March 6, 2020

Supporting chef friends: the underrated Swede

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We haven't gotten together with the Birdiegolfs in a while, and it was high time to polish off a few bottles.  And guess what?  I knew exactly where I wanted to go and which restaurant I wanted to support - the place that was too busy to accommodate me early a week ago.  The added bonus is that the Birdiegolfs have never been to Frantzén's Kitchen.

I would have preferred to visit Jim on a day when they're not busy, but we ended up coming on what is likely to be their busiest night...  They were almost at full house, and some of the tables even managed 2 turns.  I was happy to see that at least they are still very busy on the weekends.

The tasting menu didn't look very appealing to me, and given it's the first visit for my friends, they should get the full experience by tasting as many dishes as possible.  So we ordered à la carte and practically "swept" the menu.  Each of us started with our own starters, and *someone* took all four...

"Swedish sushi" - arguably my favorite bite here, although I complained to Jim that the size seemed to have shrunk - a claim he refuted but I think the slice of roe deer was smaller.  In any case, I loved that the pungent and strong flavors really grabbed me tonight, probably from the shavings of frozen bird's liver on top.  I still find the crispy lichen interesting.

I keep saying that I would order 2 or 3 of these on my following visit, but I always end up forgetting...

French toast: black truffle, balsamic vinegar, aged cheese and truffle tea - the other signature bite, and no doubt more popular.  Tonight this was really fucking good, with that aged cheese spread in between the two slices of warm toast that was a little grainy.  Of course that pile of shaved Périgord truffle on top didn't hurt...

Truffle tea

Sea of Japan roasted scallop - the pan-seared scallops were nicely done, with onion compote and three textures of parsnip: fermented purée, foam, and crispy chiffonade.  And black truffle chiffonade.  Love the acidity in the buttery sauce.

Pumpkin, broccoli, truffle - the steamed broccolini came on a bed of pumpkin purée, topped with a granola made with pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts.  I thought the granola reminded me of Almond Roca, although obviously without the same level of sweetness.

Cold poached king crab - the chilled consommé along with tomato and peach ceviche made a lot of sense, and the medallions of Norwegian king crab legs were fine.  But the combination of wasabi with almond emulsion threw me off.  There was a similar dish last year, and for some reason I didn't like it as much this time around.

Tartar of Te Mana lamb - the lamb from New Zealand is always good, and this time the presentation was slightly different.  Black garlic oil, cucumber slices with ättika, deep-fried mint and sage leaves and mint powder.  The sage definitely showed.  Very tasty.  We ordered up a second portion later.

Baked North Atlantic cod - I usually order cod since they always deliver, and the cod was very tender.  Interesting that tonight this came with a dashi (出汁), along with some finger lime caviar, spruce leaves, pickled radish, and a cool yuzukosho (柚子胡椒) emulsion.  Very tasty.

Arctic char - Icelandic Arctic char came with a nice and rich goat cheese beurre blanc along with drops of seaweed oil.  Topped with spinach, pickled radish, and trout roe.  The rosemary was a little obvious.

Dry aged Rubia Gallega beef - the sirloin came with some swede purée, romanberry juice, hazelnuts, and endives.  With beef lovers at this table, it wasn't surprising that we ordered a second serving.

Duck and pancake - while we waited for our round of added dishes, Jim was kind enough to send two of these portions from the tasting menu our way.  Mallard duck with dried brown butter sauce.

Pretty tasty duck.

The pancake was made from bark flour and stuffed with mushroom sauce, topped with batonnet of raw mushrooms and fir leaves.

"Hot-pot" - this time the wreath of cabbage, cauliflower, and kale came with venison from New Zealand, and roasted cabbage purée with truffle.

Raspberry and liquorice cream brulée - pretty nice with the tarragon powder and violets on top.  Surprised that I didn't mind the licorice.

There is always plenty of wine at our gatherings, and often it averages more than one bottle per head, so I brought along 2 bottles while knowing the Birdiegolfs would bring along their share.  I wasn't aware of the restaurant's policy of limiting BYO to a maximum of 2 bottles for a group of 4, and was a little taken aback when the sommelier announced it.  So I stuck my bottle of Champagne back into my bag, and knowing that 2 bottles would not be nearly enough, ordered up a bottle of white from the restaurant wine list.

2012 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles - lots of toast, buttery, creamy.  Just beautiful.

2016 Guigal La Doriane - really floral and fresh, but still very ripe on the palate.  Like overripe lychees.

1991 Opus One - decanted for less than an hour prior to serving.  Initially very bretty, very much like a claret, somewhat medicinal, but there was some underlying sweet fruit, and woodsy notes.

Having been open for a few years, I still feel that this is one of the most underrated restaurants in Hong Kong.  I'm happy that they seem to be doing OK in terms of business, relatively speaking.

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