June 6, 2023

Peanuts for me next time

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The Compatriot is back in town for a couple of days, and we had originally planned to dash over to Macau for a special dinner. Unfortunately our designated driver was facing a crisis, so I made the executive decision to cancel our daytrip and stay in Hong Kong. Well, the Compatriot and I still gotta eat, and somehow we ended up at Whey.

I had never had the chance to taste Barry Quek's cuisine. I wasn't much interested in Beet, and I'm never one to rush to a restaurant in its opening phase and risk stepping on landmines. Over time I have heard some interesting and mixed feedback about Whey, and I did manage to congratulate Barry the day Whey received their first Michelin star. So I guess this visit was somewhat inevitable.

I was surprised to see Dino, who I first came across at Caprice. He was quite surprised to see that I hadn't brought along any alcohol, and even more surprised when I chose to stay dry for the evening. Not wanting to see me drinking just their Nordaq water all night, he very kindly poured me a glass of sparkling jasmine tea.

The restaurant offers just one set tasting menu, with a choice of dessert. We were informed about some optional toppings of truffle and sea urchin, but I turned those down as I feel those "add-ons" are often unnecessary.

Scallop - the crispy tartlet came bearing cubes of diced scallops, with kaffir lime, finger lime caviar, and elderflower.

Vadai - I love vadai, but then again, who doesn't like deep-fried balls of dough?! So this was filled with smoked tuna cream, and topped with some trout, a disc of tomato jelly, and caviar. The surprise here was the spicy kick from the cream.

Sweet shrimp, Kristal caviar, calamansi - a little dry ice here... The diced botan shrimp (牡丹海老) came marinated with laksa leaves, but the flavors were very mild. Since the caviar is spelled "Kristal" on the menu, I will assume it came from Kaviari.

The kaffir lime curd was very prominent and much more powerful than the lemongrass curd immediately above it.

Spring peas, mackerel, whey - the thick cut mackerel had been cured and lightly torched, which explained the heavier-than-usual flavors. The nice fattiness of the fish balanced well with the yogurt whey, as well as the sweet peas from Zen Organic Farm. The pickled rambutan was chopped so fine that not only did I not pick out the taste, I had to really dig even to spot it.

Whey's brioche, buah keluak emulsion - flavors of the brioche were pretty nice thanks to the buah keluak, which is a popular ingredient used in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. I wonder how many people know that the fruit is actually poisonous without treatment? Anyway, this gets even more tasty with the caramelized onion spread.

Threadfin fish, potato, coconut XO - the chargrilling gave us smoky, crispy skin on the fourfinger threadfin. At the bottom with have potato moussline infused with fish stock, the coconut "XO" made with sambal, and spring onion oil. Pretty decent.

Local Three-Yellow Chicken rice, alliums, chili oil - well... I guess it was inevitable that we would get chicken rice, and of course it would be a new interpretation - and it's the roasted version. The chicken breast on was indeed very tender, and the roulade of the leg was just as tasty, with or without the spring onion purée. There's just a touch of chili oil in the chicken jus to make it interesting.

Chicken heart and gizzard - this was pretty nice.

Hainanese glutinous rice topped with puffed rice and crispy garlic. OK la.

Pickled kohlrabi, zucchini, and radish

Dry curry laksa mee, abalone, sambal - I love dry laksa, so I was pretty excited when I saw this on the menu. The abalone on the side was nice and tender. In addition to some laksa sauce, there was plenty of little dried shrimps from Lamma Island which dominated the flavors.

The noodles were made with 00 flour along with laksa leaves and spinach, and the flavors of both were pretty strong. I do wish that spinach wasn't used in the noodles as I don't care for spinach flavors in my laksa. Overall, though, this was still enjoyable.

Osmanthus sorbet, aiyu jelly, lemongrass - the osmanthus sorbet was nice but there was a slight bitterness at the end. Aiyu (愛玉) jelly was, as expected, rather on the mild side.

Maoshan Wang durian ice cream, Cristal caviar, milk crisp - now this was a dish about which much has been written and discussed. As a durian lover, I couldn't come and not pay the supplemental charge to "upgrade" to this dessert.

Well... yes, I loved the Musang King (貓山王) ice cream, and the quenelle of Royal Caviar Club's Royal Cristal Caviar worked with the ice cream. But... I don't see it as a case of getting a result that is greater than the sum of its parts, or 1+1=3. In fact, I'm not even sure it's 1+1=2. When you're using expensive ingredients and the result doesn't resonate, maybe it's time to look at other ways to add the savory flavors to a sweet dessert? As for me, I just want the durian ice cream.

Mignardises to finish the meal:

Mango and passion fruit lollipop - coulis inside a white chocolate ball, covered with meringue.

Kueh lapis - nice.

Black sesame madeleine - not a fan. Hard on one side thanks to white chocolate.

Pandan cheesecake

Overall a pretty pleasant meal, with some interesting highlights. Congrats again to the team for getting that macaron.

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