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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Marques De Casa Concha: Anniversary of a Chilean Classic

After recently celebrating a milestone birthday, I promised myself that this would be my year of wine education and promptly took myself off to Napa Valley to get schooled up – any excuse! So, when the invitation to the 40th anniversary celebrations of Chile's Marques de Casa Concha popped up, I was intrigued to find out more about their famed Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest of the vintage vino selection.

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The big bash was hosted at the Grand Hyatt in Wanchai, where Salon III was transformed into a dimly lit gothic grotto, filled with perfectly placed gold-accented decorations and captivating artwork. Stepping into the venue felt truly exclusive, and the room was filled with wine enthusiasts who were thirsty to taste the varieties on offer and hungry for the food-pairing selections, prepared by three-Michelin-starred chef Bruno Menard of Singapore. The animated atmosphere was accentuated by the live band who piped jazz music and soft acoustics around the space all evening. 

Decor
Guests were treated to introductory speeches from award-winning winemaker Marcelo Papa and Chef Menard, who both set the scene for the sensory sensations that were to come. Marcelo took us through the dynamic, energetic and evolutionary history of Marques de Casa Concha, as well as some fascinating features of the winemaking process in the extreme valleys of the Limarí and Bío-Bío provinces of Chile. Chef Menard spoke about the importance of specialist food and wine combinations and gave an insight into the innovative creations that would complement the wines. 

We kicked off with one of my personal favourites: shrimp ceviche topped with orange and passion fruit coulis, served with a glass of crisp 2014 Chardonnay. This duo was an impeccable blend of tart, fresh and light flavours, with just the right amount of acidity and sweetness.

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Chardonnay
Following this was a slice of seared salmon on a bed of beetroot tartare to go with the 2013 Pinot Noir. The Pinot was my winner out of the reds – full of zingy notes of cranberry and raspberry with a classic yet contemporary consistency. This salmon snack was mouth-watering and had me going back for seconds.

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For something extraordinary and exceptional, Chef Menard created a conceptual mix of foie gras and nougat, seasoned with Peruvian chocolate and fig chutney. I must admit that I was slightly sceptical at this choice to accompany the 2014 Carmenère, but one bite of this culinary artistry instantly changed my mind. Sipping on the Carmenère whilst eating this was a special experience and brought out the intense and complex flavours of the foie gras and nougat sliver. 

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Moving on to the renowned 2014 Cabernet Sauvingon, bowls of luscious red wine and beetroot risotto were served, finished with a sprig of peppery rocket. This dish was just the right proportion, and a few mouthfuls were plenty to work around the fragrant, spicy aromas of the Cab Sav. 

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Sadly, it was almost time to finish the tasting extravaganza, but the best was certainly saved for last as we savoured the 2013 Merlot with a slice of tender, orange-glazed duck breast dripping in a miso and fruit-based sauce. The duck melted in the mouth, and the interesting aftertaste from the fruit and miso left the palate prepared for the rich composition of the Merlot. 
Members of the Concha y Toro team were present during the celebrations, and both Chef Menard and Marcelo happily mixed and chatted with guests. I was told that they are extremely busy in the Asian markets, with Japan being the biggest source of their exports. Needless to say, they were more than impressed by both the Hong Kong wine scene and the unique blend of East meets West that the city has to offer.

Luckily, Marques de Casa Concha wines are available for purchase in HK and Summergate Fine Wines and Spirits (www.summergate.com) are the exclusive importer for Concha y Toro. I thoroughly enjoyed the wines and was inspired by the story of their timeless heritage. I may have already signed up for a couple of cases to welcome the Silly Season in style!
All images courtesy of Golin and Taking Hong Kong 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Fish School – Sai Ying Pun’s Specialty Seafood Spot


Tucked away on Third Street, Fish School is one of the latest eateries à la mode to hit Sai Ying Pun. French-trained chef, David Lai, spearheads this eclectic fish specialty joint, with an emphasis on local catch and culture and a focus on fresh, seasonal and organic ingredients. As the brainchild of Yenn Wong (the restauranteur behind gems like 22 Ships, Chachawan and Aberdeen Street Social), my expectations were set suitable high for this dining experience.

Finding Fish School was a challenge, but as soon as I stumbled upon the right spot, I was instantly enthralled by the urban feel of the location. It struck me almost as a Mediterranean tavern - with exposed brick walls and fairy lights adorning the outside of the restaurant. Inside, the cozy ambiance didn’t disappoint with fun touches like fish tanks and open kitchen tables to entertain diners. Luckily, we had prime seats, and were able to observe our food being skillfully prepared right in front of us. The lively and animated vibe of this place makes it ideal for a group setting and would be superb for Friday night frolics with friends.


The service at Fish School was noteworthy; the staff were very casual, jovial and chatty - without being overly intrusive on the table. Our server was most knowledgeable about the food and beverage menu and explained each one of our seven courses effortlessly, as they were received. I particularly appreciated the attention to detail exhibited; with small touches like a comprehensive overview of dietary requirements and a change of cutlery and plates, where appropriate.

