February 1, 2023


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I'm not the most alert when it comes to special events at restaurants, as I often miss the email announcements that come into my various mailboxes while I'm busy at work. I've been lucky a few times in the past, but more often than not I just let these things pass me by.

I was moping around the house on New Year's Day, enjoying a lazy Sunday morning when I saw the email announcing the MONO X Toyo Eatery collaboration. I sent a message to the restaurant, fully expecting that no one would reply on a public holiday. When Hong Kong went back to work two days later, a reply did come and I managed to grab 2 seats for the event.

I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Jordy Navarra from Toyo Eatery before, although he has certainly received a lot of attention over the last few years. So I was really looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table. The good thing is that I knew this would be the kind of collaboration/four-hands that I like, where the chefs actually put their heads together to create each dish incorporating flavors from each team. The dishes are then unique to the event and not previously seen at either restaurant.

We had good seats at the counter for our meal, which allowed Ricardo and Jordy to come over from time to time during service. We also chose the wine pairing, and Mauricio was kind enough to offer me a couple of extras...

Krug Grande Cuvée, 170ème Édition, ID 221042 - more toasty on the nose than I remembered, but that's very, very classic Grande Cuvée. Pretty popcorn. Wonderful.

These strips of green mango would normally come with some bagoong, but they were sprinkled with some powdered fried baby shrimp and adobo powder. The flavors were pretty strong to match the very acidic mango. Very interesting first nibble.

Venezuelan and Philippines empanadas - empanadas are on the menu here from time to time, and this was the first time we got to have two different versions together. The shell was made of corn and sprinkled with avocado leaf powder, and stuffed with beef.

Filipino version, made with rice and annatto, stuffed with longanisa. This was more interesting and the pork was more fatty.

This sauce made with egg yolk and vinegar was used on the Filipino empanada. Pretty interesting.

Amberjack / mackerel / sea urchin / kinilaw - a duo of ceviche / kinilaw featuring two types of fish and a sauce made with the kinilaw vinegar along with cream. The amberjack at the bottom came with aji amarillo paste and poppy seeds. The flavors here were a little too light and I felt they were overpowered by the sauce. As a palate-cleanser, there was some pickled jicama with acidity that wasn't too strong, along with creamy sea urchin. The mackerel at the top comes from the Philippines and was marinated as kinilaw, which delivered some fruity flavors, a bit of acidity, and some kick from the diced ginger on top. The mackerel did work better with the sauce.

Black Kite Theobroma Blonde - OK la... pretty nice on the palate, at least it's not bitter. Some honey and a little caramel.

Ping Yuen chicken / plantain taco / banana catsup - gotta have a taco here... The tortilla was made with finely-diced sweet plantain, and came with some xnipec and grilled avocado. Then we've got roulade which was first steamed and then grilled that was made with Ping Yuen chicken (平原雞) seasoned with Venezuelan spices. Some amaranth shoots on top, with banana catsup on the side.

The texture of the tortilla wasn't great and it crumbled easily as it was rolled up. The chicken was OK but the amaranth was very obvious, while the banana catsup wasn't as strong as I thought it would be.

Pollo a la brasa soup - this was served on the side and one is supposed to take sips in between bites of the taco. I thought I tasted some corn in here.

The signature quinoa sourdough bread, served with Arbequina olive oil from Eva Aguilera. The mother is now 1,250 days old.

2019 Roda I Blanco - nose was very alcoholic initially and kinda fragrant. Very ripe on the palate, but grippy mid-palate with an acidic finish. Gained more body as the wine warmed up.

There's gotta be mole, but this time using as a base the champorado made with purple mountain rice, then adding fermented black beans, cacao tea, celeriac purée as well as the usual spices for mole. This was pretty nice and came with some crunchy cacao nibs, and also very fruity like banana. Ricardo gave me a little extra to spread on the sourdough.

Imperial langoustine / champorado / fresh Ecuadorian cacao kimchi - the langoustine was served with the champorado, along with some "kimchi" that was made not with cabbage but diced fresh cacao fruit. This had a pretty strong kick and made things even more interesting with the champorado.

The langoustine was, as expected, mi-cuit.

Crab / rice noodle / anato - apparently a different take on palabok, but using Cantonese cheung fun (腸粉) and topped with dried fish, dried shrimp, and dried seaweed on top.

Underneath we have some Alaskan king crab. This was really, really good.

2018 Leflaive Mâcon-Verzé Les Chênes - a little toasty, with reasonable acidity balance.

The monkfish was rubbed with adobo spices. The ube kinampay used was harvested in Bohol in December, and the color wasn't bright purple but actually mostly white with some purple.

Brittany monkfish / adobo / Bolivian quinoa - the sauce made with the monkfish bones and skin was cooked like adobo. Some kampot pepper was shaved on top, and we've got quinoa with the ube purée.

Mauricio thinks knows I'm a wine snob, so in addition to the humble Mâcon-Verzé he also poured me a glass of something a little nicer...

2016 Bouchard Corton-Charlemagne - a more elegant wine. Later on this was much more buttery after enough aeration.

Aveyron lamb saddle / silog / papaya escabeche - the lamb came with some pickled papaya, bok choy (白菜), and a green, calamansi-based Carribean curry.

The lamb came with plenty of yummy, lamby fat.

The sinangag part of the silog came with some sautéed lamb belly. This was really, really good.

2019 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino - very, very ripe and jammy, a little metallic almost, with lots of vanilla oak. Really sweet on the palate but the tannins were surprisingly soft. Showing some blueberries later.

Mate cocido - always a great palate cleanser.

Flan de leche / saffron / pomelo tears - sitting atop the burnt white chocolate crumble was saffron mousseline, pomelo, and a flan de leche ice cream. The final touch was a light shaving of asin tibuok, a traditional salt. The saffron was very, very tasty.

At the end of dinner Mauricio decided to play a few songs he knew would get my blood flowing, and as I had already finished all the booze, he again very kindly poured me a little something...

2012 La Chapelle de la Mission - unfortunately this was very chalky and dusty so not too enjoyable. Pretty savory with lots of soy sauce.

We left the restaurant feeling very happy. I appreciated the chefs and their teams for making the effort to create these special dishes, trying to find commonalities between their respective cultures and present to us something that holds meaning for both teams. I thought that was pretty cool.

Instead of serving the alfajores at the restaurant, these special editions were included in the gift bag when we left:

Alfajores - I definitely tasted the light citrus flavors of delandan in the meringue, and the dulce de leche filling here wasn't too heavy.

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