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Posts Tagged ‘Michelin star restaurants’

Cuisine: French gastronomic.

Visit: March 2013

Price: Very expensive.

Helen Daroz at Connaught hotel

Hélène Darroze at Connaught hotel

Chef:  Hélène Darroze is among the rare breed of female Michelin star chefs. Being awarded two of these coveted Michelin stars at her Connaught hotel restaurant, she established herself as one of the top chefs in London. Hélène Darroze displays her French roots in her native Landes region (south-west France) through her cuisine. Provenance is very dear to her and the menu shows it. Each of the featuring dishes informs the diners about the origin of the meat, seafood or vegetable. She seems to be proud of knowing her sources well, which in today’s scandalous world (the horse meat scandal, etc.) has become one of the priorities for many foodies.

chef Helene Darroze

chef Helene Darroze

Food: Origin, freshness and innovative assemblage of ingredients. Starting with the signature Raviole of “Institut de Beauvais” potato with Pecorino from Tuscany, confit bacalao from Bilbao, Basque pork chorizo, watercress and roasting poultry jus, I knew that I am not going to be having a simple meal. The potato dough based ravioli à la Italy, filled with Basque fish and spicy sausage and accompanied by Tuscan cheese screamed almost as a “fusion” cuisine to me and thus I would think of her cooking rather in these terms than just purely French defined.

One of the signature dishes of Helene Daroze

One of the signature dishes of Helene Daroze

Sampling another starter from my partner – the L’araignée de mer de Norvège  Spider crab from Norway seasoned with coral mousseline, fresh coriander and Meyer lemon, palm heart tartare flavoured with Bourbon vanilla olive oil, “yam kung” jelly, shellfish tuile and consommé) was refreshing, yet not mind-blowing delicious. Nice with a glass of champagne, but I would not have it again.

For my main course I have ordered another one of the chef’s signature dishes – the La Saint-Jacques XXL de plongée (Hand-harvested XXL scallop cooked with Tandoori spices, confit carrot and citrus mousseline, spring onion reduction with Lampong pepper and fresh coriander. The vegetables on the side were pleasant, yet the texture of the scallop was too meaty for me, not tender as I love with high quality scallops, but rather robust and thick.

Seared scallops

Seared scallops

Dishes like Le porc basque “Kintao”Black pork from Pays Basque and some other main courses must be ordered for two people, so you will need your “tastemate” and order it together.

Drinks: The wine-by-the-glass selection is tempting and we were easily seduced by it. Many of the wines are served from a magnum size bottle, which makes them mature a bit slower. Starting with a glass of white Chablis Le Clos Monopole, Château de Béru, which was served by Magnum, I managed to pair the minerality of this Chardonnay  with my potato ravioli and the bacalao fish. I felt like continuing with a red and the only one grape varietal that rarely disappoints me with seafood and white meats is Pinot Noir,so I went for one from Eaton Family in New Zealand’s Marlborough region. It was fresh, lightly strawberry scented and managed easily not to overpower the scallops since they were more intense than usually.

The Connaught hotel has tremendous cellar so if your pocket allows it and you want something special, rush and get one of these rarities:

  • Château d’Yquem, 1er Cru Supérieur vintages 1900 or 1891 
  • Château Margaux, 1er Grand Cru Classé 1945
  • Champagne, Henriot 1928
  • Marsala Superiore “1860”, Marco De Bartoli 50cl  

Atmosphere: Serious, old school, classic interior with heavy wooden features. Dress smart, men are preferred to wear a jacket. The chairs are comfortable and service quite friendly, despite your complaints about the food (I just cannot pretend at a 2 Michelin star restaurant that I am delighted by the food when I am not).

Opening hours: Closed on Monday and Sunday. Tues – Fri: Lunch: 12:00pm – 2:30pm, Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:30pm. Sat: Brunch: 11:00am – 2:30pm, Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:30pm

The restaurant will be closed between Tuesday 6th August until dinner on Tuesday 20th August 2013

Address: Carlos Pl, London W1K 2AL, United Kingdom

Contact: Tel:  +44 (0)20 7107 8880, Email: dining@the-connaught.co.uk 

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Cuisine: New French

Visit: April 2013 (Since Sketch opened in 2002 I have dined there on a number of occasions, yet it is the forefront Parlour where I found my inner gourmet soul. The gastronomic restaurant still remains an interesting place to have a dinner and the Gallery is a fun room with great food while listening to the newest tunes of world music).

Price: High to very expensive at the gastronomic restaurant.

Eclectic design at Sketch

Eclectic design at Sketch

Chef : The head chef Pierre Gagnaire, who is behind the menus across Sketch, is a twice awarded three Michelin star French gastronomic hero. He has spread his influence worldwide from his restaurants in Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Dubai. At Sketch he influenced the executive chefs creating the food in all restaurants across Sketch. It is though at the Lecture Room & Library, Sketch’s two Michelin starred fine dining restaurant, that his influence comes to life most vividly.

