Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester ***

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
53 Park Ln, Mayfair,London
W1K 1QA, UK
+44 20 7629 8866
Official Site

Alain Ducasse is one of the most decorated and influential chef/ restaurateur in the world. He holds an astronomical 18 Michelin stars (only bested by Joel Robuchon), including three restaurants in different cities with three stars; a feat that he was the first to accomplished. This was no easy task, but Chef Ducasse remarkably managed to achieve this twice. His dining empire stretches continents and his restaurant can be found in every major global city like New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. In London, he has the three Michelin starred Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, and Rivea in the Bulgari Hotel.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester opened its door in 2007. Within two years, it was awarded two stars by the Michelin guide. A year later the ultimate third star came; joining the ranks of Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, The Waterside Inn and The Fat Duck as the only restaurant in the UK to have three stars. Taking charge of the kitchen from day one and responsible for the restaurants ascession to the top was head chef Jocelyn Harland; who has since been dispatched to lead Le Meurice in Paris in early 2016. Sous chef Jean-Philippe Blondet, a veteran of the Ducasse restaurant group was promoted to head chef. He was tasked to maintain the Ducasse standard and under his leadership Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester retained its three stars in the current UK Michelin guide.

This flagship restaurant of the iconic Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair has an understated interior, with a touch of contemporary elegance. The dining room is surrounded by wooden paneled walls;, the tables are dressed in beige and white cloth, and the chairs are draped with lush leather. Its center piece, “Table Lumiere”, a private table for up-to-six guests is surrounded by fiber optics strand. Separated from the main dining room next to the windows is another area with additional tables. The space has plenty of natural lights, and Hyde Park serves as its background. Chandeliers shaped in metallic leaves stretched from one end to the other and hangs above its tall ceiling.

A la carte, tasting menu and a seasonal tasting menu are offered for both afternoon and evening while a special three course is available for lunch. On this visit, I had the seven course tasting menu for 145 GBP that started with a handful of gourges or cheese puffs. Soft and airy cheese puffs are flavored with either paprika or pepper was nice to snack on while waiting. First course was the Dorset crab celeriac and caviar. Thinly sliced celeriac rolled and stuffed with tasty crab meat are topped with caviar. The caviar topping was a great way to elevate the crab meat, giving it a bite of saltiness. As a bonus, a extra crispy crab claw fried in tempura batter is added to the already savory plate.

Next were the Guinea fowl and duck foie gras terrine rhubarb.  The terrine was scrumptious and had delightful richness. Providing a certain tartness to complement the terrine was the rhubarb. The third course, saute gourmand of lobster truffled chicken quenelles, was the signature dish of the restaurant. Lobster, chicken and pasta drowning in cream sauce packed of wonderful deep savory flavors. This course was the highlight of the meal.

Line-caught sea bass cucumber and juniper came after. The sea bass was firm yet delicately tender and was seasoned beautifully. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same with the cucumber on the plate as it was a tad too salty for my palate. For the main course, I was served the Milk-fed lamb green peas and mint.  Perfectly cooked lamb chops were extremely succulent and flavorful. Along with the peas and the green vegetable puree on this dish, the mint accompanied the lamb fittingly.

The cheese course was an Assortment of four French cheeses with varying types of textures and sharpness. Served with different condiments, the spicy puree worked particularly very well with all four cheeses.

The sweet course started with Mignardises & Gourmandise; consisting of macaroons, homemade caramel candy, coated almonds and chocolates all presented at the same time while desert followed shortly. Marking the end of the meal, I was served Berry contemporary vacherin that was mightly sweet and almost syrupy. However, the sweetness was wonderfully subdued by the vacherin, and its savory and acidic features. There was also a cold aspect to desert that was quiet refreshing.

With the exception of the cucumber in the sea bass course, this was a very good meal where the cooking standard is equally as high as the execution. I find their Modern French cuisine to be light and satisfying. In each course, the individual components worked together harmoniously, striking the right balance on the plate. To go along with this tasting, I requested for the 95 GBP wine paring that included Alain Ducasse’s own champagne label. The pairing was perfect, all seven individual glasses enhanced the flavors in each course it was paired with. The restaurants wine list is plentiful and consists of predominantly French wines and some from continental Europe and Australia. I was extremely surprised to see US wines on their list.

The service was polished and faultless. The multicultural staff exudes calm and confidence. They worked the busy dining room flawlessly and discreetly, glancing unnoticeably at every table often assuring diners were properly looked after.

Wine Pairing:

This was my first foray to an Alain Ducasse establishment. The service and the setting is what I anticipated. The food, though it was very good it just did not exceed what I was hoping for.  Perhaps it was the name associated with it or the three Michelin stars that set my expectation too high.  Nevertheless Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, is still worthy of the label as one of the finest dining venue that London has to offer.

 

2016 Dining Recap

 

Having visited a handful of Michelin starred, World’s 50 Best and other top restaurants in Asia and Europe, 2016 was great dining year. My journey began at Hong Kong where I dined at Lung King Heen, the very first three Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in the world. Needless to say, it had an extremely high quality Cantonese food. The restaurants location on the fourth floor of the Four Season hotel boasts a panoramic view of Victoria Harbor. The two Michelin-starred Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental offers a terrific weekend wine lunch which consists of five courses paired with four glasses of wine. This was one of the best deals out there at 928 HKD for a restaurant at this caliber. Dinner at the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the only of the L’Ateliers with three Michelin stars) was also quite superb.

I waited in queue for hours at Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po, which at that time was the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world (until that distinction was awarded to Singapore’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken in the summer of last year). The dim sum was tasty and I enjoyed every single dish that I had. Frog legs and chicken congee at Tasty Congee & Wuntun Noodle Shop in the IFC was nothing short of delicious. Even better was the chicken and fish congee at the concierge recommended Sang Kee Congee Shop in Sheung Wan. 208 Ducento Otto serves up wonderful cocktails while Angel Share Whisky Bar & Restaurant and its expansive list of whisky is a must-visit for enthusiast while in Hong Kong.

