October 8, 2020

Arrogant Prick and a jaded palate

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It's been much too long since we last caught up with Farmer Chris, and I finally decided it was time to open a bottle of wine with him, especially as his birthday had just passed.  It's been just over a year since I was last at VEA, and I thought it was time to check out how Vicky Cheng's cuisine has evolved.

Vicky asked us whether we wanted a 6- or 8-course menu, and since Farm Chris was pretty hungry, we went for the larger option.  I did request, though, that Vicky not send us too much food.

As usual the meal started with some snacks:

Drunken sea snail - the babylonia was marinated with Wujiapi wine (五加皮酒) and Huadiao wine (花雕酒).  Flavors were decent, and thankfully I didn't get any sand tonight...

Foie gras tuile - stuffed with foie gras mousse, pistachio, and fig.  Best out of the first three.

Cucumber tartlet - with smoked salmon, Japanese salmon roe, and cucumber balls.  OK la.

“Without the Two of Us (分分鐘需要你)" - same version as my last visit.  The deep-fried sesame glutinous rice balls (煎堆) were stuffed with salted fish and bok choy (白菜), and tonight they were very tasty, maybe better than what I had last time.  Since I ate one of the decorative dried fish last time, the staff reminded us that we weren't meant to consume them...

The tea was made with bok choy, carrots, honey dates (蜜棗), and other ingredients.  

We did have to explain to Farmer Chris the inspiration behind the dish, which was playing on the music box.  I guess Vicky really loves this song...

Kristal caviar: Alaskan king crab, conpoy - well, it always looks impressive when you have a dish completely covered in caviar.  

Underneath the caviar "shell" you've got a disc of almond cream (or panna cotta?), king crab, conpoy, and Huadiao (花雕) reduction.  This was finished with a couple of sprays of 20-year old Huadiao from Wing Lee Wai (永利威). I felt the crab was a little on the salty side, which was maybe the reason there was a piece of bland almond panna cotta there.  This was meant to be taken with a steamed Chinese bun.

Wild amberjack: Gillardeau oyster, sesame - we have two slices of raw Japanese amberjack on top of a rather large Gillardeau oyster.  The diced zucchini and shaved lemon zest worked very well with the seafood, but I found the chunks of lemon a little too strong for my liking.  Would have preferred just a little squeeze of lemon juice instead.

Sea cucumber: kuruma prawn - one of the signature dishes, and this time the stuffing was local kuruma prawns (九節蝦).

The spiny sea cucumber was still nice and crispy on top.  You've got chunks of prawn along with prawn paste.  The sauce was very, very tasty with plenty of shellfish flavors from the prawn heads.  Pretty tasty, and no wonder why it's a crowd favorite.

Surprisingly there was no Huadiao being sprayed with the atomizer tonight.  I guess you can only play that game once during dinner.

I did get a little annoyed with our server, who kept asking us whether we liked the dish even after I've told him that I've had it a couple of times before...  He then reminded me that tonight there was a different stuffing... as if changing from crab to prawn would be an earth-shattering change.  Or maybe it is... and my palate is just too shit to recognize it.

Crispy daikon: Taiyouran egg, black truffle - we've got Japanese radish which had been braised in masterstock (滷水) for four hours before being pan-fried.  The Japanese taiyouran (太陽卵) on top was pretty nice, and the thin wafers of raw white button mushrooms were nice.  The sautéed spinach was drenched in truffled chicken jus.

Vicky's served up similar versions of the dish before, but I thought what we had tonight was the best.  I really, really enjoyed the complex flavors of the radish.  The radish was also braised with conpoy and dried longans.

M7 Aust. ribeye: Sichuan green peppercorn, potato - OK, so here's where my jaded palate rears its ugly head...  Honestly, I'm not easily impressed with fatty beef.  So many people serve wagyu nowadays that it doesn't automatically make the dish special.  The sauce was supposedly made with Sichuan green peppercorns (青藤椒), but it barely registered.

The potato millefeuille was made with maitake (舞茸).  This was fantastic.  I'd rather swap out the beef for another piece of this.

Salted plum sorbet - this palate cleanser was nice.  I definitely tasted the saltiness and the acidity along with sweetness.

