September 30, 2019

When generosity turns painful

Pin It

Goh-san is back in town for a few days doing a 4-hands with Goldfinger.  On his last night in Hong Kong, he wanted to check out VEA.  So I got drafted invited by The Great One to join them since, you know, I kinda speak a little Japanese and can help translate.  Honestly, I hesitated for a while before agreeing... because my last visit left me with the conclusion that I am not the target audience.  In the end, though, curiosity got the best of me... and I wanted to see whether things have evolved.

And we started with a series of snacks, as usual, with the first one being a familiar sight:

Quail egg - marinated in Japanese vinegar and soy sauce, and smoked with apple wood.  Served, of course, under a glass dome which releases the smoke when lifted.

Wagyu and sea urchin taco - aaaaaand here we go.  Luxe and attention-grabbing ingredients.  A scallion pancake bearing a layer of minced wagyu from Kagoshima (鹿児島), topped with a few tongues of sea urchin from Hokkaido.  We were told to treat it like a taco...

Deep-fried oyster with caviar - MORE LUXE!  The oyster from Lau Fau Shan (流浮山) was battered and fried, then came topped with some oscietra caviar from Lake Qiandao (千島湖) in China, and garnished with strips of 12-year-old (!) lily bulbs.  To be honest, the salinity of the caviar worked well with the oyster, but the proportion was wrong so there was just too much salt.

So the lily bulbs come from a farm in China, and were very crunchy and fresh.  Seemed to be much sweeter than usual, and less starchy than ones I'm used to.

“Without the Two of Us (分分鐘需要你)" - as Vicky said: "same same but different".  There are different variants of the dish featuring the key ingredients of salted fish and bok choy (白菜), taking inspiration from the classic song from George Lam (林子祥).  Now we have deep-fried sesame balls (煎堆) with salted fish and bok choy filling, which was a little smoky and also a little sweet.  I ended up eating one of the dried fish used as decoration...

The tea served on the side was made with dried bok choy and other ingredients.

Vicky really pulled out the stops for Goh-san, going as far as to have the little note - which has the key phrase from the song's lyrics - translated into Japanese.  This translation would be done for all the dishes tonight.

Spot prawn, dan dan noodle, chili oil - this, apparently, was a noodle dish.  Instead of a peanut and sesame sauce for our dan dan noodle (擔擔麵), this was the product of the shells of the Canadian spot prawns.  Then we've got sesame seeds and peanuts with dried fish and chili (辣魚花生), and cucumber on top.  The finishing touches came by applying drops of scallion oil, 3-chili oil, as well as the liquid contents obtained by squashing the heads in a lemon squeezer.

The fragrance from the shellfish was immediately apparent, and there was plenty of umami here.  The prawn had a nice and beautiful texture, and there was just enough heat in the sauce.

Because The Great One complained about not having a head to suck on, we were supplied with deep-fried heads along with plankton aioli on the side.

Fruit tomato, rainbow kiwi, nasturtium, trout roe - the slices of tomato were seasoned by shaving little pebbles of burnt grass (?) with a Microplane.  Served with tomatoes, kiwi, and trout roe on the side along with a mix of cold-pressed kiwi juice and nasturtium oil.  The sauce was kinda nice with a good level of acidity.

Roasted sea cucumber, hairy crab, ChinKiang vinegar - one of the signature dishes here.  It was introduced to us as being stuffed with mud crabs which, of course, wasn't what was printed on our menus.  Fortunately Vicky came over and clarified that the stuffing tonight was, indeed, hairy crabs (大閘蟹).  Same, same, but different.  The sauce was still very rich and thick.  I added a little bit of the black Chinkiang vinegar (鎮江醋) as I'm accustomed to when having hairy crabs.

It's nice to have this combination of crispy topside with the soft, bouncy cucumber.

Let's not forget the 20-ish year-old that is added to the dish via atomizer.  This came from Wing Lee Wai (永利威), which has been in business since 1876.

Scallop, Chinese celery, preserved turnip - the scallop was pretty nice, and the thick and rich sauce was made with the skirt of the scallops, sun-dried tomatoes, Chinese celery, and crunchy preserved turnips (菜圃) from Chiuchow.

Fish maw, caviar, quinoa - the other signature dish.  The giant fish maw from Mexico was from the 1992 vintage.  Braised in fish stock as usual, and served with a sauce along with quinoa, chives, and caviar.

I don't remember it from my last visit, but the kaffir lime leaf chiffonade really added a little something to the dish.

Crispy daikon, taiyouran egg, tonkin jasmine - so the radish was braised with a 2-year-old masterstock (滷水), topped with a Japanese taiyouran (太陽卵), with a thick sauce Périgueux (but without any Périgord truffles), leeks, and tonkin jasmine (夜香花).

Once again, the palate-cleansing sorbet is made from candied apricots (蟠桃果).

Quail, "zha zi" style, sour plum - interesting to see quail cooked like the Cantonese crispy chicken (炸子雞).

Nice doneness, with some shaved lemon zest.  Very tender, but unfortunately it was under-seasoned.  The sour plum sauce was also surprisingly mild.

Deep-fried snake soup - this was a special bite just for us.  Apparently a re-interpretation of the Okinawan dish irabu-jiru (イラブー汁).  This is normally made with the poisonous black-banded sea krait and ingredients like pig trotters.  Here the dried snake was braised with pig trotters and radish.  Then the layers are stacked with the snake skin on top, followed by the pig skin, the meat, and the stock.  Cubes were then deep-fried.  This was very gelatinous, and not surprisingly a pretty heavy bite.  Almost a little smoky.

Beef "char siu", xo sauce fried rice - the wagyu was slow-cooked in marinade for 24 hours, then barbecued using Japanese charcoal.  Nice and fatty, but definitely tasted like char siu should - down to the lovely fragrance of Mei Kuei Lu (玫瑰露) in the marinade.

The fried rice with XO chili jam was about the same as before, with some fox nuts for added texture.

Japanese grape, jasmine tea, cucumber - we've got a pile of white jasmine tea yogurt at the bottom, with compressed cucumber balls, "white Japanese grapes", meringue, and a quenelle of cucumber sorbet.  Pretty refreshing and nice.

Yes, the pain-in-the-ass - along with his Japanese visitor - insisted on finding out from the pastry chef what kind of grapes were being used.  Eventually we were told that they were Shine muscat (シャインマスカット) from Nagano (長野県)

Cold white jasmine tea - a natural pairing with the dessert.

Lotus seed paste, red date caramel, sea salt - we've got some jujube caramel (not quite sure what that is) and yellow lotus seed paste from Ho Kai Cheong (何啟昌) inside a ring made of chocolate.  A wreath of diplomat cream sits on top, together with a lovely quenelle of sea salt ice cream, and a thin crisp made of Hokkaido milk.  Curiously, there were also two little balls of white lotus seed paste on the plate.

Vicky continues to play candyman and serves up another of his childhood memories...

We've got the candy and coconut wrap (糖蔥餅), made by wrapping crêpes around strips of candy "scallions" along with some ice cream and batonnet of young coconut flesh, all wrapped inside the classic brown paper bag.

Tonight, though, the candyman gave us a choice of two flavors for the ice cream: the usual coconut, and also Musang King durian (貓山王榴槤).  OF COURSE both The Great One and I picked durian!

Poor Goh-san got stuck between two people eating durian ice cream...

Peach and mango pie - another extra made for The Great One, who has professed her love for the peach and mango pie from Jollibee.  I definitely did not need this...

Mignardises box came, and we were asked to choose what we liked.  Unlike someone who wanted one of each, I chose only two.

Pineapple bun with crème brûlée - an interesting take on a local classic.  I was just telling Goh-san about the local special pineapple bun with butter (菠蘿油) - where one chomps down on the bun with a thick slab of ice-cold butter in the middle - and here we have something inspired by it.

Mung bean soup (綠豆湯) - like the dessert soup, this came with bits of rue (臭草) and kelp... and gold foil!  The sphere sat on top of a sablé breton.

I didn't want coffee at this point, but Vicky offered us some sweet tea vine (絞股藍).  We were supposed to chew on the greens after drinking the tea, but I could not physically fit more than a few sips in my disgestive system...

We were treated to a glass of Champagne to start, followed by the two bottles of wine I brought along.

Raphaël et Vincent Bérêche Grand Cru 40 Mois de Cave, dégorgée le Octobre 2017 - lean on the palate, with reasonably high acidity along with some ripeness.

2006 Kongsgaard Chardonnay - nice and ripe on the palate without being over-ripe.  Sweet nose that was almost like sugar cane.  Not bad at all.

2006 Kongsgaard Grenache/Syrah - served after more than 45 minutes in decanter.  Nose was very sweet and jammy, with nice leather and animal notes.

This was an enjoyable meal, and while I still feel that there are many dishes designed to attract attention on social media and generate buzz, I think the flavors are pretty good.  The biggest problem I had tonight was the large amount of food we were served.  Not to sound like an ungrateful bastard - and I know Vicky only wanted to show us as much of his repertoire as he could - but it was simply overwhelming.  The dishes themselves were pretty heavy, as a number of them came with rich and heavy sauces.  So when you serve up a long series of heavy dishes... I was literally starting to feel pain in my stomach as my body ran out of room to physically fit the intake.  If I were to have one request for my next meal, it would be for something lighter...

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map