That same journey through Asia led me to Tokyo, Japan. I had my very first meal in this sprawling metropolis at RyuGin, Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s flagship restaurant which has three Michelin stars and ranked number 31 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant. The modern kaiseki that it serves is a reflection of the agricultural bounty of Japan. With each dish skillfully prepared, this was one of the best meals I’ve had. In Ginza, the Omakase at the three Michelin-starred Sushi Yoshitake did not disappoint. The fish and other seafood used in every single piece of Nagiris were extremely fresh. Sushi might be star of the show at this restaurant, but the cooked dishes were equally sublime. It was highlighted by the abalone liver sauce mixed with sushi rice which was a mind-blowing dish that still resonates in my memory.

Hideki Ishikawa is Japan’s most decorated chef/restaurateur with three restaurants under his belt totaling eight Michelin stars. He also has the distinction shared by the likes of the Robuchon’s , the Keller’s and the Ducasse’s to have two restaurants at the same with the maximum rating from the Michelin guide. At his eponymous Ishikawa, I was served a wonderful contemporary style kaiseki that shows simplicity with plenty of subtle flavors. I also visited Kohaku the other three star restaurant of Chef Ishikawa, which is located in the same area and within walking distance from each other. The kitchen is under Koji Koizumi a disciple of Chef Ishikawa. There are many of similarities between them, but the two are distinctly different at the same time. Kohaku is a more modern prepared kaiseki that incorporate foreign ingredients, which are not usually use in Japanese cuisine.

Japan is surprisingly home to one of the finest French restaurant outside of France. Others can argue that it might better than its home country due to the high quality of ingredients it uses produced by Japan. Many of the top French chefs has an outpost sprinkled throughout country, but a large number of them are concentrated in Tokyo. I had a superb tasting menu at Chef Pierre Gaganaire, Two restaurant Peirre Gagnaire Au Tokyo on the 35floor of the ANA Intercontinental, which was awarded two Michelin stars. Each plate were carefully crafted, using only the finest local ingredients. As a bonus, guests enjoyed the scenic view of the whole city as the backdrop while dining. In Roppongi Hills, I dined at Chef of the Century Joel Robochon L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Along with Paris, the Tokyo branch is one of the first L’Ateliers. Having previously gone to the Hong Kong location, these two Michelin starred restaurant are a lot more casual, yet the quality of food is equally top-notched.

Inside the train station in Ginza, resides a minuscule ramen shop called Kagari Echika, which has garnered a lot of following. They served me tasty bowl of ramen, with a broth that has a certain delightful creaminess. In Shinjuku, high above the mall of the train station is Tenichi, where I had some delicate fried tempura accompanied with fresh sashimi. While at Sushi Mamire, I was served with affordable yet enjoyable pieces of sushi and rolls. Pagliaccio Due in Shiba, is an Italian restaurant that serves pleasant dishes like the Seafood Rissotto, and the spaghetti with fish. Night caps in the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, were made lively with tunes from a funky jazz show. Soon after I feasted with the hotel famous weekend brunch. Finally, visiting Japan is not complete without trying the world famous Kobe beef. At Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, I had a magical experience without breaking the bank. The beef was as good as advertised, and every bite was heavenly like cotton candy that melts in the mouth.

From Izakaya’s, to noodle shops, to high end kaiseki, sushi (as well as low end), and to fine French restaurants, I had the greatest time dining in Tokyo. The uncompromising use of quality ingredients in this city restaurant makes Tokyo the gastronomic capital of the world. The two weeks I spent there was simply not enough.

The next stop in my search and passion for fine dining was a short trip to Basel, Switzerland. I had the opportunity to dine at the three Michelin star, Cheval Blanc. The restaurant is located in one of Europe’s oldest hotel Le Trois Rois. Bavarian chef Pete Knogl, is in charge of the kitchen and under his leadership Cheval Blanc was elevated to culinary stardom. The tasting menu has global influences and shows the precision cooking technique of Chef Knogl. Each dish was light and has a fantastic complex combination of flavors and textures.

I couldn’t end 2016 without grazing the home front for some great eats. After all, no one can beat New York City in anything, (at least to a New Yorker that is). I had very good meals at the Upper East Side’s, The NUAA. This beautifully decorated restaurant serves refined Thai fare that’s geared towards the Western palate. Last year, I saw an onslaught of new eateries opening up in the Financial District improving the neighborhood’s restaurants scene. Among them is Eataly Downtown which opened to the public last summer. Much smaller than its older siblings in the Flatiron, this mega food market brought a slew of dining options that includes another outlet of the seafood haven, Il Pesce. The restaurant offers appetizing sustainable seafood prepared in the simplest form. As the last stop of my 2016 journey, West Village Carma Asian Tapas, served an unmatchable creative Far Eastern fare in small plate format. I enjoyed the way the kitchen recreated classic Chinese dishes, as well as using other Western ingredients that aren’t usually found in Asian cooking.

Though 2016 didn’t boast much of my hometown’s variety of eateries, it was a star studded year of dining in the international level. Overall, I would say it was great and successful year of eating. I’m looking forward to an even better 2017 where I plan to focus on New York City, its outer boroughs and state side. Hopefully, I can sprinkle few international trips here and there.

Cheval Blanc ***

Dining Room

Cheval Blanc
at Grand Hotel LES TROIS ROIS
Blumenrain 8
CH-4001
Basel, Switzerland
+41 61 260 50 07
Official Site

Having the headquarters of the two largest pharmaceutical company in the world, Novartis and Hoffman-La Roche, Basel is known as the world’s pharma capital. The city offers more than that, it has a well preserved old town and a dining scene that is underrated compared to other Swiss cities like Zurich and Geneva.  When the restaurant, Cheval Blanc, received the coveted third Michelin star last year, it single handedly put the city of Basel in the global stage of gastronomy.

