Wine Pairing Dinner at Le Chef

Last night I got to try the wonderful bimonthly wine pairing dinner at Le Chef, located on the mezzanine level of the Metropark Hotel Wanchai. Le Chef is a fantastically funky and unique fusion restaurant characterized by a chic yet creative decor (towering throne-chairs around the central table in the dining room, elegant decorative decanters and a pink glow which adds a sense of mischief to the place). Carefully designed wine pairing dinners are offered, which rotate every 2 months depending on the trends in customer preferences and seasonality of ingredients. As a hotel restaurant, Le Chef pays attention and caters to the needs of hotel guests very thoroughly, constantly asking for feedback and recommendations and actually considering these when varying the cuisine. Here are some of the signature dishes I tried and loved.

Our appetizer – Braised Australian Blue Mussels in White Wine, Garlic and Chilis. A great light way to start out dinner. The mussels were cooked perfectly, and although they were small in body, they were packed with deliciously briny flavor and were plump and soft in texture, with a slight bite to them. The white wine they were cooked in added some depth to the dish, the acidity of the wine bringing out the soft sweetness of the mussels. The mass of shellfish was topped with Japanese (trumpet?) mushrooms, which echoed the texture of the mussels in a funky way, slightly slippery and tender, almost shellfish-y in themselves. Mixed in with the mushrooms were slices of roasted garlic and thin slices of chili, which added a subtle spice, but not enough to overpower the delicate sweetness of the mussels. A wonderfully well-balanced dish, which harmonized very well with the 2011 Vignobles David Cotes du Rhone Le Mourre de l’Isle Blanc paired with it, a white packed with ripe white fruits and a floral finish.

Cream of Roasted Artichoke & Scallop. My favorite dish of the night but, unfortunately, one which was a bit difficult to capture properly with the pink light of Le Chef shining on. A wonderfully rich and dense, creamy soup which was very flavorful indeed. Sweet and buttery from the roasted artichoke blended in. A tender, juicy little Hokkaido scallop, seared ever-so-slightly on its two sides positioned in the soup and topped with some fresh parsley, donating its very subtle marine tang to the broth as an undertone in flavor. When paired with the Clos Lapeyre Jurancon Sec 2010, a floral, fresh very slightly mineral wine, the broth became even sweeter with a clean, white flower petal, vanilla bean essence to it with which the virginal scallop was an even more delicious match. The textural contrast between the creamy, thick soup (sinful in its texture but innocent in flavor) and the tender but firm scallop was wonderful and made the dish interesting and complex, despite the simplicity of the ingredients used.

La pièce de résistance, the Pan Fried King Prawn in Maggie Sauce and Pan Fried New Zealand Rib Eye in Herb Garlic Sauce, matched with a 2006 Vignobles David Côtes du Rhône Prieuré la Clastre. Truly a signature of Le Chef, which prides itself on how it handles the fusion of local cuisine with foreign ingredients. The dish was centered around a wonderful (I asked for rare) rib-eye steak, minimally seasoned in itself, but bloody, juicy and tender. Lean without an ounce of excess fat. The meat lay on a bed of creamy, buttery mashed potatoes and was drizzled with a slightly sweet roasted garlic sauce which seeped in through the grains of the beef and added a deep layer of flavor to it. A tiny little cube of sauteed zucchini and one of carrot added a textural contrast and an extra vegetal sweetness. The meat was topped with a king prawn, pan fried in oil and Chinese soy sauce, with a delightfully crispy skin and a wonderfully soft, white, buttery flesh on the inside. Not an ounce of excess oil, which it was probably drained of before placed on top of the meat. A detail I found especially delightful in this dish was the single slightly chewy, dried baby shrimp lying in the garlic sauce which communicated almost audibly with the big papa prawn hovering above it. The red paired with this was deep and very spicy on the nose, with dried black fruit and licorice as well as slightly smokey tobacco aromas. The blunt, strong tannins held out perfectly with the flavors of the dish, complementing both the bloody, garlicky steak as well as the crunchy, soy-flavored prawn equally well.

And finally, one of Le Chef’s signature gastro-desserts: The Egg Dessert Platter. A creamy, rich, vanilla-flavored custard with a slightly sweet egg-white foam on top. The custard could have had a tad bit more flavor to it and I was missing the crunchy caramel lattice which I was expecting from a “creme brulee” and which would’ve contrasted the texture of the custard, while also adding a layer of burnt sugar flavor to this bite. The red currants on the side did, however, picked it up a bit, adding a very tangy and sour zing to the custard, when combined in the same mouthful. Next to the custard was a wonderfully sweet and tropical-exotic mango pure encased in an edible gel ball, which was meant to resemble (and succeeded in doing so!) an egg yolk. Sipped up in a single bite, the pouch exploded with the juice of the mango which flooded my mouth, waking up my taste buds. The enlarged gel caviar, now broken, was a tad chewy but not bad at all, with a mildly sweet flavor of its own which added to that of the mango. Lastly, a chocolate pancake which was just okay for me. The filling was a bit rubbery instead of the thick, dark, rich ganache I was expecting from the look of it. The pancake wrapping itself was nice and crisp though, light and thin. I just wish I had ended the dessert with the mango yolk, which was my favorite part of the dish. The dessert was paired with a Fizzy Red by Vignobles Gélis, a very sweet, fresh red fruit flavor – especially strong on cherry and strawberry essence. I appreciated the selection of a sparkling sweet wine, which lifted up the richness of the dish and added a fruity touch to it, as a strawberry or cherry glaze could have also done, but without that wonderful alcoholic buzz 😉 .

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