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Bu Pun Su

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  1. 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/
  2. 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/
  3. 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/
  4. Bu Pun Su


    awesome pictures and thanks for sharing
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. When Hashida sushi opened in 2013 at the 2nd floor of MG (now occupied by Beni), this sushi-ya and its charismatic head chef quickly rose among the top sushi places in Singapore. I went for lunch within 1-2 years after that and was satisfied with the food offering despite not seeing Kenjiro Hashida around. To get the full experience and assess the restaurant better, I tried to go for dinner but often Hatch was not available on my preferred date (He regularly returned to Japan to meet his suppliers as well as running his father’s restaurant in Kachidoki – well, not it’s closed or under renovation). That finally changed when I had dinner at Hashida in late Spring last year – I know it’s very late, but better than never? I spent more time reviewing the restaurants I visited in Europe … My omakase menu had around 9 appetizers, 11 sushi and a dessert. The otsumami (not simply a few of simple sashimi) was quite a lot for a sushi-ya; during lunch guests were asked whether they wanted more cooked food or raw stuffs. Chef Hashida was passionate about arts and it can be clearly seen from the presentation of the appetizers including the tableware’s used. His sushi was essentially edomae style, but he would not shy to do something different like “smoked, seared, or torched” the neta and thankfully most of the time, it worked well. For this dinner, I liked: -creamy & sweet Murasaki uni served in its ‘shell’ with shiro ebi and stock jelly -Kinmedai (slightly cooked) served with its liver and chef’s special sauce (very flavorful) The awabi, zuwai gani and nodoguro were simply steamed in low temperature. They were fresh, clean and tasty … though I expected something more creative with better flavor and sauce From the sushi selection, fatty tuna / toro-related items were Hashida’s strength. For instance, Kenjiro-san prepared the raw fatty Tuna differently … he sliced several layers thinly across the grain, this made the amount of Otoro was much more than what one would normally eat. It was really marbled, sublime and very umami. As soon as I chewed it, I would straight find the shari - super smooth, soft and 'oily' otoro. Then, Hashida-san partially grilled the kama toro. He put some horseradish (to clean any intense flavor) and bonito flake (to intensify the taste) inside the neta. The amount of Kama Toro was overwhelming, which I didn't mind. This nigiri was so sumptuous that I hardly 'recognized' the shari - divine These 2 were my favorite pieces. The torched baby kamasu and anago with chef’s secret-recipe (135 years old?) tsume were also delicious. As with many Japanese restaurant, the dessert was simple – fruit, ice cream and mochi. Unfortunately, no macaron … Hashida sushi’s new location at 4th floor (still at Mandarin Gallery) was bigger and more spacious. It was not a busy night – only 7 people seated in the main counter and a few more served by chef Sato Yuji. Hashida liked engaging a conversation, so it was not boring though I ate alone. Moreover, the food was well-paced and the waitresses were friendly and gracious; my tea was pretty much warmed all the time. I liked the sushi part better than the appetizers – still appreciate Hatch’s effort and creativity. This dinner was about as good as my meal at Shinji so I think Michelin should appreciate this place with at least 1 star in the future (it was worthy of 2-star in my note based on the Singapore & Hong Kong standard). More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2018/02/hashida-sushi-singapore.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157690341473171
  9. Amsterdam has plenty of multiple star restaurants, but the ‘problem’ is there isn’t any 3-star so sometimes it’s not quite obvious which one is a “must go”. Librije’s Zusje and Ciel Bleu are famous, but at the end my wife and I went to Bord’Eau, located in the opulent and historical hotel de l’Europe. The review of this restaurant can be tricky because Richard van Oostenbrugge (with his sous chef) left the restaurant to run his own at the end of last year. Therefore, the report here may not be too ‘useful’ except for a historical perspective of Bord’Eau … unless Chef Oostenbrugge’s new restaurant would serve of Richard’s old dishes here. By the way, we had dinner in Oct ‘17 The food was based on classical French adding modern elements and contemporary techniques. Some Asian