Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Caprice, Hong Kong

Caprice was once awarded 3 Michelin Stars under the leadership of Chef Vincent Thierry. Since his departure, Caprice has had a star removed and Chef Fabrice Vulin has taken over the kitchen to win that prestigious status back. After days of Chinese meals over the CNY period, I booked a table for 4 for lunch.

We were seated by the window to take in the beautiful view of Victoria Harbour, a view that’s included in the price tag. The menu was dominated by black truffle, at least 40% of the menu had black truffle as an ingredient… 

The amuse bouche was a herring custard with chopped cabbage and apple - the velvety mousse was incredibly fishy, balanced by the crisp cleanness of the vegetable. I did’t like the crunch and pungent raw cabbage though, and the stiff shreds made it difficult to eat with a little spoon. Could have thought it through better.

Pan seared Duck Foie Gras, Raw and Cooked Hokkaido Pumpkin
Mama Chan and I both went for foie gras. I loved it; the richness, the melt-in-mouth feel, the greasy fragrance, balanced by the sugary sweet pumpkin puree. Mama Chan found it took much and swapped it for the chicken pate en croute with Bro. 

Poached Farm Egg, Leeks in French Dressing and Young Spinach Leaves
The poached egg was hidden under the leaves. Perfectly cooked with a runny egg yolk that spilled over the leek millefeuille. The dish was served cold, flavours were one-dimensional and quite bland. Not the most palatable ensemble.

Chicken Breast Pate en Croute, Pistachio and Winter Black Truffle
Quite a dull starter, I was pushing for the squid and crab cannelloni option but hey. The crust was particularly crumbly and buttery, that aside, pate is pate.

Japanese Scallop Boudin, Young Spinach Leaves and Black Truffle
This was the highlight of the meal. The scallop boudin was bouncy and full of oceanic sweetness, worked well with the savoury spinach puree. Truffle shavings were unnoticed.

Bresse Chicken Leg Pot au Feu, Vegetables in a Tarragon and Yellow Wine Bouillon
This was disappointing. The condensed chicken leg forfeited the tenderness of thigh meat, which lacked succulence as the jus has been squeezed out. The bouillon had great depth but the balance was ruined by the small cabbage parcel, inside which the diced chicken giblet was carelessly over-seasoned.

Braised Beef Shoulder in Red Wine Sauce, Lumaconi Stuffed with Mushroom and Colonnata Pork
The colossal pasta shells were sitting on a thick disc of beef shoulder, scattered with small cubes of pork and truffle shreds. The sous-vide shoulder carried a strong smoky aroma, the meat was tender without losing its firm, dense structure. However the sauce, which was too salty, didn’t infiltrate and couldn’t bring the dish together.

Chocolate and Caramel Profiteroles, Peanut and Inaya Chocolate Ice Cream
This was skilfully faultless; the profiteroles had a thin crispy shell, filled with chocolate ice cream, topped with chocolate mousse, a crumbly disc and thick indulgent chocolate sauce.

Our lunch at Caprice was underwhelming to be honest. Out of the 6 dishes, only the foie gras and scallop boudin were up to fine-dining standard, probably not even 1 Michelin star, let alone two.The other dishes were too heavy on seasoning and generally unbalanced. I couldn’t work out why they were  sprinkling black truffle on every dish; it was being used as a garnish, casually dropped on salads and foam, where there wasn’t enough heat to bring out the truffle fragrance. They might as well scatter wood shavings on the dish.

I have a small bone to pick with service too. On the whole the service team was professional, swift and full of smiles. We did, however, felt slightly rushed as they started clearing some of our plates even though Mama Chan was still finishing hers. Apart from that, we felt well looked after. The view was incredible, the decor splendid and the ambience extravagant, but unfortunately the food wasn’t up to scratch.

Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
8 Finance Street
Hong Kong

Tel: +852 3196 8888

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Blacklock - Seals the Meat Juice

The city was busy with romance on Valentines Day; my first as a singleton since the age of 15. Well, at least I don't have to pretend to like roses. Lucky for me, Flora's better half was out of town so I get her as my date to check out Blacklock's soft launch. 

Hidden in the basement on Great Windmill Street, Blacklock was opened by ex-Hawksmoor employees to serve chops. A very simple menu with 3 kinds of chops and an array of sides, all done on the grill. Chops were going for £4 each or a stack of 4 for £12; sides were £3 a pop; there is also the option of going all-in at £20pp. The cocktails were a steal at £5. I had the Nettle Gimlet , sweet and strong, while Flora tried the Grandma's Spiked Lemonade, pleasantly citrusy and easy to drink.  

Crisps - Egg and Anchovy
This was no doubt taken from Foxlow. The small pile of soft silky scrambled eggs was neatly circled by a thin strip of anchovy. It was well balanced, the eggs mingled and soften the crispy disc before the punchy anchovy kicked in. We liked it so much we went for another round.

Crisps - Cheese and Pickle
They gave this to us by mistake - we had it anyway. The entire ensemble was completely different to the egg and anchovy. This was predominantly crunchy from the refreshing pickles, which neutralised the thin sheet of stilton hidden under the pile. It was a palate-awakening nibble.

Skinny Chops from top: Lamb, Beef, Pork
Thanks to the homemade charcoal grill that could rock up to 300 odd degrees, all three types of chops were extremely succulent. The vintage irons locked the meat juice in as soon as the chops hit the grill, while the flames worked on a charred crispy edge. 

Out of the three we liked lamb chops best, cooked to a beautiful ruby medium with a healthy rind of crispy fat, where the milky flavours came from. We had to go for seconds. The beef was a short rib cut that was relatively thinner, so the meat was more cooked-through. It was still tender and juicy, though the flavours were somewhat diluted unlike dry-aged beef - but not everyone is a spoilt git.

We had another round of drinks. The Aperol Negroni was really strong, as Flora put it, a manly drink.

The pork was bigger than the others. It could have been the juiciest pork chop I've had in town and that thick rind of lard was guiltily nutty. We found the meat nearer the bone undercooked, much rarer than medium. I'm comfortable with pink pork as long as it's safe, but even the staff agreed this was rarer than usual. They assured us it was safe, happy to take it off our bill nevertheless - we left it.

At the time of writing neither of us have symptoms of food poisoning. If this happens to be the final post I publish on here - you know who did it.

10-hour ash roasted sweet potato & Kale and parmesan
We tried out a lot of the sides too. The roast sweet potato resembled a mash packed back into it skin, served with a dollop of butter and a handful of herbs. The two ends were quite burnt and bitter but these can easily be scraped off. The kale light with a tangy dressing.

Barbecued baby gems & Charred Courgettes, chicory and stilton
We thought the baby gems were too burnt and bitter, and all the moisture had evaporated from the grilling. The courgettes were much better with the small lumps of stilton.

For dessert it was white chocolate cheesecake with berries. Our server brought out the whole tray of cheesecake and scoop a portion onto our plate. Quite a good sale strategy, and a great way to end the meal.

We both enjoyed Blacklock. The food was good, nothing ground-breaking but deeply satisfying with piles of juicy meat. Service was super friendly and swift; yea there were a couple of hiccups like sending us the wrong crisps, but none of them were deal-breakers. The vibe was stripped back and easy-going, it was a speakeasy feel to it. I'm definitely coming back for more.

The Basement
24 Great Windmill Street

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