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Bu Pun Su

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  1. Joel Robuchon Restaurant This review is unlikely to be useful for the readers, but it served well for me as a memory (a good one) about the last meal at the only 3-star Michelin restaurant in Singapore. Ever since its inception, Joel Robuchon restaurant at RWS was arguably one of my most frequent-visited fine dining places in the island. In fact, the finest French meal I’ve ever had outside France took place here 4 years ago (https://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2014/03/joel-robuchon-singapore-2nd-visit.html) when Tomonori Danzaki was the executive chef. Then, I had other couple of meals here under Chef Michaelidis – they’re fine but never reach the height of the previous chef. Near the end of 2017, JR Restaurant Sentosa once again had a new head chef – this time was Kim-Joinie Maurin who’s only in his mid 30’s but has been at the restaurant from the opening. I’ve always wanted to try Joel Robuchon’s Beef Chateaubriand with foie gras in “Rossini style” for some times but it’s always part of the full degustation menu that I felt I no longer has the appetite for such a big menu. I proposed to have this classical main course as part of the prix fixe upon making the reservation and thankfully the kitchen agreed that it’s possible to do such thing albeit with some supplement. Initially, I was on the waiting list for the weekend dinner, but we’re cleared in the early afternoon. I noticed that since JRR became 3-star restaurants, the business improved quite dramatically despite the price increase. During this dinner, I observed there were around 30 people and more than half of the tables ordering the full tasting menu. Thus, it’s a pity that this restaurant had to be shut down in end June ’18 – then, the legend himself passed away in August of the same year; a rough year for the JR family & business group. I came hungry and ate more than half-dozen of freshly-baked breads. Some of my favorites were: olive oil swirl brioche (aka ‘escargot’), baguette with melted Comte (pain au fromage), mini baguette with bacon, sesame bread with walnut & cranberry. In terms of balance quality and quantity, the bakery selection at JR restaurant was simply one of the world’s best. After that, we’re served 2 amuse-bouche: -Waffle filled with flavorful langoustine and a little of sea urchin -Refreshing cherry gazpacho with sheep ricotta and Sicily pistachio For the real food, we ordered the smallest and cheapest menu (again). Our first appetizer was the signature caviar dish of Robuchon that’s visually stunning. The shellfish jelly and cauliflower cream were more velvety and more delicious this time whereas previously under Michel, the jelly texture was too “gelatinous” with rather plain taste. The generous caviar and mix crabs were the main reason why this opening dish was really enjoyable. The 2nd appetizer were alright in which I found my spouse one was better. I had chilled lobster over not too sweet emulsion and covered by thin turnips. My wife’s seasonal & juicy white asparagus with tasty miso and smoky pepper was more interesting. Similar to our last visit, the kitchen kindly gave us an extra (fish) dish. This time, we had a satisfying crispy amadai with crispy scales and soft flesh, served on bouillabaisse & rich rouille sauce. Finally, the main star of the evening – beef tenderloin seamlessly paired with duck liver. The beef was Australian wagyu – succulent and delicious; it was perfectly cooked on a bed of aromatic herbs. There were more wagyu than the liver, loved this ratio. It was served with light potato souffle, watercress salad as well as the buttery mashed potatoes where I could still clearly savor the potato flavors. Probably the finest tenderloin I’ve ever had outside Japan. Since we ordered it as an “a la carte”, each of us had 2 servings. The dessert trolley was inviting as always. However, we missed the chocolate cake (perhaps we came too late). I had some “tasting desserts” (tried 5 of them) and I liked: the millefeuille, lemon tart and raspberry tart. Ever since Michelin came to Singapore in 2016, this was my favorite meal at JR restaurant. However, alas when I thought my taste fit better with Chef Kim’s style then this place closed for good. I was glad that I still had the chance to dine here for one last time. Actually, by the time we had this dinner, it’s already in the news that Robuchon Singapore were closing down … It has been a pleasant 7 years, perhaps it’s time for me to dine somewhere else when in the island Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157704040202834
  2. Amber is a reputable gastronomy restaurant in HK serving modern European / French cuisine with some innovative twist and recently it’s been using plenty of Japanese ingredients as well. I had a chance to have a lunch here about 5 years ago; it was a good meal but somehow kind of forgettable in the sense that it’s hardly on my radar whenever I return to Hong Kong. So, what changed? Sometimes in March this year, I read online that Amber would close temporarily at the end of Summer for a major renovation. The big deal? Post-renovation, it will be a brand-new restaurant and probably all of the old dishes would be no more. I happened to be in transit in May and as I had 7+ hours to ‘waste’ plus the fact that the airlines’ food generally mediocre, I decided to leave the airport and have another meal at Amber – this time for dinner. Nothing changed as far as the elegant and opulent design of Amber’s dining room interiors. The light was a bit dimmed; amber color shades dominated the room in contrast to the crisp white table clothes. As you may have guessed, I ordered the restaurant’s classic menu. I repeated 2 dishes … -the most popular dish at Amber that I think should be called cauliflower (cream) and (schrenki) caviar as both were the most dominant ingredients at the dish. Surprisingly, it was even better than the first time I ate because the kitchen put more caviar, a more balanced proportion with respect to other produces. The uni was sweet & smooth but I think its portion should be increased for better ratio especially towards the amount of cauliflower. A lot has been said about this luxurious and scrumptious dish -usually, I’d like to try a new dish whenever possible but I felt that I had a good memory towards this dessert that’s always been on the menu ever since created. The chocolate souffle was (rather) special here because of the intensity and long-lasting flavor of the Valrhona Abinao 85. To me, it was delicious and comforting with minimal sweetness & more of pleasant bitterness For the Amber regulars or fans, the other dishes were probably familiar … -Duck liver lollipop covered by beetroot & raspberry coating -(Charred) Scampi in