August 1, 2020

Franco-German-Swiss lunch

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It has been a long, long time since my friend Uwe took over at the Island Shangri-La, but for one reason or another I never found occasion to pay him a visit at Petrus.  I had been dining out a lot less this year due to the pandemic, so scheduling visits to chef friends just became a lot challenging.  He's been pretty patient during this time, and I'm sure he's got his hands full this year.

A week ago I finally pinged my friend and asked to come for lunch today, and was really looking forward to my visit.  Two days later the Hong Kong government announced a ban on all dine-in services in restaurants as the situation worsened in the city.  On the second day after the ban was implemented, the government reversed course as a result of massive backlash, and we were once again allowed to sit down to eat breakfast and lunch.  I reconfirmed with Uwe that the restaurant was back open, and finally entered through the doors of the restaurant today.

The restaurant was pretty busy, considering government rules mandate that they not exceed 50% of capacity, and all the tables are spaced apart - as they would normally, anyway - and only two diners are allowed per table.

Uwe came to ask how hungry we were.  I originally asked for a "medium-sized" lunch, but knowing his penchant for trying to kill me with an abundance of food, I quickly backtracked...

Our amuse bouche was a gougère filled with cheese.

Foie gras: cherries / pistachio / grilled bread - the foie gras torchon was marinated with miso and Hokkaido brown sugar, and came topped with a layer of cherry gelée that provided a nice amount of acidity to balance out the fat.  A sprinkle of crushed pistachio added both texture and a complexity of flavors, and best taken with some grilled brioche.

We had an Italian cherry on top which had been stuffed with foie gras and pistachio.  The cherry was really ripe and sweet.  A great and classic start to our lunch.

Egg: truffle / chicken jus - so the Japanese egg was coated with a layer of black truffle sauce, and the inspiration was apparently the Chinese century egg (皮蛋).  I wondered if the foam/sauce was made with onions as there was definitely that sweetness... and the combination with black truffles actually reminded us of fermented black garlic.

Prawn: Spanish / red / garum / grilled bread - this was, of course, very familiar to anyone who has tried Uwe's cuisine in the last few years.  The Spanish carabinero was huge, and barely cooked to achieve the perfect texture.  The garum was made by fermenting prawn heads and shells.  And we had grilled bread on the side to soak up all the goodies from the giant prawn heads.

I love to feel how much tongue starts to stick to the insides of my mouth after I go through one of these prawn heads...

True to form, Uwe inserted an extra course for us, and the staff had to change our cutlery.  He brought this tart out and began to shave cheese on top with a Microplane.

Onion tarte tatin - instead of apples, the tart came topped with caramelized banana shallots, and three sauces: Roscoff onion jam with koji (麹); Comté sauce; and onion, chicken, and truffle reduction.  The shallots were so, so sweet.

This basically killed us.  I felt full just looking at this.

Pork belly: donabe rice / marinated lettuce / apples - Japanese kurobuta (黒豚) belly slow-cooked with apple, horseradish, and potato, then wrapped in local organic lettuce.  I commented on how this looked like millefeuille from this angle...

The surprise, though, was the rice cooked in donabe (土鍋).  Besides the spring onion and bits of house-cured ham made from the same pork belly, the winning ingredient was the pork fat that the rice was cooked with.  As full as I was, there was absolutely no hesitation from me when inhaling this bowl of rice.

Cherries: chocolate / vanilla / crème - a Black Forest cake in log form, with a layer of chocolate "bark".  Topped with a "leaf" made with chocolate.  Lots of condiments on the side.

Cherry compote with vanilla ice cream.  Really, really beautiful.

Vanilla chantilly

Chantilly with kirsch

We were too full to enjoy these fresh cherries, which was too bad.

I wanted to support the restaurant, so instead of the usual BYO I decided to order a bottle from the wine list.  And I saw something that I don't see often...

2014 Gantenbein Chardonnay - decanted just prior to serving.  Beautiful nose with toasty notes that wasn't overwhelming, like roasted corn with butter on top.  Creamy and buttery for sure.  Good acidity on the palate.  Beautiful and opulent.  Got more toasty as it opened up.  Soooo happy to have popped open this bottle.

Needless to say we were completely stuffed.  I was happy to have seen my friend after such a long time, and I'm already planning my next visit very, very soon.

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