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Bu Pun Su

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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Ledoyen

    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/
  7. L'Ambroisie

    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
  8. 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
  9. 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/
  10. 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/
  11. Guy Savoy

    Along with Le pre catelan, restaurant Guy Savoy is among the Parisian 3-star places where I may not have much enthusiasm. Not because it was not good, but the competitors were simply much better (L’Ambroisie, Pierre Gagnaire etc.). This should explain why I only visited this place once, nearly a decade ago. However, it caught my attention again when Guy Savoy announced that his main restaurant will move to a much better space – hotel de la Monnaie. Since then, I also kept reading many favorable reviews about this place and ultimately La liste recognized it as the “best restaurant” in the 2017 edition. These are sufficient excuses for me return here in the Spring. I did not see any dishes attracted my attention, so I ordered the restaurant’s set menu. It’s been a while … except the famous artichoke soup, I was pleased to know that I would eat mostly new & different dishes compared to my 1st visit when Guy Savoy was still located at rue Troyon. The basics / ingredients were similar but different preparations: I could still find dishes with oyster, caviar-based, lobster as well as seasonal vegetables. The ingredients were superb, the kitchen performed high level cooking and the dishes tended to be more flavorful and sometimes concentrate this time around. I could appreciate the chef’s creations more and very much enjoy the turbot and lamb dishes (sadly I forgot to take a picture of the lamb). But, the part that elevated my experience this time in terms of food was the dessert – it’s better than the entrée & plat principal – I hardly encountered this kind of situation. The vanilla millefeuille (about as good as the Passard’s version) and dark chocolate parcel (pure chocolate lovers would adore this) were outstanding. The dessert trolley was, as usual, awesome in particular the rice pudding. I am happy to see that Guy Savoy finally got a much grander dining room. He’s among the most respectable chefs in France and Europe and I always think his place of flagship restaurant should reflect that as well. The restaurant was divided into at least 5 (big) salons; each room has a very high ceiling and large windows. The color was predominantly black, in contrast to the white tablecloths and some colorful tableware. Oh, you would still find many of Chef Savoy’s art collections from rue Troyon – paintings and sculptures. In this new place, the restaurant could accommodate 70 or so people, very big for a 3-star restaurant standard and it’s almost full. Given that it’s “only” on Tuesday, it looks like business-wise, Guy Savoy is doing very well. The consequence of this was that the service could not be as charming and personalized as before. The affable staffs still worked hard to make the experience to be fun and comforting, but I understood that they had to move fast clearing and brought in dishes – just imagine at least 40 people ordering the set menu (10+ dishes) plus a few diners asked for vegetarian options … no wonder the friendly and usually agreeable Hubert immediately said no to any tables who wanted a mix (different dishes) of a la carte and degustation menu; realistically the kitchen would have a hard time to cope with such demands. Even this time, I did not see the chef-owner to be around near the entrance or visit guests in the dining room like what he usually did in the past. The overall experience here has always been consistent: delicious food (though nothing blown away, the closest one would be the dessert), comforting and generous environment; warm, attentive and friendly service (felt this early when the restaurant was not that busy). If all aspects in the dining are important, Guy Savoy is your right place but if you’re very picky about having fantastic food … maybe not. After this meal, Guy Savoy still didn’t make the cut of my top 10 or 20 restaurants in the world. But, if you’ve never been here, please come once – Guy was a living legend in the French gastronomy and a great person More detailed review: https://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2017/11/guy-savoy-paris.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157665737434069
  12. Le Gabriel Paris

