Afterthoughts – A Night at the Mandarin Grill
A dinner at the Mandarin Grill is always a sumptuous affair, and last weekend we indulged in this little treat, followed by a luxuriously relaxing couples spa at the Landmark Oriental. Yes, we spoiled ourselves with a truly Mandarin Oriental weekend!
Against the backdrop of all the pomp froufrou and often ridiculous poshness of Hong Kong, Mandarin Grill stands out as a fine dining establishment with substance and true quality. It has all the frills one should expect from a 5-star restaurant, but leaves me happily satiated instead of wondering “what all that foam” is about.
After a long week of CNY travels, we capped off our week by sitting down at a corner table at the Grill.
I love this view – there is always a sense of great expectations when dining at the Mandarin Grill.
First up, we selected our pre-dinner libations of champagne from a trolley. I went with a crisp fruity flute whilst the Mister decided on a more traditional blend.
Next, came another trolley lined with select olive oils, each with its own specific aromas. I picked one resonating with green apples and walnut notes, and I forgot which one the Mister picked. hahaha
Warm bread fresh from the oven, always a sure indication of a quality restaurant. I went a bit crazy on the brioche.
Our first amuse bouche, a mixture of Alaskan king crab, caviar and cream. The crab was delicately sweet, and the savouriness of the caviar gave the overall composition some edge.
Next up, another amuse bouche – a sort of savoury cookie topped with parmesan cheese. Honestly, I was NOT a fan of this selection, as the biscuit tasted slightly fishy and reminded me of cat food (or what I presume cat food would taste like, having never tasted it myself!)
To cleanse my palate after the (above) horrendous cookie, I took a swig of champagne and bit down on the final amuse bouche, and one of my favourites – olive oil sphere. The amuse bouche came to our table decorated with a little potted olive tree, and looked exactly like a green olive, except when you bite down. What originally looked like an emerald olive is actually a soft casing full of pure olive oil inside.
The gush of rich velvety olive oil always surprises me, even though I’ve tasted this amuse bouche many times.
For our starters this time, I chose one I haven’t yet tried on other occasions – the rustically termed “Bacon and Egg”. The dish came to our table with much fanfare, nestled in a huge plate of dried grass reminiscent of a bird’s nest. The hotplate in the centre was sizzling as the server cracked and fried the organic duck egg in front of us. The plate, along with a slice of succulent 18week old sucking piglet (sorry, Babe) was adorned with hand selected herbs and drizzled with truffle jus and crumbs.
A truly theatrical dish, and also fantastically delicious. The duck egg was rich and fatty, and the suckling piglet had a wafer-thin crispy skin and soft delicate flesh.
The Mister went with a classic choice – the hot seared French diver-caught scallop trio nestled in sea grass and hot stones.
This one is an oldie but a goodie, with the scallops perfectly seared with still enough bounce and body. I, naturally, speared one to “taste test”.
We always proclaim we are going to try something new, but end up coming back to the same dishes we love. I again (inadvertently) got the organic sirloin, seared to a perfect rosy red, accompanied by what looks like a forest floor scattered with cep bark (but was actually caramel) and tiny wild mushrooms. The whole dish was drizzled with truffle jus, so really, who can complain?
The accompanying mushroom tart was also delicious, with an almost caramelized, sticky mushroom filling.
The Mister’s main of French (again!), line-caught sea bass, baked in salt, came to the table again with much theatrical embellishments. The sea bass fillet came incased in a square salt covering, and then was carefully skinned and divided into portions table-side.
It was a festive looking dish, and the fish was succulent and sweet, although it wasn’t a stand-out.
The sea bass was accompanied by velvety saffron risotto, and I couldn’t help but steal heaping forkfuls of this. The risotto had perfect consistency, slightly runny (which is how risotto should be cooked) with an al dente bite.
A flowery potpourri of salad, herbs and petals.
We were too full for dessert, but were treated to the Grill’s petit four, an imaginative offering of chocolate truffles in two flavours – black truffle and milk chocolate, all set against a background truffle shaver – made out of solid chocolate!
I took a huge bite out of this chocolatey truffle shaver.
Verdict: Did the Mandarin Grill meet my Great Expectations? Needless to say, it has met and surpassed them, like the restaurant has every time. Out of all the restaurants in the Mandarin Oriental, the Grill is my all time favourite (sorry, Pierre) with Cafe Causette at a close second. There is just something about the blend of immaculate service, quality menu and theatrical (yet, not over the top) tableside presentations that keep us coming back. Despite the coming and goings of the “new and hot” fine dining establishments in Hong Kong, the Mandarin Grill has always managed to stand true and proud, and remain effortlessly timeless.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 5 Connaught Road, Central
Tel: 2825 4004