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alexhills

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  1. If you are flying from SFO Daly City is a lot closer than Yank Sing would be, for what its worth... There is also (still? haven't been in the bay area for a year, sigh...) the Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae which is pretty good and extremely extremely near the airport.
  2. Hmmm, I don't think I was far enough gone to have made up that he said Chenin, maybe there was some confusion on his part as well as mine.... My wine knowledge, such as it is, is definitely on the red side of things. Still, a very nicely matched wine for the food regardless of what it was actually made of!!
  3. If he was selling a St Joseph Blanc made from Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, he was doing an amazing job ← Memory was a little addled by actually drinking the stuff when I wrote that. It was certainly Chenin, what's the rest of the blend more likely to be, Semillion? There's no reason to believe he actually said Chardonnay.... He seemed much more trustworthy than I am!
  4. Time for the twice a year haute cuisine blowout, plus paying my brother back for some plumbing he did for me! Was supposed to be Champignon Sauvage, but a lack of organization on my part meant a London place was needed instead, so the Ledbury fit the bill very nicely indeed. The lunch menu didn't set the pulse racing, and the tasting is only a tenner more than the carte, so there was no helping ourselves and we settled in for a really very very long lunch indeed. Pretty much the same menu as people have had above, but here's my tuppence regardless... Canape - A cream of goat cheese and truffle on tuile. Good, much better truffles than I've been getting myself this season, although definitely some (very good) truffle oil in there as well. Amuse - A single seared scallop with a liquorice skewer running through it, on top of a mushroom duxelle with a white onion puree on the side. A quality scallop and cooked right, with nice caramalization on the outside, every so slightly gritty though. Both accompaniments were spot on. Seared tuna with basil, radish salad - One of the best dishes of the meal, super fish, only the first quarter inch showing any signs of cooking, wrapped in basil leaves with a basil oil dressing. Sitting on a incredibly thin 2 inch square piece of pickled daikon, with a lovely fresh salad on the other side, including some very interesting purple mint leaves. Everything working together here, quality ingredients showing themselves off to best advantage. Chicken lasagne, morel, chicken wing, thyme veloute - Not as sold on this one as Rian was. The morel was very good, although not as earthy as the ones I love the most. The chicken wing piece stunning, cooked soft then given a hard sear on the grill, perfectly crisping one side. The veloute a classic piece of modern foamy fluffiness, well done but to become a little ubiquitous in the meal as a whole. My problem was with the lasagne filling which was bound with a lot of egg and too omlettey as a result. Top marks for the chicken wing though. Sea bass, a prawn, pumpkin gnocchi and puree, black trumpets, ginger veloute - Good execution and ingredients here, the only dish of the meal where I had doubts about the composition. Although tasty in itself, I don't really know what the prawn was doing there, and the gnocchi likewise seemed heavy and a little out of place. The plus side was the fish cooking, which seemed to have somehow infused it with ginger despite only being a sear. All this was washed down by a white St.Joseph, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. A little more new oak than I like, but a nice match with the food. The list in general was good and not outrageous in markup, the wine waiter very pleasant and helpful also. We saw him taste the first bottle of the St. Joseph he opened and set it aside, so doing his job properly too. Good to see. Roasted foie, cocoa crust, port poached pear, fig puree, chocolate sauce - A very classical dish, and immaculate composition. A healthy sized piece of very good, eggy, foie also. Still had one vein in it, but not a serious problem. I'm not quite sure about roasting for foie though, I do love the crusty outside searing gives you. The cocoa crust was a clever simalcrum of this, but not really the same. Split a glass (but still two perfectly good sized pours) of excellent Austrian pseudo-Sauternes. Great for the dish, but how can that combination go wrong... Assiette of pyrennian lamb, celery, mushrooms, truffled potato puree - Again 3 versions of the lamb. An astonishingly tiny rack piece (those were some seriously baby lambs, clearly), slices of loin (I think) and either shoulder or, more likely, neck, cooked much more slowly. Also a very cute addition of a slice of foie, the same size cooked exactly as pink as the slices of loin. To the casual eye just another slice of lamb, but ahhhhh.... A nice smooth demiglace/pan juice sauce and well truffled potatos, although again I suspect the flavor was from