Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mandarin Grill + Bar (Hong Kong)

January 2016

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 5 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong SAR
Tel: +852 2825 4004

Hong Kong is one of those places that we go to several times a year, and we often find ourselves staying at our favourite hotel in the city, the Mandarin Oriental. However, it was only in the past year that we discovered Mandarin Grill. Not that we didn't know that it existed, but only that it never struck us as a place which would serve food better than the usual hotel restaurant fare. But as they say, better late than never, and during the past few meals here, it has slowly becoming a favourite of ours.

For starters, the word "Grill" in its name is a misnomer. For the longest time, we mistook the restaurant for a steakhouse, and though the interior does remind us of a modern take of a quintessential New York steakhouse, the cuisine here is modern European if nothing else. The open kitchen and oyster bar counter speaks of the restaurant's contemporary outlook, and its high ceiling and warm lighting makes it a very comfortable dining room for both business and leisure dining.

For a recent dinner, the menu options consisted of a tasting menu and an a la carte option for two or three courses. The a la carte looked more interesting so that was what we went with. The amuse bouche was quite interesting; a globular olive (similar to that of Tickets) with a small olive plant as a prop, a charcoal breadstick with edible leaves and a truffle sabayon which were delicious. The tipple for the evening was a glass of Ruinart blanc de blanc and a bottle of 2010 Moray St Denis 1er Cru "Clos Sorbe" David Duband.

The entree was an opulent Salmon & caviar (organic, Scottish, home smoked, cedar wood, king crab, bagel, egg). The salmon was brought out in a charcoal smoker and served on the plate, allowing us to experience the rich smoke used to prepare the fish. Perhaps it lacked the finesse of the unparalleled version at Amber, but this was very good nonetheless. The accompanying caviar on a bed of king crab meat was quite sublime as well.

The main course of Beef (Japanese, Miyazaki, tenderloin, smoked paprika, spring vegetables) was a larger portion than we expected. Two large slabs of heavily marbled wagyu beef were lighted breaded, and though accompanied by a bone marrow sauce, were so flavourful that they didn't require any of the sauce.

The desserts were the very competent Mango (Japanese, mille feuille, chocolate) and Salted caramel souffle), and the very enjoyable dinner ended off with some rich chocolate truffles. In all, this was a highly satisfying meal with good ingredients cooked perfectly without being too pretentious, with discreet and intuitive service, although at a rather steep price tag compared to other fine dining restaurants in Hong Kong.

We particularly enjoy lunch at Mandarin Grill for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is highly convenient for a single diner looking for a quick meal without prior reservations; the bar counter is a comfortable option which is almost always available during lunch time. Also, the lunch menu has typically been very good (arguably more interesting than the dinner menu) and the dishes have always been well curated. In addition, there is the option to simply have a glass of champagne with freshly shucked oysters.

One of our favourites was the Chicken (wings, truffle, gnocchi, jus). It was a innovative dish with a rich and thick black truffle sauce which was simply plate-licking good. The Tart (heirloom tomato, basil, homemade goat cheese) was also very special and was a good light entree.

The Pork (dingley dell, belly, cider, cavolo nero, mash) was a very competent dish and the Lobster (Canadian, morel, peas, broad beams, asparagus herbs, gnocchi) was an excellent and very satisfying ragout-style dish.

The desserts were no slouch either. The Mille feuille (strawberry, vanilla, pastry cream) was a very classic French dessert and the Apple (shortbread, cream, sorbet) was a lighter and more refreshing alternative.

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