Atmosphere: The Parlour can transform from a breakfast venue, through comfort lunch and original afternoon tea until the last drink before heading to bed at home. After 6pm it turns into a cool bar scene here, while the afternoons are popular for the tea-to-tellers enjoying a cup of a warm beverage with a cake or sandwich. It is quirky, eclectic and warmly decorated. One can enjoy the same treats (except for breakfast), yet in a very different environment at The Glade (pictured below). The rather ‘foresty’ design of the room attracts the “natural” crowd with tendency to prefer organic produce and cotton t-shirts rather than leather jackets and fur coats. Rattan furniture, plant-based design and vibrant natural colours were created by the duo of artists Carolyn Quartermaine and Didier Mahieu.

Imagination meets taste at Sketch

Imagination meets taste at Sketch

Another and the largest room is the Gallery designed by Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed and merging all shapes, colours and materials you can possibly imagine. The gallery os more of a gastro brasserie also headed by Pierre Gagnaire. The crème de la crème is the fine dining Lecture Room & Library upstairs that is a bit more serious affair, while still keeping its wonderful design in focus. Oh, and do not miss the opportunity to visit the legendary toilettes at Sketch, you will be surprised what you see and hear …

Sketch: Gallery gastro brasserie

Sketch: Gallery gastro brasserie

Food: With the exception of the gastronomic restaurant upstairs, the menus tend to intertwine so you will find some of the brasserie features at the Parlour and Gallery as well as at the Glade. One of these tasty dishes is the Artichoke salad.  This starter of chopped baby artichokes, fennel with blue Stilton cheese, capped with fresh herb bouquet and baby salad leafs is refreshing a great with fresh green tea or a glass of white wine such as Sancerre.

Artichoke salad

Artichoke salad

Another common feature is Pierre’s salad of beefsteak tomatoes, salad, chicken breast, anchovies, crunchy croûtons, Parmesan cheese and refreshing creamy horseradish dressing. For the Caesar salad style lovers this is the right choice.

A healthful cup of Green soup blended from watercress, spinach, cucumber, green apple and a dollop of cream will please vegetarians and nutrition conscious diners.

On the other hand the more hearty Beef tartare served with potato “fondant” is perfectly tender (hopefully no horse meat in it, but I doubt it as it would not taste so smooth like this) and presented lovely with a shell of tiny quail egg with slightly running yolk in a mollet style.

Sandwiches, Mac and cheese, burgers and afternoon tea specialties such as daily made macaroons, scones, signature cakes with apt names such as “London to Paris”, King of Sketch” or a very French “Gâteau Chocolat” (the later being a chocolate sponge cake with mousse and passion fruit ganache) as well as finger sandwiches are great options too.

Pu Erh Chinese tea at Parlour

Pu Erh Chinese tea at Parlour

Drinks: From rare coffee, herbal infusions to Jing tea selection of real teas from green to black pu-erh, one can get plenty of energy and youthful antioxidants for an entire day or an afternoon caffeine kick. On a quite chilly cold early spring day I felt  like soothing my bouncy mood with a pot of earthy and balanced pu-erh from China. Its is a speciality from Yunan province that is usually kept and sold in the form of cakes (the tea leaves are rigidly dry and stick together in the form of this cake or a bird’s nest that is actually baked to keep its longevity). Presented in a transparent pot and cup it was pretty, yet I did not have the opportunity to separate the steeped leaves from the water thus the tea got bitter over time. As I do not like to sip my tea too fast , I ended up with a bitter aftertaste after my last sips.

The wine list is done with a wit. I love the drawings above each wine with ties, scarves bows and other possible tops of shirts that a man can have, that probably had stirred the author’s imagination while he was sipping on each wine and drawing each representative of its taste above. The selection is good, yet the gastronomic restaurant above has much wider list that has got the Award of Excellence from WS.

Wine list at Parlour

Wine list at Parlour

Opening hours:

The Parlour: Mon-Fri: 8am – 2am, Sat: 10am – 2am & Sun: 10am – 12am.

The Glade: Mon-Thurs: 1pm-2am, Fri&Sat: 12pm-2am, Sun: 12pm-12am.

The Gallery: Mon-Sat: 6.30pm – 2am, Sun: 6pm – 12am.

Lecture Room & Library: Tues-Sat: Lunch: 12pm-2:30pm, Dinner: 7pm-11pm.

Address: 9 Conduit street, London W1S 2XG, UK.

Contact: Tel: +44 (0) 20 7659 4500

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Cuisine: Indian gastronomic.

