Monday, 23 October 2017

Geranium, Copenhagen

It’s almost like we are trying to out-do each other for birthday dinners. Last year he had set the bar high at Restaurant Andre in Singapore, and this year he picked Geranium in Copenhagen, No. 21 on the World’s Best.

The dining room was spacious with huge windows that offered a panoramic view of the park and the stadium. Our server introduced us to their concept, checked that we had no allergies and left us to mull over the wine list. I was still admiring the beautiful dining room.

We tasted a beautiful Greek wine that was meticulously prepared by the Sommelier.

Lobster milk, Juice from Fermented Carrots & Sea Buckthorn
The seemingly simple snack was hiding a copious amount of lobster meat. Sweet, bouncy lobster flesh was paired with soft tender carrots in a refreshing thin broth.

Jerusalem Artichoke Leaves, Hazelnut Oil & Rye Vinegar
The artichoke leaves melted on tongue to release delicate sweetness and earthy notes.

“Razor Clam” with Minerals & Sour Cream
This was one of the signature snacks. The razor clam shell was made up of brittle wafers, filled with sweet clam meat mixed with a clean, oceanic cream. It was like a concentration of the shellfish presented in a totally edible form.

Tomato Water, Ham Fat & Aromatic Herbs

“Dillstone” Mackerel, Horseradish & Frozen Juice from Pickled Dill
This was one of my favourites of the snacks. The mackerel fillets were disguised as stones; small morsels were wrapped in a deep green dill glaze. As the shell melted away, it unleashed the powerful mackerel flavours, balanced with horseradish fragrance that cut through the fish. The sophistication in one small cube of pickled fish was remarkable.

Nettles, Smoked Cheese & Dried Oysters

Sprouted & Grilled Broccoli, Dried Trout & Oyster Flowers

Salted Hake, Parsley Stems & Caviar in Buttermilk
The presentation of this dish was stunning. The hake fillets were not dissimilar to sashimi, packed in a disc form that resembled marble, matched perfectly with the marble plate it was served on. Our servers pour the buttermilk onto the disc at the table, topped with caviar and air-dried fish scales. The flavours were beautifully layered, first with the crisp cleanness from the lightly cured fish, then came the robust aroma from the caviar, which became more mellow as the rich buttermilk washed over. I loved it.

One of the servers was heating up what looked like a gardening tool with a gas-powered fire on a trolley next to us. She explained this was to open a bottle of really old wine, where they can no longer drill through the cork anymore. After the metal started glowing, she place it around the neck of the bottle and the head was simply cut off in one swift motion. Learn something new everyday.

Crispy Grains, Bread with Old Grains & Gluten Free Bread with Seeds

The breads came in the middle of our mains, served warm with a crispy crust on the exterior and a pillow-soft moist centre. The gluten free bread was absolutely delicious, so much so that we had to have seconds.

Langoustine in Juniper Aroma, Ingrid Marie Reduction & Browned Butter
Then came the second highlight of the evening. The muscular langoustine arrived on a bed of juniper and pine leaves. Our server lit up the bed of leaves and covered with a glass dome to infuse it with smokiness before serving it on a small pool of buttery fragrant shellfish broth. The flesh was cooked to utmost perfection; full of bounce, slightly translucent that it has a mild glow to it to retain a marginally creamy centre, its flavours were amplified by the crustacean concentration. I still have dreams about this langoustine.

Lightly Salted Turbot, Green Herbs, Celeriac & Pickled Pine

Tartlet with Fjord Shrimp, Sol & Pickled Elderflowers

Cabbage Sprouts, Chicken & Hay Beer
This was the only meat dish of the evening, and frankly Chef shouldn’t have bothered. It was really quite unremarkable, some morsels of sous vide chicken under the small stack of sprouts. Obviously it was nice, but compared to everything else we had, nice simply doesn’t cut it anymore.

At this point of the meal, we were offered a tour of the kitchen and the cellar. We were shown the private dining room, also where the staff were the guinea pigs of the kitchen team. After Chef photo-bombed us, we went into the main kitchen where we were explained how the kitchen operated, saw where all the prep work took place before they put on the show in the dining room.

We then had our first dessert course in the kitchen area; we watched the chef skilfully put the beetroot bite together.

A bite of Beetroot, Blackcurrant, Yoghurt & Tagetes

Ice Cream from Beeswax & Pollen with intense Rhubarb 

Caramel with Roasted Grains, Chamomile & Blackberry

Sea Buckthorn Mousse, Strawberry & Chocolate Cake
This was served as my birthday cake, along with a Danish flag which is apparently a must when celebrating birthdays in Denmark.

