Tate Dining Room

DSC02046I always love the idea of a small fine dining restaurant. It’s just feel somewhat more warm, intimate, unpretentious, and focus. Here I am, dining at a restaurant headed by the best Female chef in Asia 2015, Vicky Lau, who once graduated as a graphic designer from New York University before she enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu Bangkok. Chef Lau honed his skills under Sebastien Lepinoy during his time at Cepage. (Sebastien Lepinoy is currentlyheading Les Amis’s kitchen in Singapore. Review).

DSC02026I hate to say this, but the bread was honestly felt dry. It didn’t belong in a 1* restaurant. 1/10

DSC02037Our meal started with 5 amuse bouches that represent the 5 Chinese elements.

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Quail egg coated with ginseng chicken broth, smoked eel, dashi sphere, corn panacotta, mushroom panacotta

Ode to tomatoes

Ode to tomatoes

five type of tomatoes tartare, strawberry tomato gazpacho, smoked sardine, marrakech lemon skin confit

The strawberry and the tomato tasted really fresh and vibrant with a hint of smoke sardine on your palate. All flavor worked well without a single flavor dominated the plate. 8/10

DSC02040The brioche was definitely way better than the first bread. Good crust on the outside and soft inside.

The Sea

The Sea

Seascallop espuma, taraba crab meat, yuzu gelee, marinated jelly fish, osetra caviar, rice paper

Hong Kong version of “Song of the Sea” probably? It left me the heavy flavor impression at first, judged by the presentation itself, but when you start to dig in, you’ll find that this dish packed with sea flavor yet still feel light in a good way. Very enjoyable. 9/10

Hokkigai Clam

Hokkigai Clam

root vegetable mille feuille, cauliflower black garlic espuma, fresh water clam sauce

A nice blend between sea and earthy flavor. Everything was cooked and seasoned just right. 7.5/10

Sakura Ebi

Sakura Ebi

Lobster broth, fregola pasta, mentaiko, vin jaunne foam, kombu, crispy sakura ebi

I didn’t manage to enjoy this dish since it just felt too heavy. The shellfish flavor was just overpowering the whole dish. I believe it would taste better if the flavor was lighter and having more acidity into it. The Vin Jaunne foam almost just there for the sake of the presentation only. 4.5/10

Rose Bresse Pigeon

Rose Bresse Pigeon

slow cooked breast of pigeon, filo pastry wrapped fermented mustard green thigh of pigeon, roasted baby beetroot, pigeon jus

The meat was just juicy and tender. The jus was rich and worked as the flavor booster really well. The fig managed to cut the richness and balance the dish. 9/10

Honey, Milk, & Chamomile

Honey, Milk, & Chamomile

Honey, Milk, & Chamomile

Honey, Milk, & Chamomile

Home made wing ho hong kong bee farm honey ice cream, chamomile white chocolate mousse, dacquoise, yogurt meringue, willams pear ice cream

I’m not a big fan of white chocolate and sweet desserts, but this one clearly won my heart. 8/10

Zen Garden

Zen Garden

Zen Garden

Zen Garden

Passion fruit marshmallow, matcha macaroon, dark chocolate coconut

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Tate is very enjoyable to your eye and your palate. Without any doubt, Chef Lau’s accent appeared on the whole meal. The plates were neat and artistic yet not too complicated. Some dish like Ode to Tomatoes and The Sea were just perfect. Most of the dish feels light without losing any flavor profile. Too bad, some dish was off balance, otherwise it would be a perfect dinner.

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Tate Dining Room

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Hong Kong, 中環蘇豪伊利近街59號地下

+852 2555 2172

http://www.tate.com.hk/

Les Amis

Les Amis

The Friends, is what Les Amis stands for in French. Since the opening in 1994, Les Amis has been the temple of French cuisine, and that put Singapore into the world culinary map. The restaurant has several prestigious accolades including San Pellegrino world’s 100 best restaurants 2013 (ranked 81st), San Pellegrino Asia’s 50best 2013 & 2014 (ranked 14th), and The Miele Guide Asia’s 10th best restaurant.

