June 22, 2022

Funky disco orgasm dinner

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It's that day of the year again, and I needed to choose a friend's restaurant for my birthday dinner. I actually haven't been back to MONO for quite a few months, so it seemed appropriate that Sankala and I pay Ricardo a long-overdue visit. He does, after all, deliver something unique in Hong Kong.

Ricardo is busy doing a special event tonight, but was kind enough to come back to the restaurant to greet me and serve up a couple of dishes before running off. Knowing that it's my birthday, he also arranged something a little special.

Venezuelan corn arepa / red crab / sweet peas - the arepa was nice and warm, filled with a mix of crab, avocado purée, and crunchy green peas. A little more acidic than expected. With some avocado leaf powder. A familiar dish that's become a nice way to start our meal.

We were next shown a selection of vegetables which were used in our next dish.

Andean vegetables salad - Ricardo calls it an hommage to Michel Bras' gargouillou, but with only regional vegetables from the Andes - 13 of them in addition to fruits and nuts. Some - like jicama and chayote - are available locally. Others like tomatillo, parcha, mashua, oca, tamarillo, and nopal need to be imported. Aloe vera, kiwicha, and peanuts are also part of the mix. The purée of palm heart was infused with tonka bean, which kinda tasted like a mix between sour cream and refried beans. The oca was starchy and tasted similar to sweet potatoes after cooking.

Carabinero traditional Peruvian ceviche / avocado / crispy corn - the carabineros, which had a fantastic texture, were marinated together with ginger, red onions, celery, red chili, sweet potatoes, and of course leche de tigre. We have coriander and avocado purée forming a ring above, which were mixed together with the other ingredients before we dug in.  Love the toasted corn nuts, too!

We were presented with a basket of mashua next.

Uruguayan ossetra royal caviar / mashua / smoked nasturtium sauce - the mashua and foam were both sweet, and I thought I might have been eating vanilla ice cream! The sweetness worked well with the fairly salty ossetra caviar farmed in Rio Negro in Uruguay. The eggs were pretty small, so perhaps the sturgeon was still pretty young.

Bolivian quinoa sourdough / Eva Aguilera 100% Arbequina olive oil - always love this bread, and this olive oil.

Imperial langoustine / fresh Ecuadorian cacao - the langoustine from the Faroe Islands was delicious and perfectly pan-seared with cacao skin, delivering a ton of flavors that was just beautiful. We had the sauce made with the jus from langoustine heads along with cacao, which was both rich yet delivered fruity sweetness. There were also fruit of the cacao topped with cacao nibs, with light acidity coming from the fruit. I thought all the elements worked harmoniously together. Fantástico!

We got a drink made of cacao skin, which was meant to go with the dish.

Next up we had some tortilla made of purple corn placed in front of us.

Mauricio patiently put together the house mole with 21 ingredients. Then we were presented with a wedge of avocado from Taiwan, with the aforementioned avocado leaf powder, some pickled onions, and a dab of the mole.

We then combined all the elements into a taco. I'm not the biggest avocado fan, but I found this combination pretty delicious thanks to the mole and the acidity of the onions.

Spicy lobster taco / xnipec / 21 ingredients Mexican mole - the slices of local spiny lobster grilled on charcoal came topped with salsa macha made with almonds and pistachios in lieu of xnipec, and of course we also have the mole. Another very satisfying bite.

Brittany monkfish / Venezuelan bollito / sofrito sauce - anyone who has tried Ricardo's cuisine knows how much he loves roasted monkfish, and he always serves up different variations of flavors by changing the sauce. Tonight it would be sofrito. The bollito was steamed in corn husk, and came with slices of oca on top.

The monkfish itself had an amazing texture, which was really bouncy, wobbly and a little crunchy... almost akin to eating braised beef tendon.

Racan pigeon / red corn / Brazilian jabuticaba - pigeon is a staple here, and I do love the different parts of the bird.

The leg on a skewer is always my favorite part, and tonight it was accompanied by a mix of red corn, purple corn, and jabuticaba. The corn was crunchy and tasty, but the acidity from the tree grapes really worked its magic with the leg.

The filet was presented on top of a chunk of yucca along with a roasted chimichurri.

The breast was, of course, perfectly executed. The combination of chimichurri and chile ancho helped give this a Latin bent.

Some mate to help cleanse our palates for dessert.

Caribbean piña colada - a combination of diced rum-infused pineapple, coconut ice cream, and freeze-dried pineapple on top of the sugar tuile. So refreshing and tropical, and really like the cocktail.

Our homemade Ecuadorian chocolate / peanut / Tonda Iblea olive oil - same same but different. Tonight the chocolate was made not just with cacao from Ecuador but also Taiwan, as apparently the Taiwanese cacao is more bitter and helps to add this dimension to the chocolate. The peanut ice cream made the whole thing much richer compared to the previous version. Very tasty.

Seeing as it's my birthday, they gave me a cake! And... for the first time that I can remember, Ricardo joined other chefs in town in serving me gold. Look at all that glitter on top!

I gotta say that the flavors of tonka beans were pretty strong, and we've also got lots of cocoa nibs. Very, very satisfying.

Dulces: Argentinian alfajor and pineapple jelly - must thank Ricardo for making a slim version of alfajores because, were it the same thickness and size as the ones from Ando, I would probably explode. The pineapple jelly was served with Mexican worm salt and chile ancho on top.

Mauricio was originally going to offer us complimentary glasses of Krug Grande Cuvée, but he could not have known that I had brought along some of my own.

Krug Grande Cuvée, en demi bouteille - condition of the bottle was a little disappointing, as there were very few bottles left and I certainly did not hear any sound of gas escaping when the cork was popped. This ended up being almost like an aged still wine, with around 20 years or so of age. Lots of savory flavors which reminded me of Chinese salted plum, marmalade, and almost a hint of Chinese preserved lemon.

1970 Mouton-Rothschild - served 40 minutes after opening without decanting. Level was mid-shoulder so not the greatest. Initially the nose was a little dusty but not corked. Smoky, earthy, a little brett. Improved with aeration and the dusty notes faded away.

Another fantastic dinner here, and of course what makes it more fun is the playlist. Ricardo and Mauricio know exactly what I like, and they made sure to play some of my favorite songs and even timed the music to the cake! I'll be humming Ai no Corrida and Boney M for a few days to come...

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