Thursday, January 31, 2019

L'Atelier Renault Café (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★☆☆

My three year old fell in love with Renault's showroom on Avenue des Champs Elysées when we brought him to Paris last Christmas. Now that he's become a small race car fan, we decided to bring him back here again. I thought not only can he see some of his favorite race cars, we can also have our dinner sorted out at their mezzanine-floor café all in one go.

That was my little one learning about race cars for the first time 12 months ago. See how excited he was!

He got another crack at it this year and obviously loving it.

Situated on the mezzanine floor of the showroom, L'Atelier Renault Café is a casual restaurant serving what they called a "typical French menu with a touch of modernity". The menu changes periodically but I thought we lucked out when we saw dishes like duck foie gras, pan-seared scallops, beef tartare, fish and chips, and roasted chicken supreme on their seasonal menu. For €29, we got to choose a starter and main (or main and dessert). Not bad.

While we waited for our food to arrive, it was time to explore the restaurant which was more like an automobile museum in a hindsight.

And what would an automobile themed restaurant be without exhibits like these, right?

But what I like the most about this place is its amazing view of arguably one of the world's most beautiful avenues. Too bad it got so dark so early in winter time.

Pumpkin and chestnut soup - Silky smooth and very nice double sweetness coming from the pumpkin and chestnut. Texture-wise, it's more like a porridge (or purée) than a soup. Trust me, it was a very good one.

Pan-seared scallops - If you enjoy having pan-seared scallops as much as I do, then Paris certainly won't disappoint you as it's a very popular dish around here. This one came with three large pieces of perfectly seared scallops, served on a leeks fondue with puffed rice vermicelli. I've had a lot of seared scallops with sweet corn and artichoke lately so this was a breathe of fresh air. Very nice.

Penne - Decent pasta dish with creamed mushroom, summer truffles and parmesan. Can't complain about the timeless combination of pasta, mushroom, truffles and parmesan.

Cod fish - Very smooth and tender-firm texture, which was nicely complemented with saffron, beurre blanc sauce, yellow carrots and inkfish tuile on a bed of creamy risotto. Nicely done.

53's Fish and Chips - The deep-fried fish fillet was a little under-seasoned but that's alright considering that our palates were a bit numb following our long flight anyways. The presentation; however, requires some major improvement as they looked more like two pieces of spring rolls (and why the vastly different size?). 

For a brand that is better known for its car making, I certainly didn't expect this kind of quality from its restaurant. It was definitely a pleasant surprise to kick off our stay in Paris.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: €€€
Address: 53 avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Tel: +33 (0)1 7684-1414

86 Champs - L'Occitane x Pierre Hermé (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★★☆

Just when I thought we were done wandering around Avenue des Champs Elysées, we suddenly ran into 86 Champs, a collaboration between the Picasso of Pastry and L'Occitane, on our way back to the hotel.

A closer look reveals 86 Champs as a concept combining Pierre Hermé's exquisite desserts with L'Occitane's Mediterranean fragrances. I didn't recall seeing the store when we were in Paris 13 months ago but staff here told me the shop opened doors almost around the same time we last visited the city. So, I guess I dropped the ball there. How could I miss the then-new store by my favorite patissier in the world? That's just inexcusable.

86 Champs is the ultimate gastronomic experience offering three entirely different adventures in an intimate space designed by Parisian architect, Laura Gonzalez. First, there are the patisserie counter and dessert bar to indulge yourself with Pierre Hermé's macarons and pastries.

That was followed by a coffee station for discovering the art of coffee with original recipes from three different varieties of coffee (including one decaffeinated) carefully selected again by the Picasso of Pastry (In collusion with Hippolyte Courty).

Last but not least, a restaurant, serving up gourmet or detox breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, cocktails and sharing plates among friends.

We didn't have time for the dessert bar, coffee station and restaurant so the only way I could join the fun was to check out their patisserie counter.

