Lunch @ Le Sputnik ル スプートニク (Tokyo, Japan)

January 8, 2019 in French by thywhaleliciousfay

When chef-owner Jason Tan of Corner House strongly recommended Le Sputnik on his Instagram, I knew I had to check out the Michelin starred French restaurant. And thus, reservation was made on Tablecheck via Le Sputnik’s website.

Shortly after I made my reservation, I received an email from Le Sputnik team. In it, they mentioned they often serve game animals such as venison, duck, pigeon, etc for main and asked if I had any objection. To which, I replied with my dietary restriction of ‘no beef’. And at the same time, I also requested for the ‘foie gras-beetroot’ dish as I wasn’t sure if it was included in the lunch menu. So yes, if one is only lunching at Le Sputnik and wishes to have the ‘foie gras-beetroot’ dish, one would need to request for it as they don’t normally put that on the lunch menu.

It was a breeze locating Le Sputnik with Google map. Upon entry, the staff led me to my assigned table which gave me a good view of the kitchen through its full height glass door. And with that, I commenced my 8-course tasting lunch menu, ¥6000 with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Japanese pear wrapped with tile fish, served on a handpicked volcanic rock from Mount Fuji.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Burdock-wrapped sweet fish (ayu) placed on a huge pile of fried burdock strips. The staff mentioned the sweet fish was dusted with five spices and burdock powder, and asked me to enjoy it with the balsamic vinegar sauce. I tried my best to finish the fried burdock strips, but I just couldn’t. Too much lah.

3) Bread (above)

4) Dish #3 (above) – Cod milt (shirako) topped with burnt butter sauce, and served with olive oil and herbs.



  

5) Dish #4 (above) – Foie gras torchon and beets. And ain’t it a beauty? Assembled to look like a rose. And yes, the thin crispy beet chips were ‘stuck’ into the foie gras, which also had a layer of beet jelly over it, to hold them in position. Innovative!


6) Dish #5 (above) – Fermented mushroom crepe with grated truffle. And when this was first served, it looked pretty non-appetising because everything on the plate was brown. Ie, no vibrant colours. So thank goodness for the egg and asparagus within the crepe. And I liked how they played with (contrasting) temperatures; Warm cooked food and cold mushroom ice cream with bacon bits.


7) Dish #6 (above) – Garoupa with dashi-broth foam.

8) Dish #7 (above) – Grilled deer. And no, the (real) branch was inedible.


  

9) Dish #8 (above) – Sake kasu ice cream, and ball of yuzu jelly and chocolate mousse that’s covered with meringue sheets and grated yuzu peel. I really liked this.

10) Petit fours (above) – Cream puff choux dusted with matcha powder, and hojicha pudding with olive oil and rock salt.

11) Coffee, Complimentary (above)

I left the restaurant feeling very happy. Corner House’s chef Jason Tan was spot on with his recommendation. Food was great, atmosphere was comfortable and service was professional.

There’s no menu at Le Sputnik. Only a piece of paper to introduce the restaurant’s concept. I guess the absence of a menu was the restaurant’s intention to maintain the customers’ anticipation of what’s going to be served next. So when every dish was served, the staff would give a very detailed introduction. And a particular female waiting staff manager stood out. I liked how she was able to inject interesting comments on top of the already-lengthy introductions. I had lots of good laugh thanks to her. And throughout my meal, I could sense the team’s passion and sincerity in wanting to share chef-owner Yujiro Takahshi’s creations with customers.

As taken from their website, ‘Sputnik’ is a Russian word originally meaning a ‘travelling companion’. And as very beautifully described by website EATPIAEvery diner becomes a fellow traveler on chef Takahashi san’s gastronomy journey at Le Sputnik.

Do I recommend 1 Michelin star Le Sputnik? Definitely!

LE SPUTNIK ル スプートニク
7-9-9 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 六本木 7-9-9 リッモーネ六本木 1F)
+81 3 6434 7080, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 15:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

Lunch @ Caprice (Hong Kong)

October 22, 2018 in French by thywhaleliciousfay

While having dinner with the friend who made August 2018′s gastronomic trip to Hong Kong possible, I was chided for having not blogged about the restaurants we went (in Hong Kong). But honestly, my backlog is really long; I have 30 restaurants to write, just from my trips alone. Gasp. But since it’s mentioned, I felt I should quickly review my topmost favourite restaurant from our Hong Kong trip. And yes, that’s Caprice!