    Selecting where to dine at 2-star Michelin in Paris could be tricky sometimes. Based on my experience, it’s often hit (Taillevent / old Le bristol) and miss (Rostang / Carre des feuillants); well the miss was not too bad but I often expected more. When I was in Paris with my wife, I tended to try a new restaurant and if possible having a beautiful dining room as she loves taking pictures. From the recent visit, my choice fell into the “relatively” new restaurant in town – Le Gabriel. It’s the flagship dining place of La Reserve hotel, one of Parisian palaces. The executive chef, Jerome Banctel was the former head chef of Senderens. His (contemporary) French cooking was often influenced by Japanese cuisine; he also likes using Asian spices. Therefore, I thought the food would be suitable to her palate. It was a dinner and since we would be leaving Paris the following day, I selected dishes from the a la carte menu. We split the appetizers and main course. I loved the succulent roasted lobster with butter served in fruity emulsion; moist and delicious Bresse hen thigh with its crispy skin in yuzu vinaigrette sauce; and the side dish of the 1st serving from the chicken: excellent girolles - meaty & firm, nutty and rather sweet. You can see the rest of the dishes from the link below. Some of the combination might not always work unfortunately. For instance, the chewy artichoke heart, the most popular dish at Le Gabriel, was nice served in a complex and intense sauce (the salty, sour, buttery flavors all ‘bursting’). It was good for a couple of bytes, but became kind of cloying as you ate more and more – probably since we had it as an a la carte and the fact that it’s vegetables, the portion was generous. Another example coming from our ‘neighbors’; the American couple ordering tasting menu and their main course was pigeon marinated in miso. When the staffs explained the dishes to me, I already imagined and had doubts whether this combination would work. I did not order it, but I saw my neighbors had this pigeon (another house specialty) as their main course. They did not finish them – the wife ate more than half, the husband savored nearly 1/3 of the portion – well, they politely told that they’re full when the staffs asked. However, I overheard from the discussion that they’re not too fond of the pigeon dish. The fact that my wife and I sometimes can effortlessly heard other people conversation … yes, it’s correct if you guessed that it implied the distance between tables was not too spacious. The tables and chairs / sofas were comfy though. It’s just that the dining room was quite small – fit in about 30 people. For a new luxury place, I was surprised that Michel Reybier did not go for a grand dining room. The room was filled with black and brown color – it looked quite dark in the evening nevertheless the interior was elegant and rather chic. At first, I wanted to order a bottle of “house wine” – probably due to my limited knowledge, I did not expect that the bottles carrying owner’s label would be very expensive (> EUR 200). Hence, I ordered something else It was a Friday evening and the restaurant was full. Staffs were chatty, enthusiastic and busy. Once in a while, our wine and water were not promptly topped up but the napkin was always changed to a new one. Le Gabriel was a young restaurant compared to many gastronomy places in Paris. However, chef Jerome Banctel and his team worked very hard; he was ambitious, developed his own style and wanted to attain the ultimate goal of receiving 3-star Michelin award for Le Gabriel … perhaps one day. As of now, I think 2-star was more suitable and I got a feeling that this restaurant could be one of the most exciting restaurants to watch in the city of lights. I expected plenty of new creations by chef Banctel in the next 3-5 years. Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157690444216526/with/38183680682/
  13. Sushi Tokami, Hong Kong

