Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Duck egg and a fish pie at the Mandarin Grill of the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong

Lunch today at the Mandarin Grill of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

Today in Hong Kong, living a Travelife, I had lunch at the Mandarin Grill of the Mandarin Oriental.

This was my last meal before flying.

I was catching the 6 PM flight to Manila and so I'd booked the hotel car for exactly 4 PM from the Mandarin.




LUNCH AT AN OLD FAVORITE

A friend in Hong Kong had invited me to lunch and he'd suggested the Mandarin Grill.

Of course, the Mandarin Grill has been an old favorite of mine since time immemorial, and I have so many wonderful memories of fancy dinners here.

But just between you, me and the 830,000++ readers of this blog, which is the blog of Travelife Magazine, one of the region's leading travel & lifestyle publications, I have to admit that I wasn't very enthusiastic at first, when he'd suggested lunch at the Mandarin Grill.



PIERRE GAGNAIRE'S IN TOWN

Pierre Gagnaire, you see, is cooking at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong this week, and so I wanted to eat at his restaurant. Unfortunately, I'd found out about it a little too late, and the restaurant was already sold out for the period.

So Mandarin Grill it was, and what a nice lunch we had there today.



A LOCAL FAVORITE

The restaurant was full, mostly with expatriate and local businessmen.

Today there was also a very large table of taitais in one corner, with their designer dresses and expensive handbags that could serve as downpayment for a house.

The Mandarin Grill, you see, is not really a tourist hangout but an institution among the well-heeled locals and foreign residents.

Lots of people I know who live in Hong Kong love coming here for lunch and on weekends. It's also used a lot for corporate entertaining because the atmosphere is informal and relaxing, but in a very upmarket way.

THREE COURSES FOR LUNCH.
AND ONE EXTRA.



We had a three-course lunch.

And actually, I had four courses, because we stayed so long and ended up closing the restaurant that the chef actually came out to say hello.

The Wimbledon dessert, made of strawberries and cream


He even sent over a second dessert called Wimbledon, made with strawberries and cream.

I guess he could tell from his open kitchen that I was in raptures over the food.

DUCK EGG FOR A STARTER



For my starter, I chose a colorful dish of a duck egg, cooked ham and peas just because the idea of having these three combined in the middle of the day in a famous restaurant intrigued me.

It really is the basis for an omelette, isn't it?

It was delicious and really a feast for the eyes. The peas were salty, providing a balancing accompaniment to the smooth creaminess of the duck egg.

A DECONSTRUCTED FISH PIE



For the main course, I had a fish pie. The other choices were pigeon and a steak.

I suddenly wanted something light, and the waiter who served us strongly recommended it.

Just before meeting up for lunch, however, I actually had oysters to start and a good steak for a main in my mind.

And I was hungry enough to Tweet this desire publicly. "I'm going to have oysters and steak for lunch today," I posted on Twitter.

Follow us on Twitter, by the way, for real-time Travelife adventures....

But when I saw the fish pie on the menu, again I was intrigued enough to cast aside thoughts of the steak and order it.

What an interesting and delicious fish pie this was.

It was basically a deconstructed pie, with a juicy fillet of fish on a bed of mashed potatoes fashioned to look like noodles or even rice. Drizzled with flavored oil, it had depth, texture and a medley of enjoyable sensations.

TOUGH SWEET CHOICES

For dessert, it was a very difficult choice as everything looked positively tantalizing.



I had a very hard time deciding, but eventually I ordered a pineapple and coconut dessert that was fashioned to look like a plate of lightbulbs with the aid of some spun sugar.

Again, I am so not a pineapple and coconut dessert sort of person.

But I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and order it just for a little culinary adventure. It arrived almost like a Damien Hirst sort of installation and definitely too pretty to eat. I loved it.

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY



But then my friend ordered the chocolate dessert, which had been my second choice, and he offered me a taste. It was simply amazing.

I said to him: "I am so coming back here, even just for that."



This was just about the time that Executive Chef Uwe Opocensky, who oversees the entire hotel and who personally cooks at the Mandarin Grill, came over to say hello as we were the last people in the restaurant.

And then he sat down and joined us for a while.



I said to Chef Uwe: "I hope that chocolate dessert is still going to be around the next time I'm here. That is just about the most luscious thing I've eaten in a long time."

For a chocoholic, it was the really the equivalent of heaven.

Chef Uwe replied: "No worries. That's been on the menu since I arrived. It's one of the first dishes I ever created. So the chances of it being around next time are very high."

Chef Uwe is a tennis fan, by the way, and he watches Wimbledon in London every year -- which is why the strawberries-and-cream dessert he sent out is called Wimbledon.

WORKING WITH FERRAN ADRIA

My portrait of Chef Uwe, executive chef of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong


Then I asked him: "What was it like to work with Ferran Adria at El Bulli?"

Chef Uwe trained with Ferran Adria, you see, and the Mandarin Grill today has one Michelin star.

Without any hesitation, Chef Uwe replied: "It was life-changing. For me, there are only two people in the world who changed the culinary landscape: the first was Escoffier, and the second is Ferran. Everyone else has simply copied or improved on their ideas."




And before I knew it, it was 3 PM and time to go.

I still had to pack, get into the car and race to the airport to make it for my flight.

As usual, I was the very last one on board, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.






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