juice or oil. Not overwhelming and well integrated in to the dish though. Excellent meat perfectly cooked was the point of this plate though. Cheese - beaufort, valence, forme d'ambert, a corsican ewe's milk number with a wonderful rosemary and lavender ash coat and a not exactly epoisse. The forme and the corsican were the standouts for me, excellent condition and quality. Not so sure about the beaufort personally, but my brother has been a cheese salesman amongst many other things and thought it was spot on. Plenty of other nice looking things on the cart as well. The bread with this was with raisins, which I see all the time with cheese, but I'd really prefer something plainer. My fault for not asking, though. Bread was good - especially a bacon and onion brioche (the others were a soda bread and roasted garlic) - in general, incidentally. A glass of Southern Rhone Syrah with the meat and cheese. Too young and brash for me really, should have gone with a half bottle of something classier, but quite enough opulence already... Pre-dessert of Sauternes custard, apricot, vanilla foam. Cute, nicely layered in a shot glass, very very good fresh vanilla, some liquor in the apricot that worked well too. Chocolate souffle - Banana ice cream dropped in tableside, along with a very dark chocolate sauce. Not totally sold on the ice cream, somehow a little artificial and in the souffle itself I prefer my chocolate darker. Perfectly made though - exceptional texture. Also the only outrageous sized portion of the meal, and kind of finished me of. Espresso (excellent) and a couple of chocolates to end. So the meal in general - really very little to criticize in terms of execution, construction of either the menu as a whole (an excellent flow, portion sizing and the most tempting dishes from the carte) or each dish, and ingredient quality. It isn't food that shows a very strong individual hand at the stove, rather being a sort of generic international haute style, with modern trimmings but basically safe in intent. That isn't really meant as a complaint though, it is obviously what the place is aiming for and they do it very well indeed. It didn't have the highly personal quality of the long menus I've had at Troisgros or Manresa, but as a way to spend a lazy afternoon you could do much much worse. Modern, comfortable room (although watch for the disintegrating tap in the men's room), friendly but correct and prompt service - although only 5 tables, clearly pretty easy for them - very well priced for what you get and being in central London. A lot more fun than hiring a plumber and probably not much more expensive either.
  5. Oh dear lord!! The lack of cheese was my only possible complaint on previous visits... Thankfully I'm going to a wedding in the Santa Cruz mountains in September. Not sure I can wait that long.
  6. I think the problem here is that although a lumpy sabayon or a wrong note may be an objective fact, the extent to which they render poor the whole is highly debatable. Many of my favorite performances - Schnabel or the Budapest 4tet's Beethoven, Cortot's Chopin - are riddled with 'objective' errors, but posess other qualities in such abundance that those are entirely irrelevant to my mind. In another performance that lacked the understanding, direction, sound quality, of those, the same errors would be completely unpalatable to me. Likewise, if the caviar and oysters were absolutely exquisite, I'd probably not be too upset by the sabayon. I'm not, incidentally, maintaining that all judgement is subjective, rather that the distinction between the two categories is murky and can be dangerous as a way to construct evaluation.
  7. yes, cock's kidneys with langoustine sounds about as good as it gets right now. says he having just knocked off a plate of venison livers for lunch... I think the double with Hibiscus will probably have to wait awhile - as bloody tempting as it sounds - but a very long lunch in Cheltenham shouldn't be too far off - paying my brother back for doing some plumbing for me!!
  8. Any other recent visits?? I'm feeling it's time for the next installment of my twice-a-year restuarant indulgence plan and this is definitely the leading candidate at the moment. I assume the longer menus are available and at the same standard on weekday lunches? I'm pretty awed by the idea of a chef who has never missed a service, not to mention 2*s with a 'brigade' of 3.... Sounds like my kind of food.
  9. Prizes this week included mutton neck fillet and loads of lamb fat (from the kidney area) from Farmer Sharp. Made pretty amazing confit. Beef shin from Northfield Farm, much more intersting than the usual stewgin/braising steak. Also really rather a lot of morels this time, dinner party indulgence... Slightly off topic, I had an interesting chat with one of the staff at Steve Hatt about turbot farming. He thought it was one of the best fish to farm, and said that they've discovered they need to put a few cod in the tanks to make the turbot a bit nervous and swim around, otherwise they just turn into total couch potatoes. Funny.
