Mandarin Bar + Grill in five star hotel Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, is by the far the most whimsical fine dining restaurant that I have ever gone to. Elegant classy décor with soft furnishings, lavish wallpaper and soft lightning, impeccable service, the finest ingredients and first class wine selections, it is really no different with many of its kind out there. But what makes it exclusively unique is that it probably believes that there are no boundaries to creating and tasting food. It has recently been awarded five stars by Forbes Travel Guide and has retained its Michelin star for the fifth year running, and there is no doubt that Mandarin Bar + Grill will receive many more accolades in due time.
German-born Executive Chef Uwe Opocensky has an impressive resume that includes having worked in a multitude of world-renowned Michelin starred restaurants in Europe, including Anton Mosimann in London and Alain Ducasse in Paris, before landing beside Ferran Adria in the legendary El Bulli Kitchen. It is hence no doubt that he has become a master of progressive gastronomy, presenting classic dishes in a totally modern, thrilling and playful way that I am sure even traditionalists will be impressed by such bold innovations.
Each dish is well-balanced in every aspect, from colours, textures, flavors to even aroma. Yet at the same time, Chef Uwe Opocensky ensures that the classic tastes of each dish are not compromised despite such intricate presentations. It is a place that will bring you on a culinary adventure. And at the end of it all, you will leave full and satisfied, wondering where else you will be able to experience such thought-provoking and creative cuisine.
We started off with a few amouse bouche.
First up we had these Truffle balls which had a texture almost in between that of a cookie and a shortbread. And as with all things truffle, this had a hearty and umami flavor, making you feel so warm and comfortable. I would have to say that this is a perfect first bite to the meal because you instantly feel welcomed.
Next we had the Gougères, or more casually known as the cheese puff, rolled in Parmesan Cheese, was light and airy, yet had a crumbly texture and a distinct buttery aroma of cheese.
Next these Olive jellies were served under an “olive tree” (and this was the start of more quaint yet impressive presentations). The olive jelly was especially interesting because on the outside, it looks unassumingly plain. It has a smooth and silky exterior but biting inside, you are greeted with an explosion of the most concentrated yet fresh olive juice flavour.
Lastly and before we start the meal proper, we had this petite cute little Oyster that was as fresh as ever.
We started off with a basket of freshly baked breads accompanied with a cart of the finest olive oils to choose from. There were both the light and strong flavoured Manni L’olio vivo from Italy, Chateu D’Eatoublon AOC from France, El Mil Del Poaig from Spain and last but not least, one of the most expensive in the world, Lambda from Greece. Indeed, we were spoiled for such priced choices.
We opted for the Degustation Season menu (HK$1,688 + 10%). Do note that the entire table has to go for either the tasting menu, or ala carte, no splitting of menus.
I’ve heard many spectacular reviews and seen beautiful pictures of the Flower Pot and I knew that I just couldn’t leave this restaurant without trying it. So this was my first course. I was definitely dumbfounded when I was literally served a “flower pot” and millions of questions raced my mind. Is this edible? How was I supposed to eat this? And the waiter came with a can filled with earl grey and said, “And like all plants, this has to be watered.” And he went on to water the plant.
So the earl grey tea in the can was the “dressing” for this amazingly presented salad. Inside the flower pot was a small garden patch of organic leaves, vegetables, cress and sous-vid root vegetables stuck in a creamy green rocket puree and edible soil made from beer, milk and dried olives. Ok seriously, where else can you have a chef put so much effort and thought to plating a simple dish of salad. My favourite part of the dish, other than the stunning presentation, was the crunchy edible soil. Yet, I do feel that the puree might have been a little heavy handed.
