July 14, 2023

Second flight

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Over the last few months Foursheets has occasionally brought up the fact that she has never been to L'Envol. After our disastrous first meal at Rùn (潤) located in the same hotel - and Foursheets' second, equally uninspiring meal there - she didn't have much interest in dining at the St. Regis Hong Kong. I myself have visited only once, at the invitation of the restaurant, in the midst of the period of social unrest in Hong Kong.

As a result of all the rumors earlier this year surrounding which restaurant would be promoted to 3 stars by the Rubberman, the name of the restaurant kinda re-entered Foursheets' consciousness and her interest was piqued. As I was looking for last-minute venue to spend Bastille Day - which, as a social media contact reminded some of us, does not exist in France as the day is officially "le 14 juillet" - I figured this fine dining French resto would fit the bill. It would also provide an interesting contrast to the last time we marked le 14 juillet, 5 years ago in Paris.

The staff introduced us to the different menu options, with the first being their "Prestige Menu" where every single savory course came with some caviar. I had kinda gotten a taste of this on my first visit, and kinda rolled my eyes at the thought of it tonight. Our purpose for coming tonight was for Foursheets to get a taste of Olivier's cuisine - knowing full well he wouldn't be in the kitchen - and not to see how much caviar can be crammed onto each plate. We did take the 8-course option for the "Signature Menu", and Foursheets even agreed to add some Tasmanian black truffle to one of her dishes.

We started off with some canapés:

Tomato gazpacho gelée, cucumber basil yogurt - ummm... I didn't get any real gazpacho flavors from this at all... maybe a little hint of tomato plus the acidity coming from the pickles on top.

Smoked trout, gingerbread, wasabi sauce - the gingerbread was very sweet, and the wasabi cream came with lot of kick.

Bouillabaisse consommé, cream, W3 caviar - this was pretty nice with lots of umami and lovely fennel fragrance.

Crisps with sour cream

This purple drink reminded me a lot of the butterfly pea flower drink I had at Paste in Bangkok. Between the server's accent and my own ignorance, I couldn't for the life of me figure out what this drink was called. When we asked him to explain what it was, initially he simply said "a drink to refresh your palate"... to which I replied "That tells me nothing..." Turns out it was made with "spring flowers" and included butterfly pea flowers, pickled ginger, and honey. I wondered if there were verbena or lemongrass, but perhaps my palate is just shit...

Then came the bread selection, which included an Alsatian bread with cumin which is kinda similar to mauricette. That was very tasty.

Once again, we have the duo of Champagne butter and caviar/seaweed butter.

Le bœuf Charolais - first part of this came as a tartare, mixed with egg yolk and garnished with small discs of potato chips, slices of Tasmanian black truffle. There was also a small quenelle of mustard ice cream on top, whose flavors were rather mild. The hand-cut Charolais was served chilled to deliver more bite, and perhaps it was a little under-seasoned to show the original, delicate flavors of the beef itself. The crunch from the potato chips was interesting and enjoyable.

The second part came as carpaccio rolled around julienned green apples, along with a sauce that had an unexpected spicy kick. I didn't taste much flavors from the shaved bottarga on top thanks to the spicy sauce, although a sip of Champagne after taking in the small chunk of bottarga did produce a powerful punch from the fish eggs.

L'oursin d'Hokkaido - this was supposed to be a "long-term signature dish" of Olivier "in memory of his master (Joël) Robuchon". Somehow I never had a similar dish at Seasons by Olivier e. after Olivier's stint at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Hong Kong - which, by the way, was after he arrived in Hong Kong in 2009 courtesy of Pierre Gagnaire as the replacement for Philippe Orrico at Pierre... but the staff here seem all too eager to recite only the Robuchon connection.

Anyhoo... below the top layer of sea urchin from Hokkaido was a layer of Italian "gremoni (I will assume our server meant gamberoni)" prawn tartare marinated with yuzu juice, as well as crunchy diced fennel at bottom. The sea urchin was, of course, very rich, and the piment d'espelette on top provided a little spicy kick. All in all, a fairly tasty dish... but no surprises here.