Grand Hotel LES TROIS ROIS

In charged of the kitchen is German chef Peter Knogl who trained under three Michelin starred chef Heinz Winkler at Tantris in Munich. Chef Knogl came to Cheval Blanc in 2007 and in a matter of months it received its first Michelin star, the second one came a year later and finally the third star was awarded in 2015.  The restaurant also received 19 points from the GaultMillau and was voted as the 2015 best restaurant in a hotel in Europe by the Prix Villegiature. Chef Knogl French haute cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian influence had earned him the title as the best chef in Switzerland in 2011 and 2015.

Entrance

A la carte and two types of tasting menus for lunch and dinner are offered while special lunch set menus are also available. I had the longer tasting menu priced at CHF 220.

Tasting Menu:

Ragout de couteau de mer Textures de champignons, Peta Negra

The meal began with an array of snacks starting with Espuma Jalapeno.  I was instructed to use the spoon and to start from the bottom where a piece of shrimp buried below a chilled jalapeño cream.  Macaron/foie gras de canard, orange, Garam Masala had an airy texture with a touch of orange zest and spices that was in tune with the buttery foie gras. Ragout de couteau de mer, chopped razor clams presented in its half shell had an abundance of deep maritime essence.  Textures de champignons, Peta Negra, mushroom cream on top of crispy chip with some Peta Negra had a very good earthiness. These tasty small bites were a fantastic intro.

Kingfish, avocado, radish and Miso Langoustine, white asparagus and port

The first course was Kingfish, avocado, radish and Miso. Fresh and delicate kingfish had a sublime citric acidity. Avocado puree and radish on the plate worked in harmony together with the fish to create vibrant flavors. Next was Langoustine, white asparagus and port. Firmed and meaty langoustine sat  on top of beautifully poached white asparagus bathed in thick sauce with port wine. The sauce renders hints of sweetness that is infused into the langoustine which also had a hint of sour note in the background.

Filet of red mullet, crispy scales, saffron, black and vinaigrette of tomatoes

Third course was the Filet of red mullet, crispy scales, saffron, black and vinaigrette of tomatoes. The mullet was cooked precisely to have a crispy skin side including the scales keeping the inner part moist and soft. Enriching the fish was the sour acidity of the vivid yellow foam sauce.  Continuing on was the main course of Saddle of suckling lamb, flavored with sweet pepper and ginger. The juicy lamb had a deep scrumptious flavor that was asserted by the strong saltiness of the sauce which was made from its own juices.  Other components gives the dish extra dimension of sweet and spicy.

Saddle of suckling lamb, flavored with sweet pepper and ginger

The cheese course was supposedly a Selection of soft and hard cheeses from Maitre Antony in Ferrette but instead I requested for an all Swiss cheese. I was served with some excellent cheeses from different parts of the country with their own distinct sharpness but with similar firm textures that are common with Swiss cheese.

Cheese Course

Before moving to the sweet course I was served a refreshing palate cleanser of pinacolada. That was followed by a pre-dessert of Mango passion fruit, rice crispy and pannacotta which was a combination of tropical fruits. For dessert I was served Composition of Gariguette strawberries with lime cress. Using special Gariguette strawberries from France which has longer shape than common strawberry and has a sweet candy like taste it was prepared in different ways with varying textures and temperatures while keeping its natural taste. This was an excellent dessert.  To finally conclude the tasting were more sweets that include the mignardaise which was made up of tiny pastries and the petit four which was a collection of Swiss chocolates.

Chef Knogl was in the kitchen on my visit and his standard of cooking reflected on this tasting menu. One after the other every plate in every course has a level of consistency that is inviting to the palate. Each dish was light and has complex textures and taste prepared meticulously. There was a mixture of quality seasonal and foreign ingredients used exquisitely to create superb flavors combinations.

Composition of Gariguette strawberries with lime cress.

Their wine list is vast and comprised mostly from continental Europe. I opted for the 110 CHF wine pairing and made a special request to only have Swiss wine.  The sommelier came through masterfully in choosing red and white wines from different regions of the country. The paring was in symphony and enhances each course in the tasting.

Mignardise Petit-fours

The restaurant’s staff was properly trained and well verse. They were formal yet extremely pleasant and welcoming. Service was restrained. The servers observed from a distant providing a senses of privacy and allowed me to focus and savor my food one bite at a time without too many intrusion.

Wine Pairing:

Wine Pairing

Located in the middle of the old part of Basel, Cheval Blanc is housed inside Grand Hotel Le Trois Rois, one of the oldest hotels in Europe and the most prestigious accommodation in the city. The restaurants interior is induced with class and a hush atmosphere. The dining room’s high ceilings with crystal chandeliers and tall windows overlooked the Rhine. Its clean white walls are decorated with oil paintings. A marble table serves as a centerpiece while the ten uniformed round tables covered in neatly pressed white cloth with each having its own candelabra are distanced properly from one another. Paired with the tables were classic wooden purple velvet chairs.

Dining Room

When a restaurant received plenty of accolades and is considered among the best in the country it sets high expectations. Cheval Blanc had exceeded mine and then more. It was perfection, Chef Knogl prepared a fantastic meal complimented with the finest Swiss wines and a staff focus in providing superior hospitality. I had a complete dining experience well worth the third Michelin star it received last year. Covering all aspect of a top tier dining destination Cheval Blanc exemplifies Swiss culinary excellence.

Pierre Gagnaire **

Dining Room

Pierre Gagnaire
at ANA Inetrcontinental Tokyo
36 Floor
1-12-33 Akasaka, Minato 1070052
Tokyo, Japan
+81 3-3505-1111
Official Site

In Tokyo, French is a cuisine that is well represented. Some may even argue that of the shear top quality of ingredients that Japan produces, French food is slightly better here than anywhere else; even in France! The crème de la crème of French chefs have set up restaurants in this city, like the super star chef Pierre Gagnaire, who’s been in Tokyo for quite some time now. He first opened Pierre Gagnaire a Tokyo in Aoyama back in 2005, before closing it three years later. In 2010 after a two year hiatus he returned to Tokyo in partnership with the Intercontinental Hotel Group to open Pierre Gagnaire at the ANA Intercontinental hotel in Minato-ku. Immediately the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars which it maintained ever since. Executive Chef Yosuke Akasaka leads the charge in this kitchen. He has worked with Pierre Gagnaire at his eponymous restaurant in Paris and was also the head chef at the old Tokyo location.

