[Hong Kong] Caprice – A Michelin 3-Star French Luncheon

3 08 2012

Located at The Four Seasons Hotel, Caprice is one of the 2 French restaurants in Hong Kong that have been awarded the prestigious Michelin 3-stars (the other being Atelier de Joel Robuchon).

Few can dispute that Caprice is undeserving of such an honour, not after setting foot into the restaurant. Greeted by a team that is attentive and well versed with the restaurant’s offerings, one is led into opulent settings where Swarovski chandeliers hang overhead. As one enters the restaurant, the first thing that catches the eye is the open kitchen with the chefs all hard at work and as you look around towards the windows, you catch a gorgeous view of the Victoria Harbour. It does seem that Caprice spares no expense in ensuring that the ambience is right for that special occasion.

If one should decide to dress up for a meal, this would be the time to do so. Nothing is going to be much fancier than this.

Given the posh setting and accolades, it is no surprise that meals here don’t come cheap. The more “affordable” set lunches are priced at 460/520 HKD for 2 or 3-course meals respectively while dinners can work up to easily 3 times that price without wine.

We were served an “Anchovy Cake” as our amuse bouche, which tasted much like warm fish keropok. It’s tasty but I expected something a little more sophisticated.

Of the 4 varieties of bread (from top left anti-clockwise – Olive, Baguette, Sourdough and Sesame), it was clear that the Sesame was our favourite. It’s done very much like a croissant, just much airier. Not wanting to stuff myself prematurely, I was the only one on my table who had the discipline to stop at 1, while my counterparts were so taken by this that they downed an average of 5 each!

We were also given Bordier Butter (salted and unsalted) to go with our bread, a premium French hand-churned butter that is considered by many to be the finest in the world.

My friends Joyce and Randall had the Rockfish Consomme, Saffron Infusion & Fish Rillette for appetizer. The taste of the broth seems so surreal to me now as I merely sampled a mouthful of its umami goodness. I was distraught after I tasted it, realizing that my appetizer didn’t even come close in terms of execution and flavour. The Fish Rillette was just so-so compared to the consomme, tasting like a crabcake mash.

Kenneth had the Marinated Salmon, Avruga & Lime Caviar, Tarama, Bottarga & Salmon Roe. Personally, I thought it was just an over-glorified piece of Cured Salmon that was no doubt tasty but overly simplistic.

I had the Paimpol White Bean Veloute & Duck Foie Gras Tartine. The word veloute stems from the french adjective velour, which means “velvety” but this white bean veloute was far too heavy and starchy to be described as such. Served on the side was the Duck Foie Gras Tartine, comprising mainly of white beans with slivers of foie gras terrine on a thin toast. While it had an appetizing sourish zing to it, I couldn’t appreciate its pairing with the veloute.

While there were 7 choices of mains to choose from, it so happened that all 4 of us chose the Free-ranged Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras, Mushrooms & Spinach in Civet Sauce, which sounded the most authentically french and hardest to replicate amongst the other choices. It was a good call indeed as this turned out to be the star of the meal.

I have had bad experiences with foie gras stuffings, such as the DB Burger from DB Bistro Moderne where the foie gras stuffing turned out tasteless and dry but the stuffing for the quail wasn’t like this at all. There was no pungent aftertaste and its flavours managed to infuse into the tender juicy quail meat that had been cooked perfectly to a light pink hue. The civet sauce tasted similar to a red wine sauce you would get off a coq au vin, but perhaps been thickened slightly with the addition of blood.

For wine, we requested a bottle of semi-dry red to go along with our quail and the sommelier suggested the Chateau Rollan de By, 2006 (780 HKD). It’s from Medoc, a wine growing region in Bordeaux and made up of a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc, and 10% Petit Verdot. I found it very drinkable with a medium fruity body which indeed complemented the quail.