    Like Singapore, Hong Kong has been blessed with numerous high quality Japanese restaurants. For the summer visit this year, I decided to have lunch at Sushi Tokami, tucked away inside an Ocean Centre – a bit unusual to find a top sushi-ya in the shopping mall. In Tokyo, Sushi Tokami is relatively new but quickly rising among the favorites in the past few years especially among the fans of ‘progressive’ edo mae style. Similar to the one in Tokyo, the HK branch also received the 1-star Michelin. This Sushi-ya is very famous for its maguro as the chef-owner’s family has been running a shop dedicated to tuna in Tsukiji market named Yamasachi for 2-3 generations. You can find their maguro in plenty of Tokyo’s elite sushi-yas In addition to the ‘best’ maguro, to keep the high quality of the place … Sushi Tokami even paid particular attention to the water - only Japanese spring water was used to prepare for its shari (for better texture and rice flavor). The rice was none other than ‘Tanada-mai’ from Niigata that’s rich in minerals and seasoned with red vinegar that has been fermented with sake yeast. During this lunch, my Itamae was not Taga-san; the replacement looked quite young and has been working in Kyubey flagship restaurants for several years, thus actually a capable one – he handled nearly 10 guests with ease I ordered the omakase menu consisting of 8 otsumami (including the maguro temaki) and 12 sushi (excluding tamago, tuna collagen soup and fruit dessert). For the appetizers, my favorite were: -Chopped tuna neck handroll, the specialty of the house; generous, buttery and flavorful with crisp nori, wasabi and well-seasoned rice -Steamed awabi and cooked tako often went together in any top sushi-ya. The mushi awabi was thick, tender (a bit bouncy) and delicious but the liver sauce was not as creamy & delicious as the one at Sushi Yoshitake. The tako was sweet, tasty and chewy – it took me a while to finish it, but an enjoyable ‘activity’ in the mouth The rests were quite good but nothing memorable. The weakest ones were probably = the eggplant with miso sauce was not too impressive while the shiro ebi was fine but the sauce (made of the stomach of tai and snapper) was too overpowering, hence spoiled the enjoyment. For sushi, anything with maguro (the usual trio and the soup) was indeed really good. My favorite one during lunch was arguably the Akamutsu; Rosy seabass has fatty flesh and oily that were nicely balanced with its red vinegar shari. Any (bafun) uni fans would love this place; in addition to its creamy and sweet uni, the ratio of uni vs shari in gunkan style was 3:1! Honestly, I barely tasted the rice … maybe trivial, but the nori used here was always crisp and delectable. Lastly, the tamago was more dense (& sticky) than “normal”, its texture was more like a cheesecake but still flavorful. You can see the others from the pictures below – not every piece was really refined / in perfection, it’s still a work in progress for this place. The staffs spoke good English, Japanese and Cantonese. The service has been good and consistent; my hot ocha was pretty much hot most of the time. They also provided a cover for my camera and notes – a nice gesture. Despite its location, inside the dining room, the atmosphere was calm and peaceful with sufficient light. Another solo guest next to me (Japanese who keeps talking with the Itamae) seemed to love this place a lot. He probably consumed 20+ pieces as he asked for more and more including awabi sushi after he saw me eating the mushi awabi. Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157687537040494/with/37398599276/
  14. Da Vittorio

    Family restaurants have always been part of Italian (strong) tradition. After having visited and had wonderful meals a few years ago at the places of Alajmo and Santini families, this Spring I had a memorable lunch at the Cerea family restaurant named Da Vittorio. Similar to Dal Pescatore’s location, reaching Da Vittorio was quite challenging but at the end it was worth it. Da Vittorio, located at Brusaporto (not too far from Bergamo), was founded by Vittorio Cerea. It took off faster when his sons – Enrico and Roberto Cerea – ran this place and ultimately receiving Michelin 3-star in 2010. The food was mainly traditional with more emphasize on Lombardy tradition; innovative technique was used sparingly. Since there’s no “Classic dishes tasting menu” here, I opted for menu Carta Bianca and it was truly magnificent. The kitchen prepared more than a dozen dishes. Da Vittorio was well-known for its seafood and fish; the pasta was also great. Some of my favorite things I ate were: - Egg "a la egg" - It was served in a martini glass and there were many layers of indulgences: chives, potato, fish cream, scramble egg, salmon roe and generously served Beluga caviar etc. Scoop it from top to bottom to savor several delicious and heavenly produce altogether. Briny, earthy, fragrance, and many other good qualities were inside this glass. An excellent dish! - The risotto was beautifully cooked and delicate; it's combined with flavorsome of artichoke cream, sweet shrimp, slightly bitter mandarin and distinct smell from the squid ink powder. It was a scrumptious dish especially the many extra 'toppings' to accompany the rice - "Vittorio style" paccheri pasta was the signature pasta of the house using the special recipe of its founder. The paccheri pasta (large tube shapes) was served with 'special' tomato sauce mixed with carrot, onion, garlic, aged parmesan and most importantly fresh and high quality tomatoes. It was simple and delicious; the sauce was balanced with lovely flavor while the pasta was al dente - Deconstructed scorpion fish, stewed and raw. The raw one (tartar style) showed the fish's natural mild flavor and tender texture inside the tasty fish broth. The stewed one, mainly the cheek part, served with pak choy and lemon grass sauce (revealing Asian influence) was moist and more flavorful. A delightful experience ... a bigger portion should be better I will let you see the rest through the links below. If I had to pick the ‘problem’ … I would say the dessert part was possibly the main weakness though I was not served any “safe” choices such as tiramisu or chocolate-based item. I said this because Da Vittorio’s mignardises such as cannoli and panettone were actually really good. The service was exceptional – professional, highly attentive and amiable staffs. Bobo Cerea was in charge of the kitchen and he visited me and other guests a few times. He also cooked the pasta a la minute next to my table. His presence was important to ensure that everything was fine; he was more than willing to listen to the customer’s comments as well. Despite its ‘location’, the dining room was actually large with elegant, (quite) luxurious setting and decorated with plenty of flowers. The restaurant was not that busy – the most noticeable things, there were 2 big groups: 15 local guests ordering special menu and a group from China (10 people) – a nice surprise. I never expected that the Chinese people (from mainland) would be willing to travel this far to a ‘remote area’ for food as staying, eating and shopping in Milan should generally be perceived to be more practical and comfortable. Generally, I may like Calandre’s dishes a bit more … however, the combination of food and service I experienced here was arguably the best one I’ve ever had in Italy. More detailed review: https://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2017/09/da-vittorio-roberto-cerea.html Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157686122029590/with/36937353431/
  15. Berlin Restaurants