Visit: March 2013

Price: High (but the quality of ingredients and complexity of the dishes compensates the price, an intimate atmosphere makes a dinner or lunch here a special occasion).

Chef: Vineet Bhatia is the first Indian chef-restaurateur ever to receive a Michelin star at an Indian restaurant (London’s Zaika restaurant in 2001) for his “Indian gourmand experience“, and later another one in his own establishment Rasoi (meaning “kitchen“) in 2006. Thus he is the first Indian chef in the world to have two Michelin stars.

Achari Pheasant

Achari Pheasant

His childhood dream of becoming a pilot was not fulfilled, but his fascination with food and cooking together with an ” ambition and determination to prove myself” as he wrote in the foreword of his cookbook called simply “Rasoi: new indian kitchen“, made him one of the stars of Indian cuisine not only in his home country but worldwide (with restaurants in Geneva, Dubai, Doha, Mauritius, Moscow, Mumbai, …). After an amazing meal at Rasoi I had to purchase the chef’s book and cannot wait to follow his guidance to assemble some of the complex ingredients-rich yet balanced and light dishes I had.

Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen by Vineet Bhatia

Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen by Vineet Bhatia

Food: Classical Indian dishes in a much lighter gourmet coat, which the chef calls “evolved Indian food“. As the chef reinvents and refines the Indian dishes so wonderfully that his cooking seduces the palates of even those so far deterred by the heavy, oily and rich curries, fill pastries (samosas) and creamy sauces. I have eaten all across India and I have never tasted anything more sublime than Bhatia’s cooking. He is a true master of spices and elegance as he blends the flavours in a perfect harmony. It is rare to have a tasting menu or try more than eight dishes at one restaurant and like every single of them! And, that is what happened at Rasoi.

The naan and crispy roti breads as well as the trio of crunchy various vegetables filled samosas (fillo pastry in triangle shape) were freshly prepared, the dips generous yet not too rich or spicy and all the dishes intrigued our palates. I must elevate the Spiced Home-Smoked Salmon, red Onion, Cucumber and Dill Raita which charmed the palates of all four of us dining at the table. The salmon was so tender that one did not need to chew on it, jut let it melt with all the wonderfully integrated spices from the marinade. Smoking the fish added depth while adding yoghurt into the marinade calmed the smoky flavours just to perfection. The recipe is in the chef’s cookbook, so if you dare you can try it at home.

Spice crusted sea bass

Spice crusted sea bass

The Stir-fried Chilli Paneer, Spinach with Potatoes and Pickle-flavoured Tomato Sauce was another superb creation. The paneer cheese is perhaps the most important dairy product used in Indian cuisine. Vegetarians come across the dishes peppered with paneer very often. In Bhatia’s take it got a more gastronomic dimension and an eye-catching presentation as with most of his creations. The paneer was soft and spiced with mustard seeds, ginger, chilli, curry and fresh coriander and sever atop of the tasty spiced Spinach with potatoes and thick savoury Tomato Sauce.

The trio of Chicken Tikkas was like a tasting contest in which each of us had a personal favourite. They were delicious all, tender and almost did not taste like chicken how well-integrated the marinades and sauces were.

The Lamb ‘Shikampuri’ Skewers in a kebab-like fashion did not stand behind and we were so impressed by all the food that although we were all full we still managed to nibble on the pre-desserts brought together with the warming cups of sweet Chai tea served traditionally with milk.

Dessert at Rasoi: Blueberry and black cardamom kulfi

Dessert at Rasoi: Blueberry and black cardamom kulfi

Atmosphere: Rasoi is located in a small townhouse in Chelsea just off the Sloan Square. If you did not have the address and were not going to the restaurant you would probably passed it without noticing it. There is a bell on the door, so you ring the bell, a suited person opens and invites you in. Turning right you pass a tiny bar area and walk through to the cosy restaurant room. With 13 tables spread across two small dining rooms and two private rooms upstairs it really feels like in someone’s house rather than at a restaurant inside. There is no music, no distractions, only authentic decoration in the truly Indian spirit that Rashima, the wife of the chef, created herself.

Drinks: The wine list is impressive as it should be at a Michelin stared restaurant. The list of Bordeaux and Burgundy is particularly food-friendly that we went for the same bottle of red Burgundy twice. I would never have thought of drinking Burgundy with the spicy Indian food, yet Bhatia’s cuisine is more elegant and balanced than most of the super spicy and creamy Indian dishes you might know so it matches the elegant Burgundies. I was disappointed not see a wider tea selection considering India being one of the world’s biggest tea producers, yet the spicy-warm Chai Masala tea after the dinner soothed my tea cravings enough.

Opening hours: Mon-Fri: Lunch: 12:00–2:30 pm; Dinner: 6:00–10:30 pm; Sat: Dinner: 6:00–10:30 pm; Sun: Closed.