Fish School’s vision is to pay homage to the abundance of sea food on offer in Hongky waters - wherever possible - and to add a touch of creative flair with exquisite preparation and presentation. This aim is achieved fluently with a gorgeous variety of tapas-style portions that are both appetizing and aesthetically pleasing (hello, they had me at flowers on the food!). Each serving was a feast for the belly and the eyes - with plenty of Instagram opportunities throughout the meal!


Some of my personal winners were the crispy, oyster croquettes with tangy and spicy yuzo mayo, the complimentarily cool Hamachi Crudo with cucumber and plum and the marinated raw crab and sea urchin rice. The fluffy, wild sea mullet was unforgettable; swimming in the most intriguing combination of ginger milk and preserved mustard root. Meat lovers are not neglected at Fish School either, and can chow down on the scintillating wagyu beef, or wagyu tartare, with fermented mushroom and mustard brulee. My only disappointment was the clam custard - which I didn’t quite get - I found the flavours bland and flat and while I welcome the inventiveness, the whole dish missed the mark for me. 


The drinks menu was also impressive, with a massive selection of everything from sake to beers and wines, all carefully crafted and selected to accompany the light, contemporary food. I really enjoyed flicking through the cocktail list which was as innovative as the food - forget your run-of-the-mill Cosmo here! At Fish School it’s all about something different, like the Wet Market Martini or the Third Street Spritz to whet your appetite or finish off your evening with a funky twist.


All-in-all, I had a wonderful experience and felt a million miles away enveloped in the bustling surroundings. If you’re in search of something other than the likely Central picks, get out your Google maps to sample the offbeat and original at Fish School.


Original article appeared on Sassy Hong Kong

http://www.sassyhongkong.com/eat-drink-fish-school-sai-ying-pun-seafood-restaurant/ 

All images courtesy of Fish School

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Tantalising New Menu at 22 Ships

The Hong Kong dining scene is a rapid revolving door, with new joints opening and closing faster than you can say “cheque, please!”. While this provides plenty of opportunity to frequent a new restaurant every other week, it’s also comforting to know that some HK staples are alive, well and at their very best. Enter 22 Ships: the creation of Gordon Ramsay protégé Jason Atherton, that has been a Hongkers hit for over four years and still has people queuing on the daily to bag a seat at the hottest table in The Wanch. Top tip: those in the know - and who call this spot their regular - simply call it “Ships”, donchaknow!



We arrived to treat our taste buds to some of the new additions to the menu, and the 35-seat venue was packed and buzzing with the vivacious chit-chat of hungry diners. The atmosphere at Ships is electric, with the clanging of small plates of perfectly proportioned tapas and chilled glasses of crisp wine adding to the hectic soundtrack of the venue. If you’re in the mood for an aloof, reserved dinner date then Ships is not The One. However, if it’s energy and entertainment you’re after, thrown in with some seriously divine dishes, then step right up to a high stool at this animated - and at times boisterous - bistro!



The team at Ships prepare each dish freshly in the open kitchen; sprinkling ferocious passion on every aspect of their menu. Head Chef, Aaron Gillespie, was a breath of fresh air as he detailed each offering with optimum pride and enthusiasm. His infectious nature worked a treat and we were bursting with excitement to delve into some stellar staples and new choices.



We began with one of the evening’s specials - on Aaron’s recommendation - which was a glorious pairing of imported Italian burrata and shaved Australia truffle followed by the Jamon, Manchego and Truffle toastie with quail’s eggs – an extravagant, indulgent and flavourful twist on an old classic. Moving on to the guilt-free but gratifying Bluefin Tuna with Sago Crackers was the perfect transition and gluten free to boot – bonus!



For the side accompaniments, we decided on a helping of the cauliflower, mushroom and walnut pesto medley which, you have to taste to believe: I’m still wondering how this weird and wonderful concoction captured my heart so well! And just to be fair to the veggies, we also tried the peas, broad beans, goat’s cheese and red vein sorrel which I would highly recommend for its freshness and depth of flavor. Don’t say I’m not good to you guys!



Of course, no trip to Ships would be complete without sampling the suckling pig, drizzled in a reduction of pineapple and piquillo peppers. This trusty treat did not disappoint and is still as consistently good as it was when Ships first launched, years ago. Likewise, the seafood paella – served with fava beans and crispy bacon – is not to be missed, with its creamy consistency and smoky undertones.



By this point, we were feeling pretty full and happy but I’m so glad that we managed to fit in some of the playful desserts on the menu. Finishing off with the Green Tea Cheesecake provided the perfect mix of sharp and sweet; combining just the right amounts of cooling yoghurt and zesty lime. The Strawberry Chantilly was intricately plated and tantalisingly tangy.




I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Ships to unwind with the casual and social way of eating. It’s easy to hop on the latest bandwagon but, it’s worth bearing in mind that this place is an oldie, but a goodie.

Original article appeared on Sassy Hong Kong

http://www.sassyhongkong.com/eat-drink-22-ships-new-menu/

Images courtesy of 22 Ships and Taking Hong Kong