Tarte Infiniment Praliné Noisette (€7.20) - Shortbread pastry, cake imbibed with a rich hazelnut praline spread with roasted Piedmont hazelnut. The crunchy texture of the shortbread pastry was beautifully matched with the soft creaminess of the hazelnut praline and hazelnut cream. It ranks right up there as one of the best desserts I've ever tasted, including Pierre Hermé's other creation, the Tarte Infiniment Vanille.

Tarte Infiniment Citron (€7.20) - Pierre Hermé's contemporary take on the classic lemon tart.

The classic revisited by the Picasso came with pâte sablée and lemon cream and toppings of candied lemon zest and lemon pulp. The sharp acidity of the lemon cream and lemon pulp is nicely offset by the bitter candied zest and the sweet shortbread crust.

I could never seem to escape from the temptation of their macarons. Some old (Hazelnut, Infiniment marron glacé) and new (Pamplemousse rhubarbe) flavors just to wet my appetite

I was my first time having their Pamplemousse rhubarbe (Grapefruit rhurbarb) macaron and it was very impressive. Love the fruity flavors which was complemented nicely by the acidity from the rhurbarb.

I must admit I've always got a soft spot for Pierre Hermé's divinely delicious desserts especially his Tarte Infiniment series and the wildly elegant 86 Champs just provided the perfect venue for me to get my hands on them in a prime location. The only thing I didn't like about the place was its customer service, which I thought was lacking passion. An example of that was when I asked my server to recommend their newest (or hottest) flavors, he promptly reached back and handed me a copy of their brochure without saying a word.

Food Rating: 8/10
Price: €€€
Address: 86 avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: George V
Tel: +33 (0)1 7038-7738

Ladurée Paris Champs Elysées (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★★☆

Our Chinese New Year getaway started early this year for us (five days early!). After a long and torturing 12-hour flight, we finally made it to Paris. Despite the rush-hour traffic, we still managed getting to our hotel at around 10AM, which was just a little off our schedule. As we’ve already guessed it, our rooms weren’t going to be ready for such an early check-in. So, what does that mean? Well, that means we’re heading out in the cold to burn a few hours until our rooms are ready! Exciting (Luckily, it wasn’t snowing like I’ve first feared).....

The good news; however, is that we’re just a stone’s throw from Avenue des Champs-Elysées. And if you want to burn two hours off the clock, this is the place to be in Paris.

We have all kinds of breakfast options here but at the end of the day, there’s no better place I rather go than Ladurée Paris Champs-Elysées.

French toast with maple syrup (€11.50) - It’s mom’s first time in Paris so she’s pretty cautious about what she’s getting for breakfast. This was an easy choice for her though. While she was expecting something similar to a Hong Kong style French toast, I told her it would be a little more sophisticated.

To her pleasant surprise, this was made with a nice homemade brioche and it’s not as crusty (and hard) as the ones we have in Hong Kong. Not bad she said.

Egg white omelette with fresh goat cheese and spinach (€18.00) - Jelloman picked something new again. I stole a corner from her and personally, I didn’t like it. The egg white omelette was very bland making the fresh goat cheese even more overpowering than it really was.

Mousseline brioche, soft-boiled egg, smoked salmon, spinach and Hollandaise sauce (€17.00) - When it comes to breakfast, I’m not really an adventurous person. Just serve me bacon and egg everyday and I will be a happy camper.

This is what I order every time I come to Ladurée for breakfast. The soft-boiled egg always works very well with the mousseline brioche, spinach and Hollandaise sauce; with the smoked salmon providing the icing on the cake. Yum!

Ladurée hot chocolate (€7.00) - Of course, this is a must for all my visits to Ladurée.
Perhaps, my palates got a bit numb following the long flight so Ladurée’s famous hot chocolate felt a little too thick and strong for me this morning. But it was the perfect beverage to help me wash down my warm brioche and egg.