Pierre Gagnaire

Occupying the 36th floor of the hotel, Pierre Gagnaire offers a fantastic view of the city and Tokyo Tower through its massive windows. In the afternoon, the restaurant has plenty of natural lights while at night the bright lights of Tokyo serves as it’s the back drop. The spacious dining room has tables that were covered in neatly pressed linens, and they are distanced far apart enough from one another for a more intimate setting. Comfortable royal purple velvet chairs and curved banquets with tall back rest were paired with the tables. Wood panel walls adorned with beautiful artwork adds to the sophistication of the interior.

Dining Room Dining Room

There are many set menu options in addition to the a la carte. On my visit I had the “Petit Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire” for YEN 22500, which consisted of five courses. A series of canapes  started the meal, beginning with Roots vegetable soup:salpicon of Botan shrimps and lotus chips. This soup was rich with wonderful flavors of root vegetables. It also had a little sourness that was palpable. Sauerkraut in Espuma, red cabbage and apricot salad, cubes Gewurtzraminer was a cup of thick savory creaminess. Buried underneath, was the apricot salad bursting with a unique musky sweetness. Green brandade, petals of cod, thin slice of red/black radish was a salty dish, but with a nice light watery crunch coming from the radishes. It also offers a hint of bitterness that balanced out the salt. Chaud-Froid of chicken from Nagoyakochin perfumed with tarragon, salmon eggs and campari yogurt sauce, is a creation in which each tiny piece of chicken was carefully selected, as they are usually the finest and priciest in Japan. This type of chicken comes from Nagoya and is an epitome of what a bite of luxury taste like. To cleanse the palate, there was a refreshing citrus Champagne sorbet flavored with lime and frozen clementine.

Petit Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire:

The first course was the Abalone slice and poached in shellfish broth-Saffron braised turnips. Excellent tender chewy abalone had a terrific apparent marine taste.  Next was the Brittany sole  roasted in Sarawak pepper, small shrimp Shimaebi seared with Cognac Galette of Satoimo endive leaf. It had beautiful well rounded flavors with some spiciness. The sole has firm, yet soft textures. All the elements in the dish were in synch with each other.

Abalone slice and poached in shellfish broth-Saffron braised turnips Brittany sole roasted in Sarawak pepper, small shrimp Shimaebi seared with Cognac Galette of Satoimo endive leaf.

For the main course I was served the Lamb Saddle cooked in crepine perfumed with marjolaine flower, cauliflower puree and black garlic, green lentil gnocchi. Scrumptious lamb meat was prepared with a lot of care and has plenty of flavors that were complimented greatly with other component on the plate such as the puree and the sauce.

Lamb Saddle cooked in crepine perfumed with marjolaine flower, cauliflower puree and black garlic, green lentil gnocchi

Quelques dessert de Pierre-Gagnaire was a composition of different desserts served at the same time. This tantalizing platter was highlighted by the chocolate cake. The cake was rich, sweet with layers of different types of chocolate while the rest of the dessert was chilled, refreshing and fruity. The petit fours were enjoyable small bites of sweetness that ended this meal.

The “Petit Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire” was a superb tasting menu. A fusion of French cooking technique and high standard Japanese ingredients morphed together to create fascinating flavor profile. Both small and large plate exhibits focus and details. The servings were adequate that left me satisfied rather than full. There was no set wine pairing, but the wine list is vast and was made up of primarily French wine from different regions of the country. The restaurant also had a decent wine by the glass offerings that were reasonably price. Wanting red for this meal the sommelier recommendation of Bordeaux Pauillac was on point.

Petit Fours

The restaurant is very formal but with Japanese sincere hospitality. The service was particularly attentive and faultless. English were spoken well that servers were able to explain each of the courses and answered my questions clearly.

Bordeaux Pauillac

In the Far East Pierre Gagnaire has a restaurant in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul in addition to his others in Europe. It was said by those that had visited all three the Tokyo location is the better one. What separates it from the rest is the superior quality of ingredients that are being used, but also an extremely skilled chef in Chef Akasaka. The chef is very well capable in upholding Pierre Gagnaire cooking standard and mirrors the excellence of a living legend.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon ***

 

Dining Room

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
at The Landmark Atrium
15 Queen’s Road, Central
Hong Kong, China
+852 2166 9000
Official Site

Chef of the century Joel Robuchon has the most Michelin stars than any chef in the world and shares a distinction to only a handful of chefs to have more than one three Michelin starred venues at the same time. He has built a culinary empire that stretches continents and his L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon has branches in major cities such as Paris, London, Tokyo and previously New York (closed in 2010) with all being awarded multiple Michelin stars. The Hong Kong location on the other hand is the only of the L’Ateliers to receive the maximum ranking from the Michelin guide as well as being rank in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. After missing out in Paris last year and not able to visit the New York City location before it closed, I made sure to try this one when I visited Hong Kong this year.

Entrance

Like many of Hong Kong’s top restaurants, which are housed inside the malls or hotels, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is situated on the fourth floor of The Landmark, one of the city’s most luxurious malls. As I emerged from the escalator to the restaurant a beautiful hostess welcomed my arrival. She then led me through a walkway with walls of wine racks enclosed in glass and into the hushed dining room. Dominating the room is a counter with three even sides surrounding the open kitchen. A glossy, dark cherry wood counter top with deep red high chairs, polished black flooring and dimmed lighting gave the interior certain sexiness. Behind the counter I was treated by French born Chef de cuisine David Alves cooking, a veteran of the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon chain. Prior to settling in Hong Kong he was at the Etoile branch in Paris.

