January 8, 2022

Playing with fire

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Dinner's been cancelled by the Hong Kong government. As of yesterday, restaurants are no longer allowed to serve dine-in guests from 6:00 p.m. We've been down that road before a couple of times over the last 2 years, and restaurants scramble to adapt and adjust their service schedules. Meanwhile, lots of bookings are cancelled.

The Great One pinged me a couple of days ago, inviting me to a special event that was rescheduled from dinner to lunch today. I was curious about this collaboration between The Chairman (大班樓) and Interval - especially since I've never had much exposure to the cooking by Twins Kitchen - so I accepted the invitation.

We slept in this morning, then took our time cleaning up and getting out of the house. While choose which pair of freshly laundered jeans to put on, I made a mental note to leave a particular pair for tomorrow, because that is the day I would need to go out for this special lunch.

At 11 minutes past 1pm, I'm sitting in a taxi on our way to have lunch with CC, and I'm scrolling my phone. A message pops up from the Great One: "See you soon?"

OH SHIT! Why did I think that lunch would be TOMORROW?! I'm already more than 10 minutes late, and I'm nowhere near the restaurant on the south side of the island!

I hopped off the taxi I was in, flagged down another taxi and jumped in. Twenty minutes later, I was at my destination. A mere half-hour late. Oops.

My tablemates had supposedly started drinking and nibbled on some bread to start while they waited for me. This was basically the pizza dough that came out of the Stefano Ferrara wood-fired pizza oven.

La Bohème Festejar! - high acidity, a little minerality and metallic, fruity flavors almost like guava.

Drunken hokkigai, smoked oscietra caviar by NOMAD Caviar and red sorrel (煙燻魚子醬配醉北寄貝,紅酸模) - the caviar had been cold-smoked with the camphor wood The Chairman uses to smoke their ducks, and I definitely recognized those flavors. The giant surf clams delivered some sweetness to balance out the saltiness of the caviar. Pretty nice bite.

Baby squid, red prawn, king fish and Szechuan pepper (釀紅蝦鰤魚花椒凍鹵水小吊桶) - these certainly looked familiar... on the outside, at least. But what we got today were stuffed with diced raw red prawns and yellowtail. The squid were then dressed with some master stock (鹵水) which imparted some interesting flavors similar to Chinese wine, and Sichuan peppercorn oil for a little numbing sensation. Very nice.

Roasted pork intestine, sweet bean sauce (甜麵醬燒豬腸) - YEAH, BABY! I loooove pig intestines, and these were stuffed and layered, just the way I like it. Then these were grilled on the fire for a little crispy texture along with some charring. The "salsa" made with grilled peppers served to add a little pizzazz. Really delish.

Between Five Bells Yellow - what an interesting mix of aged savagnin from 2008 and chardonnay which has gone through a solera system for 7 years. Very toasty oak on the nose, with some intensely sweet honeydew melon. Definitely showed that buttery voluptuousness coming from the chardonnay, with lots of vanilla sweetness, but then started to show like a Rhône blend of marsanne/roussanne. Fantastic!

Wagyu bone marrow, The Chairman X.O. sauce, wood fire bread and micro greens (牛骨髓X.O.醬配烤包,微型菜苗) - it's hard not to like any dish that features bone marrow, and this was no exception.

The marrow came with some of The Chairman's X.O. sauce, which features sakura shrimp (桜海老), and some pickled shallots. Perfect with some of that bread.

Handmade tagliolini, The Chairman char siu, pork tendon and goose jus (第一刀叉燒,豬蹄筋,燒鵝汁義大利粉) - the tagliolini's texture was pretty interesting... almost a little like Cantonese bamboo noodles (竹昇麵). The char siu was, of course, delicious. But when it comes in a thinner slice so that it works with noodles, the satisfaction level just isn't the same. The pieces of pork tendon were nicely charred and crunchy on the edges.

Wagyu beef short rib, satay glaze and market fruits (焦香沙茶牛肋骨,各式水果) - probably my least favorite dish. Yes, the beef was nice and tender but I didn't find it special.

The fruit were more interesting, and we had pineapple, persimmon, nectarine, and atemoya.

2008 Scarpa Barbera d'Asti Superiore La Bogliona - OK, not very special.

Charcoal grilled smoked threadfin, lardo and preserved lemon butter (一夜干馬友配牛油檸檬汁) - the four-finger threadfins (馬友) were aged for 3 days, and they were pretty tasty, especially with that kombu (昆布) and preserved lemon butter.

2018 Tardis Venerdì Paestum - kinda flat on the palate. Very tropical nose, showing stone fruits and pineapple.

Flower crab, Szechuan peppercorn and tomato vinegar (青花椒焗花蟹) - I'm glad to see alternatives to the signature crucifix crab in Shaoxing wine. This is a dry version, salt baked in a clay pot with plenty of green (and some red) Sichuan peppercorns. The fragrance which rose up when the lid of the pot was removed could not have been more beautiful. Loved the numbing, tingling sensation dancing around my tongue. It's too bad Sankala isn't here, as this is right up her alley.

Nida Shizensyu Kimoto Melon 3.33 (にいだしぜんしゅ 生酛めろん3.33), 2020 - nose was very candy-like, actually reminded me of candied winter melon. A little sharp on the nose.

Woodfired sourdough pizza, purple sweet potato and caramelized apple (甜薄餅) - I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this.

Ginger and muscovado pudding (薑汁黑糖年糕)

2020 Mikkeller Baghaven Ruud Peesch - pretty acidic, fruity, like a mix of peach juice and pink guava... which made sense, of course, because this was made with red peaches.

What an enjoyable and interesting lunch! I love these type of "4-hands" (OK, in this case, more than 6 hands) events where it's a true collaboration between two teams. Far too often, these types of events are kinda bullshit because they simply feature dishes that each team already serve in their own space, and the only coordination between the teams involve the sequencing of dishes. But Danny and team insist on only doing collaborations where each dish is a result of the efforts by both teams, where each team brings something to the table. This was clearly evident in each and every dish today. Bravo!

P.S. A special thanks to Wallace Lo for introducing me to such an interesting wine today. I'm normally not a big fan of the bongwater he picks out, but we definitely had a winner today.

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