As usual, I gave myself a small tour of their patisserie to see if there’s any seasonal items in store. But I guess it’s a little early so I didn’t find anything I like there.

It’s time to head back to our hotel now. Hopefully, the Housekeeping team did wonders in the two hours during our absence. I know it’s a big ask to get our two rooms by mid-day. The official check-in time I think is 2PM.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: €€€
Address: 75 avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: George V
Tel: +33 (0)1 4075-0875

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Beef & Liberty at HKIA (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I've been eyeing a date with Beef and Liberty's char siu burger ever since this baby made its debut a little over a year ago. But I have never been able to arrive at the airport early enough to do so. Tonight, our flight to Paris was delayed for more than an hour so it's the chance to relish this opportunity.

The recipe goes something like this: pork patty, char siu style marinated pork belly, spring onion, chilli, coriander and soya mayo.

Yes, I finally got my hands on one of these! It was fairly tasty but I just couldn't see the resemblance with our Chinese char siu at all. As a matter of fact, the chilli and soya mayo were both so overpowering that I wasn't so sure if I could taste the pork belly in the first place.

Of course I won't leave Beef and Liberty without their vanilla milkshake. I noticed the much thicker texture comparing to previous times. Sooo gooood!

With that out of the way, it's time to get ready for boarding. Paris, here we come!

Food Rating : 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 7E138, 7/F (Restricted Area) - HKIA Terminal, 1 Cheong Tat Road, Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Airport
Tel: +852 2152-1966

Friday, January 25, 2019

HAKU curated by Hideaki Matsuo (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

I was keen to go back to HAKU sometime this month and this morning, I got the extra push I needed from my blogger friend Tony (Thanks Tony!). He was telling me about the recent changes to HAKU’s menu. And the chef’s committed effort to make it more “western” (from its usual Japanese-French fusion). That was all the motivation I needed to go out and try it myself.

As it turned out, Chef Balbi was out for a meeting (Met him just outside the mall) so my dear life (and well-being of my taste buds) now rests in the very capable hands of Chef Luis, the long-time deputy and right-hand man to Chef Balbi.

We were first offered a couple of interesting nibbles to kick off the meal.

The first nibble was a crunchy dough made with corn which was topped with chicken salad and avocado.

That was followed by another cute little canapé with slices of smoked Spanish sardines and yuzu flavored caviar sitting comfortably on a small sheet of potato paper.

Lunch got off to a brilliant start with the first course of the set lunch menu, Japanese squid which has been cut into tiny noodles.

The slippery squid noodles really surprised me with its sharp sweetness and that was beautifully matched with small chunks of pork belly and lardo giving it some extra flavors and textures to work with.

They have also added some tuiles made with karasumi (salted mullet roes ) and what I thought was carrot on top for a strong finish.

The second course was French blue lobster served in an elegant glass with toppings of caviar and sweet corn foam.

Underneath that was creamy Lobster coral custard, cauliflower cream and some toasted croutons.

I loved the flavor and texture profiles in this dish. There’s the crunch from the croutons; there’s the smoothness of the coral custard and cauliflower cream, also the saltiness of the caviar and lightness of the sweet corn foam; all complementing the succulent lobster beautifully.

Next up was my main course, roasted dry aged Iberico pork served with braised cabbage and parsnip.

Slightly less impressive than the last two dishes but the tangy pork bone sauce and dab of mustard sauce did enough to add sharp and vibrant flavors to the pork.

Dessert was Fukuoka orange granita and compote with Hokkaido white chocolates and crumbs. A simple yet effective dessert to refresh our palates.

Finally, a small petite four made with vanilla jelly, red bean paste and rice crispies concluded another well-executed lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in town.

Despite the news about a possible change of philosophy shifting away from their usual Japanese-French fusion approach, there was no sign of that from today’s menu. But whether it’s happening soon or not, I couldn’t care less as long as the food continues to taste so good.

Food Rating: 7.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Shop OTG04, G/F Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, 3-27 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2115-9965