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Bu Pun Su

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  1. Restaurants having multiple-star Michelin often means foodies would come after them. These days, there’re many of them that will also aggressively doing marketing for the restaurants. However, not all of them doing that – those which choose to remain quiet usually are confident with their own cuisine and (I believe) one of them is Le Clarence. Given the grand mansion-like building housing the restaurant and knowing the owner of the restaurant – Prince Robert of Luxembourg, Le Clarence could easily promote itself but instead it prefers to be under the radar. Opened a few years ago, it quickly rose to receive 2-star award. It should not be surprising, consistent with Michelin’s way … Christophe Pele, the executive chef, already held the 2-star when running La Bigarrade nearly a decade ago. Food-wise, Le Clarence seemed like the symbiosis Astrance and Gagnaire. It had no a la carte menu; only tasting. Guest simply need to choose how many courses they want to eat and mention dietary restriction (if any) … the lunch price was comparatively reasonable given its luxury dining room and it’s Paris! I came rather late and settled with the middle tasting menu consisted of 4 courses. Some highlights were: -The appetizer focused around scallops. Probably inspired by his past mentor – Gagnaire, Chef Pele cooked the scallops in 3 different ways: lightly roasted served with buffalo milk cream, mushrooms and tangy capers. Next, poached scallop with delicious & deep duck broth, creamy sea urchin and mild daikon (sublime – my favorite one from the 1st course). Last but not least, raw scallop accompanied by feta cheese, tuna sauce and bitter chicory; the sauce was a bit too much for me -The main course was very good. Chris Pele prepared superb grilled quail having deep flavor, served with nutty celeriac puree, earthy black truffle and tasteful cuttlefish ink. Simply meticulously executed. It came with 2 side dishes: mushroom ravioli with cheese foam and sweet bread; radicchio salad with a little black truffle and Italian’s old vinegar as the dressing. More info regarding the fish course and desserts, you could see from the link’s below. The snacks, amuse, homemade brioche … all of them was also well executed and tasty Initially, I thought Le Clarence would be one of those 2-star places in Paris where I could put a check mark from the list. However, this lunch proved otherwise. It has become the restaurant that I am likely to return again in the future. With competent & smooth service, top wine list, opulent & tasteful dining room and delicious & balanced food under the watchful eye of quiet but talented chef Chris Pele … my hunch said this would likely be the upcoming 3-star restaurant in France - French gastronomy is not dead. It has a lot of potential to be better and I wish I could’ve eaten the 6 or 7 creations from the kitchen here. The restaurant was full with most guests speaking French. Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157679189066998
  2. Since it’s only less than a year ago, I wrote my review about meals at Epicure par Eric Frechon, I would ‘try’ to be brief this time 😉 Epicure slowly grew in me: delicious food with warm service – both consistently performed. Then, I was in Paris … again in late Jan this year, time to re-visit Epicure for dinner during the weekdays. Dinner in the deep Winter meant I could not see the beautiful French garden from my comfortable seat; without any natural lights, the atmosphere was less exciting but that’s the only downside. The rest of the dinner experience was delightful Instead of a few different bread (some from the 3rd party), nowadays Epicure only served one kind – homemade country bread. Eric Frechon installed a stone flour meal, guided by Roland Feuillas, in Le Bristol. To create this ‘living bread’, Chef Frechon mixed specific and high quality natural wheats. Freshly baked daily, this wheat bread was awesome having perfect crust. The nibbles, amuse and mignardises were pretty much the same (for a few, the sweet cart alone was probably good enough reason to come here). Some of my dishes were: -lightly cooked and succulent large langoustine from Guilvenec (half-portion) was served with buttery & tasty broth and onion-mango; refreshing … I thought I would only see this kind of dish in the later Spring or Summer -whenever you found a traditional French dish at the fine dining menu, normally it would not be not your usual one. At Epicure, the beef pot-au-feu was served in 3 different ways separately. My favorite was the 2nd preparation … "millefeuille" of beef, duck liver and vegetables (carrot, turnip and