March 30, 2022

Yakifrenchy with hairy Frenchy

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Hairy Legs and I have been meaning to get together for some wine, and since it was his birthday recently, I had been saving up a couple of bottles for this occasion. I was a little surprised, though, when he suggested that we meet at Clarence.

With the current ban on dinner service, I hadn't paid much attention to new openings in town, so I was surprised to find that O Chef is behind this new "casual" establishment. A quick look online and the word "Yakifrenchy" popped up. Huh? I guess it's kinda like yakitori (焼き鳥), where things are skewered on sticks and then grilled over charcoal. Most curious.

The boss introduced the concept and the menu briefly, and said he was gonna organize a few things for us. That's always a good idea since you know you'll be getting the signature dishes that the kitchen feels most confident about.

These cheese crackers with the dip were pretty good.

We also had these breakfast radishes, which I remember O Chef liked to serve at Seasons by Olivier E. and also at L'Envol.

We started with a couple of cold dishes:

Black prawns / tonka bean / lemon peel - there was a good amount of marinade/rub on the prawns, although it seemed more superficial and the flavors were not well-absorbed. The Menton lemon delivered a nice fragrance which was front-and-center, but we were surprised by the bitterness. This also came with some heat that was a little more than I had expected.

Cooked octopus / uni foam / fresh tomato / lime - the tomato and kaffir lime worked well here, and we've also got some heat.

Then came the yakifrenchy items, and we had a bowl which contained a mix of 13 French spices - I didn't ask for the list - instead of the Japanese shichimi (七味) commonly used for yakitori.

Ratatouille / pesto - I guess it's just like grilled veggies on a kebab skewer, but drenched in a pesto sauce.

Eggplant / escabeche - OK lah.

Burgundy snails / garlic parsley - pretty decent.

Frog legs / Pastis / tomato - also nice.

Duck confit / garlic - I love duck confit, but this piece was just too small to satisfy my craving for it. The garlic mayo on top helped to balance the salty duck.

Veal head / wasabi - I love tête de veau but I wasn't a fan of the freakishly colored wasabi mayo on top. The wasabi flavor was mild and neither added nor detracted much from the head cheese, but I was just turned off by the color.

We also had two main courses, which were undoubtedly the stars of our meal. This is more like the O Chef I know...

Skate wing / teppan / brown butter / spices - ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY BEAUTIFUL. Cooked on the teppan (鉄板). I was suddenly reminded of the sole meunière I enjoyed at L'Envol.

Due to a lack of waitstaff at the restaurant, Hairy Legs had to plate the fish for us... along with a healthy pile of garlic confit and of course beurre noisette. Really, really fucking good. I could dispense with all the dishes we had earlier and just ordered this for myself without sharing it with anyone. Oh and a bowl of steamed rice, please...

Black pork Bigorre rack, charcoal / devil sauce - oh I really love Noir de Bigorre, and this pork rack was just... stunning! At one end the slices were almost pure fat, and I was loving it. So, soooo tender and flavorful. Grilled with apple wood and served with a béarnaise/devil sauce.

Endives salad / Comté cheese / mustard / lemon - I normally don't care for endives, but in this case I welcomed its balance to the deliciously fatty pork.

We were pretty full, but I couldn't resist checking out a dessert. The restaurant also wanted us to try out another.

Nutella banana croffle / Isigny cream / ice cream - a pain au chocolat presented as a waffle. Very nice with the Nutella filling, and of course the slices of banana helped complete the flavor profile.

Lychee / rose petals / petit suisse ice cream - I knew that lychees (荔枝) are not in season yet, so we've got ones from a can. This was effectively a variation on Pierre Hermé's Ispahan - with rose, raspberries, and lychees. I think the chunks of gelée were flavored with rose water...

The meal wouldn't be complete without some wine, and we did have a few bottles between the two of us:

2016 Didier Dagueneau Buisson Renard - still relatively lean on the palate but much riper than expected, especially at the beginning. Lemon citrus notes.

1981 Trimbach Clos Ste. Hune - very smooth and elegant, not in-your-face or powerful at all. Still lively some 1½ hours after decanting, with lemon citrus and some flint. Great acidity balance with some maturity to tone things down.

1981 Sassicaia - minty nose but a little green, still got some sweet fruit, elegant and smooth but not so lively anymore. Almost 2 hours later this opened up and was showing much better.

Hairy Legs and I had a good time today. Hopefully we can get together again soon.

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