Friday, October 1, 2010

Le Jardin de Joel Robuchon (Hong Kong)

July 2010

Shop 315 & 404, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2166 9000

Update: Robuchon gained its third Michelin star in 2012

Robuchon is a 2-Michelin star french restaurant in Hong Kong and is also one of our favourites there. We usually opt to eat at the 'Le Jardin' area of the restaurant rather than the 'L'Atelier' as I find it uncomfortable sitting on a bar stool for 3 hours while trying to have a good meal. The 'Le Jardin' has proper seating, though there is less interaction with the kitchen (that being the draw of dining at the 'L'Atelier' area) and the live band can be quite loud (they were playing directly behind us in this case). Also, this time round, we were given a corner booth table which was very comfortable and spacious, but unfortunately I was also ended up sitting next to the balcony door, and throughout the night, the service staff was opening and closing it while going in and out to serve a table seated in the balcony area. This resulted in me having to put up with constant draughts of warm air coming from the balcony, which slightly adversely affected my dining experience that night. The 'Le Jardin' area is otherwise a classy and intimate dining area, though the lighting was quite dim and many of the photos I took of the food did not come off well.

We started dinner with a glass each of 1999 Bruno Paillard champagne, which was complex and had a good finish. Opting for the Menu Decouverte, we went for the Sonoma Valley Cable & Telegraph Pinot Noir (forgot which year) to accompany the food (turned out to be quite a good pairing).

Amuse bouche was a foie gras custard with beetroot cream, which was a nice start.

Then first course proper was the crabmeat with lobster jelly and "vichyssoise" (aka leek, onion and potato, but with a fancier name) cream. The plate was served with a white mist of dry ice hovering over the plate which made it impossible for me to take any meaningful photos of the food, nonetheless it was a very good course with the flavours balancing well with each other.

The second dish was the usual classic Robuchon cavier dish; Oscietra cavier over a crispy poached egg and smoked salmon. We are never disappointed by the quality and quantity of Robuchon's cavier, and this time round was no different. Although relatively speaking, we preferred his previous effort (the cavier on a thin film of egg custard in the cavier tin) over the cavier dish this time round, as the crispy bits (not sure what they were (potato?) but they wrapped a warm poached egg yolk) were slightly salty and this masked the exquisite taste of the cavier somewhat.

Then came a salad dish which didn't look like a salad at all. The salad of tomato, olive oil with basil, tomato jelly topped with mozzarella was an interesting duo of a grilled tomato with basil, and a clear thin film tomato jelly with nubs of mozzarella tipped with alternating basil and tomato puree (it must have been a painstaking effort to top the tip of each cheese nub). It was an excellent concoction which was visually stunning as well.

The food thus far was very light (which went very well with our American Pinot) and this continued with the green peas "veloute" with pepper mint and onion cappuccino, accompanied with what looked like a long dried pasta or bread with bacon bits. This was nothing special unfortunately. 

The fish dish was next and it did not disappoint. This was a crispy amadai fillet with an aromatic coriander nectar. The chef fried the scales while still on the fish, making it tasty and edible (I usually hate finding scales on my fish dish but this was fantastic), yet avoided overcooking the fish, which was juicy and succulent. This was probably the highlight of this menu.

And finally, the pan-seared "Kagoshima" beef with aromatics and arugula salad, which we have tasted many times in this restaurant and its sister restaurant in Tokyo. No doubting the quality of the beef which was delicious, but it was a bit predictable by this point and in hindsight we felt that we should have tasted the other main course (the free range quail and foie gras, served with mash potato) instead.

We finished off a very enjoyable dinner with a pre-dessert of raspberry jelly with campari "granite" and red currant sauce (which was not very sophisticated - the overwhelming memory of this was that it was sour).

A very familiar-looking sugar ball was then served (we've also had this a few times but in different guises), and this time it was a pineapple sugar ball with coconut sorbet and Malibu cream. This is a ball of cream, perhaps the size of a hockey ball, with a hard coating of caramelised sugar (at least that is how I guessed the chef did it), though the ball is flawlessly golden and shiny. Looked really nice and tasted even better.

Coffee and petit four rounded off another gut-bursting 3 hour dinner. People always say that french restaurants serve really small portions of food, yet I have never stepped out of a fine-dining french restaurant feeling hungry (but almost always feel like I have overeaten). I guess what we sometimes don't realise is how much bread we eat over the course of such a meal, and dessert is also very often quite substantial (i.e. pre-dessert, dessert and petit four). 

Though a very expensive meal (and it's hard to say that we've got our money's worth when we're paying that kind of price for dinner), it was nevertheless another top notch dining experience at Robuchon.

Final Thoughts: Excellent as always, one thing you get at Robuchon (anywhere in Asia) is consistent quality, though some dishes can be unite predictable. The wines here were really expensive and it's hard to find value in the list. Nevertheless a top dining destination in Hong Kong with excellent service and discreet and opulent restaurant interior (just don't sit at the table just next to the door to the patio).

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