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The Eight (by Chef Au Kwokkeung) - Macau

Hi blownd,

You're certainly more than welcome to share your experience at The Eight here. Look forward to your review ..
My dining experience at cantonese restaurants (in particular at HK) can be considered quite shallow too - only 1-2 places I've visited more than once to "prove" their consistency

Ki-sho: Potentially Singapore's best Kaiseki restaurant at this moment

After having a very good meal at Ki-sho last year, I decided to return here a couple of months ago. It was a Tuesday evening and the restaurant happened to be very quiet. After a Japanese gentleman came and escorted me to my seat, he informed me that I was the only customer as far as the dinner reservation was concerned. I was surprised but a bit happy too, with the possibility of having a private dining with the affable and capable chef Kazuhiro Hamamoto. Hamamoto, dressed in white (like in most kappo kaiseki places in Japan) this time, greeted me. Then he offered to do an omakase in which most dishes would be different than my earlier meal and I immediately complied with his suggestion. Of course, I could always request to repeat the same dishes like last time if I wished.

Similar to last time, I had 8 “appetizers” and some of the highlights were:
-I loved my first 2 courses. I began with soft and sweet komochi yari ika (with its egg) accompanied by fresh and delicious white bamboo shoot and wakame. Following this, I had tasty and top qualities of tairagi, akagai, ikura and asparagus served on the pen shell.
-The clean and light noresore was a pleasant delicacy (having it for the first time) served simply with yuzu and ginger
-Uni with caviar and jelly was (again) excellent. This time, the dense and rich sea urchin was 100% bafun uni from Hokkaido. I certainly would love to have it every time I eat here
-The heavenly Toriyama wagyu beef was prepared in ‘roll’ form this time instead of the ‘cube’ cut, highlighting its marbled meat. As expected, it was moist and very flavorful.

I had a lot more sushi courses this time (18 pieces or so) since I chose not to have the uni rice (kinda regretted it but I was full at the end of my meal). I thought Chef Kazuhiro’s sushi making skill was underrated. For me, he made one of the best sushi in Singapore – probably my favorite at this moment. Some morsels that I liked very much were:
-Ika: crunchy, silky and rather sweet
-Sayori: elegant, clean and delicious
-Nodoguro: interesting and fatty
-Aji: fresh and flavorful; often underrated
-Awabi: ‘crispy’ with subtle taste. I enjoyed its ‘chewy’ texture
-Engawa: succulent with concentrated texture; one of my favorite pieces of the night
-Tsubugai: inherently sweet with crunchy texture
Clams served at Kisho possibly the best one in Singapore but not many people would enjoy these morsels. Outside the items above, the usual suspects sushi such as kama toro and otoro (both in aburi), bafun and murasaki uni, as well as anago were wonderful as well

The Spring dessert was good. I had sweet and refreshing white strawberries served with sake jelly. Kazuhiro Hamamoto-san also kindly gave me 2 glasses of in-house sake. Meikyoshisui junmai ginjo and junmai daiginjo. Both were awesome but generally, I prefer the fragrant and ‘stronger’ junmai daiginjo.

The service at Ki-sho was consistently good. The tea/water was always refilled and often replaced with new ones when the ocha was not hot anymore. Staffs were courteous and friendly; they would escort you on the way out as well or even wait until you get on your vehicle (taxi in my case). The best part was the personal and direct interaction diner had with the knowledgeable and kind head chef Kazu. With a good command of English, he was ready to explain and answer any questions regarding the dishes or Japanese food in general or talk about something else. Essentially, guest’s overall experience mattered for him. And I certainly had a great meal here; I left full and felt very satisfied with plenty of delicious dishes I consumed. It has become my favorite restaurants in Singapore. Ki-sho actually has “prevented” me from coming to Waku Ghin (the other restaurant I used to go nearly twice a year in the past) since mid-2013 – well, my budget was limited so I could not visit both.

Based on 2 visits, I scored the overall dining experience at Ki-sho to be 95/100 (about 2 ¾* by Michelin standard). To read more details about the ambiance or other details, you’re welcome to read my longer writing below or just find my 1st meal review.

More detailed reviews: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
Here are the pictures from this meal: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Tasting Menu at Lung King Heen

thanks for reading

The Eight (by Chef Au Kwokkeung) - Macau

I could not find any thread specific to this restaurant – might as well start one here

Slowly but surely, Macau tries to emulate what Las Vegas has done. It has evolved from the epicenter of gambling to have diversified itself in many other ‘fields’ such as (high-end) shopping, MICE, dining and family activities. Like it or not, the Lisboa group has the most outstanding restaurants serving top quality food in Macau (Note that - I never like Lisboa hotel, both the old and new; somehow the overall design is quite tasteless except for some individual outlets). Last month, I had the opportunity to dine at the Eight, Michelin’s latest 3-star that has been under the radar until recently. As of now, the “8” is the 2nd Cantonese restaurant holding the famous red book highest accolade. Since I was staying in the Taipa area and the fact that I was alone, I decided not to go for the dim sum.

The Eight is relatively new, opened in 2007 and located in the second floor of the Grand Lisboa hotel. The dining room is big and opulent; can easily fit in at least 150 people in addition to several private rooms. Since it has no view and window, it goes all out to make the dining room beautiful. The décor was indeed quite impressive, dominated by black color with bright lighting and red/orange ceiling. The remarkable center piece, upon entering the restaurant’s corridor, was hundreds of crystals in sphere form suspended by delicate & thin threads. Behind it was a large wall adorned by carefully designed goldfishes. Lastly, as the restaurant’s name suggest – there are number “8” (the most auspicious & favorable number among the Chinese) in different forms everywhere; my favorite one is the ‘chandelier’ made of jade-ringlets. It may not be as lavish as Robuchon au Dome’s interior, but I find the “8” dining room was more harmonious and pleasant.

Eating Chinese food alone is often not that easy especially if one wants to try as many dishes as possible but the degustation menu was not available. It was ... but for a minimum order for 2 people. I took a look at it; it was lots of food but a few things I was not fond of so I did not “push” for it either. Instead I went for a la carte and fortunately there were several dishes that can be ordered either per piece or per person. Here what I had:

-I began with French foie gras a la ‘char siu’ served with preserved Chinese sausage. A modern interpretation by using duck liver that happened to be very rich combined with sweet sausage. Too strong for my taste; hot tea with bitter/strong flavor helped
-It’s followed by deep-fried chicken wing filled with shark’s fin, pork and crab meat – served hot. Each element cooked separately and it was well-executed. The wing’s skin was still nicely intact and the dish was moist and tasty with a hint of lime while the shark’s fin provided interesting texture. Oh it was not greasy at all; good job
-The best dish of the evening was the meaty and succulent crab claw’s ‘meat’. It was perfectly executed with superb flavor. The dish was served with silky egg white with some flavor of Chinese wine and subtle ginger aroma. I could not finish the egg white and but should have no problem for another serving of claw ;) by the way, the waitress was kind enough to allow me to order only one crab claw dish

-I often see baked sea whelk in Portuguese sauce at the menu in HK restaurant; it looked appealing with local flair, however never actually tried one. So I did eventually here – the presentation was appealing. Inside, there were a few other things such as pork, onion, parmesan cheese etc. Because there were many other produce and heavy sauce, I could hardly taste the sea whelk itself. The gratin crust was pleasant, but I was not a fan of the stuffing below – too rich and can hardly differentiate/taste the ingredients
-In addition to the crab claw, I also loved my “main” course. Seriously, I ordered suckling pig filled with fried rice and preserved meat – half portion and I got the ‘head’ part while the table near me got the ‘tail ’ part sharing among 3 ladies. I love suckling pig’s crispy skin especially the baby/younger one. The skin was crunchy (and not hard) along with delicious thin layer of fat below. The rice was quite flavorful too (using glutinous rice might be better). It was almost as wonderful as the one I shared with my wife at Kimberley hotel’s restaurant. The good part, here was smaller too and I managed to finish 80-90% of the skin, including from the head and half the rice. My maître d’ who thought it would be too big for one person looked perplexed for a moment.
-Finally, for the dessert I picked what I initially thought was the copy of typical Thai sweet – coconut glutinous rice with mango. Some dishes here were cooked up to Chef Au’s creative interpretation. It was more ‘complicated’ than just ‘rice’ and mango with coconut milk. The kitchen also put mousse, white chocolate and lots of ‘mango sauce’. It was rich and flavorful. The sauce was a bit too much; I only consumed ¾ of it. I slightly prefer Thai’s “khao neeo mamuang” since it’s ‘cleaner’ on my palate.

Throughout the meal, I drank Taiwan’s tea (Dong ding wu long) which was freshly boiled in front of me prior serving at the beginning. Generally, the taste was soft and ‘long’. Generally, the food at the “8” was solid and delicious; arguably the best in Macau and can compete with the best one available in Hong Kong. I would rate it 92 pts (about 2 ¼ *). Furthermore, it was reasonably priced. It seemed fine dining places in the Lisboa hotels were subsidized quite substantially and not allowed to go ‘bankrupt’. What’s better than the food was actually the service. The dishes flowed smoothly with perfect timing. Usually when dining alone, there was a period I spent some times on my mobile while waiting for the food, but not here and neither did I feel rush. The service was excellent; the ‘F&B manager’ was walking around and talking to some tables including mine. However, the main star was the waitress attending my table. She was friendly, attentive, enthusiastic and efficient. Moreover, she spoke Mandarin, Cantonese and English with ease – much better than any waiters I met at Robuchon au Dome. She also consistently asked my opinion about each dish and often gave additional information about the food (how they’re prepared and added info on ingredients used that’re not mentioned in the menu). Given the enjoyable dining experience, the next time I am in the area (and not alone), the Eight was likely to be the only restaurant I would like to visit (again)

You can see the pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357...