influence could be seen in a few dishes and I think Richard van Oostenbrugge (RvO) executed and integrate them smoothly. Some of its signature dishes such as oxtail with marrow & creamy polenta; green apple dessert; and chocolate balloon were up to their reputations. The other dishes were of high quality though not necessarily mind-blowing. You could see the link below for more details. The service was good in general but uneven. The below average one was surprisingly delivered by the manager / maître d’ who was very rigid and the smile looked forced / fake. Maybe he had a bad day. Water and wine were not promptly refilled sometimes. The best part, there were 2 junior staffs (ladies, one was local and another one was French) who did fantastic jobs. Despite their young age, they were helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the food and a few other things. They sincerely wanted us to have a great time and put us at ease. The dining room was chic with white and gold highlighted its interiors. It was intimate, so the space between tables was a bit too tight. Try to get the window seats if possible for a beautiful view of the canals and the city. Overall, it was a convincing 2-star restaurant and I think if RvO keeps honing his skills, 5-7 years down the road, he has a decent chance to gain the 3rd star at his new place. Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157692106735584
  10. Andreas Caminada is likely to be the most popular chef in Switzerland at the moment. However, talking about the ‘best’ & most respectable restaurant in the land of milk and honey, L’Hotel de Ville in Crissier (located not too far from Lausanne) must be the one. Ever since Fredy Girardet opened this establishment in early 70’s, it quickly rose to be one of the finest French restaurants outside France. Since then, l’hotel de ville pretty much has held the Michelin’s 3-star every single year with relative ease. I had my first meal here (dinner) in 2008 when Philippe Rochat was the chef-patron. Then, in Oct last year, I had another opportunity to have a memorable meal but this time was for lunch. L’Hotel de Ville was one of those restaurants that had lots of resources: excluding desserts, there were about 30 different dishes; the front + kitchen staffs were approximately 50 people (about 1:1 ratio for staff vs guest). For those who love game (gibier) menu, this restaurant was possibly THE place to be for both quality and variety. My maître d’ was kind and flexible that due to some time constraint, he allowed me to design my own tasting menu from scratch. My favorite dishes were: -Perfectly poached egg hidden under the al dente spaghetti dome served with Alba truffle and creamy + delicious sauce (the signature dish of Chef Rochat) -Local tenderloin beef was carefully grilled resulting in tender, pink & flavorful meat while the ‘outside’ was a bit crisp and salty. In addition, it was accompanied by the smooth green peppercorn sauce and some vegetables such as eggplant and zucchini I had lievre a la royale last time and was curious to see what it would look like nearly a decade later … it did not disappoint. The hare confit was slowly cooked for 6 hours until the meat became soft. It was covered by dried mushroom powder and served with delicious, gamey yet not overly powerful sauce – suitable to my taste. You’re welcome to check the rest of the dishes from the link below The dining room design was elegant and classy; the space between tables was generous. During a sunny day, the natural light was very pleasant. There were about 25 people enjoying lunch and many of them ordering the ‘big’ degustation menu. The service was polished and friendly; many staffs were capable of assisting different tables. Chef Franck Giovannini came to the dining room near the end of the meal and greeted each table. I was invited to visit the kitchen; there was a chef’s table inside and the kitchen was huge and spotless. L’hotel de ville, once again, proved that they’re more than capable of performing at high levels consistently. The menu changes every season and every year, diners could expect new dishes are constantly added. My good friend said that the restaurant was also very kind to a young child; they had enough resources to tailor a special and simpler menu for her daughter. This was a special institution indeed that could cater to different needs to different guests yet the quality of the food was never compromised. Generally, I liked this meal more (more “authentic”) than my previous one as under Chef Rochat. I found that the dishes in my tasting menu had too many of Asian’s influence, especially the Thai flavors. More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2018/02/lhotel-de-ville-franck-giovannini.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157663386363357 Rochat’s time - https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipOLjbBO0eHAHqytELg4ziytf-skcsEphtjYGL5SoYdK-HxUhH-c9yJPWyWD9Ob9EQ?key=czZudmdHTUZSOURCUVZ1Rk83Nkd6cXpLS2tMN1FR