I meant to dine at Michelin-starred Caprice earlier when I was in Hong Kong with my colleagues in May 2018 but the restaurant was serving a special menu as it was the Mother Day’s weekend. Since I preferred regular menu, my colleague and I went to Belon instead. But once I knew (in April) that I was returning to Hong Kong again in August, I made my reservation for weekday lunch by dropping Caprice an email.

In the same email, I enquired about the menu and got to learn there’s also a surprise tasting menu in addition to the set lunch and a la carte menus. The surprise tasting menu, also known as ‘Menu Carte Blanche’, was a 8-courses surprise menu prepared by head chef Guillaume Galliot. It was also mentioned in the email that the surprise menu will not be sent prior to lunch. Hmm, okie… I had to fill a credit card authorisation form too to secure my reservation.

I arrived at the restaurant 5 minutes prior to 12pm. And since I was early, I waited at the lounge before the staff led me to my table. And the waiting staff attending to me was informed of my interest in the surprise tasting menu as indicated in my reservation email. Upon seated, she said I could refer to their menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) before deciding if I wanted the lunch set or continue with my surprise tasting menu. It’s to note the latter was not shown in the presented menus.

No surprises that I stuck to my original choice. And with that, I started my Menu Carte Blanche (HKD2080) lunch with:-


1) Bread platter, Complimentary (above) – The staff came up with a basket of chilli challah, sesame brioche, mini baguette and chestnut rye bread. I really wanted to try one of everything, but I went with the sesame brioche only because I knew I had to save my stomach space for what’s to come. Appetite has shrunk much. Sob. And I was given salted and unsalted butter to pair with my bread.


  

2) Dish #1 (above) – Comprised of king crab, oyster and caviar, this was so good! The tangy potato foam worked well with the caviar in bringing out the sweetness of the king crab. And I liked the addition of cubed pickled celery as it introduced another texture into the dish. Brilliantly executed.


3) Dish #2 (above) – When I was presented with a vegetable dish for my 2nd course, my heart took a dip. How do I say this… I need some meat in my dishes. But! This was amazing. I called this the ‘everything tomato’ dish because it was literally so; Tomato bisque with a layer of tomato jelly (and tomato seed), various types of tomato which include pineapple tomato (the yellow one) and sea tomato (the green one), and a scoop of burrata cheese sprinkled with (even more) tomato powder. Really amazing. I shall not judge a vegetarian dish anymore. Kekeke.


4) Dish #3 (above) – Blue lobster was served within a glass dome so as to allow customers to get a sniff of the truffle & coriander within when the lid was opened.

5) Dish #4 (above) – Turbot, caviar on potato, and saffron sauce made with cream and herbs.


  

6) Dish #5 (above) – Before being plated, the waiting staff brought the whole racan pigeon to the table and explained it’s roasted and smoked inside a cocoa pod. And for the final product, the pigeon was served alongside foie gras, fig marmalade and white celery.


7) Dish #6 (above) – Roasted pork loin with pork juice, artichoke, French bean, black olive and artichoke purée.

8) Dish #7 (above) – At this point, I was presented with a large variety of freshly imported French cheese placed on an oak slab. There were more than 10 to choose from. Unfortunately, I am not too well-versed with my cheeses. So I said I had no preference. To which the staff said he will include Caprice’s signature in my cheese platter. 5 minutes later, he placed the plate in front of me and recommended me to start from my 6 o’clock and go clockwise. And the third would be Caprice’s signature. Can’t remember if he said it was aged 3.5 months or 3.5 years. Sorry. And to go with the cheeses, the staff also presented me with a bread platter. Again, I asked for recommendation and he mentioned the French would traditionally have their cheese with baguette although there’s also the second group who would prefer cracker. He personally preferred the former and I decided to go with that. And honestly, bread is always a (good) choice. Keke!

9) Palate cleanser, Complimentary (above) – Coconut biscuit with blueberry sorbet.


10) Dish #8 (above) – Blueberry panna cotta with figs that’s in season. This was really good!

11) Petit fours, Complimentary (above) – Chocolate puff, pineapple tart with mint, and chocolate with hazelnut and almond within. And I checked… The drawer was empty. Sob.

12) Coffee or tea, Complimentary (above) – And I went with coffee.

