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

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

Dinner @ Belon (Hong Kong)

July 5, 2018 in French by thywhaleliciousfay

My colleague and I happened to travel to Hong Kong during Mother’s Day weekend. So it’s no surprise that most restaurants offered special menu instead. However I, on the other hand, wanted a regular menu since I blog about my dining experiences. And just as I was struggling to find a place, I saw pictures of Belon’s signature dish pigeon pithivier on instagram.

An email was sent and they confirmed that Belon would still be offering their regular menu. With that, reservation was made for 2 for a Sunday evening. Was really glad they were opened on Sundays too.

Opened in March 2016, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants by S. Pellegrino has already ranked the restaurant 40 on its 2018 list. As taken from Belon’s website… Belon, a neo-Parisian bistro reminiscing the food scene found in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, is led by head chef Daniel Calvert who has 10 years of experience in Michelin-starred kitchens.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2), my colleague and I ordered:-


1) Appetiser, Complimentary (above) – Cream-mustard filled gougère. This was really good. Just look at the melted cheese. My colleague and I contemplated if we should ask for seconds, but we decided not to. Don’t want to throw our faces by seeming like gluttons lah.

2) Handmade natural leavened bread, Complimentary (above)

3) Crispy asparagus with “sauce gribiche”, HKD78 (above) – My colleague and I casually mentioned we would be sharing the dishes when our orders were taken, and it was nice that the waiting staff took (serious) note of it. When our dish was served, the kitchen portioned the asparagus into 2 for our ease of eating.

4) Foie gras “au torchon” with preserved blackberries, HKD328 (above)

5) Shima aji “salade nicoise”, HKD228 (above)


6) Merguez sausage sandwich with salsa verde, HKD158 (above) – This was really good. I especially liked that the texture of the homemade sausage (made with chicken and lamb) reminded me much of luncheon meat. Compressed luncheon meet. Keke.


7) Pigeon pithivier with fig and amaretto, HKD678 (above) – What no one mentioned was that it’s a dish for 2. So it was sad because I arrived at Belon with a colleague wanting to try as many dishes as possible. But, but… We could only try just 1 main. Sob. But thankfully this didn’t disappoint. A little on the heavy side, but we were 2 happy patrons.

8) Tarte au chocolate “bernard pacaud”, HKD158 (above) – We actually expected the chocolate to be hard, but were surprised when our forks sliced through very easily. Not too bad.

I definitely recommend Belon. My colleague and I had a good time dining at the restaurant. It’s a pity there was only 2 of us because I wanted to try other dishes; Roasted chicken and millefeuille.

And it’s another pity Belon was only open for lunch service on Sundays. When we arrived at 8.30pm, I noticed the space was dimly lit. And I felt that did the interior decor little justice because I could imagine how gorgeous the space would be to dine in during the day with sun rays entering through the window and lighting up the place. But I guess with the dim lights, the restaurant transited from ‘elegant yet relaxed’ in the day to ‘romantic and seductive’ in the night.

BELON
41 Elgin Street, SoHo, Hong Kong
+852 2152 2872, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tue – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 8
Sun : 12:00 – 22:30
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon