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Bu Pun Su

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  1. Bu Pun Su

    Petrus, Caprice or Amber?

    When I came to HK in Summer this year, initially making a return to Caprice was not in my mind … until I found there’s a shake up at the top of kitchen’s leader of the restaurant. Guillaume Galliot, the former’s Tasting room chef de cuisine, is heading one of HK’s top French restaurants. Several years ago, I ate at Chef Galliot’s Macau restaurant and he showed solid execution of French cuisine techniques. However, what I found from many reviews … his cuisine has changed and become more modern and bolder at Caprice. That made me curious and I decided to go for lunch I ordered the shortest and cheapest Lunch set menu; besides the cheese, the gazpacho, the quail and even the (free) dessert were decent but no way these dishes would bring back Caprice to be a 3-star level. Thus, I also decided to try a couple of Guillaume Galliot’s specialties in tasting portion and I was pleased to have done that. Here they’re: -Beef tartare with oysters and caviar. A rather unique approach of the usual delicately sweet beef tartare. The smart move was to add fresh and briny oysters though not much, they contributed subtly and naturally. Then, there were plenty of caviars with pretty textures; egg yolks and parsleys added some complexity while the gold leaves made the presentation more appealing. A "complete" dish that tasted delicious and was well-presented -Laksa par Chef Galliot. A creative interpretation of Singapore's traditional dish but there were no noddle and broths here, however the taste was as authentic or even better for me since it's flavorful and elegant yet not cloying. Here, the chef put plenty of snow crabs, chopped hazelnuts, a few lobsters, egg yolk, coconut, coriander and a little lime. Most ingredients worked together nicely inside the aromatic and smooth yellow-orange "sauce". Scoop slowly to savor the taste and texture variations of this fun and tasty dish ... I might have said this before that it’s nearly impossible to judge the ability of multiple star restaurants’ kitchen by only having ordered the set lunch. Had I done that, I would’ve concluded that Caprice food was in decline. Outside the food and the chef, many things were pretty much intact here. The dining room was elegant and spacious; the service was smooth and friendly. I noticed some new (foreign) faces in the front of the house … oh I should’ve mentioned that the head sommelier of Caprice has changed too – a tall order to fill in the shoes of Sebastien Allano That would be it for the review. In short, currently the food is more fun, interesting and creative under Chef Galliot. Taste wise, it suits my palate better than during the tenure of Fabrice Vulin Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157696720453300/with/44683580014/
  2. After nearly 3 years, I finally made a return to Japan this Summer. Unlike my previous visits, this time I came with my parents, spouse and son. It was still a very fun visit but as far as the food’s concerned, I had limited opportunity to dine at (many) “elite” restaurants. Even worse, I only had about 1+ month to search for restaurants thus many of the places I initially asked had been fully booked. One of the gastronomy places I managed to get in was Narisawa. I brought my father to this restaurant as it could cater to my dad’s dietary restrictions best. Narisawa caught my attention when it has been consistently ranked high in “best 50 Asia restaurants”. Then, I think he’s the only chef I knew that had been trained by all 3 of Gault Millau’s chefs of the century. With such pedigree, theoretically, Narisawa-san had to be able to produce fantastic meals. So, how was it? The dishes that I really liked were … -2 of his signature dishes were splendid. The bread of the forest, freshly baked table side for 12 minutes in the hot stone was great in both texture and flavor. In addition, there was high quality butter covered by black olive and green moss – this made the bread even more enjoyable. Another classic was Sumi beef; in my case, it was the rump steak from Kobe (prepared sous-vide) coated by leek ash, resembling charcoal. The middle part was perfectly pink with tender texture and delicate flavor, intensified by the sauce, which was concentrated and refined. -For the soup dish, Chef Narisawa showed that he’s more than able to create top traditional Japanese dish. The dashi was clean, clear and flavorful like the one you would normally get at high-end kaiseki places. The main ingredient was Nodoguro with crispy skin, tender & ‘fatty’ meat. Furthermore, there were shinjo dumpling and junsai. -The 2nd fruit-based (the 1st one was so-so) dessert was simple and good. Caramelized peach pine (like soft pineapple) was not overly sweet, accompanied by perfect mango sorbet and sauce from oak and cedar whiskey. A nice way to end the meal These were very good dishes though not spectacular The rests (as you could see from the pictures – please check the link) were mostly alright. Several of them were more beautiful than delicious – still appreciate the hard work & effort the kitchen team put on creating those dishes. The positive part … many of the creations were playful and innovative; good for fun experience (and probably for ‘instagram’?) The service was fabulous; for me, this aspect was even slightly better than the food. Staffs were attentive, friendly and professional. My “maître d’” really paid attention to my father requests and Narisawa + team delivered with flying color. He mastered the details of the dishes well and answered any questions with ease – I could not recall the time when he’s unsure or had to check something with the kitchen. For the drink, I shared small portion of sake with my dad at the beginning. Then, I also tried a couple glasses of local wine … pleasant discovery. For instance, Toriivila ’16 with Koshu grape and tasted like Riesling; Inemankai (red sake) imitated the red wine taste and it accompanied my beef dish, a decent ‘pairing’ All in all, it’s not a bad meal at all. Narisawa deserved its 2-star Michelin. Yoshihiro-san had his concept + belief and he stick with them (beneficial and sustainable gastronomy). I think the restaurant can get better though I may not immediately return here in the future. It’s certainly a friendly place to foreigners and the booking was not complicated at all Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157702390761015/with/30332241267/
  3. Bu Pun Su

    Les Pres D'Eugenie

    As a (big) fan of gastronomy, it’s normal that I want to visit as many different restaurants as possible – in reality mainly Europe (and Japan). Often, the time and logistics prevented me from doing that. Sometimes, I think I even “failed” to dine at the places when the legendary chefs were still active in their kitchen such as the restaurants of Michel Bras, Harald Wohlfahrt etc. However, in May this year, I managed to dine (twice!) at Michel Guerard. Getting into Eugenie-les-Bains was certainly not easy, so I decided to stay there as well for convenience. The food was indeed fabulous. It’s been a while when I had a meal in France, but outside Paris that’s immediately got absolute 3-star (or “four”) in my notes. On the first night, my memorable dishes were mainly coming from the Chef’s Guerard’s classics: -delicate ravioli, filled with numerous earthy Morels and some Girolles, inside rich and creamy soup. There were also asparagus and black truffle. Everything worked well together – a perfect embodiment of silky and smooth creation of Michel Guerard -lightly poached lobster (in small portion sadly) was tender and delicious, covered by butter and herb sauce. Equally exceptional item was the side dish: sweet onion integrated with glazed peach and parmesan cheese; complex yet balance with deep flavor and slight acidity I was told that these 2 dishes were guaranteed to always be available all year. Yes, it means the restaurant bought lots of morels and had to preserve them -somehow, I loved this dish called Truffle zephyr. Essentially, it was an airy, light and ethereal floating island (white cream filled with intoxicating black truffle coulis) having deep flavor of ‘cold soup’. The soup was made of creamy leek, onion and potato – delicate and flavorful. The first few bytes were unforgettable … -dessert lover would usually come here specifically to savor the marquis de bechamel aka “ugly souffle”. The combinations of flavor and textures from soft cake, caramel, raspberries and rhubarb etc. were superb. I was a bit shocked with the size and only capable of consuming ¾ portion of it; I did not regret to have ordered it though it’s not my favorite dessert here -well, the wood fired beef medallions was dazzling with deep flavor and tender texture. The sauce was precise and tasty while the crisp and light potato souffle was one of the best I’ve ever had On the following night, I also had a few outstanding dishes. For instance, - plump and beautifully cooked scallops were meaty with their pleasant and naturally sweet flavors. It was enhanced by the lovely and delicious buttery brown sauce and balanced by the 'stir fry' onions & somewhat bitter chicory. The slight sourness derived from the citrus fritter provided a nice accent - The high quality herbs-stuffed Pintade was moist, thanks to the sauce - the best part when consumed with the guinea fowls skins. What made this dish better was that it came together with tender sweetbreads stew, earthy morels, fresh peas & their emulsion as well as little black truffles. Commonly boring bird was transformed into creative and tasty dish, kudos to Chef Guerard! -my favorite dessert was the delicate chocolate millefeuille displaying: light and bitter coffee cream, rich and decadent chocolate & sorbet, and rather sweet Armagnac cream sauce - magnificent flavor variations with different degree of intensity yet felt smooth and balanced -not my favorite, but in Landes region … savoring foie gras was necessary. The maître d’ allowed me to have both duck and goose liver side by side. Generally, I get used to eating duck liver (having beige-orange color) more which was rich and creamy; the goose liver (more of pink color) was delicate and refined with subtle flavor. The livers were accompanied by jellies of mushroom, duck and wine. As stated before, there’s no doubt that the cooking here was magnificent – perfect seasoning, sauce, texture, temperature etc. The presentation might not always be beautiful; well, the kitchen created the dishes with the main purpose for the palate enjoyment. The legendary chef, Michel Guerard (in his mid 80’s) visited the dining rooms in both evenings. Dressed in plain white, he tried to greet as many diners as possible. Given his stature, apparently, he was still shy sometimes and did not like to show off; proof? One of them was that he hardly wore his MOF tunic. The restaurant was busy in general. One the 1st day, 1/3 of the guests participated in the spa program thus they ate the slimming cuisine (2-3 courses per meal). On the 2nd day, there were nearly 60 people attending the dinner; by 9 PM it’s pretty much full house. The attentive, smooth and relaxed service showed a slight drop as everyone tried to move as efficient as possible – 5 sommeliers were on the floor on that Friday night. However, it’s not the reason for complain … just a personal observation. Had this Michel Guerard’s restaurant been located in Paris, I would’ve probably visited the place at least half dozen times. I am glad to finally make it! I would certainly would love to return here again and (if possible) bring my wife along next time More comprehensive review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2018/09/les-pres-deugenie-michel-guerard.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157701424064875/with/44021093194/
  4. Bu Pun Su

    Pre Catelan

    A return visit to Le Pre Catelan (in last May) was rather unexpected. I decided to accompany my parents and siblings for the Euro trip half way. I met them in Paris and staying only for 2 nights there before moving to Madrid and Lisbon; arriving on Saturday afternoon. As they’re not too keen on having meals at formal restaurants, I only brought my sister and treated her for the maiden visit at Europe 3-star Michelin restaurant – preferably a standalone one outside hotels. L’Ambroisie was a natural initial choice for me, but alas somehow, they’re closed during that whole week. I ate at Guy Savoy in the same month one year earlier and the menu was almost identical, thus a return there would be unnecessary. That’s how we ended up with Pre Catelan. Since it’s my sister’s first visit, I let her try the tasting option (Le Menu du Pre) but only for a shorter option - a right decision since she started to feel full half way and could not finish the food from the main course onwards (only tasting 50-60%). Since 5-6 dishes out of 8 in total from the degustation menu were the same as my lunch 4 years ago, I decided to go for an a la carte. The a la carte was more like the ones in Pierre Gagnaire (albeit less ambitious and less grand). Diners would eat 2-3 different preparation of the main ingredient mentioned in the “titles”. I began with the tail season of Morel mushrooms whose main preparation was similar to Robuchon’s / Anton’s winter dish named Crispy tart with sweet onions confit. Instead of Perigord truffles, the kitchen replaced them with meaty and nutty French morels having deep flavors. The sweet onions and crunchy tart were good. On the sides, there were soft Zephyr and crispy bread with some morel underneath as well as “asparagus” sandwich. Simple, satisfying but not overly creative For the main course, my (sweet and a bit firm) blue lobster tail was beautifully cooked (until red). It was enhanced by the flavorful Maltaise sauce – sweet with some citrus flavor. The 2nd-ary preparation was, again, inspired from Chef Anton’s tenure at Jamin … smooth & tasty lobster jelly with briny caviar + some small lobster; safe and good. The claw part was the least good, served with decent emulsion and radishes. Dessert was the weakest part last time – one dimensionally sweet; having tried 3 of them (the apple, Paris brest and lemon meringue). This time, I went for the least sweet option possible was Tiramisu. My favorite part was Zephyr coffee and amaretto; there were the biscuit, intense coffee, strong powder etc. Altogether these elements worked harmoniously altogether. The more “normal” part like crusty Gavotte with mascarpone cream was fine – slightly better dessert, but in general still rather disappointing when compared to the sweet creations at Epicure, L’Arpege or ADPA. I did not expect much honestly. The most important part was that my sister was happy with the meal – she said Pre Catelan cooked better food than the one at Jean Georges and per se. The restaurant was about 80% full; half or more of the clienteles were foreigners. My two neighbors, if not mistaken, were middle-aged couple from Japan and Korea. I noticed at least 3 tables speaking Mandarin / Cantonese in the main dining room. Service wise, there was a slight drop since Jean Chauveau was off, thus my favorite maître d’ taking the role of his boss by standing between the entrance and main dining room most of the time. For example, after my sister’s 3rd course, the service of the dishes became slow. We’re waiting 15 min or more even after the previous plates were cleared (one time nearly half-hour). There was an occasion when staffs were a bit confused on who’s eating what so they put the wrong course. Re-fill of water sometimes late as we’re in the quieter side of the restaurant (fewer staffs checking out the tables). Well, it’s not really a big deal but by the highest fine dining standard, it’s the little details that count. At the end, my impression of the restaurant pretty much stayed the same that: Le Pre Catelan is a (very) good 2-star restaurant (2 ½*). In 2014, I came here in October. The fact that this time was in May 2018 but many of the dishes are the same or very similar (at least half of them) – unfortunately, I have to say that the kitchen / head chef was kinda “lazy”; simply stick in to the safe status quo and not too seasonal. As usual, below was the pictures of our meals - my a la carte and my sister’s tasting menu Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157672684584288/with/43292809035/
  5. Epicure (formerly known as Restaurant Le Bristol) was one “special” place towards my gastronomy adventure history since it was my first meal at multi-star Michelin restaurant in Europe (the lunch took place during the Easter Monday of 2006 when most places were closed). Since then I’ve come there twice (another meal in ‘10) and believed it’s a more than a decent 2-star dining place. I kinda ‘ignored’ it since then until recently that under the new name Epicure, rebranded in ’11 or ’12 I think. In addition to the 3 star awards, Epicure has nearly unanimously perceived as the finest hotel-restaurant in Paris & the world + some other awards. I thought perhaps I should return again to try the food as well as check out the new dining room. In fact, I eventually came again twice! Firstly, in Fall 2017 and the latest one in May 2018. The most recent one happened by “accident” since I was on schedule to travel, eat and stay at Assiette Champenoise on that Sunday. However, due to the SNCF strike, my trains were cancelled and as I had to return home on the following day; to be safe, I just decided to stay in Paris and thus another meal at Epicure took