Counter

Foregoing my normal practice of always requesting for the tasting menu, on this evening I had the a la carte as per server recommendation. There are more interesting items in the a la carte which has a price range of around 290 HKD per plate, pretty pricey but so is everything else in Hong Kong when it come to this types of restaurant. So to start, was the heralded bread basket with multiple kinds of freshly baked bread. There was a lot of effort put for just the bread but it’s also a good sign that this will be a beautiful evening.  For canapé I was served a fried quinoa ball with a small cup of parmigian cheese foam and foie-gras. It was followed by the L’OURSIN-Sea urchin in a lobster jelly, topped with cauliflower cream. Served in cold temperature, it had an essence of the deep sea. This dish had different layers of contrasting flavors that worked accordingly together while the chilled gelatin texture was soothing to the tongue. The LA LANGOUSTINE – Crispy langoustine papillote with basil was next. Covered in a thin crispy batter, the langoustine was complemented beautifully with a bright peppery sauce made from basil.

Continuing the meal was the LE FOIE GRAS Pan-fried duck foie gras with mango, coriander and crispy peanut chips. The foie-gras outer layer had an excellent fried crust with sprinkled peanut chips on top, for extra texture. On the other hand, the mango purée on the plate seemed out of place but it was added appropriately to give a fruity component that went well with the buttery foie-gras. I was then served the LA SAINT-JACQUES – Hokkaido scallop with green curry and coriandre sauce, squid ink farfalle. A large piece of scallop with dense flavors and topped with squid ink pasta for a facet of saltiness. The sauce gives the scallop a lovely piquancy. The following dish was LE RIZ – Risotto style rice with pimientos and vegetable couscous. A dish with a saturated yellow color was a different type of risotto that is savory and pleasing. It had an even creaminess while the garnish of vegetables exuded a beautiful aroma.

LE FOIE GRAS

 LE BLACK – Black cod with Malabar black pepper sauce, Chinese cabbage and coconut emulsion, was a delicate piece of cod with a terrific balance of both sweet and spicy. The coconut emulsion was brilliantly added to provide an extra dimension to the dish. LE BŒUF Braised Wagyu beef cheek with miso, seasonal baby vegetables was served as the main course. This was a sumptuous braised beef cheek covered in thick sauce packed of flavor. As a supplement to this delicious dish was the famous Robuchon mashed potato served in a small pot. The mashed potato was a fine smooth texture with refined taste. I regretfully decided to skip dessert but the magrindanaise were good enough for a sweet finish.

In the beginning of the meal my server informed me that he would arrange the order of dishes in a way that it would not complicate my palate. At the end, each plate was timed perfectly in between and the succession of taste was in harmony one after the other. The cooking was skillful, especially when incorporating Asian ingredients to provide extra depth of flavors and aromas. There was a lot of emphasis on the sauces to compliment the ingredients on the plate and not to overpower them.

Mashed Potato LE BŒUF

The restaurants award winning wine list is vast and can be overwhelming. Letting the sommelier choose the appropriate wines will be a wise thing to do. For white I was recommended the Château Musar, Lebanon 1999 for HKD 190 ($24), it was paired properly with the fish and seafood dishes. And for the wagyu cheeks and foie gras I had a glass of red Cabernet Sauvignon, Janzen Estate, Napa Valley, U.S.A 2006 for HKD 235 ($30). Wine mark up in Hong Kong is over the top but it was worth it for this meal.

Mignardise

The atmosphere at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon was relaxed and interactive, which the restaurant encourages between the staff and guests. Service was formal yet approachable. The staff was knowledgeable and had a genuine sense that they wanted the guest to not only enjoy the food but also the service that they provided. For those that prefer the traditional sit down dining there is the Le Jardin on the same premise, located towards the back. It offers the same menu as the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon but with a more formal setting.

Chef Robuchon sets a standard that is met and maintained by all of his restaurants. With the L’Atelier, each location has identical offerings and atmosphere. When the Michelin guide awarded this restaurant its third star in 2011 (making it the only of the L’Ateliers with such honor) while the rest only have one or two it was surrounded with controversy. Even the two original posts in Tokyo and Paris only managed to secure two stars and many have stated that they were superior to this. Although this was my first visit at any of the L’Atelier or any of Chef Robuchon restaurants I believe that no two restaurants are alike. They might have similarities but there is always something different about them. But as far as my visit goes at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong, I was impressed with the cooking and the impeccable service as well as having a superb dining experience.

 

 

 

 

L’Arpege***

 

Dining Room

L’Arpege
84 Rue de Varenne
75007 Paris, France
+33 1 47 05 09 06
Official Site

So many chefs these days have been focusing more on vegetables as the main attraction at their restaurants, even the great Alain Ducasse made a splash last year when he decided to concentrate more on vegetables and fish after refurbishing his namesake Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee in Paris. But way before Chef Ducasse and others made the transition Chef Alain Passard was one of the first big name chefs that entered the movement when he removed all animal protein from his menu at his critically acclaimed three Michelin starred restaurant, L’Arpege in 2002 (though animal protein has returned but to a minimal). Such a risky move for an established chef who’s had three stars under his belt since 1996.

Arpege

Chef Passard purchased L’Arpege from his mentor, Alain Senderens, back in 1986 and at that time it was named L’Archestrate (where he also spent time in its kitchen) before he renamed and renovated it. The calm dining room is small with a simple interior. Its clean white walls are covered in blond wood panels with silver plated artwork, low ceilings, tables sparsely spaced and paired with beige leather padding chairs in shiny metallic frames. The restaurants cellar, an enclosed space with exposed bricks, is also used for extra dining space.

Dining Room Dining Room

L’Arpege has an a la carte offering, a EUR 240 vegetable tasting, and a EUR 340 dinner tasting, although pricey, it’s on par with Paris standards. For lunch there is a EUR 140 tasting, a bargain for this type of restaurant and which I selected. Just like my previous meal at Chef Passard’s mentee Pascol Barbot in L’Astrance, the kitchen creates what is available on that day.

Lunch Tasting:

The lunch tasting began with a tiny snack of carrots with garlic puffs which was finished in one quick bite. Then a trio of nicely done mousses in individual teaspoons of carrot mustard, parsnip with coriander, and Parmesan with coriander was served. Next to come was a beet root sushi with mustard bay leaves. Made with thinly a sliced beet that was a substitute for tuna on top of tightly squeezed rice, to replicate a sushi, displayed the creativity of the chef.