The interior of Caprice was nothing like any of the other fine dining restaurants I visited. Gigantic chandeliers hanged from the ceiling, thick lush carpet was used for the flooring, and gold back-painted frosted tiles were used for the elevated walkway which stretched the entire length of the dining hall. Everything screamed “luxurious” to me. And I felt like a VIP as I strutted down the ‘runway’, with staff greeting me as I walked past. And because my assigned table was at the furthest end from the entrance, I walked past the open-concept kitchen which was positioned in the middle of the space.

It should most likely be the fact that I was the earliest customer to start my lunch that I was given the most corner seat. But I somehow felt that it’s actually because they gave much consideration that I was a solo diner; Corner seat so that I wouldn’t be scrutinised by curious eyes of the lunch crowd which mainly came in groups. And it was a nice gesture to be given magazines just in case I needed something to kept myself occupied. Lovely! And yes, I dined at Caprice alone because my friend wanted to check out Bo Innovation which I had already tried in 2017.

I don’t have the habit of going to the toilet in the midst of my meal, but I was glad I did at Caprice. Enroute to the restaurant’s toilet, one could get a glimpse of the chefs plating before the food was sent out to customers. And as I walked back to my table, the staff caught sight of me and strode before me to pull the heavy leather-cushioned chair out for me. Nice. I also noticed I was given a new napkin which was placed on a plate instead of directly onto the table. Wow.

Everything was top-notch. Food, service and ambience. I absolutely enjoyed myself. And to top it, I had a clear view of the Victoria Harbour! It was a flawless lunch experience. I highly recommend 2 Michelin stars Caprice. And including tax, I paid HKD2288 for lunch. But do note that one will need to be at the restaurant by 1pm if one wishes to order the surprise tasting menu during lunch!

CAPRICE
8 Finance Street Central, Four Seasons Hotel, 6/F, Central, Hong Kong
+852 3196 8860, Website
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Sun : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 9
Mon – Sun : 18:30 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 9

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 3 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Hong Kong 2019.

Dinner @ Le Mout (Taichung, Taiwan)

July 8, 2018 in French by thywhaleliciousfay

Yeah! I am finally posting the last of my Taiwan’s fine dining meals from my September 2017 and January 2018 trips. My post on Le Mout took longer (compared to my posts on RAW, MUME, Nihonryori RyuGin and Kitcho) because I couldn’t remember which pictures go where. Ie, I mixed up the photographs that I took of my mom’s dishes and mine. Oops.

So while I could easily find information of the fine dining scene in Taipei, I didn’t know much about Taichung’s. It was only after googling with keywords ‘fine dining’, ‘Taichung’ and ‘recommended’ that I got to learn about Le Mout. And it’s crazy of me to have forgotten Le Mout when they were on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants by S. Pellegrino from 2014 to 2017. I follow this list, you see.

But again, I couldn’t find much information of Le Mout on the internet. Especially of their menu. Thus, I dropped them an email. And in their response, I was told that they offer 3 menus:-
  - Menu creation, NT$3500
  - Menu Sensation, NT$4500
  - Menu Souvenirs, NT$6500 (For dinner and weekends only. Require 3 days advanced pre-order)

With the ‘right now’ mentality, I decided not to postpone my-dining-at-Le-Mout since I wasn’t sure when I would be back to Taiwan. Least to speak, Taichung. Thus, I replied to make dinner reservation for 2. A few more emails were exchanged as they asked for our dietary restriction, etc.

Except for the outskirts, my mom and I explored Taichung by bus. So yes, we arrived at the restaurant by bus and were welcomed to a sight of a fancy 4-storey building. We waited at the lounge before we were led to level 2.

Upon seated, the waiting staff presented us our menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4). And because we pre-informed our dietary restriction, the waiting staff mentioned the beef main course was substituted with goose and pigeon for my Mom’s NT$4500 course and my NT$6500 course respectively.

And with that, we started our dinner with:-

  

1) Bread platter, Complimentary (above) – Taiwanese sausage bread (top, left) and macadamia-berries bread (top, right) made with honey and natural yeast. Paired with seaweed and salted butters.

2) Menu Sensation, NT$4500 comprised of:-

(A) Appetiser #1 (above) – Fermented cabbage ball and salmon.

(B) Appetiser #2 (above) – Le Mout’s take on Taiwan’s preserved turnip egg omelette (菜脯蛋). Made with with 12-years aged turnip sauce.

(C) Organic white asparagus (above) – With morels, borage.