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The kitchen is helmed by Chef de Cuisine Sebastien Lepinoy, who widely known as the legendary Robuchon’s right hand man before he joined Les Amis group in 2010 as the head chef of Cépage restaurant in Hong Kong. He took out Les Amis’s kitchen since September 2013. He applies classic French technique with a touch of Asian accent on his food.

IMG_0718Mini Croutons (olive, tomato, fennel), Mini Baguettes, Sour dough, Hazelnut Bread.

IMG_0768Teppanyaki Seared scallop, Teriyaki Sauce

This is exactly how I would like my scallop to be cooked every time. The texture was just perfectly crisp on the surface and slightly rare in the center. It’s fresh, has an intense sweet sea flavor with a little bit of acidity from a tiny squeeze of lime and coated thinly with teriyaki dipping…. unbeatable.

IMG_0770Foie Gras Custard, Artichoke Soup, Shaved Truffle.

IMG_0709Simple yet elegant dish. Both the custard and the soup were light and balanced perfectly, nothing was too dominant or heavy, especially the foie gras usually has a tendency to deliver strong flavor, but this one they really nailed it.

IMG_0707Sea Bass, Crispy Leek, Caviar Sauce

The Sea Bass was spotless, it was perfect in both seasoning and cooking. The only concern that I had was I prefer for the sauce to have a little bit more acidity to lift up the flavor. Lacking of acidity almost turned the dish flat.

IMG_0769Grilled Dry Aged Beef Tenderloin, Asparagus, Rich Jus, White Miso

The meat was cooked perfectly and delivered everything that you want to get from the beef. It was perfectly charred, tender but still have the meaty texture (very different from the tender feeling you get from sous vide), and seasoned beautifully. Everything on the plate were delivered with precise cooking. It doesn’t require any unnecessary dressing or plating. A pair of perfectly cooked asparagus were really did the justice.

IMG_0699Pinot Noir Macerated Strawberries, Yoghurt Ice Cream, Almond Cake

It might looks simple, but, believe me, it is not easy to find the right balance for a dessert like this. The Yoghurt ice cream compliments the warm, mellow strawberries really well.

IMG_0697Madelaine, Lemon Cream

Do I need any more explanation about this? 🙂

I realize that simplicity is getting rarer these days. Is it because simplicity is just too difficult to master? or they just thought that simplicity means boring. Simplicity demands heavily on great produce and perfect execution, and Les Amis clearly knows this game really well. There’s nothing to hide on that afternoon, where every 3 to 4 things on the plate were perfectly executed without any unnecessary garnish or seasoning. This place has a lot to offer. I will go back to this place beyond any doubt.

Les Amis

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1 Scotts Road, #02-16 Shaw Centre, Singapore 228208
+65 6733 2225

http://www.lesamis.com.sg/

Takazawa

Aronia2“I think I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree. Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

It’s tough. It’s damn bloody tough, when you only have two options too choose among the best restaurant in the country who has more Michelin starred restaurants than any other place on earth, especially when you keep flipping pages after pages of Michelin Guide book on your hand.

From a humble tempura, traditional Kaiseki, to western fine dining establishment, Tokyo is becoming the the Asia’s (if not the world) culinary mecca not only for foodies to find their best meal, but also for the chef to find inspiration.

Beside the dinner at Akasaka Tantei on my previous post, I left one more restaurant to choose. This time, I need to choose wisely. Bad dinner means ruining my trip.

Takazawa , changed their name from Aronia de Takazawa since May 2012. The restaurant has been opened their doors since 2005 with only 2 tables a day, 8 seats maximum. From 2011 they were increasing their capacity to 10 seats.

Yoshiaki Takazawa, 36 years old, is the mastermind, the magician, the genius behind the stove. Even though he never trained overseas. He’s been working in several places after graduating from French cooking school in the age of 18, including Park Hyatt hotel, wedding banquet, even to a humble Yakitori places. He is also the youngest senior sommelier in Japanese history.

