Monday, 28 February 2011

Pearl by Jun Tanaka – A True Gem as Promised

Oh yes, Jun Tanaka was leading service during my visit. What privilege.

Through the revolving doors at Renaissance Chancery Hotel, we were stunned by the pure grandeur. It concurs with the name of the restaurant, dividers of pearl (faux, I assume) hangings in the entrance bar; contemporary chandeliers with more draping pearls; marble pillars and walls; gleaming pink ornamental plates and luminous tables (which were extremely camera unfriendly).


Canapés – toasted bread crisps with Hummus, Guacamole and Taramasalata
Despite the neatness, this is possibly the most boring canapé. These were as good as they could be. Move on.

Oysters – Poached Maldon Rock Oysters, Pearl Barley, Watercress and Spring Onion Risotto
Poached oysters? Such a dangerous choice. The description on the menu gave very little away as to how the dish would come together. It’s one of those risky items that could go so wrong so easily, but I chose to believe in Chef.

I gasped in awe by its presentation when it arrived, 3 mid-sized shucked oysters perched on individual piles of sea salt, the goodies still veiled by a delicate layer of foam. Was it beurre blanc? I can’t be sure. In one scoop, it revealed the brilliant green jus with the remaining grains of spring onion risotto hidden in the shell. The mouthful was an oceanic bliss. The oyster was plump and ample, its texture remained creamy and raw, just less slimy. The bouncy pearl barley amplified the wood-like undertone of Maldon rocks and encouraged chewing, which releases more briny flavours from the oysters, leaving a trail of mineral aftertaste.

I couldn’t contain my glee with each spoonful. It was the most accomplished and epic starter.


Monkfish – Cornish Monkfish with Artichoke Gnocchi, Roast Baby Artichokes and Chicken Wings
It was originally Plaice on the menu, but they ran out. I was intrigued by the combination and so didn’t switch despite my hesitation over Monkfish.

Again, stunning arrangement. Unlike my habitual choice of flaky fish, monkfish is dense and stringy. I didn’t mind this monkfish too much, probably due to the small portion. The fish was full of bounce and inundated with jus; its translucent centre eased off its chewiness and together with the gnocchi, it was complex.

The chicken wings were strange, however, as if one whole wing was pushed and condensed into half an wing, hence the compact meat as opposed to the usual tenderness of wings. I thought the coating was a little dry and harsh on the mouth too.

Duck – Confit Duck Leg Stuffed with Red Cabbage, Lentils and Dandelion Salad
This was substantial. The skin was marvelously crispy with a thin layer of aromatic fat underneath. It resembled Chinese roast duck. The red cabbage was subdued, almost unnoticed but it probably played it role in maintaining the juiciness of the duck. The deep fried runny quail egg on the salad was a nice touch, better still was the diced kidney hidden under the pile.

Mister would have preferred some milder flavours with the lentils to ease off the weightiness of the dish.  

Peanuts – Peanut Mousse with Salted Caramel, Banana and Passion Fruit Sorbet
We shared. The sorbet was more passion fruit than banana, nonetheless worked well with the nutty mousse and coffee crisp, further complicated by the salty peanut butter smear. The effervescence from the hidden fizz wizz popping candies was a pleasant surprise. It’s not for people with weaker teeth though.

Dining at Pearl by Jun Tanaka can be summarised as splendor and class. Service was swift and professional, with a healthy dose of cockiness. Cooking was undoubtedly perfect with the most ingenious blend of ingredients and inspiringly presented. It was a feast for all senses. Bonus was, of course, to see Chef Tanaka waltzing around the dining room with so much charisma. I loved Pearl, and would definitely return for the rest of the menu.


Pearl by Jun Tanaka

252 High Holborn
London
WC1V 7EN
Tel: 0207 829 7000


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