Address: 10 Lincoln Street, Chelsea, London SW3 2TS, UK.

Contact: Tel: +(44) 020 7225 1881; email: info@resoirestaurant.co.uk

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Cuisine: Gastronomic American.

Chef: Thomas Keller is currently perhaps the most cherished chef in North America. His cooking wonders at the French Laundry in Napa Valley brought him a bounty of fans and remarkably enlivened the gastronomy scene in the US. Along with the French Laundry his French bistro Bouchon mushroomed on the east coast, he opened Ad Hoc in Younville, the gastronomical heaven in Napa Valley, and finally in 2004 he opened the most awarded from all of these newcomers – Per Se in New York. Per Se was for most of its existence helmed by Keller. Since the early 2010 Eli Kaimeh, who has been Per Se’s chef for years, took higher responsibilities and has been leading the restaurant’s daily feat for perfection woefully. Per Se is a steady loiterer at the summit of  the restaurants’ Everest in the New York city unwilling to climb down.

Thomas Keller: photographed by Jason Tanaka Blaney

Thomas Keller: photographed by Jason Tanaka Blaney

Visit: February 2012

Price: Very expensive (Two daily changing nine-course Chef’s or Vegetable Tasting menus, each $295; five-course lunch menu $185; Salon menu is á la carte starting at $30 per plate so if you are careful you can dine at Per Se just under $100 per head). Salon is the bar area just after entering Per Se.

Entrance to Per Se at the AOL centre

Entrance to Per Se

Atmosphere: The entrance to Per Se is located in the New York’s Time Warner Center building highlighting the Western corner of the Central Park. The journey up to the fourth floor, where Per Se resides, seems to be on one side understated as you get there via the shopping mall escalators surrounded by clothing, home ware and other goods staring at you from the shops’ windows. As you get closer though, the pompous massive wooden doors with golden handles assure you that this is not just another mall eatery but a serious dining establishment. Do not be fooled by it and enter the unpretentious mecca of culinary innovation and gustatory pleasure. It does not bite you, but you will surely bite into lots of tasty stuff inside. The Salon is a more elegant name lessening the importance of drinking and emphasising the food at the bar seating area offering a number of dishes from the tasting menu á la carte. Its interior is darker and perhaps more intimate than the 16 table restaurant. At the Salon there are no reservations accepted like at the bar at other top New York restaurants such as Le Bernardin and Daniel so just show up and dine. A huge advantage considering the fact that the restaurant is usually fully booked the full month ahead from 10am when its booking lines open.

Amuse Bouche - Tuna mini cone

Amuse Bouche – Tuna mini cone

Food: Balanced, impeccably sourced and reasonably sized (of you consider all that extra stuff you will be treated by, but you did not order). You will get the famous Amuse Bouche of the Tuna mini cone whether you eat at the bar or the restaurant. It is sublime! The thin cone envelops the foamy tuna mouse melting in your month like a whipped sea wave bringing along multiple of flavours it assembled throughout its journey from the water to the chef’s hands. An almost meditative start to a nice meal.

From the menu there is usually at least one vegetarian (vegetable-based) dish. Something in the style of the haute couture of a salad. I tried the Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm, which was a wonderfully assembled plate of celery branch, an exotic Cara Cara orange, preserved green tomatoes and horseradish crème fraiche. All the ingredients in this refreshing, zesty and savoury sphere were delicious and light.

Creative food at Per Se from The Happily Ever After Project

Creative food at Per Se from The Happily Ever After Project

Foie Gras is a must at gastronomic restaurants using French cooking techniques and Per Se is not an exception. Its ban in some countries and states including the sunny California (home of French Laundry) complicates work of many chefs there, but not in the open-minded New York. You will find daily changing variations of culinary adventures with this mellow yet rich duck liver known in the gastronomy world under its more flattering French name (Foie Gras means the same, yet sounds better). On our menu featured Slow Poached Élevages Périgord Moulard Duck Foie Gras served with poached rhubarb, refreshing young fennel, the crunchy and mild tasting Spanish Marcona almonds, rich greek yogurt and green sprinkle of watercress.

Of course you can go with the luxurious caviar, yet that will cost you well over $100. It will be served in style with the Per Se touch.

Mediterranean turbot

Mediterranean turbot

The main dishes were inspired by Italian and French cuisines using local as well as European ingredients. We tried the Mediterranean Turbot served with soft Celery Root “Porridge”, Chestnut Confit, Brown Chicken Jus and Black Winter Truffles. The fish was tender and tasted fresh despite being brought from the Mediterranean. The delicate blend of flavor rich ingredients could always hide the fact that fish probably spent a couple of hours on the plane. Once again a perfectly balanced dish.

