Posts Tagged ‘sea urchin’

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: Japanese, chef does omakase sushi tasting.

Visit: September 2012

Price: High (all small dishes cost between $10 and $28, omakase nigiri sushi 8 pieces for $46; 12 pieces comes to $62).

Soto in West Village

New York is always on the move and the same is true about its restaurant scene. Every time I visit this bustling and vibrant city I find a new and at the same time an excellent japanese restaurant. Soto is my latest exploration. With its simple and discreet entrance and interior you are assured that Soto is not one of the flashy japanese chains where the top city players dine over their business ideas, but a down-the-line gastronomic paradise for japanese food lovers.

Soto sushi bar

Atmosphere: A neighbourhood dining spot without fussy decoration. The interior is very simple. There is a long wooden sushi bar, tables along the wall and a more secluded ones at the back of the restaurant. There are no private separate rooms available. People dress casually as well as fashionably, so whether you are in jeans or coming straight from work in a suit you will be fine. The service can be sometimes a bit slow and misunderstand your requests, but you can see that they try very hard to meet their guests’ demands.

Cyu Toro Tar Tare

Food: Creative, delicious and modern. Uni rules the menu here. You will find it in many of the tapas-size creations at Soto. Some diners might complain about the size, but I would guess that they might be Americans since in Europe and Asia these portions would be standard at high-end japanese restaurants.

Fluke Ponzu at Soto is a great starter. The refreshing thinly sliced fluke fish with chive, shiso leaf, ginger shoots, scallion, under minzore ponzu sauce is served in a cocktail glass and styled to perfection. The fish is fresh and all the accompanying ingredients underline its envigorating properties. With a cup of green tea or sake (warm or cold) the Fluke Ponzu will whet your appetite for the rest of the food.

Fluke Ponzu

Another party-like dish served in a Martini glass  is Uni Cocktail-Murasaki/California. Here the chef’s love-affair with uni (sea urchin) shows in a revealing fashion. The sea urchin sashimi with soy reduction and fresh wasabi is intense as uni always is, but the wasabi calms its powerful taste down with its spicy character and the soy sauce reduces its for some people strange mushi nature.

Uni Cocktail-Murasaki/California at Soto

Served on an eye-appealing plate, the  Sea trout carpaccio with black truffle sea salt, chive and caviar, on a side with water cress sprinkled with miso mustard sauce and sesame, this dish was both creative and delicious. The tender sea-trout melted gently on my tongue. Enhanced by the even softer texture of the delicate caviar, the crisp and fresh water cress contrasted the mellow nature of the sea world (the fish and caviar). The chef achieved in this dish a lovely balance.

Sea trout carpaccio

Tar tare tuna roll was the special roll of the day so we had to give it a try. It was unique, complex and tasty. The spicy tuna tar tare in a white kelp wrap with asian pear, cucumber, avocado, sesame, pine nuts and scallion was wholesome and perfectly matched a glass of California slightly oaky Chardonnay.

Tar tare tuna roll

I also had the Soto’s miso soup served with tender piece of lobster and uni. It was very nice and rich, but not too powerful. Not the best miso I have had, but satisfying.

Drinks: Good sake list and basic wine list with reasonably priced bottles as well as wines-by-the-glass. I liked their California Chardonnay by-the-glass as it was floral and fresh and also the crisp and zingy German Riesling went tremendously well with most of the seafood and fatty-fish based dishes such as the tuna or uni. They also had a bottle of Koshu, the pinkish Japanese wine, so if you feel like trying something different and unusual, go for it! The tea selection is basic – Japanese green tea as usually although it is quite a good one.

Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 5:45pm-11:45pm

Address: 357 6th Avenue  New York, NY 10014, USA

Contact: Tel: +1 (212) 414-3088

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