July 18, 2020

Supporting chef friends: 2-star takeout

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The Covid-19 pandemic has been with us for more than 6 months, and after a lull of more than a month, Hong Kong is now experiencing a "third wave" where daily new cases have spiked up to unprecedented levels.  This prompted the government to impose stringent measure on social distancing, and for the first time in history, restaurants are forbidden to serve dine-in guests starting at 6pm.  DINNER IS CANCELLED.

Faced with a drastic loss of revenue - which is especially devastating for fine dining restaurants which primarily (or solely) rely on dinner service - restaurants around town immediately launched takeout or delivery menus.  Some of them had been doing this for a while, but the one that caught my eye was from Ta Vie 旅 - one of my favorite restaurants in town.

I was, apparently, the first to ask Sato-san about their takeout menu, and placed an order two days ago for pickup tonight.  I managed to rope in Mr. and Mrs. Birdiegolf as our partners in crime, and they would be responsible for the starters for tonight's dinner.

We started with some bread and butter...

Challans duck leg confit with sautéed potatoes - well, the truth is that this was cold by the time I got to it after the starters.  It was still delicious, but I probably should have asked to have it heated up in the oven.  When Mr. Birdiegolf got around to the other leg, I insisted that he stick it in the oven.  I'm sure it tasted much, much better when the duck fat warmed up and liquefied somewhat.

"Charcoal grilled beef rice bowl": Kagoshima beef A4 ribeye, Japanese sweet corn, onsen egg, black truffle, Koshihikari rice - this, on the other hand, still tasted delicious even when it was cold.  I didn't mind one bit that the wagyu was cold.  The flavors were still there.  The truffle didn't hurt, and the Japanese corn still tasted starchy sweet.  Everything just magically came together.

"Lung Guang chicken dried morel mushroom" macaroni gratin - I gotta be honest... in the car ride after picking up the food, this was all I could smell.  The fragrance from the cheese gratin was simply pervasive and filled the entire car.

And this was the surprise of the evening.  None of us expected this to be the clear winner.  The diced chicken was soooo tender and silky, and of course the morels and cheese delivered beautiful flavors.  It mattered not that this was cold.  It was damn tasty.  I wish I had ordered a couple more of these and just keep them in the fridge.

"南華李" seasonal local pum tart - this was very nice.  The acidity from the Nanhua plums helped balance out the sweetness from the frangipane.

"Chocolate pudding flavored kaffir lime" - ever since my first visit to Ta Vie 旅, this has always been my absolute favorite chocolate pudding.  The flavors are so much more complex than your ordinary chocolate pudding or mousse.  That addition of kaffir lime just delivers so much more... with citrusy, almost orange flavors.  I could easily take down 2 of these jars, and wish that my tongue was as long as Kuma's to reach inside and lick the jar clean.

Naturally, there was some good wine. Little did I know that our hosts had lined up a few '96s for the evening.

1996 Bruno Paillard Nec Plus Ultra, dégorgée en janvier 2009 - very, very ripe, very smooth with a long finish.  Slightly bitter at the end.  Delicious.

1996 Kistler Chardonnay Cuvée Cathleen - unfortunately this was long gone... much too oxidized and flat on the palate.  A shame.

1970 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve - decanted just before serving.  Still plenty of vanilla and coconut butter at first whiff, ripe and stewed prunes, later a little smoke.  Very smooth and silky on the palate.  Much later on it turned savory with black tea.

1996 Rayas - really sweet and jammy right off the bat, typical Rayas.  Then a little potpourri, forest, and some leather later.  Suddenly fell off a cliff less than an hour later.

1967 Kopke Colheita - smoky, nutty, sweet dates, and savory minerals.

A really good evening which ended with me puffing on a "junior" cigar - my first in more than 4 years.

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