The Butter Poached Lobster from Nova Scotia served with Toasted Bread Pudding in a shape of a moon on the Turkish flag, Caramelized Cipollini Onions, crunchy Piedmont Hazelnuts, Pumpkin “Parisienne” and Fig-chocolate emulsion, was an international conference of resources and ideas. It was as if the American lobster discussed peacefully with the Turkish-British alliance symbolized by the Bread Pudding how to deal with the Italian and French gastronomic dominance in our restaurants. The Fig-chocolate emulsion solved the issue by balancing the global powers on the plate. The emulsion changed the overall character of the dish so none of the national ingredients prevailed.

On the menu was also a Pork Belly from Salmon Creek farm, beef and “Carnaroli Risotto Biologioco” with truffles. The latter translated from Italian simply means “Organic risotto made from Carnaroli rice”, but it sounds fancier in its native language.

Jaffa cake at Per Se

Jaffa cake at Per Se

If you did not have enough, the Dessert Tasting Menu is available at the Salon for $65. Five mini-desserts might be too much for your taste buds. In that case you can still order à la carte. There is also “The Cheese Course” served with tasty amenities or the chef’s speciality “Jaffa Cake” which I went for … hmm … I did not regret while knowing that I will have to spent a good hour of brisk walking the next day to burn it all out. This multiple dessert consisted of a Vanilla “Génoise”, Blood Orange “Pâte de Fruits,” Mast Brothers’ Chocolate “Ganache” and Jasmine Ice Cream. Explanation of all these diligently described building blocks of my dessert might be confusing so I cut it short – it was superb and the picture above shows the complexity of it.

iPad wine "list"

iPad wine “list”

Drinks: The iPad electronic “wine list” enables adding, deleting and expanding the wine selection with a slip of a finger so the sommelier has a total up-to-the-minute control over it. It is well-organized and practical. Nevertheless, if you do not know wine and wine-producing regions well or are like me the old-school paper loving human being, then your first moment of excitement may fizz out in a few seconds. If you are lost just ask the sommelier which glass he would recommend with your dish or which bottle fitting your budget he would suggest and importantly why. There are wines under $100 per bottle so do not worry you will not break a bank here, at least not because of the wines.

Opening Hours: Mon-Thurs: 5:30–10:00 pm; Fri, Sat&Sun:11:30 am – 1:30 pm, 5:30–10:00 pm

Address: Time Warner Center, 4th fl., 10 Columbus Cir, New York, USA

Contact: Tel: +1 (212) 823-9335

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Cuisine: Gastronomic Italian.

Visit: November 2012

Price: High (starters above €20, PRIMI: first courses above €20 and SECONDI: main courses starting at €29; a 7-course tasting menu for € 70,00 or a 9-course for €90,00 are of a better value).

Chef: Alfredo Russo is from Turin, but his cooking goes beyond the borders of the Northern Italian Piedmont region. With his wife Stefania he opened Dolce Stil Novo in 1990 and only after three years he was awarded his first Michelin star for his innovative Italian cooking. He also published two booksDa Idea” and “Il miele in cucina”, participated in numerous conventions devoted to high cuisine as well as in a TV show in Israel. His concept of taking traditional dishes and ingredients, elaborating them from an idea and create something new stands behind the title of his first book Da Idea. Alfredo Russo gives cooking classes at his restaurant as well so you can learn how to create  Michelin star dishes like his.

Modern and sleek Dolce Stil Novo

Atmosphere: Simple, open and classy. This a gastronomic restaurant located just next to the former summer royal palace of the Italian kings and it feels very upper-class. A quiet, large dining room with high ceilings and views of the palace is made as if royals were to come for a lunch or dinner here. Dress accordingly to the restaurant’s stately attire, either a jacket or a formal shirt for men and a dress or elegant pant suit for women is appropriate although it is not required. Dolce Stil Novo can be a great spot for a romantic date since the restaurant’s location in the suburban Torino near the sprawling park next to the castle invites for a nice walk before or after you eat.

Food:  Playful, modern and rather complex than simple Italian. I was impressed by the starter of Vitello tonnato di fassone piemontese con caramello al limone, which is one of my favorite Italian starters. Usually a thin-cut veal slices are patted with a layer of rich and creamy tuna sauce with capers in this dish, but the version of Alfredo Russo is mush lighter and elegant. He wraps the thin veal around a spoonful of the tuna sauce and adds much more of a refreshing lemon juice creating a delicious appetizer that will not fill you up before the second and third courses arrive. Great with a glass of the local red Barbaresco or perhaps some white from Gavi.