Menu:

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Amuse Bouche

From left to right: Pork Liver Pate Sandwich, Curry Soup Sphere, Scallop Tempura topped with shaved Truffle

The pork liver pate for me was just perfect, absolutely delicious. This pate will make you forget about the poshy goose liver pate for awhile.

The curry sphere was delicious as well, but I can’t comment any further about it.

The scallop was another great start. Instead of using tempura flour, they use pastry dough. The sweetness from the scallop, crispiness from the pastry, and a kick from the truffle made it a perfect start for a great meal.

Aronia05The legendary Takazawa Rataouille

Eye candy, beautiful, stunning, unique, small, bite-sized deconstructed ratatouille that has been in the menu since the opening of the restaurant from 2005 until now. This is the signature dish where the chef cooked 15 types of vegetables individually before he assemble them together into a terrine. Instead to make it as a big portion, the chef wants the customer to have it in one bite so that we can taste and feel everything. Every single component of this dish was like dancing in your mouth. It gave you different textures and flavors at the same time.

Aronia09Sesame Bread with bamboo charcoal, Pork rilette

Aronia23Vegetable Parfait

Again, a unique interpretation of vegetables. Here, you get a beautiful glass of vegetable cocktail. From the bottom you have tomato water and gazpacho. The top layer consist of parmigiano reggiano cream cheese, basil puree, tomato jelly, caviar, brunoise of cucumber and tomato, crisp black cabbage, and some micro herbs. You must dig with a long spoon and have it together. The flavor is magical, very refreshing and vibrant. I’m really happy with this one.

Note: Before I go for the wine, I have to admit that I have so little knowledge about wine. Most of the time I will just go by a glass of white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc will doing a good job.

This is the first time I take a wine pairing. I didn’t have any plan at all to have one. I asked Akiko to recommend me a glass of white wine, Japanese wine if possible, and I ended up in having a meal with “Japanese-white-wine-pairing”.

Aronia10The first Japanese white wine that I had was produced by Team Kisvin and Chateu Sakaori. This wine consist of 48 different grapes from mount fuji.

Aronia25Hot Blanc Mangier

Inside the cup, it looks like a crème caramel. But actually it’s a cod’s egg custard topped with prawn sauce. The texture is like chawanmushi. This is accompanied by truffle look-a-like, but actually the real truffle is the one on top. The fake truffle is a deep fried cod’s egg. The custard is packed with flavor. The balance is just perfect, because you get the exact amount of richness from the custard. The prawn sauce got a hint of yuzu to give it extra kick. For the deep’s fried cod’s egg, you can’t eat it separately from the truffle. It’s tasted rather bland if you tasted it alone, but with the combination with truffle is just fantastic. You get the creaminess from the egg plus the aroma and flavor from the truffle. Damn good.

Aronia26Candleholder

The inspiration behind this dish is literally coming from a candleholder. The candle is made from pear jam, and the cover is Foie Gras crème brulee. I like this dish, but at some point I felt the foie gras crème brulee is just too much in terms of quantity. It’s nice, but after a certain amount it’s just feel too rich and sweet.

Aronia11This wine uses night-harvested grapes to ensure the maximum quality of the grapes. A perfect companion with the next two upcoming dishes.

Aronia27Breakfast

Do you remember the last time you had cereal for your breakfast, Maybe accompanied with some milk, or even with an egg on the side? This is the same feeling when this dish arrived at my table, but with extra excitement. You have poached egg, guinea fowl broth, and shaved truffle on the left, and the cereal flakes on the right. Instead of using corn flakes, this one you have potato flakes instead. Mix them together, and you will wish to have this breakfast anytime. The chef always use the egg that comes from special breed of chicken. Akiko explained that the chicken is fed with the pressed grapes that used to make wine ( I don’t know what they’re being called with), so it will produce a rich and flavorful egg. The egg yolk looks slightly orangey.