  10. I certainly agree with Milla about the risks inherent in trying to discriminate between subjective and objective criteria for judgement, it has to be said not just in the case of food, but in general. I'm also sceptical about the wholesale application of the language of aesthetics to food, but that's really really another topic, even more so than one I'm about to write. Sticking with the subjective vs. objective, let's take a very simple and classic case - oversalting. 'This food is oversalted' is as straightforward and pseudo-objective judgement as one can make. It is also, quite clearly, a matter of taste. One could oversalt a dish so massively that it would be genuinely inedible to anyone who has functioning salt receptors, but that 'objective' stage is only reached after passing through many grey areas, which are obviously subjective. I like more salt than my mother and less than my grandfather, but that doesn't make any of our tastes anything other than 'taste'... So at what point on this continuum does a subjective category become an objective one?? If it's just when the majority concur, that certainly doesn't make it objective (see Pop Idol should you need proof of that). LXT: sorry can't get the quoting going right As to Adria = Schoenberg, Adria is far from achieving the same level of atonality. Only about three dishes in 33 (9%) in our meal were more intellectually palatable than sensually pleasurable. This judgement, by the way, is predicated on something very subjective - the assumption that 'atonality' - be it Schoenberg's (who hated the word) or Adria's - is concerned with an intellectual product rather than a sensual one. While this is a very common assumption, it is absolutely not a universal one, and I don't know any composer of atonal music (I'm one, incidentally) who would consider the point of their work to be 'intellectual palatablilty', at least on its own. The emotional vs. intellectual is another one of aesthetics false dichotomies for me..... But really really far too far from Mugaritz vs. Arzak. Next time atonal music takes me to the Basque country - one of my best friends is the compostion teacher in San Sebastian - I'll try and have something to say about the food itself...
  11. Surely the difference between generic and/or classic dishes (say Troisgros's Salmon with Sorrel), which perhaps should be credited, but no one would take as a sign of innovation on the chef's part, and duplicates of recently created, very specific dishes - heart of palm (or daikon) 5 ways - is pretty clear. Not to mention when the chef in question appears to have staged at the restaurant where the dish was created, and is describing his own cuisine as 'innovative'. The comparison with 'everyone using Escoffier's methods' - or making Bechamel - seems a bit of a red herring to me. Maybe in fifty years time home chefs everywhere will be finding five different garnishes to stuff segments of hollowed radishes with, but that seems a totally different thing to knowing how to thicken a sauce to me....
  12. Yep - that one was FAR too big for my oven... There's a funny - and typically self-aggrandizing - story in Brillat-Savarin I vaguly remember about him saving a dinner party by building a Turbot kettle out of a bath tub or something.
  13. The stuff at Furness is definitely advertized as wild and usually 18/kg. Often very little 'uns though - Chicken Turbot I guess. The big one there last week was also wild, probably more than 3kgs I'd guess but purely an estimate. I thought Turbot, being a very sedentary fish, was supposed to farm at least reasonably well though. Off to Turkey next week at the height of the black sea turbot season though! Yay.....
  14. alexhills

    L'Ambroisie

    I have a tendency to translate food and wine indulgence directly into piano lessons (my means of paying for them). A decent dover sole is a mere 10 minutes of teaching, a good bordeaux about 3 lessons, that lunch looks like about 20 lessons worth... I think I could probably live with that to eat that truffle and foie dish If I spent ten weeks thinking of my 2 most painful students as lunch at l'Ambroise that might make life much easier!! Seriously though, of all the meals I've seen accounts of from there this one excites me the most, do tell more if you get the chance.
  15. I haven't had Ginger Pig sausages for awhile - was unimpressed last time, far too mealy - but will definitely give them another try. Got some Venison sausages from Sillfield this time, have to see how those go. I liked but didn't love their merguez, good texture but underseasoned/spiced. My current favorite sausage in London is the Tolouse from Godfrey's in Highbury- just superb.
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