We are now 3 courses in, and somehow the staff still haven't figured out that Foursheets is a lefty... In fact, they never did for the entire evening.

Le homard bleu Breton - this being a 2-star restaurant, one should not expect the same bouillabaisse that Foursheets cooks up at home with the cheapest market fish. It's been done not only as a consommé but also using homard bleu instead of the fishies that would have been so... pedestrian or proletarian. There was the tiny dot of "lobster oil" attempting to add just a tad of richness to the otherwise clean consommé, and we also had some skinned cherry tomatoes along with the lobster.

Croustillant aïoli - too little aïoili here to provide much flavor.

Ombrine de Meditterranée - the umbrina was OK laaaaa... I didn't think the fish itself was anything special, since it had been smothered by a layer of spiced tomato sauce which tasted quite nice. Foursheets - who actually cooks and has a much better palate than me - immediately noted the za'taar in the 'spices from Tel Aviv' that we were told about. I didn't understand the mozzarella mousse on its own, but it worked well once it's been mixed with the spiced tomato. The purée of charcoal-grilled eggplant was nice and smoky, but the garlic confit left us scratching our heads.

Le porc Ibérique - served with some jus along with stir-fried corn, charcoal-grilled baby corn, corn purée, and popcorn.

Unfortunately, this was the most disappointing dish tonight. Pluma from ibérico pork should deliver plenty of satisfaction, both from its tenderness as well as the flavors, but this didn't deliver. The flavors were too bland, and should have gotten a helping hand from the jus, but the kitchen has decided the jus was just too strong and should only be applied sparingly. Yeah... probably the least interesting piece of pluma I've ever tasted... and I'm not even trying to compare it to the pluma char siu I had at Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒).

The pommes soufflé were heart-shaped.

Les fromages de notre cellier - I was pretty full by now, but I wanted to try a few types of cheese I don't see often.

Valençay - made from goat milk. Creamy with plenty of acidity and gamey flavors.

Valbrie - Brie covered with peppercorns.

Palouse des Aravis - a little bit of acidity and not too salty, relatively mild. Similar to Reblochon, indeed.

Fumaison de Lavort - made from sheep's milk. Reasonably hard in texture. Acidity was a little on the high side with a bitter finish.

Honeycomb and Madeira gelée

Le chasselas de Fontainebleau - green tea sorbet and vanilla cream, topped with chasselas grape jam and gelée as well as finger lime caviar. Nice and refreshing.

I had originally planned to take BOTH options for dessert since Foursheets wouldn't touch hers, but when the staff learned that she doesn't eat desserts, the offer was made to cut them from the menu in exchange for a modest reduction in charges. That seemed like the best plan for us and we were glad to have this option.

Le soufflé citron fenouile - straightforward execution with classic lemon flavor, although there was some fennel purée at the bottom.

The lemon and fennel sorbet was served in a lemon peel.

The mignardises trolley came, and I was too full to find much of it interesting... so I only took two small items:

Chocolate covered orange peel -

Bergamot macaron - honestly, I couldn't taste any bergamot.

I didn't think we could finish two bottles tonight so I didn't order a bottle of Champagne off the restaurant's wine list to start. In retrospect, that would have been the most sensible thing to do.

2016 Benoit Dehu La Rue des Noyers - nice and big on the palate with good depth of flavors thanks to pinot meunier. Unfortunately I had trouble getting much out of the nose at first, thanks to the heavy perfume that permeates through the entire hotel. Later there was the usual lemon citrus.

2000 Ducru-Beaucaillou - served 40 minutes after decanting. A slight whiff of brett at first with some smoke. Still pretty concentrated but tannins were already very soft and silky on the palate. A bit savory on the after palate, almost like black olives. A bit more earthy after 1 hour in decanter. Still got the cassis notes but not so prominent at this age, although more fruit emerged about 1½ hours after decanting, with more minty notes, too. At the same age this was much softer than the 2000 Figeac I tasted last week, which was pretty surprising.

This was a nice way to spend an evening out, and I'm glad we could tick this box for Foursheets.

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