Tasting Menu at Lung King Heen

I got your point Charles
Michelin HK/Macau is probably the most lenient one compared to other cities
As the director said once (if not mistaken), they need to sell the book too - imagine Cantonese cuisine got zero 3-star in Hong Kong ...

Another thing - having a large menu and serving more than 200 guests daily on average; expecting perfection all the times is perhaps impossible. It's like someone having a banquet in the big ball room and dreaming of Bernard Pacaud executed 100+ langoustine flawlessly

Tasting Menu at Lung King Heen

(LKH) Lung King Heen (or “view of the dragon”) is arguably the most well-known Chinese restaurant in the world. Its popularity shot to the roof when more than 5 years ago it became the first Cantonese restaurant to ever receive Michelin 3-star award. The amazing part is that LKH has managed to keep the accolade without any issue. I’ve actually been here twice, mainly for dim sum during lunch: with my family (1st visit) and with my wife (2nd visit during our honeymoon). However, last month I came alone for dinner to savor the Chef’s tasting menu – this way, I can have a more ‘complete’ picture about the restaurant’s quality. My experiences here have been satisfying though I never thought it’s a convincing 3-star place like some other restaurants in Europe and Japan. It probably makes sense since LKH, similar to many other high-end Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong and/or Asia, is usually capable of serving more than 100 dishes. It’s simply impossible to produce that large number of items flawlessly and consistently at the highest level (moreover, it opens 7 days a week) despite the fact that Chef Chan Yan Tak, the LKH’s executive chef, commands about 25 chefs in his kitchen.

Let’s talk about the food. My meal began with tofu-like stuff with carrot and baby corn. Then, the staff brought in 3 kinds of ‘sauces’: chili oil with shrimp paste, XO sauce containing tofu & mushroom as well as chili oil with ‘bird’s eye chili’.
Some dishes that I like were:
-LKH appetizer combination, very popular here. Roast goose with plum sauce (nice skin with not so-tender meat – not as good as yung kee’s), Crispy suckling pig (crunchy skin with some fat underneath; went along well with its meat in sweet hoisin sauce & thin mantou – solid though I prefer the skin from baby pig), and Barbecued pork with honey (fatty, very tender and not too flavorful; probably the best among these 3 items)
- My favorite dish of the night was braised abalone (small portion) and garoupa fillet in supreme sauce. Both 'items' were outstanding and perfectly executed. The abalone was tender and clean; the garoupa was mild and delicate; the oyster sauce was just right and not cloying. A beautiful combination

LKH has a huge and fresh & top quality prawn with its nice natural flavor but inherently not so sweet. It was simmered with butter and garlic – quite pleasant. My main course was Wok-fried wagyu beef cubes (safe option); they were quite tender and flavorful with the right size and portion. The morel on the side was minimal and alright while the capsicums were useful for 'balancing' if one thinks the beef was too rich. The rests were just alright (not disappointing, yet not memorable either). I was referring to hot & sour soup with lobster wonton and fried rice (the grain is nicely separated but the flavor was light) with crab meat and conpoy. The least appealing part was the dessert: crème brulee with ginger, very sweet and a bit inferior to the one I had in western fine dining place. The kitchen should’ve prepared Chinese-style sweet instead.

Located in the 4th floor of posh Four Seasons, it goes without saying that the interior would be (somewhat) luxurious but thankfully not overwhelming. The elegant dining room has high ceiling and feels open; the tables are well-spaced and the harbor view is beautiful. However, it’s not my favorite. I think Caprice, located at 6th floor, and Pierre (at the Mandarin Oriental) has a better “angle” for the view – sorry, a bit picky here. The service was very good – professional but hardly personal. Staffs were polite, thoughtful and knowledgeable. As a lone diner, they brought me some magazines to read. Fork and knife were provided but I was more comfortable eating with chop stick whenever possible. My cup of tea was mostly full all the time. I drank Yunnan preserved Puer tea (vintage '99) and it was excellent (having intense flavor and aroma)

In general, I was pleased with my dinner. It was not cheap. It’s Hong Kong after all and I ate during the period when USD (and hence HKD was really strong). My meal truly highlighted Chef Chan’s principle to deliver tasty flavors by using high quality, fresh & local ingredients. The technique was mostly classical Cantonese, but often with some modern twist – the Chef always wanted to learn and improve. I learned this from the maître d’ since Chan Yan Tak himself was on 1+ week holiday when I dined there. I would give 93/100 for my meal (about 2 ½* by Michelin standard). It was marginally better than Yan Toh Heen, Tin Lung Heen and Sun Tung Lok.

Here are the pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee reopens

Surprisingly 'reasonable'; nearly 500 for 2 with 3 glasses of wine or so
We received their favor (read: getting about 30-40% disc for the food)
My first experience of such thing in this place

Also forgot to mention
We were brought to the kitchen to meet Chef Meder - friendly and spoke english fluently
Its kitchen design was pretty much the same as before or at least I did not notice any significant changes
And we happened to see Alain Ducasse himself in the Chef's table who might have entertained one of Dorchester group big 'bosses'

Ducasse came out and greeted us for 1-2 minutes, but then rush back to talk with his guest again afterwards
But he did not seem to be a kind of chef who will go out and visit diners in the dining room

And with this review, I 'officially' completed my Europe trip report of Autumn 2014 visit - some other are in UK and Italy forums

Apr 12, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee reopens

Alain Ducasse … again, but this time is my review of his flagship restaurant in the newly renovated Plaza Athenee. I was supposed to complete it last month, but works and families stuffs prevented me from doing so. Anyway, it was not my initial visit here, but with the big changes that the hotel and this restaurant went through – it looked as if I came to a “new” restaurant, which was very unusual for me to burn money in the new fine dining restaurant, too risky. However, I knew and contacted Denis Courtiade (restaurant director) prior to my visit; he had managed to persuade/convince me that I should give it a try. He took good care of me in my previous 2 meals at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee (ADPA) under Christophe Moret, so I believed that I would be ‘safe’ under his guidance. Moreover, my wife and I would be staying in-house for a couple of days.

We arrived at the restaurant nearly 9 PM and the restaurant was half empty (it was full house 30 minutes later). We were seated in the middle at the new dining room, but I think it had equally sophisticated/luxurious ambiance (Ducasse’s favorite designer, Patrick Jouin with the help of Sanjit Manku, gave the already beautiful dining room a different look). As most people should be familiar by now, Alain Ducasse decided to remove meat and poultry from the menu, replaced by a new concept called “Naturalness” aka healthier and more sustainable use of produce. The restaurant only provided dishes created from 3 elements (trilogy): fish & shellfish (from ports of Quiberon & Lorient), vegetables & fruits (from Trianon Versailles garden), and cereal or grains (it can be from anywhere). I just saw the menu from a short period of time when Denis offered me to choose dishes for us containing & considering “masculine & feminine elements” and of course, I quickly agreed. The meals began with a healthy juice by mixing carrot, apple & celery (instead of champagne) and several amuse-bouche. For instance, a bowl of sorrel, salsify and chestnut; grilled Sardines in olive oil (very good) as well as sea bream tartar with chick pea mousse. Then the garden and marine tasting menu officially started.

Mine
-Similar to my previous visits or meals at Robuchon gastronomy restaurants, the kitchen brought a twist of dish with caviar and traditional garnishes. The metal bowl has cold jelly, lentil and generous portion of caviar (a great texture contrast of smooth caviar & jelly vs more coarse lentils). As a variation, there were buckwheat pancake and pressed caviar cream. It was delicious and I love the combination as well as delicate textures.
-Braised blue lobster with ceps. The lobster was superb and supple; it went along nicely with meaty and ‘nutty’ ceps and they’re tied together nicely with lobster jus. A great dish that looked luxurious and rustic at the same time
-After such excellent beginnings, it was not easy to keep up. For the main course, I had red mullet cooked with its scale – it was pleasant by itself. However, I found the sauce (the fish’s stock and its valuable liver) was too intense. I enjoyed the vegetables tian as side dish since they helped to reduce the mullet’s liver rich flavor

My spouse
-She began with ADPA’s classic: langoustine with caviar and consommé. The portion was bigger with more caviar on top, but the presentation was new. The fresh langoustine was of top quality; it was well enhanced by the caviar’s briny & salty taste as well as the broth’s (infused with lemongrass and ginger) deep flavor
-The most popular dish of the night (we saw more than 10 orders of this): perfectly cooked and sweet scallop paired with, as expected in autumn, aromatic white truffle and the whole brioche of comte and cauliflower. The brioche was a smart idea and tasted really good. The ‘brown’ sauce was also delicious – magnificent!
-Her main course suffered similar issue with mine. The meaty and white sea bass was of great quality, but the sauce had too strong flavor of black olive stock. The young leeks were pretty good. She liked eating the fish by itself without any sauce

For the transition between appetizers/main courses and cheese/desserts, ADPA provided rice dish. We liked it a lot; it was wild black rice cooked al dented, baked together with clams, squids and octopus. The shellfish had pleasant texture and light flavors – a nice way to slowly wind down.

