January 5, 2020

Dominique's Hong Kong

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It's been a long time coming, but Dominique Ansel has finally come to Hong Kong to open up shop.  It made total sense that they took their time before entering this market, as the notoriously high rent and other operating costs don't make for an easy environment.  Then there's the fickle clientele, and a general aversion to things that are too sweet... Anyone remember how quickly Krispy Kreme packed up and exited this market?

So I was really happy to see A and Dominique today at Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel (當文歷餅店).  The bakery officially opens Tuesday, but I was lucky enough to get a preview today at their "friends and family" event.  A told us that they had consciously cut down on the amount of sugar used in all the items, and this was also one of the reasons they chose not to bring the Cronut to Hong Kong - as they didn't think all that sugar would suit the local palate.

What I was really excited about, though, were all the special creations that the team came up with just for this shop.  I had been seeing pictures and descriptions on Instagram for the last few months, and I would have the opportunity to taste them today.

Dominique wanted us try everything, but that wasn't really possible... While Hello Kitty and I did have a light lunch earlier today to save stomach space for this afternoon excursion, I do have a wine dinner to attend tonight.  I promised to do the best I could.

Lemon juice box (紙包檸檬茶) - this ubiquitous Tetra Pak box is found all over Hong Kong, and has been part of the collective memory of all Hong Kongers for the last couple of generations.  Apparently in the last few years, there has also been a trend for Mainland Chinese people to drink iced lemon tea from Hong Kong brands like Vita (維他), and the popular phrase is apparently "維他檸檬茶, 爽過吸大麻"...

With that in mind, this box came with almond biscuit, bergamot curd, Earl Grey Mascarpone mousse, and came covered in white chocolate.  I could definitely taste the distinctive flavors of bergamot.

Hong Kong milk tea Cookie Shot (港式奶茶曲奇杯) - I confided in A that I'd never had the original Cookie Shot, because I don't drink plain milk.  I'm glad that instead of just bringing a signature item to Hong Kong, they chose to create something new that has meaning to the people here.

Here at Dang Wen Li, one would pour Hong Kong-style milk tea - which is cold-infused for 48 hours - into a Yakult-shaped cup made of cookie dough.  Yakult (called 益力多 in Hong Kong) is another part of the collective childhood memories of this city, and apparently it was not easy getting the shape of this mold right...

While I understand that the sweetness of the cookie dough is meant to be diluted by the drink, I thought the milk tea needed to be more sweet.  Perhaps I need a lesson on the proper way to take the cookie shot so that I can achieve the optimal balance in each mouthful...

Pineapple bun (菠蘿包) - technically, this is a 菠蘿油... as there is a slab of "butter" inside.  It is arguably the most iconic item from Hong Kong's bakeries and cha chaan tengs (茶餐廳), and incidentally I had just had my very first one after more than 20 years of living in this city...

With a coconut dacquoise bottom and a top made with coconut mousse, the jam filling is made of pineapple, lime, and passion fruit - with passion fruit seeds and lime zest.  The slab of "butter" is a Mascarpone cream with sea salt, which was why it tasted like salted butter.

I really loved this.  The combination of tropical fruits and slightly savory flavors, the mix of cream and jam... Just perfect.

Thousand year egg (皮蛋) - I was kinda surprised that they decided to do this, but it did look cute with a little slice of fake pickled ginger on top...  Hello Kitty also loved the jelly made to look like the real egg.

Very, very rich... with lots of hazelnut cream and crunchy bits in addition to the chocolate.

Black and White panna cotta (黑白淡奶) - cans of evaporated milk can be seen all over Hong Kong's local cha chaan tengs and other eateries that serve coffee or milk tea, and one of the most popular brands is Black and White.  This, therefore, is another thing that many Hong Kongers hold dear.

The white chocolate "can" encloses a cylinder of salted caramel panna cotta, with a rum baba at the center.  This was really, really good.  There was enough rum in the baba, and there was enough salt in the caramel panna cotta to make the flavors really stand out.

Fish balls (魚蛋) - one of the most popular street foods in Hong Kong is curry fish balls on a stick, which served as the inspiration behind this transformation of the Frozen S'mores.  The fried mochi (餅) balls are filled with red bean paste and ice cream, then dusted with caster sugar before being torched.  This gives them a nice and smoky flavor, with a little hint of bitterness thanks to the charring.

Turnip cake muffin with soft scrambled eggs (蘿蔔糕英式鬆餅配炒滑蛋) - I was saving room for the sweet items so I only had a couple of small bites of this.  I thought the idea of making the popular turnip cake (蘿蔔糕) into an English muffin was pretty interesting, and I really liked the crispy texture.  I also liked that I could taste the dried shrimp and preserved pork in the "muffin" - ingredients that would be part of real turnip cakes.  Of course, the beautiful scrambled eggs didn't hurt, either!  Finally, special mention must be made about the mayo made with Yu Kewn Yick (余均益) chili sauce - another icon in Hong Kong.

We couldn't possibly finish all these items with just the two of us, and even with the reduced amount of sugar, this was just too rich to take in one sitting.  I was very, very happy to see Dominique and A, and look forward to going back to the bakery with friends so that we can sweep the menu properly.

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