Punte di asparagi con uovo di fattoria croccante e sale di vaniglia

Another starter or you can have it as your “secondo” is Punte di asparagi con uovo di fattoria croccante e sale di vaniglia. This is a fun plate. An asparagus cream with vanilla salt covered with cheese shavings is a discovery for most of the diners. It is creamy, yet fluffy and light at the same time. Multiple textures from creamy smooth to dry and rough mingle on your tongue as a pinch of sand on a layer of cream in a fresh milk bucket. This is one of the vegetarian dishes the restaurant offers, but there plenty of others including various pasta and rice-based plates.

In the mood for seafood? Then start or continue with the lobster. The Astice scottato alla piastra con cremoso di melanzane viola is light, fresh and juicy. The succulent pieces of lobster with juicy marinated vegetables are drizzled with a thick drops of balsamic vinegar. It is a nice dish for light eaters, but it was not my favorite from the menu – I found it quite boring and the lobster was far from its Maine (US state) relative, that is much more tasty and complex.

Lobster tails.

One of his signature dishes also suitable for vegetarians are the “Pasta in bianco olio e parmigiano”- Alfredo Russo. In this lasagna-like pasta he combines three layers, each of a different age, of parmigiano cheese. The meat lovers will not be disappointed at this Piemontese restaurant either. The special beef main course of Spalla di manzo con intingolo alle erbe aromatiche is good but quite small, so you will still have some space for a dessert or a cheese plate. It is the most expensive meat on the menu though, so I would not pay for it.

We skipped the desserts, although we got from the chef one pre-dessert of a creamy mouse with sorbet, which was delicious, and later with tea the chef treated us to a tray of chocolate and caramel lolies and small sweets so we did not miss out any sugar that night.

Chef’s pre-dessert

We could not resist the wide cheese selection on a trolley. The offer of mostly local cheese from mild cow cheese to stinky blue goat cheese lets you savor the flavors of all cheese corners of Piedmont. I would not recommend the stinky goat blue cheese as it tasted like a stinky wax for all of us who tried it, the cow and goats cheeses with rind were nice though. Overall, I was a bit disappointed by the restaurant’s selection. Italy has excellent cheeses, so why not to show these instead?

Drinks: The wine list has a great selection of price-friendly local wines. It was a pity though that the sommelier recommended us wines that we did not love as they did not correspond with our requests and her description. The choice and quality of teas is tremendous! Having a cup of a local herbal blend after a multiple-course dinner is all one wishes before getting to bed. You get a small hour-glass to measure exactly the length of steeping your tea in water, so you can remove it in time to obtain just the beneficial substances from the tea. Many restaurants and even tea houses neglect the right steeping time for teas, so I give a huge credit to Dolce Stil Novo for making the tea experience proper for their guests.

Tea selection

Opening hours: Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday: from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Lunch: daily from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm except on Monday and Tuesday.

Address: Piazza della Repubblica, 4 – Venaria Reale (Torino); Italy

Contact: Tel: +(39) 011 4992343 – Mob: +(39) 339.1996218; Reservations are required for both lunch and dinner.

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Cuisine: Gastronomic modern French.

Visit: October 2012

Price: Very high (dining at any of the multiple-Michelin-stared Robuchon’s restaurant never comes cheap, although small eaters can save by ordering less plates from the small plate concept of L’Atelier or come for the more economical lunch menu).

Robuchon’s Caviar surprise

Chef: Joel Robuchon does not need any introduction for a majority of food connoisseurs. His innovative concept of modern fine dining with an open kitchen, preparing a wide range of innovative small dishes while keeping the quality on a superb level, first took off in Tokio in 2003. Since then his restaurant empire has spread around the world and earned him a record number of Michelin stars. His Hong Kong venture was recently (2012) awarded its third Michelin star. Judging from my dinner there the restaurant deserves it if I close my eyes over the at times too slow service.

Black & red at L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon

Atmosphere: Sexy, modern and elegant. L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong follows its design format of a sleek dark elegance. Black and red colours dominate the interior while a bright light casts emphasis on the open kitchen. It is entertaining to watch the cooks frantically moving from a stove to stove and counters chopping, whipping and mixing complex dishes brought to perfection. The restaurant is located in the luxurious Landmark shopping mall, yet it has its own escalator (a staple of Hong Kong) to bring you into this heaven of luxurious dining. Wear anything chic and elegant although you might get away with a more casual attire if you show your wallet is up to the Atelier’s expensive menu and wines.

Sea urchin with lobster jelly

Food: Complex, inventive with a local twist. The food at the Hong Kong’s L’Atelier is different from anywhere else I have dined so far (London, Paris, New York, Monaco). I always start with the popular small portions – tapas-style – dishes as these present the chef’s craft so well. Moreover, ordering these is a great opportunity to try a wide range of different dishes on one occasion.

