Monday, 18 February 2013

Hong Kong - Mandarin Grill + Bar

It’s been 2 years since I came home. And boy prices have gone up in the last 2 years; eating out suddenly became a bit of a hefty habit. The price gap between local ‘cheap eats’ and international brands have narrowed considerably too.

I hit 2 Michelin restaurants in the 2 weeks, Mandarin Grill + Bar and Amber at Mandarin Oriental Landmark. Mandarin Grill has been sitting on my list for years, and this time I decided to treat my folks for an extraordinary tuen lin dinner.

We started with some warm puffs with a melted gushing cheese centre while I picked from the a la carte.

Then we were introduced 5 types of olive oils from the cart, each with a detailed description of the oil characteristics, origins and aromas. I went for the Spanish one with a hint of green apple fragrance; folks both had the recommended French olive oil with a nose of hazelnut.

Followed by a trio of amuse bouche: air-dried Jerusalem artichoke; savoury cookie with parmesan shavings and Olive.

Each was beautifully crafted, with unexpected textures and delicate flavours. Out of the selection my personal favourite was the olive, a droplet injected with concentrated olive juice, exploded in mouth.

Egg & Bacon

Mum started with this stunning dish.  The dish was assembled at our table in a cart, where our server talked through each step, starting with cracking the organic duck egg from US on a heated sizzler, followed by the softest, most tender slab of Spanish suckling pig as the ‘bacon’. The presentation was remarkable, smelt divine and tasted out-of-this-world.

This was a combination of root vegetables cooked in various methods on a bed of black truffle puree, topped with cauliflower foam and a crazy amount of truffle shaving.
Dad didn’t fall in love with this. Sadly the veg were leaning on the bland side, and the celeriac was too bitter. The overpowering truffle dominated and smothered the dish.

I opted for a cold starter of hamachi (yellowtail), toro, oysters, scallop and caviar, paired with green apple discs and emulsion. The fruitiness from the apple and the fatty sashimi were in beautiful harmony. It added a new touch to the already top class ingredients, taking it up the level above best.

 Our server removed a cloudy bell jar to reveal this. He explained Chef wanted to created a forest-like atmosphere, and he went ahead to light the pine leaves to release woody, earthy fragrance. Then carefully transferred the venison onto my scenic ‘plate’, dusted with deer footprints. Then he placed chocolate leaves on the meat before pouring hot jus over them for the chocolate sauce.

And the meat was perfect beyond words; the rareness, bloodiness was balanced by the bittersweet jus, each piece of meat was made more memorable by the gentle smokiness it absorbed from the lit pine. Pure pleasure.

Beef ‘Calotte’
The meat came from US Snake River farm and the cut is the cap of rib-eye, tender but less fatty and more flavourful than the regular rib-eye.

Presented in the Mandarin Cookbook, the two slabs of blushing medium rare steak were resting beside what seemed like charcoal. There was no mistake about the beef, it was incredibly tender and flavoursome with a touch of gaminess, grilled to absolute perfection.
The smaller charcoals were carrots, and the largest lump was a Japanese root vegetable, which resembled a cross between taro and potato, rather tasteless by nature. The luscious mash on the side, however, completely bowled me over.

Dad’s sirloin was voted the best of the lot. Slightly fattier than the Calotte, also means juicier, but it didn’t compromise on the meaty flavours. A simpler less-is-more ensemble for the sirloin to shine through.

The ultra light and fluffy fungi puff on the side was equally delightful.

Light Bulb
The enchanting bulbs were made with sugar filled with coconut foam, served with pineapple, mango and coconut ice cream and diced mango. Loved it.

I originally went for Mushroom, which our server described as tiramisu shaped as mushrooms. He recommended their signature oreo instead.

I can’t say this was as impressive; the dish arrived with a wavy strip of cream and the server flooded it with dark chocolate espuma before sprinkling oreo crumbs on top.  Yea okay the chocolate was high quality stuff but we are no strangers to posh chocs…

Finally our petit fours with truffles and an edible chocolate board.

Sommelier recommended a French pinot noir from 2002 to go with my venison. Spot on. I think even Mum stole a couple of gulps. Yes at £40 a glass it’s overpriced, but wines are generally extortionate in HK anyway. (A bottle of Bordeaux I bought for 27 euros in Paris is sold at $989 in a supermarket here, that’s £80!)

What can I say? Mandarin Grill was superior. It delivered a remarkable dining experience that took care of every aspect of our senses. Each dish came with impeccable presentation and an element of surprise. Beneath the blanket of pretty exterior, it delivered winning recipes, exquisite ingredients and flawless execution. Needless to say service was by far the best I experienced in any Hong Kong fine-dining restaurants. Bill came to $4300 for 3 people, and guess what, even Mum thought it was worth the money. Mandarin Grill was the masterclass of world-class.

Level 3 Mandarin Oriental
Connaught Road
Tel: (+852) 2825 4004

You may also like: Iggy’s (Singapore), Amber (Hong Kong), Sketch (Pierre Gagnaire in London)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds amazing, this is next on ly list for HK :)
    The lightbulb dessert is right up my alley too!