Aronia12Mont Blanc

This dish is inspired from mount Fuji. Pan fried fish (it’s a Japanese fish, but still in flounder family) served with black seaweed puree, lily bulb, milk foam, and white wine sauce. The seaweed puree gives the sea flavor to the fish. The combination of this dish plus the nutty texture from the lily bulb brings great flavor to your palate.

Aronia15This tells me a good Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t always come from France. The best companion for my meat.

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Excitement, that is what they continuously deliver to every diner. Before the main begin, Akiko served us an unedible tablet, then the magic started when she pour the hot water onto it. The tablet turns into a hand towel to wipe our hands. Beside that, it has the forest aroma to maximize the dish experience.

Aronia13Venison

I felt like having the whole forest on the table. Here you have Hokkaido venison, bamboo shoot, chestnut, ginko nut, shitake, burdock, edible charcoal (it’s a Japanese sweet potato), some mountain vegetables, and served on top of pine bark. Chef Takazawa proved it here that he is a grilling expert, based on his experience on Yakitori places. The meat was grilled perfectly, and so the other component. Amazing.

Aronia14Champagne to eat

This is a better version from my previous meal at Namaaz. Basically, this is a carbonated fruits. But I can’t denied the quality of the white muscats. They’re incredibly fresh and sweet.

Aronia16Japanese Ice wine

Aronia17Tiramisu

This is Takazawa interpretation for tiramisu. It’s a combination of grated chestnut, mascarpone ice cream, and coffee mousse, a lovey dessert after a roller coaster meal.

Aronia18Tea Selections

Aronia19Petit Four

Matcha marshmallow, roasted tea meringue, Japanese chili chocolate, yuzu cake.

Undoubtedly, this is the best dining experience so far. It struck your mind and emotion right away to the core. The service was immaculate, Akiko has a pure sense of what I call it honest hospitality with no bullshit or whatever.

Chef Takazawa is a genius on his game. He is serious, I mean dead serious about what he does. I asked Akiko about those prestigious awards like Michelin guide, San Pellegrino, or other best restaurant award. I believe that Takaza deserve a star or two if not three. Akiko was just smile and shake her head. I asked “Why not?” and she replied, “We are happy for just being like this”.

I was finishing my meal, paying the bill, taking some pictures, saying goodbye, and left the restaurant with a thought on my mind. Do these awards really matter?Based on this amazing dinner, it’s almost impossible for Takazawa not to earn those awards. But then again, even without those accolades, getting a reservation is a tough one. You need at least 3 months to get a table.

Some chefs work their ass off, put their reputation on the line to get recognition. But when they get it, they must maintain it by following their game. This is where some restaurant is becoming too cliche. They lost their freedom, their imagination, or even their true identity.

Some chefs, are just care about what they do, their main duty, which is to give customer the best meal. They don’t give a damn about those awards. This is where they have their own game, maintain their identity, free their imagination, and I think this is what Takazawa is all about. A proper meal.

Takazawa

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Sanyo Akasaka Bld. 2F 3-5-2 Akasaka Minatoku Tokyo ,Japan

TEL:03-3505-5052

reservation@takazawa-y.co.jp

http://www.aroniadetakazawa.com/

*update:Takazawa just got #31 at Asia50best by San Pellegrino on Feb 2013. I dined in this restaurant on early Dec 2012.

Amber

Richard Ekkebus, is a culinary director of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel Amber Restaurant. He is a Dutch-born, and has been trained in several French culinary maestros such as Passard, Gagnaire, and Guy Savoy. The restaurant earns two Michelin Star and 50Best restaurant from Aqua Panna San Pellegrinno Award.

Amber restaurant tries to serve the best ingredients around the world, and treated with European techniques.

 

IMG_1717Bread

IMG_1718Foie Gras Lollipop, Raspberry and Beetroot

This lollipop reminds me of Heston’s idea of creating orange that made from chicken liver. This was delicious. This kind of thing will put a smile on your face when you eat it.