Sweets: Carrot Tree, Cake with Pumpkin Seed Oil, Caramel, Dried Plum Juice & Aromatic Seeds,Chocolate with Oats & Sea Buckthorn, Marshmallow with Rose Hip & Green Egg with Pine

Geranium was extraordinary. It was more than just perfectly presented dishes bursting with sophistication and finesse. It was the full experience, from the introduction to the tour, the staff had a genuine sense of pride to represent the restaurant. And they did their best to ensure we had an exceptional evening.  

The best experience yet.

Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 
2100 København Ø, 
Tel: +45 6996 0020

You may also like: PujolAkelarre ***Passage 53 **

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Quintonil, Mexico City

Two days after Pujol, we had lunch at Quintonil. A couple of places behind Pujol in the World’s Best Rankings, it’s at No. 22.

The dining room was much more modest than Pujol, no zen garden or glowing indoor tree, but then again there were no banners warning us about dodgy dealings either. We were told to order two or three smaller dishes followed by one (or two) main courses for each person. After the portions we experienced at Pujol, we decided to cut back as Mexican portions are quite generous. So went with 3 starters and 2 mains to share.

We started with a selection of mole and salsa, followed by an amuse bouche of mango and lime granitas.

Charred avocado tartar with escamoles and mexican herb chips
Escaroles are ant eggs, which used to be a key ingredient in Aztec cuisine. We were slightly apprehensive about the idea but damn these were so delicious. The small globules were buttery, they melted away in mouth like mini balls of ice cream, leaving a trail of fragrant richness. The smoky avocado added extra creaminess to each spoonful, it was a beautifully indulgent dish.

“Salbut” with pink oyster mushroom, “agave” honey, seasoned with “chile mixe” salt

Chef Vallejo came round with a heaped bowl of fungi to show us the various species that went into the small dish. 

The crispy bowl of puffed tortilla was filled with a concoction of mushrooms in a savoury broth. The flavours were intense with concentrated fungi aroma, mixed with bouncy morsels of mushroom that released more juices with every chew.

“Jaiba azul” tostada with lime, radish and “chile habanero” mayonnaise
The crab tostada was one of the signature dishes. The crab was hidden under the large toasted tortilla, dressed with a slightly piquant mayo for a creamy texture to contrast with the crunchy veg. It wasn’t crazy spicy, just a hint of sharpness which was quickly washed away by the sweet crabmeat. It was good, but not as stunning as the ant eggs.

Catch of the day Puerto Nuevo style, grilled salicornias, fermented cabbage and sea weed mojo
Our server said he didn’t know what this fish was called in English. We think it’s monkfish. Quite disappointing dish, especially after such excellent starters. The fillet was marginally overcooked, leaving the fish slightly parched on the exterior and rough on the tongue; the flesh had lost the succulent silkiness. The thick sauce didn’t work either, it was very salty with small grainer bits that resembled black bean.

The portions turned out to be much smaller than Pujol, just as well, we didn’t enjoy it very much.

Braised pork jowl with blue corn “cegueza”, lettuces and pickled “rajas”
Having had an insane number of carnitas, we thought pork would always be a safe option as the Mexicans have nailed pork. Well, this was an exception. The pork jowl was dry and bland, but the most offensive part of the dish was the over seasoned ragu pooled at the bottom. It was like the kitchen had forgotten to dilute a whole box of stock cube.

“Zapote negro” rocks with a guava puree and caramelised white chocolate 
We saw the same dessert arrived at our neighbour's table covered in nitrogen; by the time ours arrived it was just a flat bowl. Well, at least it was back to the standards of the starters. The rocks were frozen ice cream, mixed with tart guava puree at the bottom. It was really quite delicious.

Quintoil was very different to Pujol. We felt Quintonil was more contemporary and perhaps more experimental, though the risks in our mains didn’t quite pay off. Whereas there was a set formula in Pujol and though small deviations may happen, the core flavours were more or less the same. If I am honest, despite the service / decor / ambience being less impressive in Quintonil, I feel we had the most memorable dishes of the entire trip here.

World’s Top 22nd restaurant? Yea, probably.