27 head dried abalone: pithivier, sweetbread - so this was the new, special item on the menu... at a hefty supplement in terms of pricing.  I had originally wanted to get the pigeon that was smoked with sugarcane pulp coming from Kung Lee Herbal Tea Shop (公利真料竹蔗水), which produces my favorite sugarcane juice in town.  But Hello Kitty suggested that Farmer Chris and I split this instead. 
Well, the pastry of the pithivier did look pretty good.

And it certainly looked interesting inside, with the braised abalone at the bottom while a piece of sweetbread sat on top.  All around you have spinach mousse as filling.  A rich jus made with dried abalone accompanied the pastry.

To be honest, I was disappointed. The pastry was delicious, and the execution on the abalone was fine.  The problem was the spinach, as the flavors were simply too strong that it overpowered the sweetbread (which I love) as well as the abalone.  If it weren't for the abalone sauce on the side, I would not have been able to get a lot of abalone flavor out of this.  Having paid a not-insignifcant supplement for my half, I now desperately wish Hello Kitty hadn't talked me into this.  I would have been much, much happier with just the pigeon.

As is traditional here, a rice course is served after the main protein.  We've got bits of pigeon neck, pigeon skin, diced matsutake (松茸), chives, and thin wafers of raw matsutake on top.  The execution here was fine, with the individual rice grains on the dry side and not soggy, with good amount of chewiness.

Speaking of the rice... our server introduced it as "sushi rice" - which doesn't mean anything to me.  What the fuck is that?!  When I asked for clarification, he didn't know and had to ask the kitchen.  Well, he came back to tell me that the rice came from Niigata Prefecture (新潟県), which I know to be a top rice-growing region but still didn't provide me with enough info.  After a second trip back to the kitchen, I was finally told that they used Koshihikari (こしひかり) - which is nice and something I used to stock in my kitchen before switching to something else with more bite.

Dude, if you're gonna try to impress me with your use of fancy schmancy ingredient descriptions, you'd better fucking know your shit, because it takes a lot to impress this Arrogant Prick.

Bird's nest: muskmelon, Hokkaido milk - the bird's nest was double-boiled with rock sugar, and came with some Japanese musk melon and a panna cotta made with milk from Hokkaido - the latter being well-known for their high fat content.

Lotus seed paste: salted duck egg, caramel -  meant to emulate a traditional mooncake (月餅) in terms of flavors, this was the second version I've tasted here. The lotus seed paste came from Ho Kai Cheong (何啟昌).  So we've got lotus seed cake with chocolate, with salted duck egg caramel inside.  On top you've got some sea salt ice cream in the middle, with all these little balls made of lotus seed paste, chocolate, and caramel.  And of course GOLD LEAF!  Vicky must have forgotten about my gold fetish because he CLEARLY DID NOT GIVE ME ENOUGH.

Mignardises:  I was very full, so I only picked out three little ones...

Mochi with condensed milk

Chouquette with mango and sago

Earl Grey kougin amann
- DAMN this was good.

Vicky treated us to some bubbly at the start of the meal, and of course it would have to be Krug!

Krug Grande Cuvée, 167ème édition, ID 318034 - very consistent Krug style, with big, toasty nose, but kinda high on acidity.

Gooseberry, shiso, mint, gin - pretty nice, actually.  I ordered this to go with the seafood dishes.

1998 Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Combe-du-Dessus - decanted for 1 hour before serving, which was a little too much.  Loved the nose but it was already peaking.  Slight bitterness on the palate.  A bit of toast with some nice fruit.  Unfortunately starting to be a little flat without a long finish.  With some vigorous swirling, some really sweet fruit aromas were released.

I found out tonight that Farmer Chris would be leaving us next week, and I wish him smooth sailing in his upcoming adventures.  Hope to be able to meet up for more meals soon... but in another country altogether.


DL said...

I thought the pithivier wasn't worth the price too. $1580 for two was steep.

Anonymous said...

You are getting to sound somewhat jaded, if not downright bad tempered.

Peech said...

LOL, Anonymous. You obviously don't know me and haven't read many of my posts...


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