Originally, the first course was supposed to be Winter, another gorgeously plated and delicious dish all at the same time. First you are presented with a plate of ingredients artistically presented into a shape of a tree. I’m not quite sure what the tree was made off, but at the bottom o the tree, there was mushrooms, iberico ham and foie gras. And then you are given a tray of kale leaves, and the waiter will ask you to sprinkle some kale leaves on the bottom of the tree. Next, the waiter shaves some truffle, and lastly, he dusts some snow over the tree to complete this dish of Winter. Then, you are served 2 pieces of toasted brioche to go along with the foie gras. Lovely
For this dish, we had all the condiments served first – caviar sitting on a bed of fresh king crab, bagel, egg, fennel salad and 3 different types of pickled cucumber to cleanse the palate. Then, the waiter brought a covered plate, in it the organic Scottish home smoked, cedar wood, salmon. Opening it, he allowed us to smell the smoky aroma, before placing each salmon onto our plates. The salmon was smooth and melted right in your mouth; the caviar and crab was decadent and the pickled cucumbers was indeed a fresh idea. Munching on them was quite addictive I would say!
Next we had the Hot Stone and Venison. First, the waiter brings a gigantic piece of stone to your table and warns you that this will be a hot dish and you’ll get dirty. Of course, we were apprehensive. Then, he brushes some oil onto the stone with rosemary leaves, and you begin to see ashes of smoke. Then, the waiter places extremely thin strips of venison onto the stone and tells you that it cooks really quickly. Before you know it, you’ll have to flip it and take it off the stone onto your plate. I tried to take a picture, and my venison ended up sticking onto the stone, a sign that it is almost over cooked. I had to carefully peel it off but unfortunately, I broke it in the process (Left). Well luckily there was a second try for me and this time I was on my feet and I got a beautiful piece of perfectly cooked venison (Right).
This next dish was meant to be something like a palate cleanser for the main course of the meal. First came a teapot with a herbal tea bag. Then came the organic onion consommé which was poured into the teapot, and the contents within the tea bag simply disintegrated and flavoured the consommé. Then came another clean bowl filled with pearl onions, onion sago and some croutons, in which the final onion consommé was poured into. It was a warmth and comforting soup and you could smell the aroma of the fresh herbs and the fresh onion flavour really came through. But then again, it’s really just a tasty clear soup served in a more exciting way, nothing more really.
Look at that beautiful piece of beef, served with an extensive array of side dishes – sautéed spinach with mushrooms, silky truffle mashed potatoes which sadly I would have to say is still second to Joel Robuchon’s, fresh salad which was slightly over-seasoned, sautéed French beans and potato gratin. And then there was bone marrow butter candle that really blowed us away. The heat from the candle rendered the fatty bone marrow, leaving an extremely rich gooey and buttery thick liquid that you taste with the bread. Taste I say, not eat because it’s really rich and even more buttery than regular butter that just a pinch is more than enough. The beef was perfectly cooked, served we with béarnaise sauce, black salt and truffle jus. Evidently, they leave us spoilt for choices.
Dessert was a dramatic show and we could hear many “oooohs” and “ahhhs” of jealousy from many other diners. On the menu, this was called Cake, just Cake, nothing more. We had to wait for quite a while as they had to prepare the components of the dessert. And trust me, there was a lot of components.
The waiter came up to our table and placed 2 translucent mats onto our table, and then he began plating and introducing the ingredients of their version of a Black Forest Cake on the table. It started off with a fruit jam (I can’t specially remember what), cherries, chocolate sauce, rum soaked chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, more rum soaked chocolate cake and chocolate sauce, liquid nitrogen ice cream, chocolate shavings, chocolate leaves. All these were plated into a ring mould placed in the middle of the table. And then he lifts the ring mould so carefully, crushed the liquid nitrogen ice cream, and drizzled more chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings. And viola, we are allowed to devour this ingenious creation from the table.
This creation is totally creative and innovative beyond words. It is completely on a different level and I am sure there is no way you can get anywhere near this at any other place in the world. No matter how imaginative the presentation, you are still reminded of the classic flavours of the traditional black forest cake. You get the rum and the chocolate and the cherries and I especially love the chocolate cookies that provided that crunch texture and icy frozen ice cream that melts so slightly into the entire dish. (It is unfortunate that I am unable to upload the video 😦 )
We ended with petit fours of course.
Mandarin Grill + Bar offers a complete dining experience that arouses all your senses. Yet, it is still engaging and accessible as a daily dining option. From the quality of the ingredients, to the preparations and finally how it is presented, Mandarin Grill + Bar ensures that diners are well taken care of and given only the best of the best. You come in with no expectations, but you leave stunned and astonished with the spectacular range of originality and imagination.
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