  11. Bu Pun Su


    Yannick Alleno returned to Paris with a mission – to make Alleno Ledoyen restaurant to be the “best” restaurant. Additionally, he has expanded his ‘empire’ all around the world. His effort and hark work were paid off as Ledoyen received the 3-star and (if not mistaken) his sous chef at Alleno Paris was good enough to lead the 1947 Courchevel to be his 2nd restaurant with Michelin’s highest accolade. With “aggressive and smart” tactics, Alleno restaurant also returned to the top 50 best restaurant (which many people believe they’re mainly about marketing, lobbying and influence). That being said, I found the food at Ledoyen to be very good especially the dishes from the a la carte. Similar to his days at Le Meurice, the restaurant had a lot of resources and this would explain why Ledoyen’s menu was very extensive. It was the main reason why I made a return last Fall – to try a few more and some seasonal creations of Chef Alleno. As I was seated in the opulent dining room with classic yet minimalist design, I was given a menu to go through while enjoying some nibbles like veal tartare, aloe, and smoked eel. The menu cover was still the same as even during the days of Christian Le Squer but I encountered that the inside to almost entirely different this time. I still found a few of supposedly Alleno’s specialties such as langoustine tart with caviar and Gunma beef (surprisingly no homard at all in the menu) – we ordered them in 2016. Then, my friendly and knowledgeable maître d’ named Michael came and explained that starting this week, Yannick Alleno decided to redo his menu and basically guests were left with and encouraged to order the new and only tasting menu available. It was divided into 3 sections: salty emotions (3 small appetizers), le principal (2 small dishes and 1 main, either a red meat or a fish) and sweet emotions (2 small desserts). Then, I had no choice but to try the new degustation menu. As far as I’m concerned, all of the diners that night (nearly 20 people) French and foreign alike ordered the tasting menu. Business-wise, it seemed to be a successful strategy From the 8-course menu, I liked 2 of them very much: - Steamed scallops served with Cime di rapa with corn extraction and caviar. The scallops (from Normandy) were small, sweet and well-absorbed the corn extraction flavors. To balance them, the kitchen provided briny caviar as well as bitter but pleasant turnip tops (green vegetables with mustard-like taste). The 'soup' might look very liquid but it had a strong and clean flavor. - Milk-fed lamb (from Pyrenees). The piece was wood fired and served with truffled modern sauce and pickles. The meat was succulent indeed; the rack part was very flavorful while the saddle part had a lovely texture. The sauce was concentrated but not too overwhelming; the veggies neutralized any (too) intense aroma and flavor. There was a small portion of decent lamb liver. The rest of the dishes: a few of them were unusual and a bit disappointing when compared to my previous experience eating Chef Alleno’s cooking. My first 2 appetizers were hare galantine with beet and cocoa sauce; foie gras confit with spaghetti butternut and smoked eel. There were other interesting dishes (quite good actually) like quince pie with lamb shoulder and fruit; barley curdled fresh milk with bacon. The desserts were alright but I was “mad” after knowing that the Guinness beer tart brulee was no longer offered as the mignardise. While I would rate the food from this meal to be at 2* or 2 ½* level only, I respected Yannick’s bold move to revamp his menu. Most 3-star restaurants would normally play safe, but Chef Alleno was not afraid of making changes although his foundation / basic philosophy about the importance of sauce (pure, extraction, fermentation etc.) did not change here. The bright sides: there were ‘surprisingly’ 2 things that I thought was better than the food. First, the service was pretty much immaculate – friendly, warm and staffs always tried to please the guests. For instance, initially I would like to have a dish with white truffle which was not part of the tasting menu but since it was still early in October, I was not sure about the truffle’s quality. 