    The first time I visited Berlin was more than 10 years ago when one of my best friends still studying there. Then I made a return here (1-night transit) last May … I thought Berlin has undergone the biggest improvement among major cities in Germany in terms of top restaurants, hotels etc. (both quality and quantity). I didn’t really expect such dramatic ‘upgrade’, so it was not that easy to pick where to go for my only dinner opportunity here – note that there are currently 7 2-star Michelin restaurants in Berlin. Tim Raue would be the most popular and common choice but I skipped it since I found the food was “too (Southeast) Asian” – given I’m from that region. I prefer something more German/international and the choice fell into Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer as it’s also strategically located near Brandenburg gate area. The dining room of Lorenz Adlon was small (could accommodate at most 30 people) and divided into 2 rooms; I was seated in the ‘inside’ room, designed like a private library, near the corner and far from the window. The ceiling was not too high but the interior exuded luxury and intimacy; the space among the tables was comfortably distanced. The restaurant was nearly full; perhaps it’s of no surprise given the food quality and the fact that it only serves 4 dinners a week … even more “relaxed” than L’Astrance! The meal began with a pour of sparkling wine (sans alcohol), complimentary from the house. The bread had gorgeous presentation (served among the colorful stones inside a big bowl) and they’re delicious, pretty much all of them – pretzel, honey muffin, thyme roll and sourdough. The bread was served together with truffle mayo and chives salted butter. For the meal, I ordered a longer tasting menu but without the cheese (7 courses in total). The cuisine was a combination of traditional German with French technique and contemporary flavors using top produce. I found many of the appetizers often used too many ingredients on the plate hence lacked focus, but I admired the chef’s boldness. I liked it better when he put fewer things on the plate and let the main ingredient shine such as what happened in the main courses. The baked pork’s chin was flavorful, crispy outside and tender inside; it was nicely complemented by the glazed onions and potato cream. Likewise, the beef filet was perfectly executed and enhanced by the ‘yellow’ sauce and dark gravy containing its jus. Maybe since Hendrik Otto, chef de cuisine, is still “young” and has been here in less than a decade, he would still need to tweak the recipe and try to find his perfect style. The service was warm, friendly, and professional even though I was never served by the manager. Although at first, the basic was similar to what I often experienced in Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong); I generally liked the hospitality I received in Europe better. Probably, it’s the tone, the body language and the face expression of the staffs here that I found to be more genuine, passionate and smooth instead of being robotic despite the young age of the staffs taking care of me. By the way, I also received an equally impeccable service by young gentlemen at Aqua. Overall, it’s a satisfying 2-star meal; great service and tasty food. I think Chef Otto’s creations were still work in progress … one day maybe he will receive the 3rd star? Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157688387502275
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