Newton 55
Mexico City

Tel: +52 (55) 5280 2680

You may also like: Bo.LanRestaurant Andre **Iggy's *

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Pujol, Mexico City

This post is over 2 months late. We had two great weeks in Mexico back in June, mostly diving and swimming cenotes in the Yucatan region, but also spent a few days in Mexico City to check out two World’s Best restaurants; Pujol (no. 20) and Quintonil (no.22).

On our walk to Pujol, there were banners lining the street that claimed the restaurant was corrupted and illegitimate. Slightly worrying. Once inside, the restaurant zen garden was stunning with a wooden bar adorned with colourful plants. The dimly lit dining room was equally impressive, with a small indoor garden glowing in the dark decor. 

Our server greeted us, introduced the concept of Pujol and presented the wax-sealed envelop that contained the menu. There were 6 courses and 4 options for most of them. Obviously we chose different dishes to try as much as we could. Our server first listened to our choices without writing anything down, then he apologetically came back and asked again, this time with a notepad. A few minutes later, he came back with the notepad and asked again what we wanted. Funnily enough, they still got the orders wrong and kept giving me his dishes.

Street Snacks

The first course was two snacks; smoked baby sweetcorn covered with chicken toner powder, lime juice and coffee mayo, which was sweet and crunchy with a mild earthy tone, and gordita topped with wagyu salsa on corn bread. 

Jerky Tartar, mukato chilies, bean blossoms
After 10 days of Mexican pulled pork and beans and tacos, some raw beef was a welcomed change. The thick slices were soft and marbled with fat, slightly chewy with gentle bounce. The heat from chilies were subtle, paired with peppery blossoms and a refreshing dressing - a solid tartar.

Octopus, habanero ink, ayocote, veracruzana sauce
The octopus was covered in spicy ink - so deceiving. The succulent tentacle was wrapped in fierce heat, finished with a Mediterranean touch.

Softshell crab, meyer lemon, herbs
A surprisingly meat crab with an impossibly crispy batter. Though thoroughly enjoyable, we thought this dish had the least Mexican flair.

Charred eggplant tamal, chard
The small parcel enveloped smoked aubergine puree. I remembered this being delicious, but can no longer recall the sauce.

Pork Chicharron and purslane in salsa verde
This was the highlight was the evening. The cubes of pork with a generous layer of wobbly, melt-in-mouth lard were godsend, served with a thick avocado sauce mixed sharp lime juices to dissect the fat. 

Wagyu, fennel seeds, herb guacamole
It was a hunky piece of beef, we would probably get a third of the portion in other tasting menus. Sadly the beef wasn’t the top grade wagyu I anticipated, it was too lean as far as wagyu is considered, and too subtle in flavour. The creamy ripe avocado (lots of it) somewhat made up for the lack of buttery richness of the wagyu in terms of texture, but the juicy bovine goodness was lacking.

Mole madre 1315 days, mole nuevo
The number of days the mole madre mature get added every day, and it was served with a dollop of new mole and some green tortilla. Even now, we can’t really grasp the idea of mole… it’s a concoction of spice cooked together, to form a thick sauce that absolutely everyone in Mexico adores. Yet 90% of foreigners just don’t get the obsession. The two tables beside us poked at the puddle of mole and pushed it away. Maybe they ran out of space in their stomach. We really wanted to appreciate it; to understand how this became the ultimate signature of the World’s No.20 restaurant.

And it grew on us a bit. The mole madre had much more depth, and understated sweetness combined with a rich, almost chocolatey bitterness, plus a lingering aftertaste. Then the new mole, in bright orange, had more spices that came and went. When mixed together, the combination was quite sophisticated with complex flavours. We grew to like it enough to clean the plate.

That said, we didn’t like it enough to start ordering mole when we see it on the menu.

The sweets were the weakest section. Shockingly poor. The gelatinous cake was made with sugar and ground maize, so it resembled an odd jelly of no real flavour.

Chocolate tamal, guava, soursop, brown butter
There was nothing chocolate about this tamal, it didn’t help that we are not fans of the texture of tamale. It was a really strange creation.

The saving grace was the coil of fresh, piping hot churros to round off the meal.

We were stuffed to brim at the end of evening. The portion was much more generous than a regular tasting menu, we felt we had 2 full sized starters and 2 full sized mains. We enjoyed Pujol very much, especially when we were growing tired of stodgy meals drowned in thick sauces and endless tacos. The kitchen showcased how typical Mexican ingredients were used in a more sophisticated dishes, reining in chillies and brought out more flavours.

Tennyson 133
Polanco 11550
Mexico City
Tel: +52 (55) 5545 4111