Desserts
Since both of us opted to have no cheese, the kitchen (probably as per Mr. Courtiade’s recommendation) sent us 4 different desserts from the menu.
-roasted pear’s variety; it’s delectable. The pear was served with crunchy chestnuts, Corsica myrtle liqueur and ice cream
-warm Normandy milk skin was in contrast to the cold ice cream; both served with sweet wild strawberries. It was a delicious and refreshing dessert. Both of us enjoyed the smooth texture and light flavors of the milk skin
-the chocolate and coffee (manufactured) from the Paris factory; this dessert was available in all of Alain Ducasse fine dining restaurants but each (head) pastry chef was free to create and interpret the dish on his own. Here, we had thick and strong chocolate flavors; complemented by good coffee with pleasant aroma. A small slice of chocolate tart was exquisite. Of course, there was a good quality of home-made ice cream as well
-lemon from Nice prepared in different forms and textures. It was full of flavor ‘explosion’ especially bitter and sour; served with kombu seaweeds and tarragon
-lastly, the timeless rum baba showed up and it was outstanding as well. The sponge cake was moist with smooth and “light whipped cream” and top quality rhum. It’s still my favorite among Ducasse vast dessert ‘portfolio’

For the petit fours, we only had tasty praline chocolate bar accompanied by sweet muscat grapes. The tea infusion as digestive was available and it was still excellent. That’s the end of our food journey that last more than 3 hours; the pace of each course was just right.

Although there’s not meat, the technique and execution used were still very much French. The standard was very high and in general, we had excellent food though in my opinion, it was slightly inferior to my first meal here. I respected Ducasse’s bravery: for the new concept as well as appointing a new and relatively young, around/in his mid-30’s, head chef (Romain Meder) to do so. Normally, a top chef would ask his very experienced brigade for opening a gastronomy place bearing his name, like in the case of Joel Robuchon brought it Domonori Danzaki who has been successful in leading Robuchon restaurant in Singapore. I would not worry about the Michelin star ‘lost’, within 2 years ADPA should be a 3-star restaurant again.

While the food was wonderful, the service was even better than the food. Under the leadership of Denis Courtiade, my finest maître d’ maison in the world, we experienced the pinnacle of what 'perfect' service was supposed to be. Denis always paid full attention while being discreet at the same time; he could be humorous when necessary but knew exactly when not being obtrusive. I felt to be treated not just like royalty, but as an 'old' friend coming to his place. Staffs were respectable to guests, yet they were not intimidated and made diners felt very comfortable. Our assigned "femme maitre d" named Cecile also did a wonderful job. She was professional and friendly. My wife loved talking to her about many things and you could see the small details such as an eye contact and body language that she really engaged and enjoyed the conversation as well as doing her job. As a matter of fact, the special part of the whole dining room brigade was the smooth flow/movement, gestures and postures as well as the flair. Their performance was sensational. They're well supported with elegant uniforms designed by George Feghaly - mostly in white and grey that beautifully matched the overall ambiance. Monsieur Courtiade shared that it was his aim to give guests an unforgettable experience and for us, Denis absolutely achieved that goal with flying colors. On top of that, I comfortably declared that it was the finest and most fun service I've ever received in any restaurants. If there’s such thing as ‘perfect’ service, we experienced it during this meal

It was an exceptional dining experience. I would love to return here in different season and try the food as it becomes more mature and the kitchen team is more settled down. I had no issue give 97.5 pts for this meal (easily a 3-star standard in my book)

More detailed reviews (about the dining room, new wine list and ‘la trilogie’ ingredients): http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
You can see the pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Apr 12, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Eating At Aimo e Nadia just before their Summer Closing

As I searched my pictures for the past Euro trip, I noticed that I missed to write a review of one restaurant in Milan – Il luogo di Aimo e Nadia. The fact that I forgot, this implied that my meal was not really memorable; anyway, I’ll make the report. This family restaurant has been in operation for about 50 years or so (if not mistaken) and its location was not in the strategic/fashionable area of Milan. Perhaps because of this or the fact that it was on Monday, the restaurant was relatively calm – about a dozen people showed up. Therefore, the diners were probably the fans of aimo nadia’s food or some foodies like us who didn’t mind making an extra effort to go ‘out of the way’ a little.

The simple dining room with ornamental white ceiling was not big and surprisingly very modern. Additionally, there are plenty of art works (paintings and sculptures) by Paolo Ferrari adorning the walls as well as guest tables – I neither liked nor disliked them. Both the founders, Aimo and Nadia Moroni were no longer working in the kitchen; their daughter – Stefania has been in charge of the business with the help of a couple younger head chefs, only Fabio Pisani was available on that night. For the food, we decided to go for the tasting menu. The cooking was more into traditional Tuscan cuisine (the owner’s native region) instead of “alla Milanese” cooking.

The meal started quite good with fried porcini & eggplant with cocoa powder and mozzarella. Followed by a fresh, tender and tasty san remo shrimp with creamy pistachio mayonnaise. After that, we had ‘eturian’ soup with some seasonal vegetables (carrot, bean, wild fennel etc.); the veggie stock/broth was thick and rather heavy – alright.
The staffs brought the next dish seemed to be proud of it: “ravioli” of raw cuttlefish with its black ink. The presentation was quite unique, but it tasted too strong and not that delicious; the tomato ice cream and almond cream on sides did not help either. My favorite dish of the night was next: tortelli with veal ossobuco and white truffle. It was classic, pretty and delicious – also love the ‘cheesy & creamy’ flavors; pasta dishes in Italy were generally amazing!

The main course was rather disappointing. The smoked young duck (pleasing on the eye) was a bit too salty and overcooked, hence dry – it was ‘saved’ by its jus and sour cherry sauce. When we brought this up to Chef Pisani (he’s walking around the tables), he just said ok and left to the next table. We noticed that the restaurant was not too pleased when receiving non-positive feedback from customers. No big deal since I would be very unlikely to return here anyway. Both of us opted to skip cheese and as a replacement, we were given the specialty of Puglia - cream of chickpeas with wild chicory, onions and ‘biscuit’; it was fine. Then we had the easy to eat pre-dessert in fennel ice cream covered with chocolate and nuts. For the dessert itself, we had velvety chocolate mousse with red grape ‘soup’, biscuit and wine sorbet; quite pleasant.

I heard plenty of good things about this restaurant in particular when both Aimo and Nadia Moroni were still around, which unfortunately we did not really experience it based on this lone visit. The founders’ ideas of combining tradition and creativity were still there, but not so much on the execution and the resulting dishes. We did not have bad meal per se, but it was nothing remarkable either. The food was alright; the staffs just did enough but not so much tried to please/elevate guests’ experiences. Unless you’re a hardcore foodie, taking the extra effort to visit here would not be necessary even when you’re in Milan. I still prefer the classical Milanese menu I had at Cracco several years ago. I don’t mind giving this meal a (low) 2-star Michelin level. I wish them good luck maintaining it, somehow with the current team; I just didn’t see it would attain the 3rd macaroon … ever.

For pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357...

Mar 25, 2015
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Pierre Gagnaire Paris

I'm afraid so
This dish is usually only available around mid Oct until end of the year or early Jan
Nevertheless, you would still have a good meal(s) at Gagnaire Paris in April especially if you enjoy asparagus and morels
(any) fish is generally really good there

Mar 10, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Pierre Gagnaire Paris

You're welcome
Do you love/like lièvre à la royale or any la chasse in general? If you do, then I'm sure you would very much enjoy this classic version

Probably a regular at Gagnaire, I observed one guy was allowed to order only the 3rd serving (pie pastry) of hare a la royale dish and consumed half of them

The more modern re-interpretation with 'lighter' sauce was probably more suitable for me such as the one prepared by Philippe Rochat below
https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Mar 10, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Pierre Gagnaire Paris

Pierre Gagnaire has become a “celebrity” chef recently. His restaurants are all over the globe (from Paris to Tokyo, from Las Vegas to Moscow). Despite this, somehow he’s not as ‘famous’ as Joel Robuchon or Gordon Ramsay. However, when discussing among the world’s grand chefs, Pierre Gagnaire, nearly 65 years of age, is very likely to be the most admired and respected. Until now, he seems to still have the energy of chefs who are 20-30 years younger than him. When visiting his empire ‘collection’, Gagnaire prefers to be at the kitchen leading his team and quite often getting his hands dirty as well to create dishes that will please his customers.

Ever since I tasted Pierre Gagnaire’s creations at his main restaurant on rue Balzac in ’07, visiting his other restaurants was something I never considered. Last year was no exception. I had another meal at Gagnaire and it took place in his flagship Paris restaurant. Unlike my previous visits, I was a man on a mission this time. I knew exactly what I wanted to order. It was a late autumn season and in French cuisine it meant 2 things: gibier and truffe. When dining with my spouse, I think I have the tendency to look at special dishes (usually a la carte) served for 2 people because I often dine alone too in which this kind of item is usually out of option.

After having decent amuse-bouche consisting of several items, my first course arrived. I had smooth, tasty and light parmesan cheese soufflé (the portion was quite big). On top of it, there were rich and velvety spinach ‘soup’, fragrant & strong white truffle (the shavings’ results look a bit ‘ugly’; I think the assistant manager did not really do a great job) and crunchy roasted hazelnuts. It was a pretty and delicious dish featuring texture, color and flavor contrasts. This dish had 2 side items: pain soufflé with mascarpone cheese & crunchy cabbage; nice sweet and sour of lemon jelly with pear/pecorino ice cream. It was a well-executed and interesting dish; I was pleased to have chosen it for my truffle dish instead of the more ‘predictable’ risotto or chicken. My wife did not want any appetizer since she anticipated the main course would be heavy.