place. Both of my meals were for lunch and the restaurant was doing really well (full house in both occasions). The trend still followed in that there were many international clienteles in particular from East Asia occupying the tables and they tended to order either the lunch set or the bigger tasting menu. Unlike them, I went for a la carte dishes. The most outstanding part of my meals, as far as the food’s concerned, happened to be the desserts!? It did not happen very often actually … -The creation of Laurent Jeannin named “Lemon”. The lemon-like shaped was frosted and filled with some cold pear, lemon and a little herbal. The outside was lemon meringue covered by limoncello – pretty, delicate and pleasant. It showcased a few different textures and truly fragrant, every time I scooped this wonderful creation, my nose also enjoyed the aromatic lemon scent. Fantastic! -The season of Burlat cherries was rather short, hence when I saw it on the menu – it’s a no brainer that I had to order it; fully deserved to be written as one of Epicure’s signature desserts. To make it more fun, it was actually prepared a la minute in front of you – similar to Passard’s iconic tomato confit dessert. The sweet red cherries were soaked with kirsch, then flambeed. In addition, there was a rich & creamy cherry sorbet as well as crunchy crust pistachio nuts on the sides. The "huge cherry" was a big blown sugar of burlat cherries filled with cool, tasty and nutty of superb Sicilian pistachio. The interplay of texture and temperature contrasts were wonderful Well, by no means, the ‘normal’ food was not good – many were also remarkable. For instance, 1st meal: Eric Frechon was generous by giving roasted artichokes (light and distinct) served with white truffles and egg powder; nearly every table got this free appetizer. The soft potatoes mousseline smoked with (infused) haddock + Sologne caviars was awesome; half portion was sufficient. Another demi portion dish I ordered was seared tender & sweet scallops with nutritious watercress sauce, aromatic shaved Alba truffles and soft gnocchi (not as airy as I expected); it was delicious. My main course was the least impressive one though very beautifully presented. I ordered a roasted lobster with sautéed vegetables, squids, chorizo, sweet peppers etc. and no sauce – fully dependent on the lobster’s natural flavors, the side dishes’ taste and seasonings. Without the sauce, it’s not that amazing. The plenty of firm & quite chewy textures were interesting 2nd meal: Contrary to the above, the blue lobster (de-shelled and plated table side) I had was fabulous. It was perfectly roasted, delightfully firm with succulent flavor. It was served tasty lobster jus from its head, crisp asparagus and its mousse + a bit of black truffle. The main course was lovely - my (young) rack of Aveyron lamb was well-seasoned, delicious and very juicy. Beginning from the skin, it was slightly broiled until brown / a bit crunchy, then there was small but heavenly lamb's fat; comes to the meat, it's simply tender and flavorful. Eat with your hand to "clean up" the lamb. The side dishes were potato souffles with spinach anchovy. The 2nd meal felt slightly more impressive after having learnt that Vincent Perrin (chef de cuisine?) was actually in charge of the kitchen as Sunday was the off day for Eric Frechon, the hotel’s Executive Chef. The service was consistently impeccable. Epicure was ‘blessed’ with nearly 20 dining room staffs (including the sommelier team) to serve about 40 people max. The pacing was good; staffs were cordial, efficient and sincere. Everything was beautifully choreographed. During my 2nd visit, I selected a glass of red Bordeaux for my lamb which’s not a perfect match. One of the assistant sommeliers checked whether I liked it since he noticed something “not right” with my face … then he happily offered me to replace it with a more suitable one (red Burgundy) while I was allowed to keep my initial red. After these 2 visits, Epicure rose among my favorite restaurants in Paris. Another return here when I re-visit the French capital was quite probable. Food, wine, service, ambiance – everything just worked harmoniously together. Kudos to Eric Frechon and his team! More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2018/07/epicure-eric-frechon.html Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157692501786730 and https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157699217140555
  6. Considered as one of the greatest chefs, Joel Robuchon made an innovation in the early 00’s when he came back from retirement and decided to ‘simplify’ the formal and glamorous French fine dining with what’s now known as L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. There are more than 10 L’Ateliers these days around the globe. The setting is more like a sushi counter in which a more direct interaction between the staffs (including chefs) and customers are ‘encouraged’. I am a fan of JR cuisine and have been to many of his more formal restaurants – probably it’s the main reason why I often didn’t bother to dine at the L’Atelier since the price points are not that much different. However, in March this year, I visited my 2nd Atelier JR in Hong Kong … it was on a Sunday evening, relatively quiet. This place has been in operation for more than a decade and managed to also hold the 3-star awards this long, so I think it’s deserved a visit. In any Robuchon dining places (both the JR resto and Atelier), the venerable chef has always emphasized on the consistent of high level experience especially on the food. The expectation is that his fans around the world would be able to savor the langoustine ravioli whether in