5 min later Michael returned to my table with white glove and a box of Alba truffle (asked me to smell it), then he sliced about 0.5 gram of the truffle and let me tried it. It was not as pungent and strong as I would like it hence I skipped it. The extra mile that he did was remarkable. Secondly, the wine was satisfying. Before having decided for the pairing, I perused the wine list and apparently Ledoyen had plenty of “exceptional” wines by the glass. The tasting (5 cl each) of Chateau Troplong-Mondot of Saint-Emilion from 3 different vintages (‘99, ‘06 & ‘11) caught my eye. And after some discussion and learning that I had some interest for these red Bordeaux, the sommelier allowed me to replace the initial choice of Napa valley red wine for the wine pairing. The wine quality and selections were also good; I found that some of the ‘average’ dishes became better by drinking them with the right wine. I truly appreciated the hospitality of the restaurant – these were done neither by the restaurant manager nor the head sommelier, but they (Michael and the wine assistant) had some freedoms and knowledge about how far they can go to make the guest happy. For the pictures of the dishes, their descriptions and more details about the wine pairing – please check from the link below. I don’t think I would return here anytime soon. And from my last 2 meals here, Yannick Alleno happened to be not present in his restaurant. Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157690797066085/with/25085509528/
  12. Bu Pun Su


    After Tokyo, Paris has the most 3-star Michelin restaurants in the world and in Paris, L’Ambroisie has had the honor to be the longest 3-star dining place (about 30 years and counting). While the views about L’Ambroisie are often divided among foodies, it’s usually the favorite and most respectable institution among world’s elite chefs such as Gagnaire and Humm. It officially became my best restaurant in Europe, if not in the world at the moment. 2017 was a special year in the sense that I somehow managed to visit this place twice in separate seasons: Spring and Fall. I decided to go for lunch in both occasions since based on my experienced, the restaurants were never full during lunch and hence I could interact better with the staffs. Furthermore, anytime I was full usually after the main course, I could go out and walk around the arcade, square or garden at Place des Vosges. For me, to have 2 meals at L’Ambroisie in the same year was “an achievement” until I found something “fascinating” during my Oct visit in the late afternoon: Laurent (the staff): thank you Sir, and see you (again) tonight Male Guest dining alone (looked like a Japanese): see you - with a smile Then, I turned to Mr. Pascal, the directeur de salle – he smiled and understood what I meant. Before asking the obvious question, Pascal told me that this gentleman had come the day before, would come again in the evening and also the following day. I was dumbfounded! Then Pascal said he definitely would not recommend me to ever try to do such things, LOL. By the way, I observed that this guest had eaten 4 courses including a dessert, so I assume he would have tried all of Bernard Pacaud’s Autumn creations in less than a week. So, compared to him – I seemed ‘normal’ I have been fortunate to be able to eat many delicious foods. However, in recent years, the ones that would come close to the things called perfection – that would be my meals at L’Ambroisie. In May, I loved the egg with caviar as well as the escalope de bar. Pascal was kind enough to allow me having the veal-chop, a dish that’s usually reserved for 2 people. In Oct, I tried the supreme pigeon and scallop with ceps and white truffles (who said Pacaud no longer created “new” dish?). Then, Pascal let me split the sole braised with wine sauce with my wife. Having visited this place several times, I appreciated some freebies the restaurant often gave me such as the small portion of the chocolate tart, a glass of rum (for digestive) and madeira (for the cheese). I would let the readers see the link below for more detailed descriptions otherwise they’re too long There was a time when I wondered when would be the best season to visit L’Ambroisie. Some people may have strong preference towards particular ingredients and thus could go accordingly. As I was reflected towards my past meals here, actually you can go any time since most of the restaurants’ classics (they were generally outstanding) such as langoustine tail with curry sauce & spinach, slices of sea bass with artichoke & caviar, and flourless chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream … all of them are always available. Then, there were dishes with lobster, foie gras, lamb and pigeon etc. prepared differently according to the season. Really, the food was actually excellent and never boring here Lastly, I would like to discuss about the hospitality. It’s known that the service at L’Ambroisie was old-fashioned and tend to be more formal (a la Francaise). However, from these 2 