Following the soufflé above, come the supposed to be the main highlight of our meal: Lievre a la Royale in 3 servings to be shared for 2 people. Pierre Gagnaire showed his talent and skills in preparing classic French dish in the old-fashioned way. After all, he used to work at Paul Bocuse and Tante Alice.
1st part was the ‘easiest’ to savor meaning not too gamey. The saddle of hare was perfectly cooked, tender and delicious. It was accompanied by sweet & tasty sauce (a combination of lard-deglazed with marc brandy as well as orange marmalade with barberry); the vegetable side dish was good and added some complexity.
2nd part was really intense. The hare leg and its fat cooked a la royale served with heavy sauce (a right proportion of hare’s blood, solid red wine quality, foie gras etc.) and some cube of duck liver (really rich). Truly a robust and powerful dish, it was not easy to finish all of it. To reduce its intensity, there was parsnip puree with a hint of chocolate as side dish
3rd part was nearly as rich/’strong’ as the 2nd part. It was a buttery puff pastry pie filled with hare’s meat and its powerful jus. To “balance” it, Gagnaire provided pineapple & papaya sorbet flavored with cardamom. I only managed to consume ¼ of the pie because previously in addition to my portion, I also eat my spouse’s dishes (1/4 from the 1st serving and 1/3 from the 2nd serving) – she did not have strong appetite for this kind of dish. An instant classic of French pithivier

The technique applied and preparations taken for this dish were nearly flawless. However, I think I came to understanding that generally wild game stuffs were neither my passion nor really suitable for my palate with some exception on wild duck meat and venison. This legendary dish did not disappoint at all, but I would pick Gagnaire’s more normal dishes (lamb or turbot) over this. Similarly, I believe the partridge dish I ate at L’Arpege was probably as good as it gets and in the same manner, I would easily choose Passard’s duck or pigeon anytime over his game dish. That being said, Gagnaire’s hare a la royale was one of the dishes I must have tried at least once in my life and I achieved that from this visit

To close our meal, we shared Gagnaire’s famous le grand desserts (8-9 small desserts altogether) and unfortunately, I was not too impressed this time. The presentation was pretty but about half of the desserts gave “extreme” flavors. For instance, the coffee ice cream was really bitter; the red currant sorbet with caramel was very sweet while the citrus with orange was too sour. To reduce the many bold flavors and enjoy these desserts more, we simply got to ‘jump’ from one plate to the other – not really a nice way to indulge ourselves. At the end, we only managed to finish 2/3 of them simply because we did not really enjoy them.

Staffs at Pierre Gagnaire were friendly, patient, and efficient although not everybody would fully understand and remember the ingredient details of each course – it’s very challenging to do so here given Gagnaire’s mercurial nature. Save for the restaurant director, I hardly remembered the same people serving at this dining room even having dined here 4x. The restaurant was very busy that night, even the private room was occupied for an event attended by a dozen people or so. The young waiters taking care of us sometimes looked lost but tried to be calm. One gentleman kindly offered that we took away the left over pastry pie from our main course; when we’re about to leave the restaurant, we waited and looked at him for 1-2 minutes yet he did not remember that he had forgotten to give us our “pie” until we reminded him. One ‘glaring’ weakness, in my opinion, about the service here (and increasingly in many other institutions) – the restaurant director (in this case Herve Parmentier) stood out most of the times near the bar and entrance talking to his colleagues - rarely supporting his team directly. I experienced similar thing at Pre Catelan where JJ Chauveau only greeted guests upon coming and leaving, but missing in the dining room. That’s why I really admire people like Denis Courtiade or Jean-Claude Breton who consistently engaged the guests and empower his team; they’re truly iconic maître d’ maison

All in all, I was very pleased with my meal except for the dessert. However, this was not my best one – I’ve had better dinner experiences at this restaurant. As explained above, it’s not mainly due to the kitchen’s fault but with the fact that wild game stuff was not “my things” especially when served in the size of an a la carte portion. I bestowed 95/100 for the food (worthy of 2 ½* by Michelin standard). I’m not sure if I will return here in my next Paris visit; I’ve been here plenty of times. I could not recall there are dishes I really want to eat that I’ve not savored yet. Sadly, after this meal, L’Arpege with L’Ambroisie became the only restaurants in the world that deserved to have “4-star” in my notes – Gagnaire Paris used to be in that same ‘league’

You can see the pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Mar 09, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

The Ledbury, Notting Hill, London

For people like me who did not have vast knowledge about London’s food scene, I might consider The Ledbury (probably named after the road’s name and located in the quiet residential corner of Notting Hill) to be “new” with rising star chef in Brett Graham. However, apparently that the Ledbury already received 2-star Michelin more than 4 years ago and ranked among the very best dining place in London according to restaurant magazine/S. Pellegrino.

Our dinner here was our last gastronomy restaurant to visit in late Nov ‘14. We could be a bit ‘tired’ of eating, but then I decided to ‘complete’ our initial plan. We eventually showed up 10 min late on Sunday evening. The restaurant was not too big, with dark & thick drapes and plenty of mirrors making the room looked more spacious; the ambiance was pleasant and rather relaxed despite the fact that many people formally dressed. The restaurant was busy and I noticed, including us, there were about a dozen “Asian” diners – indeed, it’s a popular restaurant. We decided to have the shorter and cheaper degustation menu because it seemed lighter and I would like to try the beef main course (enough of game meat from this trip)

I will go straight with our menu.
1st course: it looked like a salad for refreshing. The chef prepared contrast of colors and textures throughout in artichoke, grapes, hazelnut and grated duck liver (interesting combination but only tasted ordinary on our palates)
2nd course: thin and translucent white beetroot baked in clay accompanied by decent cured & dried mackerel (looked like in ‘sashimi’ style). It was light and alright; the beetroot was not at the level I ate at L’Arpege
3rd course: things get better from here. The manager offered us to have 2 different dishes and we complied with his suggestion. I had the original course in the menu: tender roast turbot with yellow wine sauce, seaweed and brassica. Turbot and vin jauce was the favorite combination of Alain Passard and Chef Graham did quite a good job here; I did not find the vegetables truly enhanced the overall experience of this dish.
My spouse had the special dish: tender and flavorful grey partridge served with its jus, chestnut and truffle. It was a very pleasant and well-balanced dish; tasted better than my turbot

4th course: slow cooked dexter beef ‘tasting’ (short rib, roasted rib, ribeye cap) with truffle. The beef was perfectly cooked and every part was delicious; the puree would intensify the beef. I enjoyed the aromatic smell from the onions and juniper, and they tasted just fine. I was glad to keep my reservation due to this dish
Nothing really memorable about the blood orange granite and sweet custard as the pre-dessert
5th course: dessert time - nicely poached pear belle Helene (A Parisian menu staple) served with chocolate and vanilla ice cream covered with almonds. Well execution and quite tasty, a great way to end our meal

The service was professional and staffs were friendly and attentive; they got the basic stuffs right but we did not feel anything special. I noticed at least 2 staffs were Australian. The food was generally good. While it may be ‘worse’ when compared to Ramsay RHR or Ducasse Dorchester, I felt that the Ledbury’s food was more exciting and ‘lively’. I believe Chef Graham’s cooking had more potential and would simply get better. I don’t mind re-visiting the Ledbury should I return to London in the future. As of now, I think the 2-star was a correct assessment by Michelin. Getting a third one will be challenging. However, among the current London’s 2-star; the Ledbury is the only one with a decent chance in the next 3-5 years

Here are the pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357...

Feb 27, 2015
Bu Pun Su in U.K./Ireland

tokyo trip report feb2015

nice report - thanks
did you have your 'best' meal at seizan this time?

Feb 24, 2015
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Latest Opinions on L'Arpege??

Paris and L’Arpège have been synonymous things for me. Whenever I am in Paris, coming and having a meal at Alain Passard’s legendary restaurant is part of a ‘ritual’. Fortunate enough, I’ve had wonderful meals here for 5+ times and the restaurant has always been full house including my recent 2 visits. Yet, I never had any difficulties to secure a table at L’Arpège, perhaps due to the fact that they allow guests to book as far as 3-4 months in advance. As I arrived at the restaurant near 8:30 PM (considered early by Parisian standard), half of the seats was still empty; the staffs allowed us to choose any table for 2 that we liked. After ordering a glass of Rose champagne for my wife, I casually observed the restaurant and found that I pretty much recognized no one from the service team; suddenly my “home” in Paris became a rather strange place until Alain Passard walked around the dining room and greeted us several minutes later. The Chef, luckily, still recognized me and we had a short conversation – the charming and charismatic Passard was always friendly, sincere and caring to his customers regardless you’re a regular or not. During our latest meals, I could comfortably say that Alain Passard was also the main star for the restaurant’s hospitality. I will discuss more about the service later.

As a restaurant that strictly adhered to seasonality, there could be times when the ingredients were rather limited. It happened during our dinner concerning the poultry items. I was informed that the kitchen at L’Arpège only had duck and partridge (no other meat either); the duck was excellent but I opted for the small bird because I never had any game dish cooked by Alain Passard. Similar thing happened to the fish, only turbot was available. Because of this, we decided to go for the degustation diner menu – the last time I ordered this full tasting menu was more than 6 years ago. We’ve had more than 30 courses from our 2 meals here, thus this time I will not write the dishes in details. You could read them from my blog (see the link at the end of this write-up).