HK or in Las Vegas the same way that’s delicious executed with high precision, you got the point. Not sure it’s a good or bad thing, the dishes in any Robuchon restaurants around the world are very similar, half of them generally the same, although the ingredients are locals if possible. It was a late Winter / early Spring season and I opted for the discovery menu. To my surprise, I have not tasted half of the items listed – I liked trying new dishes. Some dishes I truly enjoyed were: -perfectly seared Hokkaido scallop was sweet and a bit raw inside. It was beautifully complimented by slices of the earthy Perigord truffle, musky and rather intense truffle coulis, as well as creamy + savory pumpkin sauce -carefully prepared soft-boiled egg with its bright runny yolk was in harmony with earthy and pungent shavings of Tuber melanosporum and crisp sticky rice cake. The parmesan, a little lemon juice and spinach provided accents to this delicious dish. A “simple” dish that let the black truffles to shine JR dishes do not usually blow me away; they’re just reliable and tasty. For instance, -the grilled Maine lobster was savory with good texture; enhanced by the creamy and piquant bisque made of lobster jus and saffron -Black cod was flaky and flavorful after having been marinated in the miso and served with the Malabar pepper sauce as well as coconut emulsion We could see Robuchon’s cooking was very international: influenced by Asian (mainly Japanese) + in terms of the ingredients used. The rest of the dishes were fine … but not as good as the four mentioned here In addition to the L’Atelier, Robuchon in the Landmark has a more elegant dining rooms named Le Jardin, which was closed as there were a few private events during my visit. Only half of the seats at the bar was filled, so the attention and pacing of the food was prompt. Chef de cuisine and the restaurant manager diligently monitored the diners and made attempt to have some chats – relaxing, convivial and fun. The design of the restaurant might not be opulent, but stylish dominated by red and black color. Despite these (casual stuffs), I found the food here was performed at high level, not necessarily inferior to the Robuchon Macau. They also cooked several dishes that’re exactly the same. Overall, I received what I expected: a satisfying meal with good wine, professional service delivered in a pleasant ‘bar’ in which I could see the live action of the open kitchen. Michelin 3-star? Well, it’s too generous IMHO; 2-star would be more suitable. That being said I hope here and many other Robuchon restaurants could still perform at high level in the future – I could not think of better ways for his teams & staffs to honor him after the legendary chef leaving this mortal world for good earlier this month More detailed review: https://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2018/08/latelier-de-joel-robuchon-hong-kong.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157694247412190/with/43900718062/
  7. The meal was 5 months ago ... I believe it was the 300 tasting menu
  8. The popularity of Wagyu (or Japanese beef) has taken off in particular in the 21st century. Kobe was probably the most famous one, but many people are also familiar with Ohmi, Matsuzaka, Kagoshima etc. The restaurants mostly only served either the sirloin or ribeye / tenderloin. Nowadays, anybody with deep pocket / willingness to splurge can quite easily access these luxury beef in Singapore. However, there’s yet any restaurant in the island specializing in cooking all parts of the beef from tongue to tail … until Ushidoki. Ushidoki has been around for a couple of years or so. The restaurant describe itself as a Wagyu kaiseki dining place. Hirohashi Nobuaki (Nobu-san), the executive chef, is actually an expert in traditional kaiseki. He was the head chef of Kumo and used to work at the prestigious Kitcho for more than 5 years. When opening Ushidoki, he wanted and was challenged to create something new that’s not yet existed in Singapore. Ushidoki utilizes Ozaki beef (named after the farmer’s patron) from Miyazaki prefecture. Ozaki-san slaughtered his cattle at about 34 months, about 6 weeks longer than many other beefs because he believes it’s the optimal age for the beef’s flavors. My tasting menu consisted of 10 courses, including palate cleanser / refresher – cold tomato and cold soumen. My favorite dishes were: -Sukiyaki with onsen tamago, onions, shaved black truffle and rice. The sauce was amazing – the base has been simmered regularly since the restaurant’s opening. It’s full body with delicious layers of sweet, savory and umami flavors. The melt-in-the-mouth Ozaki perfectly absorbed the broth and went along nicely with all of the ingredients above. -The main course was a ‘simple’ slowly char-grilled of sirloin (fatty and very marbled) and tenderloin (tender with unique beef flavor). Nobu-san hardly put any seasoning on the beef. As expected, they’re delicious with the beef natural flavor and some charcoal aroma. The side dishes did not really improve the overall enjoyment; the beef portion was quite small though. -The small appetizers of beef and seafood were in general very good. You could see the picture from the link below, whereas some other dishes such as gyutan, age-croquette and braised beef brisket were alright – not too impressive As a whole, it was still a good meal. 1-star Michelin is actually a well-deserved for this place. I wonder how creative Chef Nobuaki can be for repeated guests given he limits himself where nearly all dishes had to contain some elements / parts of the beef. Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157695805426292/with/42248894984/
  9. Bu Pun Su

    8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo, Hong Kong

    After having had an impressive meal at 8 ½ in late 2016 … I seemed to be ‘addicted’ to the cooking of Umberto Bombana. Given that I’m usually in Hong Kong for 1 week at most in a year, it was kinda unexpected that by now I would already have eaten there two more times. The simple, clean and delicious cooking by chef Bombana was one of the reasons. Another one (almost equally as important), Otto Mezzo served its truffle dish by shaving the raw mushrooms generously – more than I usually get at any other fine dining places. My 2 visits happened to be coincided during the seasons of Australian winter truffle (2017) and French Perigord truffle (1st quarter of 2018). I had the usual suspects such as (Taiyouran) egg ravioli, risotto with lots of black truffle as my appetizers – they’re good and pleasant. For the main courses, I ordered: -Roasted Bresse chicken having tender meat, deep flavor though slightly dry with some truffle under the skin. It was complemented by black truffle sauce, mushrooms, artichoke and mashed potatoes. It was a flavorful dish and not that heavy -I noticed that Chef Bombana also likes using “lean” meat. Last time I ate Fassone veal and this time a succulent lamb (cooked medium-rare) from New Zealand called ‘Te Mana’. It was succulent but not too flavorful by itself – it’s assisted by the marsala sauce with black truffle. The bread crumb around the lamb kept the meat moist. Both meals were satisfying although neither reached the ‘height’ of my dinner in 2016. In general, the dishes performed at 2-2 ½* levels consistently. In both times, Chef Bombana was present .. sometimes he visited the dining room when there’re Vips or regulars to greet. Given its central location, friendly service, pleasant wine and good food – Otto e Mezzo were always busy especially for business lunch. I was happy with the success of Umberto and his team; his empires kept expanding and (I heard that) they also perform at high level in Macau, Beijing and Shanghai. Will I return again here? Sure but probably not so soon Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157667566643967/with/41568845705/
  10. Basel, a city with plenty of museums, is known as a rich city. My friend who’s familiar with banking world called this place was filled with lots of “old money”. However, what drew me to this city was the latest 3-star Michelin at Switzerland bestowed in 2016 to the flagship restaurant of the only grand hotel in town – Les trois rois. The restaurant was called Cheval Blanc, named after the respectable wine producer in St. Emilion. Cheval Blanc reached many foodies’ radar ever since the arrival of Peter Knogl, originally from Bavaria, in 2007. He was trained under the reputable chef Heinz Winkler in both Tantris and Aschau’s Residenz. Within 2 years in charge of the restaurant, Chef Knogl already attained 2-star. Gault Millau’s chef of the year was other prestigious awards he received … twice. Although my wife and I came here during lunch time, we ordered the full tasting menu. The sign that the food at Cheval Blanc would be wonderful could be seen from the beginning. The amuse-bouches … 4 of them were dazzling. Then, we had the smooth and delicious foie gras as our first real appetizer with sweet fig confit and kinda acidic cassis. From this, I was convinced that I needed to order some extra items from the a la carte. The fish & seafood were really strong here while the meat parts were also very good. Some of my favorites were: - The lightly cooked scallop was of outstanding quality: plump, tender and naturally sweet. It was accompanied by fresh carrot and seasoned with vadouvan (fermented spices) having interesting + complex taste & aroma. A very good classical dish with modern touch. - Japanese kingfish was moist, clean & buttery. It was beautifully enhanced by the crisp radish, nutty avocado & savory miso. The combination of the sides produced plenty of vibrant flavors with pleasant texture contrasts - really refreshing! A simple cold appetizer that turned out to be awesome - Juicy and rather firm red Mullet nicely absorbed the saffron sauce and tomato vinaigrette. It was cooked with its crispy scales - Our meat course was solid – an earthy and wild Styrian venison; relatively tender, tasty and a bit gamey. The Rouennaise sauce was rich but balanced by the celery mousseline. There were a few more dishes and I will let find them by reading the more comprehensive review below. The food was definitely stunning, arguably the best one I’ve eaten in the country (pretty much toe-to-toe with l’Hotel de ville). The dining room was not that big; it could only cover about 30 people. Yet, it’s spacious and designed with classical style interiors: crystal chandeliers, dark parquet floor & partly covered with carpets, some fine paintings on the wall, big & heavy purple drapes, large table with crisp white linens on top etc. The only issue was possibly the service. It was not bad per se but did not deliver at the height of its food. Again, you could find more details from the link’s below. Peter Knogl, the amiable and gentle chef, visited the dining room near the end and took time to talk to each table. My meal here (purely on food) scored 96 pts in my notes … about 2 ¾* by Michelin standards. Thus, the red guide book highest honor to Cheval Blanc was very well-deserved. I look forward to making a return here should I be near the Basel area in the future. More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2018/06/cheval-blanc-peter-knogl.html Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157667799106717/with/41680086125/
  11. In 2007, I was traveling alone to visit a few 3-star restaurants in Belgium and Holland such as Hof van Cleve and Oud Sluis. Looking back to those times and my restaurant notes … I just realized that I’ve never returned to that regions for about a decade. My meals at both places above were memorable, but not really sure why I “didn’t bother” to return or try some other places around there. Well, finally I made another return to Netherlands using Amsterdam as my base last year. One of the most important reasons was a visit to arguably the current finest restaurant in that country – De Librije. The access to De Librije was not too complicated; just a short train ride to the small & beautiful town of Zwolle. “The Library’s” current location used to be an old prison building in which the main dining room was located in the ‘jail courtyard’. It was a huge and impressive dining room with very high glass ceilings stood elegantly under the support of black steel structures – plenty of natural lights but the temperature inside was still cooling. There were plenty of big and real plants as well. Given the space and kitchen’s size, De Librije could easily accommodate more people but the owners (Jonnie and Therese Boer) chose to keep it as it is to maintain the quality. As my spouse and I were enjoying our aperitifs and canapes, we could spot the owners right away. Chef Jonnie Boer was even the one who passed the menu to us and explained how the meals would work. Unlike most gastronomy restaurants which require the whole table to order the tasting menu with the same courses, at De Librije, the kitchen was comfortable and welcomed each guest to order different dishes with the aim so that guests could share some dishes. After a few snacks, Therese came and took the order. Then, one by one tables at the main dining room were filled and then the real show began. The degustation menu was impressive. The whole experience was probably even better than the sum of its parts. That being said, there were many remarkable individual dishes nevertheless such as: -In river Perch dish, Jonnie Boer elevated the humble kruudmoes (a combination of buttermilk, bacon, barley etc.) to the gastronomy level. His version was refined and sophisticated yet still faithful to its origin. This perfectly complemented the freshwater Perch which was lovely, tasty and rather firm. It looked complex, but all elements worked harmoniously. -The monkfish was perfectly cooked and succulent. The dish was carefully balanced by the fermented bell pepper, butter sauce and eggplant. A well-deserved classic dish. -Strips of dry-aged local beef (luscious and tender) were carefully seared on one-side only, then dusted / seasoned by the ceps powder and middle eastern spices. -This one was a very interesting dessert as the main ingredient happened to be a duck liver. The litchi with some aromatic vinegar nicely cut through the poached foie gras rich flavor while the apricot seed gave some bitter sweet and nutty flavor to the dish – innovative There were too many to mention all of the dishes we had; please check the link below for more details. Oh, don’t forget to order for at least 1 dish from the restaurant’s classic selection – proven to be ‘safe’ and superb. The wine selection by the glass had many international selection, reasonably priced and matched really well with the dishes. Therese Boer carefully & closely worked with her husband for years to produce this great pairing. Next time, probably I should order the full wine pairing. The hospitality at De Librije was fun, relaxed yet professional. We could see that staffs enjoying their work; they did with ease and smiles. Laughter could easily be seen & heard during the waiters and guests’ interactions. Each table did not really have any assigned maître d’, yet (surprisingly) most staffs pretty much knew what’s going on and the sequence of your meals. Therese and Stefan de Wilde (the manager) did not only observe from a distance, but they lead by example - did hands on and sometimes served the guests themselves including our table. The cooking at De Librije was indeed sublime and exciting. Even more impressive, most of the ingredients were sourced locally; Jonnie Boer has consistently been doing this more nearly 2 decades even though getting overseas luxurious produce couldn’t be any easier nowadays. It’s been a while since I ate at a restaurant for the first time in which the experience for both the food and the service was as amazing as this in Europe especially outside France. There’s no doubt that De Librije was an absolute 3-star establishment in my book. More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2018/05/de-librije-jonnie-boer.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157692526036402/with/27496860868/
  12. Bu Pun Su