visits, I believe that the restaurant has also evolved. Mr. Pascal and Mdm. Pacaud would always be elegant yet they tried to be more relaxed and adapt to their clients at the same time. I was more of the old school, thus would dress up whenever dining at Europe’s multi-starred restaurants. Among all of the international clients that I met at L’Ambroisie, none of them wore a jacket and a few of them even wearing jeans and sneakers albeit branded ones. One local guest also dressed casually while many of them still wore jackets and blouses. Nevertheless, the service still went smoothly and the staffs simply “ignored the formality” and treated the guests the best they could. If the restaurant was relatively quiet, then Mdm. Pacaud usually stayed put near the entrance. But, during the busy evening, she’s always greeted everyone and made an effort to have a short conversation at each table. Whereas for Mr. Pacaud, once in a while, he would walk pass by discreetly and in the late night, he apparently went out to bid farewell to mainly his regulars or entertained any questions or picture-taking requests. Overall, once you’re more familiar with the situation, the service at L’Ambroisie could be as good as at any other Europe top tables. More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2018/01/lambroisie-bernard-pacaud-6th-and-7th.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157689875222471 - Spring meal https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157691544139664 - Fall meal
  13. Yes, it was somewhat dark but there were a few windows with natural lights. Moreover, each table has some standing lights carefully directed to the guests' tables especially at the location where the staffs would put the dishes. I imagine dinner will be more challenging to see clearly what we eat or to take good photos
  14. Andreas Caminada and his beloved restaurant Schloss Schauenstein (it’s a 6-room hotel as well) have been one of the hottest chefs and restaurants in their country and the whole Europe. The restaurant is located in the valley of Domleschg – to be exact in Furstenau, arguably the world’s smallest city. It was not an easy area to reach as it’s pretty much another in-the-middle-of-nowhere dining place. However, as long as the restaurant can be “comfortably” reached by public transport, whenever the opportunity arises, I would make an effort to visit that place. That’s what I did in October this year … having a lunch at Caminada’s temple of haute cuisine My wife and I ordered a 6-course menu (including cheese and a dessert). By now, many people should know what this meant … in addition to the real dishes from the tasting menu, Andreas and his team would provide 5-6 nibbles / finger food items, then 4 different amuse-bouche served separately before the 1st appetizer and 6-7 mignardises in the end. For the menu … I tended to like the meat items more than the fish ones. During this lunch, we had: -Sweetbread prepared until the outside was golden and ‘crispy’ but the inside was still tender and flavorful. It was served with tasty and sweet orange sauce (apple, honey and balsamic), fresh pickled celeriac foam and rather bitter parsley cream. -Local pork prepared 2 ways: the crispy pork belly was heavenly and sinful, the most delicious thing I ate here. Another one was a more refined and carefully cooked pork fillet – the texture and temperature were great but the succulent meat was not as flavorful as I expected. The pork was accompanied by vegetable cream, tomato and pickled button mushroom to balance anything you might find to be too rich / intense For more details about the rest of the dishes, I will let you see from the link below As you could see, Andreas Caminada seemed to like anything “pickled”. Well, over the course of this lunch, I found that he’s indeed the master of creating acidity / sour flavor naturally. Like the ingredients used previously, even the cheese dish was all local. The dessert was unfortunately rather weak … the technique and execution were good but both of us were not too fond of the main produce – plum with yoghurt. Then, the pastry team also prepared soufflé and granite but the flavors used were derived from curd and verbena respectively – we’re not too keen on them either. Our lunch package included wine pairing and they’re sourced locally from Switzerland and most of them were relatively young wines. I kinda liked the selection and in fact, it’s been a while I’ve never consumed this much alcohol (7 glasses – at least equivalent to the whole bottle per person). Around the dessert time, honestly I felt somewhat “tipsy” or nearly half drunk The castle was really old obviously (from the 12th century) and Andreas Caminada tried to preserve it as much as possible. The interior of the dining room itself was modern and minimalist with some paintings and pictures on the wooden walls / panels. There were 2 dining rooms and altogether they could fit about 25-30 people; yes, it’s relatively small. 