The summary of what we had - I’ve eaten half of the dishes served to our tables. L’Arpège’s signature/regular dishes that consistently showed up were: hot-cold egg, onion gratin, vegetable ravioli, ‘colorful’ vegetables with couscous & argan oil etc.; they’re all consistently great. Some outstanding new dishes were: sweet and fresh raw scallop served with thin radish and geranium oil (pretty and delicious); the partridge, served with its jus, was mild in flavor, tender with grassy notes and served with chestnut, leeks and aromatic herbs (elegant with nice complexity) – it was good, but not better than Passard’s duck, pigeon or sweetbread. My spouse’s favorite dishes were: beetroot sushi (moist & well-seasoned rice and tasty beet, but don’t compare it to the sushi served at Tokyo’s top sushi-ya) and flavorful and fresh lobster served with excellent dressing and turnips, her best shellfish dish in the entire trip. Lastly, for desserts – I loved the intensity, bitter and pure flavor of chocolate millefeuille and its sauce yet balanced by the star anise ice cream. In addition, the classic Paris-Brest was delicious and in harmony (The cream's sweetness was contrasted by the salty caramel and nutty & crunchy walnut. It was flavorful without feeling heavy unlike the one dimensional kind served at Pre Catelan)

Generally, I had another unforgettable meal for the dinner. However, for the 2nd meal during lunch, there was a slight drop in my satisfaction. The waffle had good smoke salmon and ‘whipped ham cream’ but the waffle itself was kinda dry and bland. The main course, a pristine Codfish was smooth but lack taste except from its wine sauce – it was not up to the standard of L’Arpège’s monkfish, turbot or sole. I gave 96 pts (the lowest score I’ve ever given) for my lunch and 98/100 for 1st dinner meal. Yes, my lunch was not good enough in light of the sublime meals I’ve had here in the past few years but when compared to other meals, that lunch was still better than my experiences say at Guy Savoy, Gordon Ramsay or Maison Pic.

Now come to the service. In spite of the fact that I was no longer with familiar with nearly everyone in the dining room, the ‘new’ staffs were capable of delivering stellar service during dinner. It might not as personal as before, but they’re friendly, generous and accommodative. The difference was an action by the Chef-owner. Alain Passard not only greeted every table at least once, but also he brought and served one dish to every table throughout that evening. In our case, he said that he cooked and personally delivered the Partridge dish to our table. On the way back to kitchen, Passard often helped clear dishes – I thought it was a noble gesture and great leadership by example to his staff. A small hiccup took place during lunch when
sommelier: would you like to have a glass of red?
Me: are we going to have a meat dish?
Sommelier: yes, and it should be a squab
Me: alright, then
10-15 minutes passed by (I already had a glass of Riesling and Chardonnay at that time) and suddenly I was told by other staff that there would not be any squab or other meat course for this lunch. Then I politely declined the red wine. The sommelier looked confused and apologetic. I know the restaurant can ‘make up’ the mistakes and give us more food as usual, but for this meal I already promised my spouse that it would not last more than 3 hours – my shortest meal at this place. It was our last full day in Paris and she would like to explore the city + we still had dinner later at 9 PM.

It was a very busy lunch and the restaurant director, Ms. Helene Cousin was around (I was told that she only does lunch nowadays ever since she had kids). Somehow, it was more intensive than the service during our dinner. Staffs moved fast and looked a bit stressed at times but they’re still professional. Again, when I said the service was not as good as before, I referred this with respect to the superb hospitality I used to receive here. Prior to 2014, whenever I dined at L'Arpège, 2 of these people (Helene, Nadia and Laurent, the former director until 2008) were always in the dining room and they always did fantastic job. They simply set the bar very high and I could not help to usually compare the service when they’re still around – Nadia also had left the restaurant. Ms. Cousin seemed tired but still tried her best to be helpful & cheerful; the motherhood seemed to take much of her energy though.

After these meals and despite some ‘imperfections’ at lunch, L'Arpège is still my favorite and best restaurant in the world. The dinner here and at L’Ambroisie, as far as the food was concerned, ranked at the top during my foodie trip in late autumn last year – both were spectacular and memorable. I still yet follow Passard’s suggestion when he said that the “best” produce of his gardens (quality and variety) was in the summer. I tend to think that summer was ‘boring’ and many restaurants are closed; perhaps I should listen to his suggestion one day

A more detailed review, please visit: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
Comprehensive dishes’ pictures were here: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Feb 23, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice

towards the end of Nov '14

Jan 31, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice

About EUR 550 for 2 with a glass of white wine if I recall correctly

Jan 31, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice

Alain Ducasse, nearly 60 years old next year, is never satisfied with his already remarkable empire. Around late summer 2013, he accepted the challenge to take over the restaurants at hotel Le Meurice (the acclaimed chef Yannick Alleno left the hotel in early ‘13). Ducasse has plenty of capable and talented brigades at his disposal; with the closing of Plaza Athenee for renovation, he sent Christopher Saintagne, a former sous-chef for JF Piege at Crillon, to become Meurice’s Executive Chef and in particular to lead the hotel’s flagship restaurant bearing his name. This restaurant is essentially the “same” establishment as Alain Ducasse Plaza Athenee (ADPA) prior to the hotel’s renovation in the fall 2013. ADPA was my initial destination, but since it would serve different kind of style (almost no meat, cream and sugar) upon re-opening, then I decided to visit Ducasse Meurice. Perhaps, my wife would also be impressed with its beautiful dining room.

In essence the grand dining room was as pretty as before (I had a dinner here under Alleno in the past). The big windows, majestic chandeliers, painting in the ceiling, and other opulent stuffs were still part of this magnificent dining place, which was modeled after a state apartment in Versailles. About half of the tables were filled, so the seats nearer to the kitchen and entrance were not occupied. We were seated at the side table near the window and facing the central dining room. It was a sunny day with plenty of natural light. My wife didn’t feel like eating a lot, so she ordered the lunch menu whereas for me, I opted for the Collection menu. Alain Ducasse was on track to probably become the first chef with two 3-star michelin establishments in the same city if ADPA managed to get back its ‘full macarons’ this Feb.

My spouse and I began with the same snacks and amuse-bouche
-fresh and briny oyster from Normandy to whet our appetite
-followed by sharing roots vegetables cooked in sea salt and served with rather sharp sorrel sauce. There were several kinds of veggies: potato, leek, radish, carrot etc. In spite of getting used to the quality of Arpege’s vegetables, we could still say this ‘au naturel legumes’ was solid (tasty, light without any trace of butter/cream)

The collection menu,
-scallops with Alba truffles prepared 2 ways. Firstly, the delicious and perfectly seared scallop in tapioca ‘bread’ with parsley and creamy sauce. Secondly, I had the pristine & sweet semi-raw scallop pasta and olive oil. A satisfying dish
-the kitchen cooked half portion of poached blue lobster with delicate artichoke for the next course. The sauce (a mixture of lobster just, bonito and vinegar) was excellent. The lobster was prepared in right texture: buttery claw and slightly firm tail; both were flavorful.
-refined chicken breast with superb albufera sauce and shaved of white truffle was the dish I looked forward the most and it was up to my expectation. The breast was moist and flavorful, covered by scrumptious and perfectly prepared classic albufera sauce plus Alba truffle shaved on top – heavenly. I liked this poached poultry better than Frechon’s famous Bresse chicken cooked inside a pig’s bladder
-I tasted 4 French (artisanal) cheeses and they’re very good. I had Mothais ala feuille, comte, Camembert and abbaye de citeaux. They’re accompanied by dry fruit & black olive breads as well as salad
-pineapple dessert in several forms such as extract, dry chips, sorbet and they’re served with avocado, coconut, chili spices and so on. I think the pastry chef should include fresh & sweet pineapple itself. It was quite ordinary and I felt a bit underwhelmed

Lunch menu
-‘semi-raw’ and fresh sea bream with beetroots and a dollop of caviar. I thought the fish was a bit too salty for my taste, but the combination worked well. My spouse enjoyed it
-my wife liked her main course a lot; it was a tender & delectable Bresse chicken with earthy & meaty cep mushrooms. I tried a bit and it was quite good, but not at the level of my poultry with albufera
-chocolate with some varieties: texture, taste, temperature etc. There were ice cream, decadent choco ‘sauce’, cocoa mousse and foam. The combination did not go as good as we expected. It was not bad, but nothing memorable either

Some notes about the food. Desserts were (surprisingly) kinda disappointing by Alain Ducasse standard – well, we would not have been had one of us ordered the legendary Baba au rhum. I could not recall Chef Ducasse created desserts, let alone delicious ones, in which he would combine too many things in one plate like what we had here. He was usually a ‘minimalist’ type and we could clearly see and taste 2-3 main items. For the appetizers and main courses, comparing here and my 2 meals at ADPA ... I found the execution at Meurice not as rigorous and precise as the one at Plaza except for the case of my chicken dish. My two previous meals at Ducasse Plaza can be found here:
https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...
https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

In addition, the portion for each course was getting smaller. I also saw the pictures of others eating similar dish at Plaza Athenee about 2 years to confirm it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very good meal and slightly more superior than my tasting menu at Ducasse Dorchester. It’s just that I knew what Alain Ducasse was capable of and this certainly was not his finest. I would give 96/100 (2 ¾* by Michelin standard) for the food.

Lastly, a comment on the service - it was not up to my expectation. It was not a busy lunch, and they refilled the water (and bread) very slowly – we had to raise our hands a couple of times. On the contrary, the staffs seemed to be very rush as if they did not want to talk or entertain us when we asked for something. Waiters also spoke quite fast and lacked eye contacts. It was not a typical of Alain Ducasse’s hospitality. The most decent service delivered by senior sommelier who used to work under Roucayrol at Plaza. As a matter of fact, the service was also not on par with Meurice under Alleno. To be fair, they’re still professional (get most of the basic things right) and trying to be friendly but not really personable or looked too sincere even though their english was quite fluent. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable lunch experience. However, the next time I return to Paris, it will not be in my list. It will be the time to re-visit Barbot’s Astrance and/or Alleno + Le Squer in their new restaurants.

You can follow this link for pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Jan 31, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Le Calandre, a Report

Italian fine dining restaurants tend to be quietly under the radar, with the exception of Osteria Francescana where its charismatic chef and the media successfully creating buzz that helped the publicity of Italian cuisine. 2006 was the year I began my gastronomy trip in Europe and Le Calandre was one of a few restaurants I happened to visit. Like many other 3-star places in Italy, Calandre was situated in a small and unassuming town of Rubano, not too far from Padua. I instantly fell in love with that place though the not-so-strategic location has prevented me from returning there until Nov last year. My spouse would really love to visit the floating city of Venice. It should always be romantic there and November would be quiet, so I managed to squeeze time out of Venezia to re-visit (lunch) the most beloved restaurant of the Alajmo’s brothers.

Le Calandre’s address was still the same but the interior tremendously changed. It became very dark (the restaurant covered up the natural light) with spot/low lighting directed at each of the 8 big circular tables uniformly cut from the same 180-year-old ash tree. The table had a dip in the centre to hold bread basket. There was no more the typical Michelin white cloth. The decor was still stylish and elegant, but without any extravagant feeling. The unique and specifically designed tableware and glassware were still available. The restaurant introduced “Carpe diem” concept in which guests who were certain to order one of the 3 tasting menus could do advanced payment and received 15+ % discount. We took advantage for the offering and this time I ordered the ‘longer’ version of the Autumn seasonal menu. Even after the discount, Calandre appeared to be more expensive than the other 3-star Michelin establishments in Italy but they really gave lots of food. I had to request for a break just before the meat course, which hardly happened for my usual appetite.

After some bread, snacks and amuse (involved plenty of cheese), then come the courses from the Fall degustation menu below,
-small and sweet sea scallop was in harmony with the apple agretto acidity and celery meringue delicate flavor
-flavorful langoustine & squid were wrapped by velvety raw piemontese beef; this dish was served with lobster cream/mayo, vegetable salad and caviar
-one of my best dishes was fresh burrata having buttery flavor. Under the burrata, there were fish and clams that were complemented by delicious salty & fragrant squid ink – simple and delicious
Good antipasti then followed by pasta & risotto
-an innovative creation of tarragon pasta with flavorful pistachio sauce, snails, octopus and herbs served in a copper pan. The smart part: the pasta was not the star and acted more as a rich emulsion
-wheat linguine was prepared slightly too “al dente” for my taste. The ‘dressing’ was quite interesting, made of pine nut, pumpkin and beef stock producing intense flavor – not bad
-in Autumn, the risotto dish was served with chicken stock jelly, subtle colatura di alici and shaved Alba truffle. It was creamy & rich yet not heavy with the rice having perfect texture with slight saltiness. Very good and a bit more superior to similar dish served at dal Pescatore
-as the first timer, the kitchen gave my spouse the classic version: risotto, cooked perfectly, with saffron and liquorice. It’s still the finest risotto in the world, even better than the one above. The saffron and licorice powder gave balance of sweet & bitter flavor, while the added parmesan was delightful

Delightful primi. Now it’s time for the secondi (seafood and meats)
-seared fresh & top quality of succulent lobster served with smooth no-cream sauce (made from sea urchin and crab) as well as meaty & earthy mushroom. A sublime dish and love it very much
-juicy, thinly cut and flavorful lamb was prepared ‘alla Milanese’. This beautiful meat was accompanied by aromatic almond & herb, fresh salad and red beets
-lastly, tender & gamey baby squab in tasty ‘rustic’ sauce was served with cabbage, mango and sauteed peppers – enjoyable and luckily in small portion
For the dolci, the restaurant prepared:
-truffled egg, another Autumn specialty. It consisted of egg white, white chocolate, white truffle and vanilla ice cream. It was decadent as long as the truffle’s distinct smell and taste was still there. Without it, it became rather monotonous, sweet and (very) eggy
-my wife had Calandre’s new dessert called pollen. It’s a show contrast in temperature, flavor and texture. There were several elements inside such as elderflower gelato, pistachio, ginger granita and mango
-to close, each of us got a portion of Massi’s interpretation of Tiramisu, served in a specific designed glass. We got to zip through to savor the chocolate, coffee, and mascarpone flavors – clever and stunning

A remarkable “symphony” by a gifted Italian (kitchen) maestro. Chef Alajmo’s versatility has enabled him to create high quality classical and contemporary Italian dishes with ease. No wonder that he became the youngest chef ever to have received Michelin’s 3-star award in 2002. For this meal, I had 3 glasses of wine: 2 whites (2013 Niedrist Riesling and 2011 Monte lessini from Veneto) and 1 red (2009 Corto chianti) to be precise. The restaurant was very quiet; only 2 tables were filled, comprising of exactly 7 people. Massi Alajmo came to the dining room a couple of times and he likes to engage and listen to guests’ comments. He sincerely (still) wanted to be better and ensured diners’ satisfaction all the times. The Alajmo brothers had a few restaurants nowadays and this “forced” the older Alajmo, Raffaele to travel around and unable to stay put at Calandre anymore. The current restaurant manager named Andrea Calzavara who was friendly but he only met guests at the beginning and the end of the meal. In between, 1 waiter and 1 junior sommelier served all the 2 tables. They did a decent job by delivering good service in a professional but relaxed manner. We were pleased although I admitted it was not as polished as when Raffaele still lead the FOH. All in all, it was an incredible experience especially the quality of the food – I bestowed 97 pts meaning (in my notes) it’s the only restaurant serving Italian cuisine that deserved to be at the 3-star level without any reservation. Given Massi Alajmo’s talents and seasonal cuisine, a return to Calandre is necessary should I find myself around the Veneto region.

A more detailed review, please visit: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
Comprehensive dishes’ pictures were here: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Jan 24, 2015
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Noma in Tokyo?

Interesting feed backs
May I know your blog? I would be interested in seeing the pictures - thanks

Jan 15, 2015
Bu Pun Su in Japan

has anyone been to ducasse at dorchester lately?

In the Fall ’08, I completed my mission to visit all of Alain Ducasse gastronomy restaurants (including the one in NY). Things did not stay constant in the restaurant industry; after the closing of Ducasse Essex House, apparently the current Monégasque chef still had a strong ambition to hold 3-star Michelin for three different restaurants. I believe this might be important for him after knowing Joel Robuchon, possibly his main ‘competitor’, achieved that. Thus in ’07, he opened another restaurant bearing his name - Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester London (ADL) with the intention to attain Michelin’s highest rating. The rest was history and he managed to get that. As a matter of fact, Ducasse had chances to be the first chef with four 3-star restaurants after the takeover of Le Meurice. It could be interesting since Robuchon seemed to have similar goals by opening La Grande Maison in Bordeaux by putting one of his most capable chefs – Tomonori Danzaki to lead his only fine dining restaurant in Europe.

The journey of ADL was not that different from ADNY. There were strong critics/oppositions and plenty of negative reviews in the first couple of years before it eventually settled down and ADL seems to be doing very well now. The restaurant is relatively big for fine dining standard (probably can sit around 70+ people); it was a busy Saturday night. The dining room was, as expected, luxurious and well-appointed though not over the top as its Paris and Monaco counter parts. There were some wood panels, yellow/green “macarons/buttons” on the wall and the famous table lumiere. Additionally, the room was also decorated with good quality materials in light colors (tan + cream). I was told the table looking out over Park Lane during lunch time was fantastic. As far as the food was concerned, I think ADL was pretty much Ducasse Essex house moving to London with ingredients, whenever possible, were sourced in the UK and the service/decor was less formal. The essence of the food here is the elegant and traditional French cuisine with some modern twist. The menu’s was concept was almost the same as ADNY: the basic ones were appetizer + fish and/or meat + dessert; then there were a seasonal tasting menu and premium menu (usually involving truffle and caviar). As per the recommendation of Denis Courtiade, the maitre de maison of ADPA, we should consult with the restaurant director – Damien Pepin. We followed his suggestion and let him ‘surprise’ us.

Essentially, we were supposed to enjoy 7 courses – sometimes my wife and I would eat the same dish and the other times we had different items. Note that I somehow did not feel really well towards the end of the meal (in particular after the meat course that I can merely consumed ¾ portion); so I skipped the cheese, and only managed to eat less than half of the dessert. It got nothing to do with the food, more due to fatigue and perhaps the cold weather after an intense 2-week travelling in Europe. This meal was near the end of the trip and unfortunately I fell sick here. That being said, I believe I was still well enough to give “fair” judgment about this dinner experience. So we ate the following:

As soon as we’re seated, we were given a generous portion of gougeres in (emmental) cheese flavor, paprika and pepper – airy and puffy, good but I slightly prefer the one served in ADNY several years ago with bechamel sauce inside the choux.
1st – both of us started with seared of a plump North Scotland scallop served with rich sautéed cauliflower and pungent Alba truffle. It’s well-executed and very yummy
2nd – My spouse E had succulent Scottish langoustine that was nicely complemented by granny smith and coral vinaigrette dressing; my raw & cooked mushrooms was so-so; lacking in distinctive flavors and textures. I also found the parsley reduction too dominant
3rd – E received creamy and not-so-rich seared foie gras served with good quality artichokes and hazelnuts; I had a fabulous sauté gourmand lobster dish with flavorful and balanced sauce. The supporting stuffs were very good too such as the al-dente homemade semolina pasta and soft chicken quenelles. Deserved to be the restaurant’s signature dish

4th – wife: delectable sea bass with roasted cep, mushroom sauce and almond; it was solid and but not wow. The kitchen served me a firm and tasty seared turbot, ‘the king of fish’, served with root vegetables and light-flavored sauce.
5th – the main course was the classic duck (from Burgaud house) dish with turnip, beetroot and an excellent rouennaise sauce. The duck breast, cooked pink, was delicious though a bit ‘chewy’ nevertheless overall it’s very enjoyable
6th – each of us had an exotic fruit dessert: refreshing with great contrast in flavors and temperatures. It was very lovely after heavy & rich dishes.
I felt dizzy at this moment and simply asked for the bill, then rushed for a taxi to get back to our hotel. So we had no mignardises this time, simply receiving a box of chocolate produced in Ducasse Paris factory.

Throughout the meal, we shared 2010 Meursault clos de la velle Domaine darviot-perrin put in a carafe (more or less half a bottle) whereas for the duck, I drank a glass of 2008 Morey saint denis rue de vere perrot-minot; both were enjoyable. The markup was, of course, really high. Back to the food, I thought generally it went well. From appetizers, fish/seafood and meat as well as dessert – ADL went from strength to strength though nothing was absolutely mind blowing; simply tasty, consistent and well executed. For me, it’s the best restaurant in London, better than Gordon RHR. I scored 95/100 (2 ¾* Michelin level, about as good as Osteria Francescana), but still below Ducasse flagship restaurants in Hotel de Paris and Plaza Athenee. You won’t be disappointed if you come with the right mindset and expectation. Unlike me, my spouse liked this place even more; she said that ADL was even better than Dal Pescatore and Gagnaire Paris, which I didn’t quite agree. The service was friendly and efficient. Because it’s a busy weekend, Damien could not come that often to our table, but one young staff in charge of our table was doing well (always anticipated our needs) – unfortunately we forgot his name. He used to work at Guy Savoy Paris and was very passionate about the world of gastronomy, especially French cuisine. Despite a big challenge earlier after the opening, Ducasse Dorchester ultimately thrived in all sectors. We were told that Chef Ducasse was very supportive across the board (from food & wine to service & decor). Whatever the staffs need, it was not too difficult to be fulfilled. Maybe Sultan Brunei had no (budget) limit to make his Dorchester Collection hotels among the world’s best.

You can see the pictures here: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Jan 15, 2015
Bu Pun Su in U.K./Ireland

(Paris) L'Ambroisie, any recent review/report ?

One of the most polarized gastronomy places in the world probably belongs to Bernard Pacaud’s L’Ambroisie. Some guests, in particular first timers, were often turned off by the stiffness or intimidated by the formality/seriousness of the staffs. And sorry, (often) diners were not “kings” here. On the other hand, lots of people are blown away by the kitchen’s superb creations and not too picky about the restaurant’s hospitality. I think I fit in to the latter group especially after my latest visit in Nov last year. After nearly 5 years of absent, I was glad to finally be able to return here.

This visit was different than my earlier ones in a few ways: I went to dinner with my wife instead of a solo lunch like in previous occasions; I was told that securing a table for dinner at L’Ambroisie was very difficult, but fortunately it was not really the case for us – I had no issue reserving a table for 2 about one month before. Booking for dinner understandably more challenging as during this visit, the restaurant was full-house including the 3rd room in the back; at my previous lunch meals, at most 60% of the tables were occupied. These days, Mathieu Pacaud, Bernard’s son, was an integral part of L’Ambroisie kitchen – not sure since when. They would try to follow the steps of other successful father-child chef team such as in the case of Bras, Arzak and Marcon family.

The service, this time, was the best I’ve ever experienced and it was rather unexpected given I’ve been here 3 times before and did not see significant improvements in the past. The maitre de maison - Mr. Pascal was, as always, professional, elegant and focused. However, unlike my previous visits, he's more relaxed and much warmer this time. He smiled more often and talked with us in a few occasions; at the end of our meal, he even encouraged us to re-visit during winter to savor Bernard’s legendary roasted Bresse chicken with black truffles butter. There was also a younger staff that still recognized me, even though my last visit was more than 4 years ago, and his English has improved tremendously. Perhaps, it's true after all that, L'Ambroisie is the kind of restaurant where diners eat better and feel more comfortable after several visits. The only ‘fault’ of the service that night was when I returned to my chair from a rest room, I found my main course was already on the table although it’s still warm.

Similar to my other meals here, I usually have one amuse, 3 courses and a dessert. It went as follow,

Amuse-bouche: flavorful red mullet with its crispy skin served with veal juice and celery & apple puree - a ‘lavish’ and good start. Well, prior to this, we’re teased with light paprika and cheese short bread – it replaced the restaurant’s famous gougeres
1st course: (big) soft-boiled egg, flawlessly executed, with white truffle and cep ‘sauce’ was amazing! The egg white was really soft, but nicely held the pretty & tasty runny yolk inside. Egg and Alba truffle was like a match in ‘heaven’. The truffle and cep mushrooms were intoxicating (in a good way); they added some complexity and enhanced the overall taste. An excellent dish and somehow it tasted even better than Passard’s legendary egg

2nd course: blue lobster fricassee (with the shell fish in beautiful red color) was the reason I had to decline Pascal’s idea of having scallop with broccoli & truffle and it did not disappoint. I love Brittany lobster and I had personal mission to savor all of Bernard Pacaud’s losbter dishes. I “gave up” demanding the kitchen to cook and serve tender lobster; it’s almost always a bit too firm for my taste. However, this time ultimately Pacaud got the right texture of the tasty blue lobster (quite tender for the tail and rather firm for the claw). This homard dish, served with pumpkin puree and chestnut, was rich, intense (but not heavy) and complex but balanced. I could taste the variation of sweet, nutty, & slightly spicy flavors altogether. This is the 4th creation I’ve ever had, did I still miss any?
3rd course: I was excited knowing my request of having the ‘peerless’ pithivier dish of wild duck pie (served with salad) had been approved. There was a group of French business men (8 people) who also enjoyed and shared this pie dish. When I saw the tourte, it was not as ‘big’ as I initially thought. But, as I savored the duck meats, duck liver and veal inside the golden and airy pie – it looked as if it never ended. Furthermore, I ate about 1 quarter of my spouse’s portion. The meat was indeed succulent and flavorful; an ethereal dish and probably among the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten at this restaurant.

My dessert: sugar in sphere shape with apple, sabayon, sorbet and pistachio. The sphere was thin; I kinda enjoyed its light texture and taste after intense courses. A decent dessert
My wife’s: a classic hot souffle in pralin flavor with mango coulis. It’s perfectly executed resulting in an airy and fluffy souffle with balanced flavor – an extra ice cream on the side should be nice
Bonus: flourless chocolate cake - I finally understood why Monsieur Pascal didn’t recommend this signature dessert for my wife ... because they would give each of us a tasting slice of this heavenly chocolate tart. It was as scrumptious as before, incredible consistency. However, this time it’s accompanied my mocha ice cream to intensify the chocolate flavor

A wonderful meal from start to finish and the hospitality was top notch this time. We felt very welcome in the house of Pacaud and left felt very happy and satisfied in terms of both food service. My meal at L’Ambroisie was simply getting better and better – a difficult task for any restaurant (which I’ve visited at least in 3 occasions) to achieve such feat. In my notes, I bestowed the food 98 pts (undoubtedly 3-star Michelin quality); as a matter of fact, it’s one of the two restaurants in the world with Michelin’s highest rating that I thought should receive “4-star” instead. If one day, there’s a restaurant that could topple my passion toward L’Arpege, L’Ambroisie (and possibly Matsukawa Tokyo) is probably the one .. Given Bernard Pacaud is not retired yet. With such great experience, I will certainly make a conscious effort to come here again in the future when I return to Paris.

For more detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
If you want to see the pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Jan 07, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Pre Catelan

Le Pre Catelan (LPC), in the centre of the Bois de Boulogne (west side of Paris), is a respectable fine-dining restaurant with a rich history. It’s often associated with Gaston Lenotre, the guru of modern French patisserie. In 2007, Pre Catelan became increasingly popular in the gastronomy world when it, along with Barbot’s Astrance and Alleno’s Meurice, was elevated among the finest restaurants in France. However, despite having received 3-star michelin, Pre Catelan has not been considered to have the most delicious food in town. Probably for this reason, in addition to its location that’s a bit off from the Paris, LPC has not been under my radar. But this changed when last month, I finally had the opportunity to visit this grand pavilion located in the middle of lovely gardens.

There are not that many French chefs with more impressive ‘pedigree’ than Frederic Anton, the current head chef of Le Pre Catelan who recently has become a jury in the MasterChef France. He used to work for the legendary chefs such as Gerard Boyer (for a short stint) and Joel Robuchon for about 7 years. Some even have claimed that Frederic Anton was Robuchon’s most talented and capable protégé and he’s pretty much Robuchon’s right hand man during the peak of Jamin and avenue Raymond Poincare in the early 90’s. Ultimately, Anton was the recipient of prestigious Meilleur ouvrier de France and Chevalier the Legion of Honour. With these impressive CV’s, how would his creations be like when translated into dishes served at the splendid Pre Catelan’s dining room? I ordered the full menu of Le menu du Pre and let’s dive...

-The tasting menu began with crab serving 3 ways: the foamy and flavorful crab soup with crab meat inside; a container consisted of succulent crab meat mixed with cream fresh cream, sour lime and topped with the salty caviar – fresh and quite rich; the last part was a light salad (nutty & crunchy) with Asian sweet dressing and crab meat. A decent start
-Langoustine prepared 2 ways: the delicate ravioli of poached langoustine with olive oil & pepper mint foam. The big prawn was tender but surprisingly & sadly rather tasteless. The next preparation was better; fried langoustine (with seaweed) in ‘tempura’ style. The ‘wrapper’ was light and crisp; both romaine sauce and ‘Thai’ fish sauce were flavorful but a bit too intense for my palate. Good presentation but did not taste that great. My wife’s lunch special had 1 extra langoustine item, that’s served in basil curry – she said it’s good but nothing special

-The poached turbot, wrapped in seaweed, was meaty with good texture except it’s rather bland. Perhaps it’s cooked in fillet instead of troncon (prepared with bone-in). The savior for the turbot’s taste coming from reduced sauce of vinegar. The side dish of ‘mashed’ potato with seaweed was quite tasty but I was not too fond of its texture; it was not that smooth or creamy. Overall, it’s somewhat an ordinary dish even though turbot was usually my favorite fish species to eat in any high end places
-Finding good quality sweetbread outside France or Europe was very difficult, let alone eating a good dish executed flawlessly by an expert. Luckily, we’re in good hands here. The ris de veau, cooked in a casserole, served with its juice was tender, creamy and delicious. The veal stew with mushroom and onion was also good. A display of excellent old school preparation of French rustic dish. My favorite dish from this meal
-For the lunch menu, my wife’s main course was squid in 2 ways (the portion was big): one was served with tomato confit and herbs; the other one is fried in tempura style. It didn’t reflect a kind of highly cooking technique while the ingredients were alright. Taste wise was nothing special; we felt that we could get this kind of dishes at any restaurants even outside Europe. Quite disappointing that the restaurant at this caliber would prepare this dish, you’re welcome see the picture if in doubt

-My spouse didn’t like cheese so the kitchen gave her a pretty and colorful salad instead. For me, I decided to stick with the cheese course this time. I picked 36-month comte, saint-nectaire, coulommiers and vacherin mont d'or and they’re generally very good except the comte was a bit too “young” – yes, I have been spoiled by Anthony’s 4-year-old comte
-My menu had 2 desserts and she had one; the kitchen decided to bring all of them together and we’re overwhelmed. They all were pleasing to the eyes and served in ‘giant’ portions although they’re only part of the degustation menu. We appreciated this generosity

The desserts:
+Le citron happened to be my most acceptable dessert here. The combination of meringue, sorbet, mousse and biscuit were nice, but the issue was that the sweet flavor was very dominant; I had difficulties to savor the lemon mousse distinct sour flavor, moreover the basil sorbet was a bit weak. Instead of (lemon & basil) generating a balance and elegant taste, this dessert became a one-dimensional sweetness
+I really look forward to trying the famous Le pomme. The sphere looked perfectly round without any blemish. I found the sugar encasing thick (not too pleasant to eat) though brittle enough to be broken easily. Inside was really too much ‘sugar’ – I expected to taste more of apple (tangy) flavor for a lack of better word. The overall sweetness was even stronger than the one I had from the previous lemon dessert. I could barely able to taste the saltiness from the salted caramel ice cream and when the pop rock and the sugar sphere were bitten concurrently, it’s not a fun ‘texture’ to experience. Any combination I tried, sadly, it was not that enjoyable – better to see than to eat
+Lastly, my spouse’s dessert was the classic Le Paris-Brest with praline cream. The choux was not soft, but compensated by the thick and rich cream. I thought it would be nicer had they put more fig compote and/or salted praline with rather intense salt flavor to harmonize it
To be honest, despite the generous size given, I was quite disappointed with all the desserts. It’s just sweet flavor all the ways – I bet the chocolate dessert might be the same; I like chocolate (dark/milk) to have some recognizable bitter taste; not just a hint/subtle bitterness. The same would be expected when I eat lemon, apple or salted caramel that’s to be able to savor its respective unique flavors.

Having dined at all of Joel Robuchon (JR) restaurants (except the latest La Grande Maison, but have tried Tomonori Danzaki’s cooking), I could not help but notice some similar dishes at Robuchon’s vs Le Pre Catelan – it should not come as surprised I suppose. For instance,
-the crab and caviar – the presentation was very similar (https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...) but Robuchon has superior (Oscietre) caviar quality and has more sweet flavor from the coral gelee whereas Antony’s more on the ‘sour’ note – let’s call it a tie
-another example will be langoustine ravioli. Robuchon’s version (https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...) is head and shoulder above his disciples’ creations (this will include the one from Ramsay RHR) – JR’s was sweet and succulent, well-enhanced by the rich & creamy duck liver’s sauce; it’s been proven in more than 2 occasions. Initially, I thought it was not difficult to create it given Frederic’s and Gordon’s talents but it’s not the case in reality.
-lastly, Le pomme vs Le sphere (https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...). The technique and complexity were similar, but the master won in the flavor. All the elements (flavor, texture and color contrast) at Le sphere worked well together
From this meal, my admiration towards Joel Robuchon has just grown – one of the world’s greatest chefs even in the 21st century. He’s capable of producing more superior dishes with similar concepts (to be fair, he probably created those dishes too) even when none of his top gastronomy restaurants is in Europe, thus often interpreted to have disadvantage on accessing the incredible (French) ingredients. Should I give benefit of the doubts since Antony was not in the kitchen during my lunch (He was in the meeting with the “big bosses” who own the restaurant in the suburb of Paris)? Maybe not since my meal at JR restaurants also took place without Robuchon himself present

The food at LPC was traditional and highly technical; from the artistic presentation with its details, we could see that Antony commands his brigade to be meticulous. Given his skills, I expected him to be more creative, yet we can see the Robuchon’s influence was all over the places – not really his distinguished style. Hence, I can conclude that Antony’s food rather lacks originality. In addition, I learned that the majority of dishes at Pre Catelan rarely changes over the years. The service was friendly and flexible; my maitre d’ Mr. Thierry was really hospitable - comical, kind and always made us feel comfortable. When we looked bored waiting for the food, he often came up some funny stuffs. The ambiance was without a doubt one of Paris’ finest – Belle epoque style with luxurious chandelier and marble fireplace. The tables were huge and generously spacesd. There were about 20+ guests showed up for lunch. I didn’t remember complain about anything, but the restaurant was very nice when it charged my full tasting menu at the price of my wife’s set lunch. In spite of this generosity, I have to honestly admit that, Pre Catelan is not a convincing 3-star place (more like 2 ½* level aka 94/100 – the same level as Guy Savoy and Epicure Bristol). My main reason to visit this famous institution is that by doing so, after 8 years of traveling for serious dining, I finally can say that I’ve been to all of Paris current 3-star Michelin restaurants. Yeah, more like for personal ‘achievement’. Here is the link for the pictures of this meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357...

Dec 28, 2014
Bu Pun Su in France

Trip Report

Agreed about the rice course at Matsukawa - I wish they're more creative
Since you're a regular now - could you request to Matsukawa-san for different one?

Which seasons you visited Matsukawa previously? What is your favorite one and if you don't mind, what dishes served at the time (not all, some highlights should be enough)?

What a foodie trip Silverlim - look forward to the rest of your reports

Dec 24, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

@Allende

What would be your favorite season to dine in Italy in general and/or in Piedmont in particular? Maybe you can also mention the seasonal ingredients or special dishes 'exclusively' available during that period

Is Alba worth a visit outside white truffle season? Was the meal cost inflated a lot during the truffle fair - not necessarily due to the Alba truffle itself, but because it's a very busy period there?

Dec 24, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

No problem Ziggy41
I actually really enjoy the discussion and learned a lot from it
My experience in Italian food is rather limited
Perhaps because I'm generally more passionate towards French and Japanese cuisine
That being said, I liked my meals at Bottura and Santini restaurants

Dec 24, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

Thank you for sharing the links DavidT

Dec 23, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

Thanks you especially for the list of the restaurants
To make it easier for me (sorry for being selfish) for future reference, which of those places are 'easily accessible'

I meant I would consider going to Osteria Francescana or Calandre to be quite easy, but visiting a place like dal Pescatore very challenging

Do you notice any changes or progress of the food served at Pescatore for all these 3 decades or so?

Dec 23, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

How would you translate mostarda in English? You're more than welcome to correct my "English translation" of my dal Pescatore meal - they had no English menu and my notes might be wrong along the way

True, it's the son of Giovanni + Valentina who had just been born. But, Giovanni is in the kitchen and normally I was told that Alberto and Valentina are the ones helping Antonio at FOH, right?

Just curious Allende: what are your (top 5) favorite Italian restaurants in Italy as well as outside Italy? By the way, Massimo Bottura was very passionate and proud of his heritage and Italian cuisine as per our conversation. It's somewhat unfortunate that the Italians received him not or at least that's what Bottura perceived

Thanks for reading and some correction/additional info from my ristorante dal pescatore report

Dec 23, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

Do Italians really want to see restaurants like Francescana "dead"?
What kind of food/restaurants where Italians are willing to splurge domestically? I thought they would be unhappy as well if they have to pay EUR 50-60 for a portion of traditional pasta or risotto

Perhaps, Bottura was moving 'too fast' with his food. He still cooked excellent traditional Italian dishes. While most of his new items will be very different than the classic Italian, based on my sole meal there, the inherent taste of his food was still 'authentic' Italian - just in different forms
Many elite restaurants are also "evolving". For instance, at dal Pescatore, the kitchen utilized less butter and cheese (hence healthier; kinda a mini version of nouvelle cuisine ala Italia). Some dishes had modern influence/touch too

London or any other major cities would be lucky to have Massimo's flagship restaurant moved there. If that happened, I'm afraid it might lose some its soul since Osterica Francescana as we know today is basically still a cuisine of Emilia Romagna - the inspiration and the story are very 'regional' and that's what makes it unique. Will it still be tasty and fun? Absolutely ... Joel Robuchon fine dining restaurants in Asia and America are not really that inferior when compared to top French restaurants in France, but it's very 'industrial' - for a lack of better word

The brain is certainly Bottura's greatest asset, but in cooking, the good quality of ingredients still make up about half of it. Araki London will not be able to reproduce what he used to serve in Ginza and Araki-san knows this as well

Dec 23, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy