January 15, 2022

Second chances in the 'hood

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It's been way, way too long since I last caught up with the couple in the Tiny Urban Kitchen, so we made plans to meet up for a meal.  When the Hong Kong government imposed a ban on dining in beginning at 6 p.m. each day, we quickly converted that to a lunch reservation.

My friends had dined at Neighborhood only once, as a four-top of all newbies. She wanted to give them another try, and of course I have been posting and raving about The Man in White T-shirt for more than a decade. I did explain to her my take on why people have different experiences coming to Neighborhood, and I hoped she would get to see a different side of the place today.

As usual I asked for the boss to send us whatever he wanted, and most of the dishes were part of the current menu with a couple of notable exceptions.

Saucisson and lardo rillette - I am always happy to see this. How is it possible for me not to love something made from saucisson and lardo di Colonnata? As much as I knew there is a lot of food coming, I couldn't resist spreading this beauty on the sourdough bread.

24 month "Cinta Senese" Tuscan black pig culatello - it's been a while since the boss sent over some culatello, and I was pretty happy with it. I had to move it away from Sankala coz she was about to finish this on her own...

Fassona beef tartare / burrata / hazelnuts / black truffle - I do love this combination of beef tartare encased inside burrata, especially with some crunchy and fragrant hazelnuts inside. Now that white truffle season is over, we had shaved black truffle on top instead.

Bone marrow / strawberries / N25 caviar - roasted bone marrow with caviar has become one of the most popular dishes here, but it's always the variations that are more interesting.

The marinated strawberries brought acidity to help balance out the richness of the marrow. Of course, it's always best on bread.

Pumpkin / foie gras - once again, I got to have the "foie 瓜". This harks back to the days of André Daguin, and I do love the presence of pumpkin seeds to add texture.

Kajiya Farm mesclun green salad / Parmesan - something light in the middle of lots of heavy dishes is always appreciated. I wonder how the restaurant will still be able to get these greens flown in from Kajiya Farm (梶谷農園) as cargo capacity gets cut due to government restrictions...

Local rock-fish "onion" soup - any fish soup here is bound to be delicious, and today we've also got onions, chunks of bread, and a cheese gratin on top. Slurp!

Sweet potato / Raclette / Rubia Galega ham / black truffle - is this a new take on tartiflette? I love all the ingredients individually, but I felt the ratios were a little off. The sweet potatoes - apparently from Tokushima Prefecture (徳島県) - were a little on the dry side, and would have benefitted from more cheese. Likewise, the sweetness could have been better balanced with more of the dry-aged Rubia Galega "ham", perhaps in thicker cuts.

Seasonal wild mushrooms from France / fried egg - this was OK, but we were already very full by now.

Handmade pappardelle / venison ragu - always happy that the Man in White T-shirt remembers how much I love their pasta. This was awesome, and I just needed a little bit, so half portion was perfect.

Soupy rice with Japanese snow crab - I saw the boss prepping a Japanese snow crab (ズワイ蟹) and wondered whether that was for the four of us. I had my answer. Of course we had absolutely no hope of finishing this, so we ended up taking a little more than half of it home. What we had, though, was really, really delicious. The boss' genius was evident in his use of slices of preserved pork belly (臘肉) to add richness, and then using acidity from fermented cabbage and yuzu (柚子) to counter any excessive fattiness. The presence of chili powder lending a little kick was pretty nice. In fact, I began to wonder whether this bore some resemblance to flavors of Chinese sauerkraut fish (酸菜魚).

Chestnut cannnoli - someone is a big fan of cannoli (with two 'n's) and was very happy with this.

I took it easy at lunch and only brought 2 bottles along...

2016 Cos d'Estournel Blanc - still needs decanting as the nose was very muted when first opened. Nice with plenty of toasty oak, classic sauvignon blanc with flint. Lean with good acidity.

2008 Sassicaia - very minty, lots of pine needles and forest. Sweet on the palate, and tannins still here. Great concentration and still very young and lively.

This was soooo much food, but we were very happy. I think my friends were happier this time around, but there would be hell to pay.

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