plenty of bounce in the texture.  Morels and asparagus remind us it's spring time, and the Comté added some more richness to the dish.  Classic and hearty flavors.

Then came a small chunk of beef, presented on a lotus leaf...

The Australian filet was cold-smoked with Japanese cherry wood, and served on a bed of fava bean fricassée, then topped with mixed mushrooms and drizzled with a foie gras and cream sauce.  The beef was delicious, although we found the texture more mushy than we would have liked - and we suspected that the beef had been cooked sous vide.

Hairy Legs loves using argan oil, and we found the dish glistening as a result.

A small cheese plate came bearing Abbeye de Citeaux, Comté, Lingot de Cocagne, and Fourme d'Ambert.  I nibbled.

Our pre-dessert was a mango sorbet with Thai milk tea foam.  The mango was Filipino, and the cha yen (ชาเย็น) foam was made with the original blend of Cha Tra Mue (ชาตรามือ).  Bits of chocolate under the sorbet and diced mango hidden at the bottom complete the delicious "palate cleanser".

Fraisier Gariguette - with yuzu (柚子) cream, white chocolate biscuit, yuzu sorbet, topped with crumble, mint leaves, and silver leaf.  Beautiful.  The citrus fragrance from the yuzu was apparent immediately.

Guanaja cream - Guanaja dark chocolate, cocoa crumble, sea salt, cocoa sorbet, covered in foam made with milk, coconut, and Malibu, and garnished with coconut and chocolate wafers.  WOW!  Beautiful!  Love the interplay between chocolate and coconut.

Croustillant au café, biscuit aux noix, chantilly caramel café - the coffee and caramel chantilly came studded with walnut biscuits and coffee crisps.

This was just a whole lotta caffeine goodness.  What's not to like about coffee and caramel together?!

Trilogie de chocolat: crispy feuillantine, Namelaka white chocolate, Guanaja and Tanariva chantilly - by now this is one of Nicolas' signatures.  A symphony of three different chocolates, presented with varying textures.  A heavenly treat for any chocolate lover.

Mini madeleines, à la minute

Petits fours

We would, of course, bring a couple of bottles for the evening - especially as we were at the chef's table and hanging out with Hairy Legs.

2011 Roulot Meursault 1er Cru Clos des Bouchères - lean, flinty, with classic toasty notes.  After 2½ hours it started to open up, and the finish became more refined.  Needs time both in the cellar as well as after opening.

1992 Bryant Family - served 1½ hours after opening.  Beautiful, so fragrant.  Smoky and jammy at the same time, with cedar notes.  So well integrated, so smooth on the palate.  Wouldn't have pegged it as a Californian in a blind tasting.

1989 Clos Naudin Vouvray Moelleux Réserve - notes of acetone for sure, with a whiff of straw.  Orange blossom, honey, pollen.  Reasonably sweet on the palate.

We had only brought 2 bottles between the 3 of us, so Hairy Legs pulled out a bottle and asked us to taste it blind. It turned out to be from his area...

This was a lot of fun, and we got to share a couple of glasses with Nicolas as we wished him the best of luck on his journey. As it turned out, Chef DaRC would be stopping by St. Petersburg later this year, so perhaps they will see each other soon enough. In any case, Nicolas will be sorely missed by many in Hong Kong...

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