February 16, 2019

Second chances

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Some time last year I received messages from the Film Buff.  He had made a visit to Caprice and found the food decent but underwhelming.  After finding out that he took a standard tasting menu - which featured none of what I considered to be Hairy Legs' signature dishes - I explained to him why that would not have been the right call for a sophisticated diner at a hotel restaurant.  I also agreed to arrange a dinner where the Film Buff could get a real sense of what Hairy Legs can do.

So here we were, the four of us, on a Saturday night.  As usual I was happy to let Hairy Legs do his thing, although I requested for a dish of his that I haven't had in a long, long time.  I did have to send in dietary restrictions for Mrs Buff, as she's counting down to the day when she's ready to pop.

Started the evening with a few nibbles:

Croque-monsieur à la truffle noire - well... we can never say "No" to this, can we?

Celeriac and black truffle

Cured salmon, caviar, cauliflower cream - very, very nice.

Curry chicken pita - tasty as always.

Scallop carpaccio, fennel cream, oscietra caviar, and dill - the dish sure looked pretty, although I had some difficulty snapping a good picture of it.  The issue I had with this, though, was that it seemed to have been prepped earlier, and the slices of scallops have stuck together, and they also weren't as moist and succulent as I would have liked.  I figured that Hairy Legs would throw some caviar at us, and this was a nice variant of a classic combo.  In fact, it made me think of this dish from a couple of years ago.  We had the perilla flowers and dill to deliver nice colors as well as fragrance, while the tiny chopped up bits of cauliflower florets added some crunch.

Scottish scampi, mango, and sea urchin - the langoustines were cooked a la plancha, and came with a green-looking sea urchin cream sauce.  The sea urchin was absolutely delicious, and almost gave me the feeling that I was eating ice cream - which was how I felt at Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばし次郎).  The Film Buff was particularly impressed with the use of mango with sea urchin,

Kinki du Marché de Toyosu - apparently this was "slow-cooked with a lovely texture"...  Well, yes, broadbanded thornyheads (喜知次) do tend to have a nice and soft texture given how fatty the fish is.  It's one of my favorite fish for good reason.  We had, once again, a quenelle of caviar... this time sitting atop some potato.  The orange wedge and fennel on the side were nice, but that saffron sauce was really, really good.

Oh and I should mention that Hairy Legs substituted the sauce for Mrs. Buff, knowing that saffron is off-limits for some pregnant ladies.  He clearly remembered this incident...

Live abalone, carbonara style with pata negra ham - this has been taken off the menu, but I love it so much that I asked Hairy Legs to make it for us.  I have only had it once a few years ago, but I became really impressed with Hairy Legs' cuisine on that visit.  Tonight this would prove to be even better.

The abalone was finely shredded and tossed with a rich carbonara sauce, sprinkled with chopped chives, chiffonade of pata negra and black truffles, and garnished with a raw quail egg yolk along with a few flakes of Parmesan.  A small pile of onion compote sat underneath it all.  Once the yolk is broken and mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, each mouthful just seemed magical.  The sweetness of the onion melded with the eggy, creamy sauce and also struck a balance with the savory notes from the ham and the cheese.  The addition of black truffle was, of course, very much welcomed for the additional fragrance.  And that springy texture from the abalone - which had been transformed and somewhat dialed down by cutting into fine shreds - made it a lot of fun to chew on.

Hairy Legs did it.  The Film Buff was most impressed.  This wasn't like his last dinner at all.

We turned down the kind offer of an extra fish course, as we were sure there would be enough food tonight, and proceeded with the main course.

Zee duck (from Challans, I believe) was presented on a lotus leaf, having been smoked with Japanese cherry wood.

Duck breast with celeriac purée and pear jam - the duck breast was fine, and I liked the thickness of the cut.  The spice rub on the skin was kinda exotic.  There was also some almond "candy" on top, which was rather more crunchy than just meringue.

I was excited, as always, to see the staff bring over the fantastic cheese platter, but the selection seems to have shrunk a little.  That doesn't mean I have trouble picking out a few favorites...

Brillat-Savarain - one of my perennial favorites.  Sooo creamy, soooo soft.  Nice dose of acidity on top of saltiness.

Pérail - definitely a bit of gamey sheep.  Medium-saltiness.  Very soft and runny now.

Mimolette, aged 24 months - pretty salty, mineral, some acidity, and very rich and deep flavors.

Our pre-dessert was a lil' île flottant, with an orange center and, of course, vanilla sauce.  I wasn't expecting a tuile on top for added texture.

The soufflés were for the ladies while the boys got something else, but as Hello Kitty doesn't much care for sweets, guess who ended up enjoying an extra dessert?

Chocolate soufflé - very good.  Chef Vivien's team can certainly knock out good, classic soufflés.  The vanilla and mint sauce definitely added a nice touch.

Not quite sure what this was, but we have pear sorbet and diced pears inside the meringue tube, which was then topped with caramel, almond chips, and then the whole thing was drizzled in chocolate sauce.

Surprisingly, I didn't care for this dessert.  It had all the elements I like - pear, caramel, meringue, and chocolate.  But somehow the pear tasted salty, and that didn't really jive with the chocolate.

Tarte au pommes - to be honest, I was a little disappointed at the sight of this.  It was just sooo... plain.  There are many, many other versions I would prefer over this particular one.  But Hello Kitty really liked it, since apple pie is one of the few desserts she would indulge in, so I guess that's OK.



We brought a few bottles with us, which we were happy to share with Hairy Legs, Victor, and friends. And yes, I did run into some friends of mine tonight...

2005 Vincent Girardin Bâtard-Montrachet - initially the nose was pretty closed and the wine was a bit too cold.  In hindsight this wine needed decanting, as it was still not open after 20 minutes in glass.  After an hour showed some flinty and citrusy notes.  There was definitely ripeness on the palate that was well-balanced with the acidity, although it was a bit more on the ripe side.  The finish was reasonably long.  Two hours after opening, including one hour in glass, it finally developed minerality with a hint of Chinese licorice.

1990 Tertre Roteboeuf - decanted for 1½ hours prior to serving.  Smoky and lean nose, but still got some black fruits, leather, and mint.  Absolutely beautiful.

1966 Haut-Brion - opened without decanting 1½ hours prior to serving.  WOW!  Such a classic wine!  Nose of pencil lead, smoke, lots of coffee, and a hint of sweet grass.  A claret through and through. Fucking awesome!

1997 Baumard Quarts de Chaume - honeydew melon and marmalade on the nose.  Good balance between sweetness and acidity.  Rich but not too sticky.

This was a fun evening. Good food, great wines. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

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