2-3 months advanced reservation especially over the weekend was essential. Chef Caminada paid attention to the guests’ overall experience. He himself led and trained his service staffs. He wanted to make sure guests received great service even from the reservation process. During a nice weather, guests were encouraged to eat their small-bytes and amuse at the partially covered terrace with beautiful mountain in the backdrop. In the evening, I was told that diners were welcomed to the opulence bar and lounge located 1 floor above the main dining room to enjoy their petit fours. Given the long meal (4+ hours), the restaurant wanted to make sure that guests not feel bored to be seated in the same room throughout The meal was indeed memorable. The service was impeccable, the best one I’ve ever experienced in Switzerland. The front team staffs were predominantly female dressed in black; they were very competent – amiable, attentive and knowledgeable. The pacing for both the food and wine were just nice. Had the location been more accessible, I would’ve visited this place more often in the future. A foodie looking for modern and complex cooking with good balance optimizing the use of mostly the best produce from Graubunden canton … there’s hardly any better place than Andreas Caminada’s flagship restaurant. Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157689832270604/with/38654734941/
  15. After having dinner at Aqua last spring, the following day my food journey continued with a lunch at La Vie, located in the old town and historical city of Osnabruck. Prior to this visit, I did not know much about Osnabruck. If you have some extra time, 1-2 hours strolling around the area before or after your meal would be an enjoyable thing to do. I did this kind of activity at Sluis, a small town in Holland, a long time ago. Like Sven Elverfeld, Thomas Buhner, la vie’s chef-patron, was also a prominent chef in the ‘new German school’. Chef Buhner consistently delivered innovative cooking with maximum ingredients that were meticulously crafted for each dish. Classical French cuisine was the fundamental, integrated with contemporary technique while ensure German would always be the soul of the dish. la vie was very open about using produce form all over the world and it’s reflected from the dishes I had as well as the wine selection I drank during this lunch. Normally, I opted for the chef’s classic tasting menu whenever I visited the restaurant for the first time. However, as the avant-garde degustation menu offered more dishes, I decided to go for it plus ordering a couple of extra dishes from supposedly Thomas Buhner’s signature items. I observed that Thomas liked using “surf & turf” pairing for the dish. For instance, there were raw wagyu beef & cod, pork belly & octopus, oyster & sweetbread. Low temperature cooking highlighting the (many) ingredients’ natural flavors and textures contrast was pretty much the core of la vie’s approach. While sometimes I found certain flavor was too dominant, when the combination worked well such as in the case of ‘huitre’ with ‘ris de veau’; you will be “wowed” by the Buhner’s exquisite creation. For the main courses, the method was simpler by carefully preparing and perfectly executing the (main) produce. The results were indeed excellent especially the etouffee pigeon. Please see the link below for more details The dining room was moderately small and it was not a busy lunch. Contrary to the classic exterior, the interior décor was more modern and graceful. The table was big, the chair was comfortable and distance among tables was spacious. There were about 10 guests and we’re served by 4 attentive, warm and genuine staffs. Thus, you could expect from a restaurant at this caliber, everything went smoothly from the topping of water/wine to the pace of the food. As a bonus, Thomas Buhner himself, after having finished conducting a weekend cooking class, showed up and greeted each table. A meal at La Vie, once again, showed that at the 3-star level, the restaurants in Germany truly capable of performing at high level. Along with Aqua and restaurant Vendome … it’s not an easy task to say which one is “the best”. The review of la vie marked the last fine meals I had in Germany this year. Hope I could savor a few more new places around this country in the future More detailed review: https://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2017/11/la-vie-thomas-buhner.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157662726330918/with/38423401766/