    L'Ambroisie

    awesome pictures and thanks for sharing
  13. Bu Pun Su

    Ta Vie - Hong Kong

    Hideaki Sato’s name is no stranger to Hong Kong’s foodies. He was the former head chef of Tenku Ryugin. The Global Link group then invited /challenged Sato-san to open his own restaurant in which he would have more freedom to express his passion and creations. It was his dream and it became reality when Chef Sato opened Ta Vie by mid 2015. (Global Link owns both Ryugin and ta vie; Hideaki is also part-owner of Ta Vie) Ta Vie only serves one seasonal tasting menu – normally consists of 4 appetizers, 1 seafood, 1 meat and 2 desserts. Unless you have some dietary restrictions, everybody would eat the same thing. During my dinner in the Spring this year, some of the highlights of my meal were: -the first 2 appetizers, Sato-san re-interpreted US common dishes: Caesar salad and Clam chowder. We could expect they would come with some twists. For Caesar salad, the main ingredient was Hotaru ika – tender and filled with oceanic flavor inside. The dressing was mixed with the Hotaru squid; interesting and tasty. For the clam chowder soup, instead of clam, Chef Sato utilized crunchy Tsubugai. It was accompanied by green peas while the creamy soup was light and not cloying -the simple ‘fruit dish’ happened to be very good. I was referring to juicy white strawberries, sweet Italian beetroot, and fresh tomato – these were tossed with milky burrata cheese and aromatic basil + vinegar -Large Japanese langoustine (cooked simply & perfectly) with elegant flavor and firm texture. Believe it or not, it was the first time I ate Tenaga-ebi and it was outstanding, even better than the more well-known Ise-ebi. It was served on top of balanced broth. On the side, there was cabbage dumpling filled with pork tail and Yunnan ham; this part was alright. The rests of the dishes? you’re welcome to see from the link below. For the beverages part, Ta Vie provided some non-wine as well as non-alcohol drinks (such as different kind of high quality teas). The food’s quality was very high, balanced and flavorful. I respected Chef Sato even more after having learned that many of the kitchen staffs left so the man power was thin (4 people including Sato-san; the restaurant was nearly full on Saturday night) – the common case in HK or Singapore where staff turnovers were high after having received year-end bonus and CNY hong bao. The butter, bread and many other elements at Ta Vie were still created homemade from scratch despite this situation. I noticed Sato-san looked thinner and tired (compared to when I met him at Ryugin) that night, still the commitment and pursue of excellence never waiver. Honestly, this condition did not seem to affect the quality of my tasting menu … well, they have stopped the lunch serving though since early March Throughout the night, I was served mainly by one Japanese staff and Ms. Hiromi (the manager and Chef Sato’s wife). While the Japanese waiter might not have the perfect command of English, it was still clear / good enough. More importantly, in the busy evening, she was consistently sincere, energetic, passionate and knowledgeable. Thus, the service was efficient; my water was consistently topped up and the food served was well-paced. The special part of Ta Vie was probably the fact that the food was unique and inventive … owing to Hideaki Sato’s backgrounds. He was trained in western cuisine for nearly a decade (mostly French), then he focused more on the Japanese cuisine. In the process, he also studied about bakery, pastry and wine. That’s why he wanted and was able to handle all aspects of the guests’ dining experience here. To achieve this, he decided to utilize Asian produce whenever possible. It was a very good 2-star restaurant and Ta Vie should have no problem to keep it. Though I had a feeling, it could lead to the path of Amber if 5 years later, Sato-san still does not receive Michelin’s 3rd star … More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2018/05/ta-vie-hideaki-sato.html Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157696278637334
  14. Bu Pun Su

