Sunday, 13 March 2016

Bites of Hong Kong

Delicious oysters are hidden under the tomato cloud from Amber
This weekend was the first annual Taste of Hong Kong at the Central Harbourfront. Pity the weather didn't cooperate, with temperatures plunging and on top of that the rain...

I missed the start of the four-day event on Thursday evening, but finally managed to take a look on Sunday just when it started around 12.30pm, and it started sprinkling...

Taste of Hong Kong managed to recruit 12 restaurants, many high-end ones, and one restaurant from London, Duck and Waffle. It is a 24-hour restaurant on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, serving all kinds of food, but best known for its duck leg confit with waffles.

Duck 'a la royale' looked like dessert, but very savoury!
Unfortunately Duck and Waffle was only at Taste of Hong Kong on Saturday so I missed the signature dish, but managed to sample a number of dishes for a long lingering lunch.

The event was situated near the giant wheel by the Central waterfront with a kind of U-shaped area for the main restaurants, and in the middle were smaller stalls for companies selling wines, sake, craft beer, Champagne, and even mulled wine which was the perfect way to keep warm in the rainy weather.

But we were here for the food and we tried a number of places. It's a good opportunity for people who don't have the chance (ie a thick wallet) to eat in many of these places to have a sampling.

However, dining at Taste of Hong Kong is not cheap either. After paying HK$168 (US$21.65) for the entrance fee (HK$198 on Saturday and Sunday), then visitors had to get a "Crown Card" and put money on it before they could purchase the food.

The cheapest dishes were HK$50 each, and it could go as high as HK$380. And this is not a sit-down restaurant setting -- food was presented on paper plates and visitors had to stand and eat.

Lobster rolls in brioche buns before they were devoured
But kudos to the restaurants for dressing up their stalls. Many made them look like the entrance to their real location, including fancy flower arrangements. Serge et le Phoque even had a DJ spinning discs at the counter where the co-owner Charles Pelletier took orders.

Nevertheless, people were game to show up despite the gloomy weather, which proves Hong Kong is such an enthusiastic foodie city.

Our first stop was Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental and culinary director Richard Ekkebus was greeting everyone and pouring glasses of red wine. We tried the Fukuoka oyster with seaweed, chipolata, potato and raw shallows slaw in tomato cloud (HK$120).

It was light and refreshing, with lots of textures going on, but the main event was the raw oysters. and the tomato cloud (foam) was cute and very airy.

For contrast the duck 'a la royale' (HK$120), was earthy and hearty, and the heaviness was cut by two citrusy sauces, one wine red, the other yellow.

A winner - marsala glazed veal cheek from Cafe Gray Deluxe
Arcane, helmed by Shane Osborn, was only at the event on Sunday, but many people were talking about the sauteed potato gnocchi (HK$150) as the one to get and we were not disappointed.

It came with roast leeks, wild mushrooms and shaved black truffle, again very autumnal in its flavours, and the perfect comfort food on such a miserable day weather-wise. We also liked the wagyu short rib (HK$100), slow cooked so it was tender enough to cut with a fork (no knife was given to us), and was accompanied with green beans sliced into tiny pieces, roast garlic and onion jus.

We also tried the hamachi carpaccio (HK$80) that was refreshing and light, with cubed jicama, or Mexican yam bean, that had a crunchy texture, and fennel, and finished with soy ginger dressing.

I have yet to eat a proper meal at Bibo, but here I tried the La Noix de Saint Jacques (HK$80), featuring Hokkaido scallops that were seared, with kumquat ginger, chilli and chives that looked pretty, but wasn't very memorable taste-wise.

Beautifully plated green spaghetti chitarra from Tosca
Next door there was a big line at Aberdeen Street Social, as many people there wanted to try the lobster roll (HK$200). In the end, each order featured two small brioche buns, topped with Boston lobster and romaine lettuce.

Having eaten lobster rolls in North America this past fall, these ones sadly didn't do much for me, probably because they were not prepared in a proper restaurant. There's the other factor of eating them on the east coast, which meant the meat was much fresher.

We moved on to Cafe Gray Deluxe, a place I've eaten at a few times, though not recently. Here, I tried the marsala glazed veal cheek (HK$90) and it was the best savoury dish I tasted today.

The veal was so tender, it melted in the mouth, and it was accompanied with saffron risotto, thin slices of parmesan and parma ham. The dish was so hearty and delicious that it hit the spot, much like a good stew.

We also tried the cured Tasmanian salmon (HK$80), thin slices of salmon on top of an avocado-cucumber salsa and topped with chillis.

Sweet finale -- the dacquoise from Serge et le Phoque
At Tosca's booth, the green spaghetti chitarra (HK$160) took a while to wait for -- I went to have dessert first at Serge et le Phoque but more on that later.

The green spaghetti was wrapped in a thin slice of swordfish, and then topped with baby squid and black olive oil. It was definitely a taste of the sea, as chef Pino Lavarra had explained to the media. The presentation was beautiful, and even the paper plate it was on was pretty.

Finally dessert. I've had it before at Serge et le Phoque, but it was hard to resist. The dacquoise (HK$50) is like a quasi macaroon/Beard Papa cream puff in one. It's a pretty large macaron filled with vanilla cream and some nougatine. Biting into the dessert is not too rich and heavy, and it's the smooth vanilla cream that makes it so delicious.

After that I was very full -- some of the dishes mentioned were shared with others, but the rest were mostly eaten by myself! The weather seemed to worsen by the time I left and I trudged to the gym and exercised for about 30 minutes to work off some of those calories of the dessert alone...

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