Afterwards, I was served a salad from the garden. The vibrant leafy green vegetables were extremely fresh. It was garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese and walnuts for added texture while a dressing gave the right amount of acidity. For such a simple dish it was very good. Vegetable ravioli was next, which consisted of three pieces of ravioli stuffed with vegetable puree and drowned in warm vegetable broth with beet shoots and carrots juice. The ravioli stuffing had a wonderful veggie flavor to go along with an earthy aromatic broth.

Beet Root Tartare

Gratin with Parmesan cheese, peppers, and grapefruit was the following course. Made with potatoes and onions, the gratin had a nice crunchiness that combined perfectly with the pungency of the Parmesan cheese while also having a slight citrusy zest. This was then followed with a beet root tartare served with potato chips. A fascinating, yet refreshing root flavors that married with an intense bitterness of the horseradish cream. A well thought out dish where the genius of Chef Passard replicating a steak tartare that turned into a vegan delight.

Heart and Liver of Duck Tapenade

Garden Fresh Vegetables

A lone meat dish on the tasting menu was the heart and liver of duck tapenade on puff pastry with a side of green salad. The offal meat sliced in small cubes was cooked wonderfully, but at this time I was already enjoying the vegetarian spectacle that the animal protein was an afterthought. Never the less this was still a lovely savory dish. Now back to the vegetables. For the next course, colorful garden fresh vegetables with just a splash of olive oil and sprinkling of couscous giving it an added element.

An array of sweet courses began with honey onion and mint caramel custard served with fragrant star anise ice cream on the side to cool off the palate. A delightful plate of assorted pastry and sweets came as an intermission prior to serving the rest of the dessert. It then proceeded with a Paris-Brest, a firm pastry sandwiching a cream that is slightly rich and sugary. To end the meal were two kinds of chocolate confection, a mousse and a chocolate Napoleon, which was layered in different types of chocolate.

This was a sublime meal especially for the price I paid. The food served was light and healthy; the vegetables that were used were extremely fresh and of high quality. They are transported daily from Chef Passard’s own farm where he personally picks them. As a master craftsman who has a special relationship with vegetables, Chef Passard allows their natural flavors to shine without doing too much to them while arranging them on the plate with perfect combination. Also, in this tasting Chef Passard was able to use an ingredient more than once (as many of top restaurants do not do this) and used them well, adding a different dimension each time.

Wines

Unfortunately, there was no pre-set wine pairing available for this tasting but the restaurant did have an excellent list of wines available by the glass. With the help of the sommelier, the red and white wines from Medoc and Alsace region that were picked went well with my courses while also recommending a beautiful champagne as a welcome pour.

At L’Arpege, service was precise and formal to a degree, but was also adjustable to the type of guests that they serve. The staff was a mixture of young and seasoned veterans and handled the dining room with ease. After service, when the guests (or what’s left of them) are served their final dish the maestro himself emerged into the dining room. Mingling, stopping by every table, and even having coffee with guests or posing for pictures and waving goodbyes. A humble gesture from a chef with all his accolades.

Arpege 2015

Throughout the years Michelin starred chefs like, Pascol Barbot, Mauro Colagreco, and David Toutain, as well as countless more, have passed through the kitchen of L’Arpege. Chef Passard is one of the most influential individuals in gastronomy. He was a head of his time and an innovator willing to challenge himself and succeed. When he transitioned to a veggie-centric menu, his credibility did not suffer a single bit and L’Arpege has been constantly voted as one of the best restaurants in the world. It is continuously five toques from the Gault & Millau and has maintained three Michelin stars, including in the most current edition of the guide.

As well-known as Chef Passard is, on the same league with the Ducasse’s, the Robuchon’s, and the Gagnaire’s, he doesn’t have a global empire. He only owns one restaurant and can still be seen behind the stoves on the grind with his cooks and staff. His sole focus at L’Arpege is to create a dining experience that transcends vegetables to another level and where guests will have a better appreciation of the ingredients that are often overlooked on the plate. To charge EUR 240 without any animal protein, the food has to be out of this world and though I had the lunch tasting for a lot less, I can see why Chef Passard and his restaurant is highly regarded. This is a place for a gastro pilgrimage that both vegetarian and meat eaters will adore.

db Brasserie

Dining Room

db Brasserie
at The Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 430-1235
Official Website

The Venetians and the Palazzo have become the Las Vegas dining mecca, assembling the culinary giants under one roof; like Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, and Mario Batali. In 2013 world renowned New York City chef Daniel Boulud joined the list when he opened db Brasserie. It marked his return to Vegas after a three year hiatus and closing his Michelin starred Daniel Boulud Brasserie at the Wynn in 2010.

For his executive chef, Daniel Boulud tapped David Middleton to design a menu that was French-American with a global influence. Chef Middleton is a veteran of Vegas’s dining scene with an extensive background that includes cooking at the two Michelin starred ALEX by Alex Stratta and at Scarpetta as the Executive Sous Chef.

db Brasserie Dining Room

In addition to prix-fixe options for lunch and dinner, an a la carte is also available where the starters average at $18 and entrees at $30 — on par with other Daniel Boulud’s New York City restaurants. I visited db Brasserie with a group of people from overseas and New York City and was able to sample a wide variety of the dishes on the menu.

For starters there was the terrine of foie gras with fig mostrada, turnip, marcona almonds and balsamic. The flavors were delicate and the foie gras melted in the mouth. Heirloom beet salad made with roasted beets, herb goat cheese, black quinoa, pistachio, and sherry vinaigrette, a vibrant dish with the freshness of ingredients. Thai calamari, crispy beer batter, pickled fresno peppers, kaffir lime and cilantro were a terrific dish. There was also a nicely flavored escargot spätzle, chicken oysters, mushrooms, garlic, parsley coulis and hazelnut. The dish had a number of components that all worked together.