I love the Robuchon’s lobster ravioli at Hong Kong presented as the Maine lobster in turnip raviolis (LE HOMARD en fines ravioles, navet au romarin à l’aigre-doux). So delicate as they melt in your mouth with a surprisingly varied rainbow of flavours. Rosemary adds depth and freshness and lightens up sometimes this too butter-dominated starter (in Paris I had them too buttery). Here in Hong Kong the ravioli were superb.

Lobster ravioli

I wanted this evening to be a great adventure so I went for some dishes that were new to me. I was curious what was hidden in A surprise of Osciètre caviar (LE CAVIAR IMPERIAL servi en surprise, fine gelée cardinalisée). As my picture above shows you had no idea, not after you dipped into the caviar tin. What I revealed was another savoury, fresh and delicate product of sea – crab meat softened up by a fine jelly. Amazing with a glass of bubbly or refreshing white wine.

Being in Asia moved (as usually) my tasting boundaries. My next dish the Sea urchin with lobster jelly, cauliflower cream and broccoli purée (L’OURSIN dans une délicate gelé, blanc manger de chou-fleur) was surely different from most of the dishes I eat in Europe or America. Again, the dish was turned into a culinary masterpiece. Balance, depth, wide span of flavours and nothing too quirky as with lots of exotic ingredients like the sea urchin – the chef and his team mixed and whipped it all well. A slightly oaky Chardonnay would be my pick with this creamy delicacy.

On a similar Asian note was the Sea urchin risotto with spiky artichokes (LE RISOTTO ‘MANTECATO‘aux langues d’oursin à l’artichaut épineux). Yes, I did not have enough of sea urchin so I had to get one more dish with it. This time the soft, liver-like texture of the sea urchin was more potent as it was served on the top of the creamy artichoke risotto. Decorated with edible gold leafs it was visible that this is not a cheap dish, definitely it would find many fans between the rich Chinese businessmen inviting their potential partners as they traditionally like to host others generously.

Sea urchin risotto

Always impressive yet served in a new coat were the Pan seared sea scallops with caviar, fregula pasta and shellfish emulsion (LES SAINT-JACQUES les noix poilées/caviar, risotto de fregola et émulsion de coquillages). Again I would say they were more luxurious than in other locations I ate. Addition of caviar crowning the crisp pan seared scallops and gold leafs makes a powerful statement. The caviar was worth pairing though bringing in a new dimension of fresh and slightly popping texture. The scallops were soft like a feather pillow and the rise shaped fregola pasta made into a creamy risotto blended well with the sea shells emulsion. This could be a smaller main course for some of you as it is quite filling.

Sea scallops with caviar

To lighten it all up you can get the Tomato “mille-feuille” layered with crabmeat, avocado and green apple (LE CRABE en mille-feuille de tomate avec coulis verjuté). It is refreshing and light enough to have a glass of a crisp white wine with it.

Tomato mille-feuille

Robuchon makes the best mini-burgers on the planet (sorry for the excitement, but I always have to order them and I have never been disappointed so far).  The Wagyu beef and foie gras burgers with lightly caramelized bell peppers (LE BURGER au foie gras et poivrons verjutés). The secret of this dish is the top quality Wagyu beef cooked into an ideal juicy and flavour-bursting burger. Foie gras adds softness and caramelized bell peppers are the best stunt for onions. Original and better than any burger I have ever had. The bread is fresh and tip-top, not like the chewy plastic copies of bread used for burgers elsewhere.

Drinks:The wine list is stunning. With twenty wines-by-the-glass you might be seduced to opt for these instead of a bottle. Old world as well as New world wines are represented with the likes of a 2006 vintage of deep and rich Kistler Chardonnay from California or a red 2004 Château Pavie from Bordeaux on the list. The sweet wine afficionados will find Rivesaltes Cuvée Amédée de Bescombes, Bescombes-Singla from France in its 1945 vintage by-the-glass tempting at the end of the dinner (or lunch?).

Caymus Vineyards 2001

The bottles have ratings from Wine Spectator (WS) as well as the Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (WA). Beware of a 10% service charge at the restaurant even on wines!

A magnum of Petrus 1961 is listed for stunning HK$380,000; so you do not need to worry that Robuchon’s head sommelier has not been thinking about wines for a very special celebration (it differs from person to person). There is also a magnum of 1992 Screaming Eagle, the Californian cult wine, for HK$220,000 or the sweet icon from Sauternes – Château d’Y quem 1921 vintage for HK$130,000 (all prices as of October 2012).

We were celebrating something that night, but we are not billionaires so we selected a Californian red hero from Caymus Vineyards 2001 vintage. The wine was smooth, balanced and rewarding with long finish – ideal for our style of celebrating.