cabbage) served with delicate bone marrow, pungent Perigord truffle on top of thin toast. The aromatic beef consommé put all these produces together in harmony The last service was puff pastry with clear soup. The pastry would nicely soak the delicate soup flavors containing celery, duck liver, shiitake and black truffle – similar but not inferior to Bocuse’s famous VGE soup. You’re welcome to see the rest of the meal from the link below. What made Epicure is loved by numerous of its clienteles, locals and international alike, is that this institution is able to not only create delicious food, but also deliver top-notch service. Ever since the young & talented Remi Segui (the director) was fully in charge of the service at Epicure, I noticed the hospitality became more relaxed yet still professional. Staffs were warm, knowledgeable and friendly as they should be … in addition, they were easy going, had good sense of humor and could adapt to different cultures accordingly. Often, they made “jokes” or mock one another; maybe on purpose sometimes to entertain guests. For instance (during this dinner), when I asked Thomas (the manager) whether Stephane looked like Federer (both of them near my table), Thomas looked closely to his colleague and then burst into laughter saying: NOO Wayyyy! And Stephane, pretending to be upset, replied: Thomas was jealous of me because nobody ever said he resembled someone famous. On another occasion, the staff served petit fours to a large group of Chinese guests, about 6 of them. When the guests said they’re full and wanted to have 1 macaron each + a few chocolates, the chef de rang would act surprised and disappointed. Then he pointed to my table – “look at him, he had 8 macarons … all for himself!”. At the end, the Epicure staffs would serve more than 10 macarons and even offered to take away to these diners … generally, the restaurant is generous with the food. It’s just a few examples of “extra” points that differentiate Epicure from other Parisian multiple star restaurants In short, it was a fantastic meal. The finest one I’ve ever had at Epicure. For the 1st time in my notes, my meal at Le Bristol’s flagship restaurant received a (very) high score that I would categorize it as “absolutely 3-star” (97 pts or above). Bravo Epicure team, both the kitchen and front of the house! Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157679319628788 More detailed review: https://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2019/03/epicure-eric-frechon-2nd-visit.html
  3. Thank you for reading and glad that you like it. Hope this will be "useful" to others as well ...
  4. It was ‘only’ nearly 3 years ago that I went to Germany and I did not really expect to return to the country famous for its bratwurst & pretzel so soon, but I did. Early this year, I happened to be in the Bavaria area (staying in Munich to be more precise) for a couple of days and as a foodie, it made sense to visit 1-2 restaurants in the region. Not exactly sure why … during that period, somehow many of the multiple star restaurants in town were very busy, even my already confirmed reservation at Werneckhof geisel was suddenly cancelled due to the private events 1 or 2 weeks prior. In spite of that, I was still fortunate to be able to have a dinner at the German’s latest 3-star dining place called Atelier, located inside the old & luxurious hotel Bayerischer hof. There were 2 tasting menus offered at Atelier and I opted for the longer one. Right from the snacks until the desserts, Jan Hartwig and his team displayed the passion of creating dishes that showed variations in flavors, textures, and temperatures / aromas. Diners usually could observe 1 main produce with 5-6 other ingredients supporting it – generally it’s complex but balanced. The fundamental technique and execution were French but the flavors and ingredients were international. A few dishes I would like to highlight were: -Flaky and delicate john dory with sauerkraut sauce & jelly, dill and bacon. The fish was also enhanced by crunchy croutons and sweet cabbage. The dish looked complicated but put everything together, they tasted good in the palate. That being said, tart was the most noticeable flavor here. In fact, it’s the consistent flavor theme throughout the evening as I later found out that Chef Hartwig actually loves sour taste. -Supposedly, that weekend was the last period for the region deer hunting and my maître d’ said that the kitchen had truly recommended this dish. The suggestion was indeed spot on – the Polting estate’s venison saddle was executed well with tender texture, good seasoning and deep flavor. The veal sauce & venison jus, creamy polenta, brussel sprout and vinegar jus balanced the meat’s