December 11, 2018

14 hands and 17 stars

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I was invited to attend the gala dinner held tonight following the announcement of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau 2019, which took place at the Grand Hyatt Macau.  I arrived rather late to the cocktail reception, as I was waiting in vain in my hotel room for housekeeping to deliver me an iron.  I finally gave up and wore my wrinkled shirt under my tux jacket, but thankfully nobody noticed...

These gala dinners have always been big productions, and it appears that this year the hosts have taken things up a notch, as the production seemed more sophisticated than last year.  The biggest problem remains the lighting, as the multi-color stage lights change both in intensity as well as hue.  That makes for tough photography since I stick to "natural lighting"... and have chosen to take the small point-and-shoot camera instead of my trust Sony A9.

This time we have dishes presented by 6 chefs - 5 of whom now with 3 Michelin stars at their flagship establishments - as well as the amazing Pierre Hermé.  I can no longer refer to him as "The Fat One" the same way a certain friend used to, because he's clearly gone on a diet and slimmed down significantly.

By the way, I wish the organizer would stop using Marcus Kwok as the event's MC.  He's really hopeless at pronouncing the names of the headlining chefs, what with "Ah-lane Ducasse", "Ah-lang Ducasse", and "Pierre Ermm"...  These chefs are world famous, and they deserve enough respect not to have their names mangled by some wannabe celebrity who couldn't even be bothered to learn the proper pronunciations. He's getting paid to do this gig, forchrissake!

As was the case in previous years, a video showcasing the inspiration behind each dish is shown prior to the dish being served.  This year they've also picked a specific piece of music to be played while the servers come out and lay down the plates.

Poached Gillardeau oyster No. 3, shellfish tartare, sea water jelly, ginger cream and lemon confit from Menton, by Fabrice Vulin of The Tasting Room - this was pretty nice.  Perfectly safe choice to serve something already cold and can be plated at leisure.  Flavors were fine.

The music being blasted while the dish was being presented was "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat - the Razormaid remix, I think...  I absolutely love this song, but I was kinda surprised by the choice, and wondered whether there was any significance to this song...

G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon - a little toasty.

Masa toro caviar, by Masa Takayama of Masa - I kinda stared at this for a few seconds, thinking "Is this it?!" 

I know the chef wanted to play it safe by serving a cold dish to the few hundred attendees, and I know that the two main ingredients are considered "luxe", but there doesn't seem to be much point in dragging a world-famous chef halfway across the world just to we could have this...  Dammit, this was even simpler than what Kanesaka Shinji served at the first gala dinner.

The venue blasted a version of Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" that I didn't recognize.  They probably figured they would play something from a Japanese composer to go with a dish served by a Japanese chef... 

2012 Lucien Le Moine Corton-Charlemagne Blanc - yup... they got the name of the wine wrong on the menu.  Lovely and toasty nose, roasted corn, lemon.  Nice acidity but there is also ripeness on the palate.

Fish maw in rabbitfish soup with crab meat roll, by Kelvin Au Yeung of Jade Dragon - the fish maw was pretty damn thick, and much bigger than I had expected.  The fish stock had been thickened, and I thought it was pretty good.  The flavors of the crab meat was pretty decent. 

But what the hell do I know about Cantonese food?  My good friend KC sitting next to me had a completely different take on this dish... and rated it a lot lower than I did.

Oh, and I didn't recognize the music they played while serving the dish... and didn't think of finding out with the use of Shazaam.

2010 Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc Le Meal - this was more attractive than expected, with lots of oak, lots of toast, resin, and more mature.  Lots of depth on the palate, with a little bit of bitterness in the middle, with some ripeness and sweetness. 

Cookpot of blue lobster, potatoes and black truffle, by Alain Ducasse - FAIL.  There was no flavor in the black truffle chiffonade, which made me wonder whether they had been over-steamed... or just simply poor quality.  The worst part about the dish?  The lobster wasn't fresh.  When you can taste ammonia in your shellfish, you know there's a big problem with the ingredient.  And I wasn't the only one who tasted ammonia.

They played "Nwia" by Valentin Stip while serving the dish, and it sounded like a series of water droplets.

2014 Matrot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru La Quintessence - this was OK.

Steamed sea bass fillet in fermented bean sauce, by Chan Yan Tak of Lung King Heen - we all agreed that this was a successful dish.  Brother Tak used what we all thought was cod, which was more fatty and harder to overcook.  Then he wrapped it in lotus leaves and put it in a steamer - both of which served to keep the moisture in as well as the temperature warm.  So the end result was a relatively juicy fish served at a good temperature.  In fact, I could see steam rise up when I removed the lid of the steamer.  The use of black bean sauce, chili, and dried herbs also added good flavors.

They played "Relève" by Avia while serving the dish.

2015 Henri Magnien Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Estournelles St-Jacques - ripe fruit.

Charcoal grilled Kagoshima beef ribeye and charred cabbage, black truffle with "jus corsé", by David Kinch of Manresa - another very safe choice from the chef using a premium ingredient.  The blistered cabbage was delicious, and the truffle on top of the beef actually tasted like truffle...

The thing to do is to use a well-marbled beef like this one from Kagoshima, so that it helps to reduce the chance of execution failures such as overcooking.  And this beef was delicious.

"Notion" by Tash Saltana was the music chosen to accompany the service.

2008 La Fleur-Pétrus - smoky, earthy, nice and smooth on the palate now, but still got plenty of concentration.

Truffle, by Pierre Hermé - the master at work.  Cracking open the truffle-like chocolate shell reveals a combination of hazelnut cream, hazelnut paste, whipped cream with hazelnut, hazelnut syrup-soaked sponge cake.  Served with shaved black truffle.  Just perfect.

It was perhaps fitting that they chose "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics to accompany the service.  I was also amazed at the length to which the service was choreographed.  There was a "director" standing near my table, and based on his signals - which were timed to coincide with specific points as the music played - the servers moved into position, paused, and laid down the plates.  That was damn impressive!

2002 Doisy-Daëne - lovely nose of honey, marmalade, with botrytis and some acetone.

I was ever so grateful that we didn't have to put up with some asshole who thinks he can cook and calls himself Chef Nic.  I wondered if Alain Ducasse cancelled his appearance tonight just so he wouldn't have to watch that shitshow again...

Overall this was a pretty decent dinner.  As I have said in previous years, it's really, really tough to cook for a few hundred people, and it challenges the chefs to come up with something that would still be at ideal serving condition by the time it reaches the diner.  It's easy to see which chefs have given a lot of thought to their dishes.  And kudos to the culinary team for their execution.

Many thanks to the powers that be for the kind invitation, and for providing me with a bed to sleep in so I wouldn't have to rush back home after the dinner.

While many others went off to Wing Lei Palace (永利宮) for an after-party catered by Chef Tam Kwok-fung (譚國峰) and his team,  I decided that eating more food tonight wasn't a good idea.  So I ended up hanging out with Hairy Legs and the team from Caprice, who were celebrating regaining the third star.  They were clearly very, very happy, and it was good to spend some time with them.


Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading this post. Listening to the music ion YouTube in another gadget while reading your description of the dishes.

Peech said...

Thank you! I thought about adding links to the music in my post, maybe I'll do that.


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