August 22, 2019

Annual rendezvous

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I'm a big fan of Gert de Mangeleer's.  I was completely bowled over by his cuisine during his pop-up dinner in Hong Kong in 2015, and every since then I have managed to meet up with him once a year - in Hong Kong in 2016, in Taipei in 2017, at Hertog Jan in 2018, and once again tonight in Hong Kong.

When Goldfinger decided to do a 4-hands collaboration with Gert, he knew I wouldn't wanna miss out on this event, so he very kindly saved 2 seats for me.  Perhaps with PR8's guidance - or perhaps not - he also had the wisdom to have me come to HAKU tonight so that I could avoid being in the presence of certain people.  That was much appreciated.

First, a welcome drink...

Peter Lauer Saar Riesling Brut - big on the palate.  Some ripeness on the front palate but definitely showing acidity in the middle.  Flinty on the nose.  An interesting sparkling riesling.

Potato / coffee / vanilla, from Gert de Mangeleer - we started with one of my favorite dishes from Gert.  This combination of potato foam, coffee powder, Mimolette, and vanilla has always been an amazing combination of sweet and savory.  But even though I'm having the dish for the third time, this was the first to have included some raw sea urchin tongues at the bottom.  The potato foam seemed a little more dense tonight, and as usual the flavors from the coffee were pretty pronounced, punching through the savory notes from the Mimolette shavings.  Beautiful!

Oyster / asparagus, from Agustin Balbi - the oyster from Fukuoka was surprisingly briny, and came with a sauce made of oyster water, yogurt, sake, and ponzu (ポン酢).  Buried under the oyster were crunchy chiffonade of asparagus.  We've also got olive oil infused with aonori (青海苔), and finally the oyster was topped with flowers and shavings of sudachi (酢橘) zest.  A pretty refreshing dish.

Dashi / shiitake, from Agustin Balbi - so in this bowl of smoky dashi (出汁) you've got this thingamajig that's actually a piece of radish cooked with soy sauce and mirin (味醂), stuck to a piece of mochi (餅), which has a deep-fried shiitake stuck on top.  For some reason we also had chiffonade of jamón ibérico from Jabugo - said to have been aged 1,000 days - along with some scallion sprouts (芽ねぎ).  As with many 椀物 in Japanese cuisine, shavings of yuzu (柚子) zest imparts a wonderful fragrance.

To be honest, I didn't get this dish.  The three main ingredients - radish, mochi, and shiitake - stuck together to form one big block.  So we either had to try to take a really big bite to fit all three into the same mouthful, or break them apart and bite down on each individually.  Beyond that, I didn't quite see how they were connected.

Wagyu / Royal Belgium caviar, from Gert de Mangeleer - very happy to have the Belgian caviar again.  This time, though, he changed things up a little.  We've still got the same tin from Royal Belgian Caviar, but instead of some crème fraîche with plankton powder at the bottom, we have a layer of minced protein.  For the others it was to be tuna tartare, but Goldfinger arranged for us to have wagyu instead.  We know, of course, that it is a combination which works well.  In this case the wagyu was marinated in white soy sauce and wasabi.  I do like how the cold temperature made the wagyu more solid.

The plankton cracker came in lieu of the waffle potato chips we had in Belgium last year.  One is meant to scoop down and spread the caviar and wagyu on top of the cracker.

Gert said that his inspiration for the dish was for a simple celebration which didn't take a lot of time to put together.  He wanted to have some caviar on Lay's potato chips and pop open some Champagne... so this was what he came up with.

Tomato collection 2019, from Gert de Mangeleer - always one of my favorite dishes from Gert.  The tomatoes are grown in the gardens at Hertog Jan, and while I always knew they had more than 100 different varieties, this year the number was 132.  As Gert said to me before, typically what goes on the plate is determined by which varieties had ripened on that day - so the combination is going to be different each day.  In fact, the combination is different for each plate even on the same day.

This was served with goat cheese that comes from a farm near Hertog Jan, along with some chives, African marigold in the form of flowers, leaves, and marigold-scented oil.  You've also got tomato water which comes with acidity, so Gert calls it "ceviche water".  Then we have some physalis, and some ground candied ginger with ground black cardamom - the latter providing some really interesting flavors.

I love the range of ripeness among the tomatoes, with variation of sugar levels and acidity.  It also comes through in textures.

2017 Brash Higgins ZBO - nose was very floral and honey, orange blossom, and reminded me of Hoegaarden.  Also had a hint of bitterness on the palate.  Could definitely taste the maceration.  Worked well with the tomatoes.

Humita, from Agustin Balbi - the South American classic has been reinterpreted using corn, togarashi (唐辛子), salted kombu (塩昆布), lime, Manchego, and roasted pumpkin.  Definitely on the salty side, and the heat which builds up on the back of the throat was unmistakable.  Thankfully we have the sweet corn kernels to try to balance out the salt a little.  Not sure about the foam that's made with water in which the cobs were boiled in...

Corvina / Cava, from Agustin Balbi - the fish came in a butter and Cava sauce that was nice and citrusy, with sobrasada foam and salicornia.

For some reason Goldfinger and team had the idea to remove the fish skin and had it replaced with a gelatinous layer made with deboned pig's feet.  As the fish is cooked in the salamander, the fat melts and is absorbed by the fish.  This isn't something that Hello Kitty appreciates, so she stripped the "skin" off her piece of fish and gave it to me.  This was decent.

Pigeon / miso, from Gert de Mangeleer - the pigeon was cooked over charcoal, and topped with fried leeks, fermented garlic powder, sansho leaves (木の芽), and perilla flowers.

The pigeon was beautiful and tender, and came with some sansho (山椒) powder as well as a drizzle of yuzu oil.

Belgian barley miso, together with a crumble made by deep-frying pigeon skin.  The barley was on the sweet side while the crumble was definitely very salty.

2012 Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières - smoky, animal.  Definitely peppery on the palate.

Rice / abalone, from Agustin Balbi - the arroz caldoso was made with Yume Pirika (ゆめぴりか) rice from Hokkaido, and came with the usual chorizo de la vera and abalone.  Always a delicious and comforting dish.

Cherry / sake, from Agustin Balbi - slices of Japanese cherries along with Spanish cherries cooked in syrup.  The sake ice cream was pretty tasty, and we've also got some crumble made with cocoa nibs.  A delicious dessert.

Potato / coffee / vanilla, from Gert de Mangeleer - now THIS was amazing.  We are ending the meal with the same ingredients we started with, except that this was a sweet version.  Gotta say I absolutely loved the coffee ice cream, especially together with the vanilla.

Matcha and white chocolate lollipop - actually pretty bitter on the outside thanks to the matcha powder, and this, in turn, made the interior seemed almost savory.

Wagashi (和菓子) - the puffed rice tonight was particularly toasty.

Peanut nougat

Graham's 30 Year Old Tawny Port - beautiful with lots of depth and a long finish.

I was so, so happy to see Gert and Jef again.  They never disappoint me, and I wish I could enjoy another meal at Hertog Jan again.  But for now, I will settle for seeing him at least once a year somewhere...

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