intense flavor. Jan was not only creative / innovative, but he’s also capable of executing a traditional dish to nearly perfection -Dining in Europe’s elite restaurants during Winter, it should be the norm to see a couple dishes with Perigord truffle. However, at Atelier the only dish having black truffle was at the cheese course … to be more exact, it’s creamy brie beautifully enclosed by the pungent and nutty winter truffle. As expected, the kitchen put more things here – sweet / sour pear and sherry to tone down the truffled cheese intensity. A nice cheese course albeit a little cloying; it’s better than the dessert -The end part of the meal at Atelier was unfortunately kinda unforgettable. An average pre-dessert followed by a below par dessert. Yes, there was another sour taste accompanied by sweet white chocolate. I was not a fan of white choc. to begin with but usually a restaurant could “cover” it with other elements but here I also did not really like that other components. It’s not bad per se but nothing when compared to the savory dishes. The only positive aspect was that the pastry team made world-class chocolate praline and macarons as part of the mignardise The restaurant was not that big (covered 20+ people only); all tables were occupied. The décor, by fine dining standard, was rather normal with low ceiling. However, the table, covered by crisp white cloth, was big and the distance between tables was spacious so it’s still quite a comfortable dining room. The service team, predominantly ladies, delivered an outstanding service – attentive, sincere and friendly. I saw they made jokes with some local diners too. The general impression was that I had a satisfying meal. The food might not reach the high level of restaurant Vendome or Aqua (yet) but I believe Jan Hartwig and his team would not stop improving and creating new & better dishes in the future – hopefully, some of them will not be (too) sour / acidic … Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157706840969154/with/40052227403/
  5. Andre Chiang and then Julien Royer … the management of Jaan restaurant indeed has the sharp eyes in approaching talented chefs. Like Andre, Julien (finally) owns and runs his own restaurant – in partnership with Lo and behold group. However, unlike Mr. Chiang, Chef Royer decided to name his restaurant Odette after his beloved grandmother, from whom he learned tremendous things about seasonality and respecting top quality ingredients. The restaurant opened in late 2015 and as expected, it immediately became one of the hottest tables in Singapore. I did not eat there until in early ’17 for business lunch – you will find many new creations but less meticulous. In last year’s Autumn, I eventually had the opportunity to savor the full menu of Odette. Even after having been in operation for 3 years or so, Julien Royer still kept plenty of his signature dishes from his Jaan’s days on the menu such as mushroom tea, beetroot, egg with rosemary, and pigeon. Even the foie gras pho and lemon tart have been around but experienced evolution from time to time. Given that I have not had Chef Royer’s classics for nearly 5 years … I would not mind repeating them again. Odette only offers tasting menu – normal and vegetarian. I picked the normal one and some of the highlights were: For Royer’s classics -I think the pigeon dish was even better than before. It’s really well seasoned and the addition of kampot pepper coating the tender breast part improved its flavor. The liver parfait with sherry and artichoke showcased the kitchen’s ability to execute “traditional” French cuisine. It’s a must-have dish for first-timer -The heirloom beetroots in different textures and forms were both playful and tasty. The addition of stracciatella, honey, pomegranates etc. made what could’ve been ‘boring’ beets became more pleasant and interesting. Oh, the presentation was also pretty (Whereas) for Julien’s newer creations -It’s normal to combine prawn tartare and Japan’s sea urchin nowadays. The kitchen did not stop there; they integrated the already top produce with creamy & light mussel cloud as well as elegant caviar having some sea tang flavor. I wished the portion were bigger … -Instead of repeating the rosemary smoked egg with potato, I opted to try the seasonal pasta with truffle. The Alba truffle shavings were generous and of superb quality this season (due to more rain); the comte cream sauce was delicate yet flavorful. Simple and good – could’ve been perfect had the capellini’s texture not been sticky, a little difficult to separate The rest of the dishes were decent but did not reach the “high” of the ones I mentioned above. Odette’s dining room was modern and kinda minimalist but still very