For desserts, I had the Saint Honore of Chocolate Trio & Cinnamon in Spiced Mexican Sauce, comprising 3 chocolate profiteroles & varying degrees of chocolate mousses on a filo pastry which is then finished with an extra layer of chocolate sauce. So much chocolate must have made this dessert cloying right? Wrong, the chocolate mousses were really light and there was sufficient pastry to soak up all the chocolate sauce.

Joyce and Randall both got the Cherry Marmalade & Sandalwood Cream with Griotte Sorbet, very much a sandalwood panna cotta topped with Cherry Sorbet and Marmalade.

Kenneth had the Caprice Cheese Cellar, a very generous platter of 4 types of cheese. I wasn’t paying much attention when the server was going through the cheeses as I was desperately trying to take some quick snaps of the other desserts that had meltable features but 1 cheese did catch my attention – giraffe cheese. It wasn’t my cup of tea though, as I prefer milder cheeses.

We ended off the meal with coffee, tea and petite fours (Strawberry Macaroon, Banana Chocolate, Irish Dark Chocolate) at 4pm. Time had whisked by so quickly but the staff didn’t seem annoyed that we had unknowingly stayed past lunch hour.

Good food, chichi settings and superb service. If there’s only 1 thing more I could ask for, it’s probably a little more creativity.

Caprice

8 Finance Street, Central, Four Seasons Hotel

Tel: +852 3196 8888

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[Hong Kong] Tim Ho Wan – Michelin 1-Star Dim Sum

1 08 2012

For many, a trip to Hong Kong is never complete without a visit to Tim Ho Wan, one of the cheapest 1-star Michelin restaurants you will ever find. I was admittedly skeptical when my friends told me I would not spend more than S$15 here but I soon discovered they were spot on. And believe me, I don’t hold back when I get clearance to fill up a food order sheet.

I heard that the flagship outlet in Mongkok serves the best dim sum amongst its 3 outlets (the other 2 are at Hong Kong Station and Sham Shui Po) so if you don’t mind the 1-hour wait (as the joint at Mongkok only seats around 30 people), it’s the place to be.

There’s around 20 items on the menu, of which I tried 14 of them during this visit. I will cut to the chase and tell you what are the must orders here!

To put it simply, while most items are of commendable quality, only 3 items really stand out to me.

The first is the Barbeque Pork Buns (17 HKD). Think of it as a Bo Luo Bao (菠蘿包) with fatty char siew fillings. The sugary glaze atop the deep fried bun, paired with the savoury char siew is a match made in heaven. It’s so freaking awesome, it should be patented and why hasn’t anyone copied it back in Singapore yet?

When Neo chose the red pill over the blue pill in The Matrix, he made a revelation as the veils were lifted from his eyes. That’s how I felt as I sipped at my first mouthful of Tim Ho Wan’s Century Egg with Shredded Pork Congee (16 HKD). It’s so damn insanely good. The silky congee is made even smoother with the creamy texture of the century egg and as you slurp down the congee, you end with a most interesting finish of rich salted eye yolk.

Last but not least is the Prawn Chee Cheong Fan (22 HKD). The Cheong Fan skins should be ambassadors for SK-II, showcasing a pearly and elastic texture.

Most of the other items I tried such as the Har Kow (24 HKD), Siew Mai (24 HKD), Chinese Steamed Sponge Cake 馬拉糕 (12 HKD) were pretty decent as well, with the Fried Carrot Cake (12 HKD) being a popular item amongst my friends.

Other dishes like the Spring Rolls (22 HKD), Fried Beef Dumplings (18 HKD), Beef Balls in Beancurd Skin (16 HKD) were quite meh and the Pig Organ Chee Cheong Fan (18 HKD) had lingering stench of organs that had not been washed throughly.

No dim sum restaurant I know of gets everything right and Tim Ho Wan is no different. But of the ones they do get right, what you get there is a little glimpse of heaven.

Tim Ho Wan

8 Kwong Wa Street, Mongkok, Kowloon

Tel: +852 2332 2896








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