November 12, 2021

Le dîner de cons

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It was a few years ago that I got to celebrate Fergie and Chocoball's birthdays with them, and this year the boys decided to do it in style.  After months of hearing me bitch about it, Fergie finally decided to invite me for a meal at Derby Restaurant in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Clubhouse, so that I could get a taste of the new dishes from Chef Francky Semblat.

I haven't been here in a couple of years, and certainly not since Francky landed here after leaving le monde de Joël Robuchon. The first dishes I saw on social media looked like they came from Oncle Joël, and then there was talk that the menu didn't change very much in the beginning. Tonight, though, we were getting something entirely different. This was a menu that was meant to go with white truffle... all of 12 grams.

Our amuse bouche was a French onion soup tart, with white truffle on top.

Chilled corn velouté: popcorn, spiced duck jelly, ginger bread - any kind of corn soup is good in my book, and the only problem here was that we didn't get enough of it... The ginger "bread" - which were actually marshmallows - were kinda interesting, and the duck jelly was nice. There was just enough chili powder to add some kick to the velouté, and of course the shaved white truffle added a good amount of lovely fragrance.

Egg "jou sun": sunshine toast, port wine reduction, buttered asparagus - probably the second favorite dish of the gang tonight. The flatbread came with a confit of Japanese egg yolk, along with some asparagus deliciously drenched in butter, and a little port wine reduction on the side. Of course, one of the most simple yet magical pairings is truffle with egg, and this was another prime example.

Creamy cappetti: mushroom emulsion, black garlic paste, Parmesan chips - the cappetti were stuffed with Parmesan, topped with Parmesan chips, white mushroom wafers, and came in a mushroom emulsion decorated with black garlic paste. Of course, the mushroom flavors worked perfectly with the fragrance of white truffle shaved on top, and once again, cheese and truffle just go naturally together.

Shanghai hairy crab: coral, spaghetti - FAIL. Quelle surprise! This was proclaimed by the staff to be a "signature dish" of Francky's, so it was really surprising that it came up short. I don't think any of us really liked the dish.

The problem here was that we really couldn't taste the distinctive flavors of Shanghainese hairy crab (大閘蟹) roe. The sauce was creamy, yes, but if I had my eyes closed it could have easily been sea urchin. Apparently Francky had used sea urchin paste in the dish while at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Shanghai, which would explain why we tasted sea urchin. So much expectation... and such disappointment.

Meanwhile, Sankala was so happy that she swapped out the pasta with a chestnut soup - as it was apparently very, very delicious.

Quail: stuffed with foie gras and glazed with natural jus, mashed potato - this, on the other hand, was a fantastic dish. Of course it also came with white truffle shavings on top...

The quail breasts were stuffed with wonderfully smooth chunks of foie gras. Sooooo much flavor, soooo tender. So satisfying, especially after the last course.

Exotic mango: caramel Marscapone mousse, mango tuille, coconuts sorbet - I would always go for a mango dessert, and this was very, very nice... especially with that coconut sorbet.

We need to have cake for the birthday boys, so here was a chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut combination. Very, very tasty.

We did OK in terms of alcohol tonight:

2002 Billecart-Salmon Cuvêe Nicolas François, dégorgée en avril 2019 - refreshing and lively with good acidity.

Hassenblage - seimaibuai of 40%. Very smooth, fruity and sweet on the palate. Lots of banana and fermented rice lees on the nose.

Gikyo Junmai Ginjo Genshu 50% (義侠 純米吟醸原酒50%) - seimaibuai of 50%. Very fermented notes on the nose, a little plastic. Sweetish on the attack but turns to show a hint of savoriness, Very fragrant nose. Got softer and more elegant on the palate with time.

1996 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard, from magnum - decanted for 2 hours prior to serving. This was beautiful, if still a little alcoholic on the nose. Smooth on the palate with medium body. Plenty of coconut butter on the nose, and drinking absolutely wonderfully now.

2007 Trévallon Rouge, en magnum - very minty with a hint of smoke. More concentrated. Drinking pretty well.

1997 Philippe Delesvaux Anthologie - crazy wine with 535g/L of residual sugar... that's more than 50% sugar! Really big nose of honey, medjool dates, raisins, honeydew melon. Soooo sweet on the palate but still got acidity to balance.

We adjourned for drinks after dinner at The Eighth.

Eric Rodez Blanc de Noirs, dégorgée en mai 2018 - very yeasty and toasty nose.

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