artistic and comfortable (thanks to the high ceiling and well-spaced tables). Service was sincere, concise and friendly. It’s not often to find this kind of hospitality in Singapore fine dining that tended to be ‘too’ formal and lack personality. When the staffs explaining the dishes or any questions, they did it with ease & confident; they did not seem to only memorize the info. My dinner meal at Odette was really satisfying – a very good 2-star in my notes despite Julien Royer’s absence that night. However, the repetitive dishes possibly prevent me from returning here anytime soon. Perhaps the kitchen should take more risks in order to become the island’s 2nd 3-star dining place – I assume Chef Royer and his team have this ambition. More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2019/02/odette-julien-royer.html Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157676283091897
  6. The name of Alain Ducasse has been synonymous with luxurious French fine dining producing excellent service, having opulent dining room and using high-quality ingredients. The presence of his “flagship” restaurant in Asia seems to have been long overdue. In late Spring last year, finally he opened a gastronomy dining place carrying his name at the hotel Morpheus, dubbed as the most expensive hotel ever built in Macau with outstanding architecture and interior designs. I think it makes sense to open here since Chef Ducasse would have the full support of the Melco group’s owner – this way, it’s unlikely to suffer the fates of Joel Robuchon sentosa / Guy Savoy marina bay sands. Alain Ducasse normally created “unique” cuisine for each restaurant bearing his name. However, this time he simply pretty much copied the concept of his Monaco dining place adding a little Asian touch. The signature (tasting) menu was relatively not too expensive by his standard. He did not enter Macau with a loud bang, but rather low profile; probably learning from the Ducasse Essex house experience. Did Ducasse put his ‘best’ chefs in Qatar (Idam)? Romain Meder led Plaza athenee Paris after working there. Now, Pierre Marty (Ducasse Morpheus chef de cuisine) was also an alumnus of Alain’s middle east restaurant The cooking here seemed to be simple. You could clearly see and taste the main ingredient accompanied by 2-3 side dishes and well-executed sauce. My favorite was the first appetizer: superb gamberoni with its natural sweet flavor was enhanced by savory caviar and delicate rockfish gelee – refreshing and delicious; nearly perfect. With such a high note, it’s very difficult to expect the next ones to be better. I also enjoyed the juicy and tender Pyrenees lamb. In contrast, the kitchen prepared crunchy artichokes and piquant capers. Lastly, the classic chocolate from Paris manufacturer made it here too. The combination of aromatic coffee, bitter chocolate, crisp buckwheat and not so-sweat ice cream served on a huge cocoa pod was wonderful, delicious and pleasant. You can check the rest of the dishes from the links below. While the head chef “coming” from Qatar, the core service team of Ducasse Morpheus led by staffs formerly worked at Ducasse dorchester London. Chris Boothwell, the leading sommelier, is the restaurant director; Romain Chery who also used to work at Alleno Ledoyen becomes the assistant manager. Some of the local staffs here were very fluent in English since a few of them actually was working in Britain. One of the highlights of hospitality at Alain Ducasse top restaurants was the attention to details. For instance, I sneezed once and immediately the lady staff brought me tissues in less than a minute; the staff provided bar stools to put my bag. However, when they saw I also had a camera, she gave me the second stool – simple but somehow, I did not often experience this kind of treatment elsewhere. The restaurant was only operational for a few months when I had this dinner last Summer. The food was good and with some tunings, it could be even better in the future. I was not surprised when it received Michelin 2-star in the latest Macau guide edition; consistent with my own judgement and experience. More comprehensive review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2019/01/alain-ducasse-at-morpheus.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157704695029175/with/46326847081/
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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/
  11. 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/
  12. 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/
  13. 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/
  14. 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
  15. 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/