IMG_1719White Asparagus Sabayon, Serano Ham

IMG_1723LANGOUSTINE in organic tomato & watermelon ‘nage’ with espelette chili & coriander

The langoustine was cooked perfectly, and the nage compliments really well. For me, this dish is about clarity, the pureness of flavor that comes from the produce. It was refreshing and tasty.

HOKKAIDO SEA URCHIN in a Lobster jell-O with Cauliflower, caviar,Crispy Seaweed Waffles

The most expensive seafood gathered together on the table. The bottom layer is cauliflower mousse, and followed by sea urchin, lobster gel and topped by caviar. This Rolls-Royce  spread served with seaweed waffles.

IMG_1726TASMANIAN SALMON confit & Smoked
avocado, Horseradish & Granny smith apple

For me, the Salmon itself is more than enough on the plate. It has the smoke sensation and perfect texture and flavor. This is an amazing piece of salmon.

IMG_1727DUCK FOIE GRAS steamed then charcoal grilled with virgin pistachio oil salt-roasted beetroots in cherry juice & hibiscus reduction

Charcoal grilled Foie Gras? Just by reading the title, I can imagine this dish will worth to die for. Creamy, fatty, rich, and tasty Foie Gras with the reduction was just mind blowing.

KAGOSHIMA WAGYU BEEF sirloin MS: A4, oven roasted
 purée of ‘forgotten’ shallots

The roasted beef can’t get any better than dish, especially for the shallot pureee was just beyond expectation. On the contrary, I don’t really like the braised beef. It tasted somewhat too sweet for me.

IMG_1730French Farmer Cheeses

IMG_1733BLOOD ORANGE sorbet with florentine’s & confit zest
a semi fredo inspired after ‘calissons de provençe’

 IMG_1735ALBINAO 85% CHOCOLATE soufflé with
cacao sorbet

If I only have one more chance to eat chocolate before I die. This souffle will be on my option.

IMG_1736Petit Four

Clearly, Hong Kong has been step up his game since the past few years in this industry. This is the place where East meet West, the place where in the restaurant scene is not limited to one particular source of ingredient or technique. In Amber restaurant, you’ll find best of the best ingredients from around the world that handled with generous amount of passion and skills. Definitely worth a journey.

Amber Restaurant

The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
15 Queen’s Road, Seventh Floor
The Landmark
Central, Hong Kong

Hours of Operation
Breakfast
Monday to Sunday 7:00 am – 10:30 am

Lunch
Monday to Sunday 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Dinner
Monday to Sunday 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm

http://www.amberhongkong.com

Eleven Madison Park

#50 Best Restaurant in 2010,  #24 Best Restaurant in 2011, and #10 Best Restaurant in 2012, *** Michelin, Eleven Madison Park or known as EMP unarguably is one of the best restaurant in the world. The Switzerland chef, Daniel Humm, sharpened his skills at 3 Michelin Star restaurant Le Pont De Brent. In 2005, he won Food & Wine Best New Chef Award from his previous restaurant, Campton Place in San Francisco.

 

This luxurious restaurant offers modern French cuisine. Clearly, chef Humm is so obsessed with perfection and great produce. The structure of the flavor in every dish elevates your palate from the mildest taste as possible to the strongest element. It’s all about multi-sensory dining experienced where texture, aroma, flavor, and presentation play harmoniously on the table.

 

I had a full-course tasting menu.

 Smoked Apple Tea

The sweet and sourness from this apple consommé refresh your palate instantly.

 Quail Egg, Bacon, Toasted Brioche.

The combination of flavor plays really well on your palate. The quail egg was still runny inside so that it melted in my mouth like butter. The thin strip of bacon was like binding the flavor together. Delicious.

 Black and White cookies.

This is the twist of New York traditional cookies. Don’t be fooled. It wasn’t chocolate and vanilla cream, but truffle and goat’s milk. Amazing!

 Mackerel and Scallop

Scallop:  Scallop Crisp, Scallop Ceviche, Black Sesame Puree

Mackerel: Horseradish Chip, Mustard

Both combinations work well. I like the texture difference between the scallop ceviche and the crisp. There was a hint of Meyer lemon that brought up the flavor of the scallop dish.

 

Greek Yoghurt Lollipop with a hint of curry

Eating this lollipop will instantly transform you into a small kid and his ice cream. I found this lollipop dish was clever. The crunchiness and the smoothness of the yoghurt made you want this even more.

Chickpea panisee with Yoghurt

 Shrimp, celery root, apple snow

This tiny little bowl was absolutely refreshing, the shrimp was really fresh, and each component  played really well.

Clambake

This dish was quite gimmicky, the waiter started to pour water on to the hot stone and immediately the sea aroma was filing your nose. There are two versions of clam, the first one is clamp with butternut squash and chorizo. The second one is clam with celeriac, apple, and fennel. The other side are chorizo cornbread madelaine and lobster croquet. The clam chowder presents simplicity at its best. It’s thick, rich, but mild at the same time, tasty. I hope I can enjoy this bowl of clam chowder on the beach.

 Bread with Cow and Goat’s Milk Butter.

The texture of the bread was really good, but I found it somewhat too salty. Quite disappointing for me.

 AlmondVariations with Mangalitsa Ham and white Balsamic vinaigrette

 Foie Gras Cured with Black sesame, Gem Lettuce, and Duck Proscuito

This Foie Gras salad was quite surprising for me. This dish was like a great escape from the pan fried foie gras cliche. It was well balanced. The cured Foie-Gras co-operate really well with the vinaigrette and the greens, it wasn’t that bold and over-rich.

Sturgeon

Smoked sturgeon with Caviar, Pickels, and Cream Cheese, Poached Quail Egg, Lettuce.

The smoked fish was tasty and has the perfect texture. The one thing I like about this dish is the caviar itself. Heaven!. The combination of the caviar and the Meyer Lemon-cream cheese was fantastic.

 Whey: Fresh Curd, Caraway Gnocchi, and Spring Herbs

My personal opinion, I don’t like this dish at all, the broth tasted somewhat weird in my palate. It was like eating greens with plain hot water.

 Lobster

Meyer Lemon-poached lobster, Burnt Leek, and Shellfish Bisque.

The lobster was absolutely fantastic, spotless cooking. The burnt leek was great, it has the sweetness and smoky flavor that compliment the lobster really well.

 Beef

55 days-dry aged beef roasted with Wood Sorrel, Marble potatoes, pea puree, mushroom, bordelaise sauce.

I’m not a big fan of “sous-vide” beef, I prefer my beef to have some burnt mark on it, tender but not soft. Overall it’s a great dish anyway. Unarguably delicious.

 Chuef Lada: Marble Potatoes, Pearl Onions, and Mustard Greens

I didn’t really enjoy this dish. It was too heavy for a long course.

Egg Cream

Orange, Cocoa Nib, and Seltzer

The egg cream is a traditional new-yorker drink. It was prepared tableside.

 Cheesecake:Goat Cheese, Cara Cara Orange, Vanilla

The orange sat nicely to balance the richness of the cheese. This was so good!

 Chocolate Sorbet with Caramelized cocoa Pastry, Meyer Lemon, and Olive Oil

This dessert was blowing my mind away. The combination of texture and the flavor married each other brilliantly.

 There you go, this is the true version of black and white cookies.

 

 

I was coming to this restaurant with pretty high expectation. Overall , I like the progression of flavor and texture that coming from each dish. But in my opinion, I just felt that the flavor’s journey failed to reach the climax. Clearly, this restaurant was worth *** star and one of the best restaurant in the world. I can feel that the chef was so obsessed with great produce and the natural flavor that comes from it. They apply the modern techniques a lot into the food and serve in immaculate presentation. Great experience overall. I was not feeling disappointed, but maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.

 

Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010

Phone: 212.889.0905

Lunch: Monday–Friday, noon–2:00p.m.
Dinner: Monday–Saturday, 5:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m

http://www.elevenmadisonpark.com