(D) Green garden (above) – Summer vegetables, sun-dried fermented cabbage, chicken wing confit, “crema” goat cheese. Besides having the chicken stuffed with cheese, it was also served in different textures as paste and shredded meat. Really nice.

(E) Maine lobster (above) – With dill, taro and shallot.

(F) 7 day-aged goose (above) – With blazei mushroom, mustard green and rice sauce.

(G) Like “ispahan” (above) – With raspberry, rose, litchi, cacao consomme jelly.

(H) Tahiti (above) – Tropical fruits and vanilla. With an island theme, there was mango-jelly bikini, coconut-sorbet sand, handmade-choux-puff coconut tree, watermelon-flavoured-marshmallow starfish and vanilla ice cream. Too cute.

(I) Mignardise (above)

3) Menu souvenirs, NT$6500 comprised of:-

(A) Appetiser #1 (above) – A little different from my Mom’s where my fermented cabbage ball was served on dried scallop (干贝) julienness. This was interesting as it contained mousse inside too. And instead of salmon, I was served crisp roll with thick and creamy river clam puree within (top, left).


(B) Appetiser #2 (above) – Beneath the cheese foam was chopped melon, bitter gourd and scallop.

(C) “Blanc a manger” (above) – With hybrid sturgeon caviar, celery, white peppercorn, river clam. I was surprised to be tucking into a warm dish since it looked like a cold dish cause of the hybrid sturgeon caviar. Haha. With layers of river clam essence, celery purée with celery bits, meringue and white peppercorn (right at the bottom), I was impressed that the third layer of meringue maintained its foamy texture well despite the weight of the top 2 layers and after I dig my spoon into the dish. Keke.


(D) Organic white asparagus (above) – With kinmen beef, morels, borage. And the staff poured chicken broth through the hole of the bread. So to enjoy the soup, we would tear push the bread into the soup since that’s the way before we could access to taste the soup. Keke. But I was a little sad that while the original menu had beef for this, mine came meatless (since I don’t eat beef).

(E) Gourd (above) – Australian black truffle, rice noodle, salted duck egg yolk.

(F) Maine lobster (above) – With dill, taro and shallot.

  

(G) “Pigeon fermier de la drome” (above) – With sweet potato leaves, foie gras, almond, fig. Before my main was presented, the staff came up with a tray of 6 knives for me to choose from. And I went with Corsican’s Damascus U Cumpa knife with rhino horn handle. And it’s also after our dinner at Le Mout that I googled and realised the knife cost €500. Gasp.

(H) Nympheas (above) – Nympheas being a French word for water lily, this dessert was inspired by Japanese painter Claude Monet’s water lilies painting. A very refreshing dish with varying textures; Winter melon jelly, tofu pudding in jasmine tea soup. I really enjoyed this.

(I) Tahiti (above) – Tropical fruits and vanilla.

(J) Mignardise (above)

My Mom and I really enjoyed our meal at Le Mout. Now… The interior of Le Mout was very elegantly done up. So one may feel conscious of oneself especially if one do not fine-dine often. So when we entered, my Mom felt a little out-of-place. My Mom is really down-to-earth and frugal. Although beside the ambience, my Mom was conscious because she didn’t want me to splurge too much. But all thanks to the really friendly and professional restaurant manager Chester Su, my Mom eased up and that really allowed her to enjoy the meal to the fullest.

Will I recommend Le Mout? A definite yes.

However… It’s unfortunate that owner-chef Lanshu Chen would be closing down Le Mout by December 2018 after 10 years of operation. As taken from their Facebook page, head chef Lanshu is not comfortable with the changing landscape of fine dining where everyone is a mass critic with nicely edited photos on social media, chefs having to interact with public by going to stages and speak, and handling public relations. In her words, the fine dining scene has become very far from what she was inspired by in the old days of grand chef era.

It’s a great pity but it must not be easy for her to make such a decision. So while it’s a loss to the fine dining scene, I respect her decision. So if one really wants to try her cooking philosophy of ‘haute cuisine de terroir’ which marries classic French techniques with sustainable local (Taiwanese) ingredients, do dine by December 2018.

LE MOUT RESTAURANT 樂沐法式餐廳
No. 59, Cunzhong Street, West District, Taichung, Taiwan
+886 4 2375 3002, Website, FaceBook
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Sat – Sun : 11:30 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 9
Wed – Sun : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 9
 
* Closed on Mon, Tues