Terrine of Foie Gras

Heirloom Beet Salad

For the entrées there was the sea scallops with creamed cabbage, beech mushroom and red wine shallots. On the plate were three perfectly seared scallops that had a beautiful sweet taste and texture that coexisted with the nuttiness of the beech mushroom and the intensity of the shallots braised in red wine. A crispy duck confit with Swiss chard turnip, trumpet royal mushrooms, topped off with onion rings. The duck was cooked perfectly, a nice crispy texture yet moist in the inside. On the other hand the sautéed Swiss chard that the duck sat upon was tasty and went along well with the savory mushroom. Then there was the Tunisia lamb with Marguez sausage, couscous, lemon braised spinach, chickpeas, and red pepper tagine. A tender grilled lamb along with the couscous and spinach braised in lemon for acidity completed this delicious dish.

Tunisia Lamb Sea Scallops Duck Confit

The wine list consisted of French and American at modest prices. For less than $70 a bottle our group was able to enjoy two bottles of red wine from Loire Valley region with our meal.

Even though it’s a brasserie with a casual settings don’t expect the same with service or the food. Chef Middleton’s food is creative with interesting flavors and textures. The service is that of a fine dining restaurant, the staff are well trained without the pretentiousness and handled our table with ease.

Lounge

Located in the mouth of “restaurant row” of The Venetian, db Brasserie is housed in a massive space with an open entrance. Set in the front is the lounge with its large black leather sofas and towards the back is the bar area. Adjacent to the bar and lounge is the dining room with dark brown tones, oversize mirrors on the walls and packed with tables covered in white cloths. Globe ceiling lamps gave just the right amount of lighting in the room.

db Brasserie was a great choice in a place with a buffet of stellar dining options. My companions and I agreed that this was an enjoyable meal. Having visited other Daniel Boulud establishments in New York City, db Brasserie lived up to his standard.

Bord’Eau **

Dining Room

Bord’Eau
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 2
1012 CP Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 20 531 1705
Official Site

De L’Europe Hotel in the center of Amsterdam is one of the most luxurious accommodations in the city. Owned by the Heineken family and made famous by Alfred Hitchcock when he chose the hotel as a location for his film Foreign Correspondent. It also houses the two Michelin star restaurant Bord’Eau.

Opened in 2012 Bord’Eau received its first star after only a few months in operation, then the second star a year later. In two years the restaurant propelled to gastronomic feat, accomplishing that which is rarely done.

The Restaurant

Bord’Eau is located in the lobby of the hotel, its contemporary designed dining room has evenly spaced tables covered in white cloth to match with comfortable ivory padded chairs.Gold rounded plates hang above, filling the low ceilings, while the walls are adorned with metallic gold. There are windows sizeable enough to provide plenty of natural light in the room. Sets of two top tables by the windows overlooking the Amstel River is preferred seating if available. There’s also a private dining enclosed with glass cases that display an array of bottled wine.

Dining Room Dining Room Cheese Bar

The restaurant offers two set menus, a five course for 98 Euros and the six-course for 10 euros more. A la carte is also available but on my visit I had the six course tasting.

My meal began with a cup of strong flavored duck broth with added spices that I found pleasing. Following the broth were a crisp, sweet and salty lobster canapé and a sour, yet alluring, oyster with red wine canapé.

Tasting Menu:

Afterwards a smooth and creamy foam of risotto, truffles and egg yolk was served. Tartare of veal, caviar and marrow that was simply sublime was next. A combo that is always wonderful.

My first official course was beetroot baked in salt and crust with wasabi ice cream, an interesting marriage of Asian flavors. The fresh vegetables and the cold temperature from the ice cream was ingenious. A big piece of succulent scallop with cream of artichoke and black truffle was the next course. The sweet deep sea flavor of the scallop and earthiness of the generous shaving of black truffles was immaculate.

Beetroot Scallop With Truffle

Langoustine with jus, coconut served with tempura vegetables, and hand of Buddah was the next course. An Asian inspired dish where the langoustine was perfectly prepared with the sauce enhancing the taste.

Next was the fillet of sole and fennel, crunchy and stewed with gnocchi, zest of lemon and sea urchin sauce. The different flavors profiled in this dish worked in harmony with one another.

Langoustine Fillet Of Sole

The lone red meat on the menu was the Duck a la Royale with young turnip and salted lemon that was too salty if eaten by itself. Head sommelier, Dennis Apeldoorn, was genius in pairing Austrian St. Laurent wine that reduced the saltiness and turned it into an enjoyable dish.

Duck a la Royale

The dessert was a piece of art and visually stunning. Crystallized sugar, in the form of a green apple where the inside was made of green apple sorbet shaped to replicate the apple core. Even the seeds where made of chocolate! It sat on top of caramel and walnuts. If there was a perfect ten dessert this would be it. This alone highlighted the tasting menu.

Green Apple

Along with my tasting I added the wine pairing for 78 Euros that Dennis Appledorn paired with each course brought out an additional level of taste. The wines are predominantly French which was fitting for this restaurant.

This was a fantastic meal, as the dishes were sophisticated as well as well put together. The man responsible for the kitchen is Executive Chef Richard van Oosetnbrugge. He previously oversaw Restaurant Envy in Amsterdam before being tapped to handle all of De L’Europe Hotel eateries. His French cuisine, using local ingredients, at Bord’Eau has earned him the GaultMillau Chef of the year in 2014.

Like any fine dining in Europe the service is professional, a bit uptight but welcoming. The staff were friendly and I liked the fact the maître d recognized that I was a solo diner and provided reading materials while I waited in between courses. The service matched the food and made my dining experience at Bord’Eau an outstanding one.

Wine Pairing:

Visitors come to Amsterdam for the famous canals, architectures and even the Red Light district. As far as being a fine dining destination, it’s still not there. It has plenty of good restaurants and the ethnic food scene rivals that of New York City. What it lacks is fine dining that will put it on the map of gastronomy. With the emergence of Bord’Eau this restaurant might actually do that.