    Jean Francois Piege

    In the mid 00’s, Alleno, Barbot, Piege, Moret (and a few others) were considered as young and talented chefs that would carry French cuisine in the new millennium. Fast forward a decade later or so … Alleno and Barbot were already 3-star chefs for a while, even the former had 2 restaurants with 3-star. Many expected that Jean-Francois Piege to be among the elite with 3-star in Paris, however his name was gone / under the radar for some times especially after he decided to leave Hotel Crillon in ’09. Even when he re-claimed the 2-star at Thoumieux, not many talked about it. However, his name appeared again and often, after he (finally) opened his own dining place – Le Grand Restaurant situated in the small street not too far from the Elysee palace. 2016 onwards, Chef Piege has appeared in plenty of magazines and tv programs in addition to receive a couple of “chef of the year” awards (again) from Pudlo and Champerard. I first encountered Jean-François Piège’s cooking more than 10 years ago during his tenure at Les Ambassadeurs. Some of the dishes were ‘in principal’ similar to the ones at Ducasse Plaza but somewhat inferior, especially in terms of meticulous execution, nevertheless they’re quite promising. I was not very much aware of Chef Piege’s presence until last year when I continued my mission to try other 2-star restaurants in Paris. It was a late evening with lots of rain that delayed my arrival to the restaurant by nearly half-hour. As I entered the restaurant, the maître d’ knew and expected me as I was the last diner arriving. The open kitchen was bright in contrast to the low-lit dining room. Contrary to its name, Le Grand restaurant was actually an intimate dining place with only (about) 25 covers and it was fully booked on Monday night. I was seated near the kitchen and heard French was spoken pretty much at every table. I recalled 3-4 tables celebrated special occasions. I also noticed several groups ordered the chef’s menu with Grand vins pairing – if tonight was the barometer, I would say the restaurant was doing really well financially. For my case, I ordered the (mijote moderne) tasting menu - there were 3 courses + cheese + dessert. I could not help but realized that since his days as the head chef of Ducasse Paris, the gastronomy restaurants that Jean-Francois Piege has led always have dishes utilizing caviar and langoustine as his specialties. These were usually the best stuffs like what I experienced during this dinner. -The first dish came in a chic & shining silver egg-shaped ‘metal’: as I opened the top, I found a crisp potato puff with light cream inside and a dollop of caviar on top – stunning. For the bottom part, I was treated with shellfish extract jelly and caviar – lovely -Two large langoustine tails were fresh, sweet and succulent. They were served in mariniere sauce with hazelnut butter and nasturtium flowers -The pre-dessert was fabulous. It was a pristine and soft blanc-manger with runny vanilla cream inside and crisp caramel disc on top – easily the best blanc manger I’ve ever had I let you see from the links below for the rest of the dishes. In short, the meal was exquisite. Although not every dish was perfect, the dishes were delicious and harmonious. I could sense that the chef-patron devoted lots of energy and emotion in creating his food. The service was competent with plenty of staffs worked efficiently. For those celebrating something, similar with what happened in Alain Ducasse Plaza, staffs would take and give polaroid photos to capture guests’ memories. When the kitchen only left with serving sweets, Jean-François Piège visited and greeted every table. He would take time to answer any questions – he was in one table for more than 10 min. I enjoyed my meal and Le Grand Restaurant very deserved its 2-star. Along with Taillevent, it’s my favorite non-3-star restaurants in Paris. With some luck, Chef Piege will eventually get his 3rd star … probably sometimes in his early 50’s – my 2 cents More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2018/04/le-grand-restaurant-paris.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157664938985407
  15. Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse are probably the most well-known among active chefs from France especially since they have the most # of Michelin stars. Behind them, Pierre Gagnaire (in slower pace) has also expanded his empire around the globe. Even Pierre Gagnaire won the “battle of Bordeaux” against Joel Robuchon when the Bernard Magrez decided to close Robuchon’s only fine dining restaurant in Europe – probably due to high operational cost and the restaurant’s failure to attract lots of clients regularly – and replace it with the one managed by Gagnaire; holding 2-star. Despite his many new restaurants everywhere, nothing beats Pierre Gagnaire’s flagship restaurant in Paris Balzac. After L’Arpege and L’Ambroisie, Pierre Gagnaire was the restaurant that I visited the most often in the French capital. Prior to this meal in early Fall ’17, the last time I came here was with my wife nearly 4 years ago. It was a rare occasion to actually see Pierre Gagnaire himself in the kitchen given how busy he has always been. I only noticed this halfway through my meal when he came out of the kitchen to visit a table of four (likely to be the regulars or friends of the house). He would come out again after 2 PM, to greet every table, express the gratitude for visiting as well as check whether everything was fine. What a humble chef given his stature .. Somehow, I was not too hungry coming to this lunch. Thus, I decided to skip any meat dish. Maybe ironically, instead of having an appetizer, I opted for 2 seafood main dishes. In past few years, I learned that langoustine from the a la carte was one of Gagnaire’s signature items – it’s almost always there in the menu. I made sure not to miss it this time. Prior to the entrée / main courses, a meal here will begin with an array of amuse bouche (there were 5 of them). I think it’s widely known that describing and understanding Gagnaire’s food was a challenge even for the restaurant’s staffs. The opening small dishes were stimulating and imaginative but just too long to be mentioned here. Readers can follow the links below for pictures and details. -Langoustine (my appetizer) 1st service: a very large & sweet langoustine tail prepared a la ‘tempura’ using a recipe that Gagnaire already applied since early 80’s. The batter was so light that it barely interfered with the langoustine delicate texture. The notable side dish was airy potato soufflés with versatile sumac powder 2nd service: smaller langoustine was flambeed in front of you; served with sophisticated ‘green’ sauce. There were also, fresh and tasty raw langoustine An outstanding dish indeed – this could give Pacaud’s langoustine a run for the money -Turbot (my plat principal) This one was “simpler” than the langoustine. The kitchen served 2 large and thick slices of meaty and flaky Turbot, which was cooked on the bone – fantastic flavor and texture. The sauce was earthy, derived from a mixture of the fish’s jus, cepes and amontillado etc. The 2nd time I ate the king of fish here and both were wonderful. My dessert was terrific. After a little bit disappointed with le grand dessert during my last visit, I chose a safer option that turned out to be very satisfying: aromatic & tasty pistachio soufflé (smooth inside and a bit crisp outside) accompanied by deep-flavored Tahiti vanilla ice cream. Great taste; nice temperature and texture contrast. This was my best meal at Pierre Gagnaire and one of the most memorable meals I had in 2017 (top 3) Not only the food, but also the hospitality was the finest one I’ve ever experienced here. Herve Parmentier was nowhere to be seen, but a capable maître d’ named Alexander took good care of my table. He delivered impeccable service – patient, polite and knowledgeable. Prior to the dessert, I was invited to the kitchen (surprisingly rather small) and had a short chat with Pierre Gagnaire. Thierry Mechinaud was chef de cuisine and he would always be here whenever the restaurant opens; executive chef Michel Nave has to travel often these days given how big Gagnaire’s empire has become. By the way, the restaurant was nearly full given it’s only a lunch on the weekdays More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2018/03/pierre-gagnaire-paris-5th-visit.html Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157665933509828
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