Sunday, August 03, 2008

uniquely mikuni.

That was the slogan that was used to represent Mikuni's style of cooking when he was in town a while back during the World Gourmet Summit (WGS) where I had the honour of tasting his culinary creations. I have to say that I was pretty blown away and the dinner at Club Chinois, where Mikuni was hosted, was one of the most memorable for me in a long time.

For those who are unfamiliar, Chef Kiyomi Mikuni is one of Tokyo's highest rated chefs. Currently chef owner of Hotel de Mikuni, he is well-known for his blend of French and Japanese cuisine. Born in a small town in Hokkaido, Mikuni headed to France and trained under three-star Michelin chef Alain Chapel. He went on to Geneva and honed his skills before returning to Japan to set up his own establishment.

The delicious 8-course dinner presented during the WGS consisted mostly of his dishes served at his Shinjuku restaurant, Hotel de Mikuni.

Tartar of tuna "tataki", with poached quail egg dressed with vinaigrette of avocado oil & soy sauce "yuzu" flavour

Having always been a fan of anything made tataki-style, it was no surprise that I really liked this dish. It was nicely dressed and the quail egg mixed in with the tuna created a creamy-like texture which contrasted well with the crunchy slices of radish. Blame it on my 'not so sharp' tongue but I wasn't really able to figure out the avocado oil. My main grouse for this dish was that the fish wasn't chilled enough. It was nice that they paid attention to the detail of having the fish served on a chilled plate but it really would have been better if the tuna was served at a lower temperature. Despite that, I still think this dish was nicely done.

Consommé of garoupa "umami"

Although this was D's favourite course, it was rather pedestrian in my opinion. Needless to say that the garoupa was fresh and the consommé tasted very much like dobinmushi actually. What was good though was that the lightness of this dish was a good contrast to the heaviness of the next dish on the menu.

Foie gras and "Fukahire" risotto, Perigueux sauce

This was a dish that caught me by surprise. A combination of the rich, creamy foie gras and the usual Chinese banquet staple, shark's fin, also known as fukahire in Japanese was just something I never imagined to be so perfect. Shark's fin on its own is usually tasteless which boded well since the foie gras was already very rich and flavourful. The pan-fried shark's fin with its slightly gooey texture and crispiness added a nice contrast from the oiliness from the foie gras as well. The al dente risotto really helped also in balancing the flavours of the dish. This course was rich and 'oh so good'. I absolutely loved it!

Lobster soufflé with sauternes butter and American sauce

After the dinner when Sam Leong, Director of Kitchens with the Tung Lok Group came round to introduce Chef Mikuni, he asked which courses did we like. I pointed out that this course was my favourite of the night. If it were entirely up to me, I'd remove 'umami' from the garoupa consommé and put that 'umami' tag on this because that was what it was to me. If I really had to describe it, I'd say the lightness of the soufflé, the fresh piece of lobster right in the middle and sauce which basically tasted like lobster bisque were great complements to each other.  

Halfway through and I was already pretty much blown away.
On with the rest which I thought paled a little in comparison with the first half of the dinner.

Half-cooked salmon , confite endive with green lemon

If I had to be honest, this was the course that I didn't enjoy most. Somehow, I just couldn't get used to the sourness of the whole dish probably from the endives. The only thing they got right here in my opinion, was the half-cooked salmon.

Roasted young pigeon and braised cabbage with garlic

I was glad that I still had this dish and didn't end on a "sour" note. The pigeon was very enjoyable; tender and tasty. However, I realised the name of the dish particularly mentioned 'braised cabbage' when it was actually the assortment of mushrooms that left me with the deeper impression. All in all, a good ending before we started on the sweets.

"Kuzu" jelly with seasonal fruits and glaced chestnut

This was the first and lighter of the 2 desserts we had for the evening. Honestly, this was just OK. I much preferred the rock melon ice cream that came along with this.  Reminded me of the Haagen Daas version which I like very much though that one we had that night was not as sweet.

Grape Marquise

I preferred this dessert but I thought it was a little too heavy for me since I was pretty stuffed by then. Not usually a big chocolate fan but I liked the pairing of the mousse and the chocolate here. All in all, a good ending to the fantastic meal I had.

I had a great time savouring the food of Mikuni that night. As we left the restaurant, D asked me. "Did Mikuni cook this all himself?". Surely not, but his question got me thinking. A lot of thought must have been put in to pair shark's fin and foie gras together to create a dish. I have no doubt that we have good chefs in our tiny island. However, do we have the innovation to push culinary boundaries?

I'm definitely going to miss Mikuni. I wonder if we'll ever meet again.

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