Jadis

Interior

Jadis
42 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-1675
Official Site

In a city like New York, choosing a wine bar can be quite the challenge, when there is an overwhelming array and number to choose from—a problem that most major city on earth wish they had. There are numerous wine bars in every neighborhood in this city. The Lower East Side alone boasts quite a few. In this area I’m a big fan of Jadis, a French wine on Rivington St.

The atmosphere in Jadis is cozy and relaxed, which definitely are attributes of a fine wine bar. The lounge area in the back is downright inviting with its comfy dark leather sofas and matching ottoman chairs. It is a wonderful place to unwind with a group of friends.

The rustic interior of Jadis is designed with exposed brick walls and ceilings. There are cabinets that display bottle of wines and shelves with classic novels. The dimly lit space comes alive with the dramatic flames of the candle lights on the top of each table. Soft music fills the air and sets the tone in the background for a romantic setting. The setting is so romantic that at any night of the week, you may find a couple or two occupying one of the dark two top tables, or can be seen sitting by the reflex angled bar in the front area.

It’s not only the setting and the atmosphere that makes Jadis a pleasant place, their food and wines solidify its integrity as a good wine bar in the city. You can’t possibly go wrong with good food and wine at a reasonable price. The wines by the glass cost between $6 to $9 and the most expensive item on the food menu is no more than $19.

 

 

 

The wine list is not overbearing and predominantly French; there are a few from Napa Valley, Germany and South America. Most of the wines are available by the glass, except for the bottles that exceed $45. Bottles of wine are economically price and won’t break the bank.

The menu at Jadis is simple and made to compliment the wine. Due to absences of a kitchen at this place, each dish are premade and prepared behind the bar. I can understand that it can be a turn off for first timers like I was. But when I finally succumbed to trying their food, I was impressed.

Starters like Beef Empanadas, Mushroom Truffle Risotto Puffs and Mini Quiches are tasty finger foods. The escargot on the hand has a buttery flavor. The snails are served without the shell, and have a nice soft and slippery texture.

 

 

Other dishes to my liking were the Duck Liver Mouse and the Duck Rillettes. The rillettes duck meat was tender and fatty. The duck liver mouse is thick and creamy. I also had the Venison Terrine. It was interesting since this was the first time I ever had venison. It has a very distinct gamier flavor. All three dishes are better eaten if used with the spread to the bread that it came with.

There’s also the very rich opened face sandwich called Tartine Champetre. The bread is drenched with cream, gruyere and sautéed mushroom. The Quiche Poulet made with tomatoes, chicken and manchego cheese is a buffet of goodness. It just might be the lightest dish I had in Jadis other than the starter plates.

 

 

I would never expect that this wine bar would have one of the best Crème Brulee I’ve had so far in this city. I never bother to try their other deserts because of this and I’m pretty sure that I will not be disappointed if I did. But for now, my favorite part of this dessert is the perfectly torched crust and the watery but firm inside of the Crème Brulee.

The owners of Jadis are present every night to assure the quality of service the patrons are receiving is up to par. The staff is knowledgeable with their wines and will even provide recommendation for wine pairing with their food.

Jadis might not have the wine list that your typical wine snob would prefer or the food that will blow diners away, but it does have good food and wine at a reasonable price. So, whether you are on a date or just unwinding after a long day of work, this unpretentious wine bar will make sure that you have a wonderful time.

Bar et Boeuf

Bar et Boeuf
500, Rue McGill
Montreal, QC H2Y 2H6
(514) 866-3555
Official Site

*This venue is now closed.

Saturday night in Downtown Montreal Canada is an ideal spot for the typical male. It would seem that there are as many strip clubs as there are churches and restaurants in this beautiful city. Especially on St Catherine St. where there is a plethora of full contact strip joints. At least downtown where I was staying and I don’t mean that in a bad way.

On this particular evening I was in the mood for a fun restaurant with good food. After countless web browsing I came upon Bar et Beouf, a modern French restaurant in “Old Montreal”.

The atmosphere was what I expected when I arrived at around 9 pm. The place was dark, the music pumping but not overly loud giving it the feel of a club. Beautiful people packed the three-sided black glossy bar in the middle of this bi-level restaurant. The restaurants’ chic interior boasts high ceiling to floor glass windows and a portion of the white-washed walls are decorated with tribal art. There were uncovered tables with white leather Parson Chairs in the front while the booth section, located toward the back, had hard wood flooring throughout the space.

As I waited at the bar for my table I ordered a drink called Go Green! Made with Hypnotic vodka, jus d’ananas, and lime, this was the best concoction I’ve had in Montreal. It was fruity but not too sweet and had the perfect balance of liquor that went down smoothly with every sip.

I started my dinner with the Princess scallops and lobster for an appetizer. The scallops were chopped in cubes and served in the shell with lemon juice and parsley. They complimented each other very well. This dish had a civeche like style and texture. The lobster on the other hand was almost close to perfection. The lobster meat was cooked just right, while the daikon where the meat was placed on top provided a watery crunchy texture. The chive butter added a nice buttery taste to the dish.

I ordered two entrées that looked enticing in the menu, a cod dish and a hen. The cod was made with squash and chicken liver mousse. The fish was fried perfectly, crispy yet moist. The chicken liver mousse gave the dish another dimension in flavor. The hen on the other hand, cooked with a roasted cauliflower, was also very good but not as exciting as the cod dish. I did enjoy the burnt taste of the roasted cauliflower.

For dessert, apricot with sorbet was presented beautiful on a stone plate. It had a cool refreshing and fruity taste. This dessert was a great way to cap off a wonderful dinner.

Bar et Beouf’s seasonal menu provided an amazing dinner experience. They used fresh ingredients that could be tasted with each dish. The chefs creativity and artistry reminded me of Gastroarte restaurant here in New York. Every plate was striking and colorful.

It was a fun dinner and as the night went on, Bar et Beouf morphed into a Meatpacking style restaurant. The music got a little louder and the place became a bit dimmer, at least it seemed like it did, especially after a few more of those “Go Green’s”.