September 5, 2020

Second chances: ordinary by day, zesty by night

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It's been a while since Hello Kitty and I were able to go out to a nice dinner, so I asked her to pick out a restaurant we can patronize and support.  Much to my surprise, she chose ZEST by Konishi - where she had visited for a weekday lunch and came away unimpressed.  I did tell her, though, that it was unfair to judge a fine dining restaurant based on a "business lunch".  So I guess she decided to give them a second chance.

When I made the reservation yesterday, I was asked whether the restaurant should send me a copy of the tasting menu.  I declined and told them to "surprise us".  I did tell them about the ingredients that Hello Kitty and I prefer not to eat when I was asked.

First came a selection of bread made in-house, and the brioche was certainly very tasty.

Amuse bouche - ark shell (赤貝) with tomato salsa, zucchini, and cauliflower purée.  Loved the acidity working well with the sweet purée.
Blue crab, eggplant, basil, Kristal caviar - SCHLONG!  This kinda reminded me of another dish I enjoyed at Ta Vie 旅, which also involved caviar on top of eggplant.  In this version, the eggplant was cooked in dashi (出汁), and I loved the flavors.  We were told it was snow crab (ズワイ蟹) on top, along with Kristal caviar from Kaviari, perilla flowers, and scallion sprouts (芽ねぎ).  There was a little yuzu (柚子) fragrance in there somewhere, which was pretty nice.  All of this sat on top of a bed of celeriac mash and some very fragrant basil oil.  Pretty good!

Ezo abalone, French barley risotto, seaweed - Hello Kitty mentioned that nowadays she measures every abalone risotto against the one both of us love from Godenya (ごでんや).  This was, of course, pretty different.  First of all, the "risotto" was made with barley, which meant the texture was a lot more crunchy.  There was also bit of what we thought were diced lotus root, which added more crunch.  The flavors from kombu (昆布), abalone jus, and seaweed were pretty nice.

The abalone itself was really good, especially since it was charred and crunchy around the edges.  Very, very happy with this dish.

Amadai, clams, zucchini, buillabaisse sauce - so the tasty tilefish (甘鯛) was grilled before being added to the bowl, with a single clam, zucchini, and what was described as "tomato juice with bouillabaisse sauce"... whatever that means.  The sauce did taste a little on the sweet side, and I was surprised to find a chunk of taro hidden in the bowl.

Here's where we ran into a service FAIL.  On the menu, one is given a choice of either duck or chicken for the main course.  Anyone who knows anything about this place will know that the chicken is the signature dish of the restaurant.  However, no one bothered to ask us whether we wanted duck or chicken.  The staff just assumed that we would be happy with the duck.

Truth be told, we would have ended up with duck for the both of us anyway... because Hello Kitty don't like no chicken, and since the entire table had to take chicken, that meant I couldn't have gotten the chicken, either.  But that's not really the point, is it?!  The point is that we were not given a choice that everyone else seemed to have been given.

Challandaise duck, kabu turnip - the duck came with a crust which contained crushed poppy seeds.  Pretty good execution.  Served with chunks of turnip as well as some turnip foam.  The cherry on the side had a hazelnut inside in place of the pit.

Rose, raspberry Saint Honoré - OK... so I ain't no pastry chef, but I don't see Saint Honoré on my plate... That's obviously millefeuille!  So between layers of puff pastry we've got some pastry cream on one side as well as raspberry cream on another.  A small quenelle of raspberry cream on top.

Citrus madeleine - interesting shaped to look like chestnuts, with crushed poppyseeds.

I brought a bottle of red but I knew the menu would lean towards seafood, so we decided to give the restaurant more revenue by ordering a glass of bubbly or white.  I am always prepared to pay corkage for BYO, but it did feel a little weird that no one informed me of how much it would be.  This was especially strange when I overheard someone - presumably the manager - asking staff whether we had been told about corkage... and still no one came to tell me.

Delamotte Brut - toasty with good acidity.

2018 Domaine Thomas Sancerre Le Pierrier - floral, tropical, with flinty notes.

As it turned out, Mr. and Mrs. Film Buff was also dining here tonight.  So he very generously shares some of his wine with us.

2013 Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanée - unfortunately the wine was too warm.  Showed lots of toast, along with leather notes.  Very beautiful for a village wine.

I reciprocated by sharing some of my wine with the Film Buffs, even though it wasn't anything really fancy. After all, it's not often that one gets to taste the first vintage of a wine.

1999 BOND Matriarch - decanted for 1 hour prior to serving.  Very minty, smoky, with pencil lead along with sweet fruit underneath.  Very ripe and sweet on the palate.  Really open nose with decadent fruit.  1½ hours after decanting the wine showed explosive fruit, more woodsy notes.  Still very concentrated on the palate.  Two hours later showed some coffee notes.

When dessert came, we were asked whether we wanted to order a sweet wine to go with it. I didn't need to drink any more so I politely declined. It was at this point that we were informed that we had not reached the HKD 500 threshold where corkage would be waived.  OK, so it's kinda nice that the restaurant has this policy, but why didn't anyone tell us earlier?!

Despite the couple of issues with service tonight, both Hello Kitty and I were happy with the food.  There were some pleasant surprises, and I think they are generally worthy of the macaron that they received late last year.  I do kinda miss the previous occupants of this space, though... some of whom are now in New York City, Bangkok, and Tokyo...


Alfred Guell said...

You write that when you booked you told them to „surprise you“. So I wonder why you are surprised that they didn‘t ask you about duck or chicken. I would guess that that was the reason they didn‘t ask. If a guest at my restaurant tells me to surprise him I also don‘t ask for closer details other than allergies/unwanted ingredients.

Peech said...

Hi Alfred,

That's a very interesting point. Perhaps they chose to surprise us by not asking us to choose between the two options. Perhaps it needed to be pre-ordered, although that wasn't specified on the menu. They also neglected to ask us whether we wanted sea urchin with our blue crab and eggplant.

In any case, we were perfectly happy with zee duck. Just surprised that we weren't given the choice.


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