Opening hours: Lunch: Mon-Sun: 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. (Last Order); Dinner: Mon-Sun: 6:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (Last Order)

Great news for your wallet -The HK$280 Happy hour at LE JARDIN-OUTDOOR GARDEN from 18:30 to 19:30 daily lets you to taste multiple canapes for one price.

Address: L’ATELIER de Joël Robuchon,  Shop 315 & 401, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong

Contact: Tel: +(852) 2166 9000

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Cuisine: Modern steakhouse.

Visit: October 2012.

Price: Very high (Wolfgang Puck is perhaps the most famous chef in LA, so the food does not come cheap).

Chef: Wolfgang Puck does not need much of an introduction. This Austria-born chef was one of the pioneers of the fine-dining in California. From Spago through Asia-influenced Chinois he had created a restaurant empire spanning from the US to Europe and recently also in Asia. While Spago has an innovative California twist, Chinois is an Asian fusion, the Cut celebrates great meat with a modern take on a traditional American steakhouse. His most recent project (as of October 2012) is his signature restaurant at the legendary Bel Air hotel, which is perhaps the most upscale from all of his projects. His Hollywood smile and genuine warmth say it all – his food is exactly like that – looks great and tastes yummy.

The chef Wolfgang Puck at our table.

Atmosphere: Vibrant and cool, but the restaurant’s modern interior can feel a bit cold on a day light. In the evening when the lights are dim it feels much more cosy. Wear a cool leather jacket or a fancy dress, after all you are in Beverly Hills and here not the style, but money rules. The chairs may feel a bit like in an office, but there are also comfortable booths, which I highly recommend reserving.

Tomatoes, cheese and anchovy salad.

Food: Rich, oily, juicy with slight California gourmet twist. Starting with Tomatoes, Cheese and Anchovy Salad I understood the attempt for creativity, yet the oil spilled all over my plate and it did not impress me at all. The tomatoes were succulent and the cheese was fresh and intense, but the anchovies just did not work with the other ingredients. It was one of the seasonal out-of-the-menu dishes and I am sure if they offered it again I will not order it.

My European gourmand passion for a raw steak tartare guided my selection to the Steak Tartare made of chopped Prime Sirloin and served with Grilled Bread. This dish was delicious. The crucial aspect of a great steak tartare is using high quality meat and the way the meat is chopped.

At the Cut they have cut it perfectly

– thin and tender chunks of meat perfectly melted on my palate after mixing them up with the quail egg, onions and chives. Go for it of you feel like having raw meat. The only minus of this course was the grilled bread which was quite boring and plain.

Raw beef tartare with quail egg

Most people come to Cut to enjoy a great steak. You can go for a Tasting of the New York Sirloin prepared in three ways: American “Kobe Style” From Snake River Farms 4 Oz; U.S.D.A. PRIME Dry Aged 35 Days 4 Oz; Australian Wagyu Beef From David Blackmore Ranch, Alexandria, Victoria 2 Oz. It is fun to try all these meats next to each other and the portions are not overwhelming, but it is not cheap plus disappointing for some highly experienced meat connoisseurs. First, my partner got it undercooked and not warm enough. The meat was almost rare when he got it. For any meal above $50 this is simply unacceptable! Then, once he got it back warmer and medium rare, he did not enjoy the texture as much. Perhaps the culprit was putting it twice under the heat.

Meat tray. Source: Cut’s gallery http://www.wolfgangpuck.com

As any steak house in America, the Cut offers a number of seductive side dishes. The French Fries with Herbs were not impressive – chewy and not cripsy – as well as the Tempura Onion Rings – too oily and not crispy as a real tempura style should be. The Sautéed Baby Spinach with Garlic was refreshing. The highlight of the sides was the delicious Soft Polenta with Parmesan. The polenta together with The Cavatappi Pasta “Mac & Cheese,” Québec Cheddar would be the only two sides that I would order here again.

We also tried the Wild Field Mushrooms, Japanese Shishito Peppers, but they were disappointing for the high price they were offered for. Not having much flavour and at all vibrance is a real failure for a mushroom dish.

Fried onion rings

Drinks: The wine list contains an alluring array of wines from all over the world, yet with niche choices from California. The sommelier was very helpful. We got recommended a lesser-known, small production wine from Scribe and we were thrilled how wonderful it was. I have not had such an elegant Cabernet Sauvignon from California for a long time. It was perfectly balanced, with velvety tannins and depth keeping up with the intensity of the food served at the Cut. The wine was for sure the highlight of the dinner.

Scribe Cabernet Sauvignon

Opening hours: Monday – Thursday: 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday: 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Saturday: 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m., closed on Sunday

Address:
Beverly Wilshire – Four Seasons Hotel,
9500 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills , California 90212, USA

Contact: Tel: +(1) 310-276-8500

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