fruity nage These were a few examples of Richard Ekkebus’ creativity instead of simply serving classical French dishes. Sometimes, I found it to be a bit “too complex” and distracted such as in the case of an abalone dish. The black awabi was tender and naturally tasty. Ist was integrated with spiced chickpea (Indian), pork chin (Chinese), tomatoes & cured pork belly (Italian); well, very international flavors – interesting but it did not truly elevate the kuro awabi. The main course of the classic tasting menu was actually quite new (created last year): the strip loin of Miyazaki beef. In the past, Amber used Kagoshima – both were top quality wagyu. Thankfully, it’s a winning dish with good combinations. The beef was perfectly cooked at medium-rare and having the right amount of buttery & melt-in-the-mouth taste. The fatty A5 beef was balanced out by the acidity from the red cabbage and black currant shiraz as well as a little sweetness of red onions. If the Michelin inspectors only ate Amber’s classic dishes, by HK standard … my dinner at Amber was more superior to my meals at Bo Innovation and Lung King Heen (on par with Atelier Robuchon). The service was more refined probably because the restaurant was only half full. The current manager, Yannick Kiefer was quite involved in the operation. He visited many tables, served & explained the dishes, as well as liked engaging diners without being obtrusive. The locals, while lack charmed, did their best to get the basic right – clearing dish and re-fill water regularly etc. It was a very satisfying dinner, slightly better than my first meal here. In the end, I wish all the best to Richard Ekkebus and his team in preparing the next stage / challenge of Amber volume 2 in 2019! Detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2018/11/amber-richard-ekkebus.html Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157697857844780
  3. While Nihonryori RyuGin is not the best restaurant in Tokyo, it’s one of the most well-known dining places in the Japan’s capital. Its chef-patron, Seiji Yamamoto is often considered as Asia’s finest chef … at least according to the Le Chefs’ ranking. I already knew Ryugin for sometimes, but never actually had the chance to visit due to the stiff’s competition at a city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants – meaning I ended up going somewhere else in the past. In early Summer this year, we had a ‘sudden’ plan to go to Japan with my parents and kid so with slightly over one-month notice, these days visiting a few elite restaurants in Tokyo proved to be a difficult task. With plenty of theme parks on the schedule, I did not have many days to choose from. In addition to Narisawa, I managed to secure a table at Ryugin – it was the last Summer meal for Yamamoto-san at the Roppongi. As far as non-vegetable produce’s concerned, Summer in Japan means you would eat Ayu, Hamo, Unagi etc.; that’s exactly what I found for my dinner menu at RyuGin (you should find something similar at other elite kaiseki restaurants). -Sweetfish, whenever I ate this, was often grilled and usually seasoned with salt. It might not be my favorite kind of fish but since I didn’t often eat Ayu – the fishes tasted good. The head was crunchy and rather sweet; the body including the guts / innards was crisp and slightly bitter. To enhance the enjoyment, Chef Yamamoto provided sauce made of watermelon, vinegar and some herbs -The Pike eel was prepared in 2 different ways. The first one as the main ingredient for the owan. The hamo’s quality was top notch with the white flesh bloomed like a flower and absorbed the tasty dashi’s flavor. To add more depth and some texture contrast, we found: jelly-like junsai, gooey okra, juicy kamonasu etc. The second preparation was for the main rice dish. The daggertooth pike conger was deep-fried; crispy at the outside while the meat inside was still tender. The rice was fragrant, the shiso leaves gave some grassy / spearmint aroma. Inside the miso soup, the soft tofu was cooked beautifully in the shape of “Chrysanthemum”; taste-wise was alright. The pickles were quite average -The freshwater eel was slowly and carefully grilled – smoky, aromatic with subtle flavor. To enhance the Unagi taste, you could use the tsume sauce, shio and sudachi. By itself, the unagi was already pleasant. For more details of the kaiseki menu, you’re welcome to see from the link below. In general, the food was good and creative though no particular dish truly stood out. RyuGin might not (yet) reach the level of Kyo Aji or Matsukawa, but somehow, I was happy with my meal. Maybe because I’ve not had any real kaiseki for nearly 3 years (aka long time not returning to Tokyo) and I only have Ryugin as my only kaiseki meal at this trip otherwise I might have eaten the same ingredients with similar cooking / preparation that would diminish the “return” of my enjoyment. I put this meal on par with my dinner at Ishikawa and Yukimura; among these 3, Ishikawa had the best service probably because we were seated at the counter and experienced direct interaction with Hideki Ishikawa-san himself. The RyuGin’s dining room could accommodate about 20 people at once. My wife and I came for the 2nd seating at around 9 PM. Besides the black and white dragon painting, the interior of the dining room was pretty simple with low ceiling. Service was fine; many staffs spoke English well and have been working here for a few years. Taking pictures of the dishes, except with your mobile in silent mode, was discouraged. Seiji Yamamoto himself would give diners a warm send off. He’s really friendly, full of smile and very passionate when asked about food and his work. Whenever, RyuGin opens, it’s a guarantee that Chef Yamamoto would lead his team in the kitchen. It may not be so soon, but I got a feeling I will visit Ryugin at midtown Hibiya one day. More comprehensive review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2018/11/nihonryori-ryugin-tokyo.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157675226288358
  4. 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/
  5. 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/
  6. 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/
  7. 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/
  8. 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
  9. 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/
  10. The meal was 5 months ago ... I believe it was the 300 tasting menu
  11. 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/
  12. 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/
  13. 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/
  14. 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/
  15. Bu Pun Su

    L'Ambroisie

    awesome pictures and thanks for sharing
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