As I had eaten foie gras at the Sunday buffet in the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi this was the second dish with it in I was eating in a week but this meal turned out to be much more than just a decadent flurry of overpriced pate. It was part of a delightful and unexpected midweek meal Ian and I shared in Hong Kong in September.
I can’t fully remember all 10 (?) dishes we had that evening and I wish I had taken the menu inlay as Ian suggested but I do recall how enjoyable the eating experience was. There were certainly some dishes that I don’t think were exceptional (they were all good though) but as a dining experience it is fantastic. Perhaps it was because it was impulsive (we just wondered in off the street), perhaps it is because it was unexpected in a city I just don’t like (sorry Hong Kong) or perhaps it is because its French (need I say more)? I don’t know why it was so great but I know I loved it.
Let me try to explain my heart pounding.
It started with a very nonchalant doorman who wished us a nice meal and put us in a dark lift. Then a well spoken Chinese lady allowed us to peruse the menu (we hadn’t decided to go in yet) before we were seated at the counter. Actually maybe it was the counter that made this experience a great one? The counter is apparently a signature design concept in most Joel Robuchon restaurants and ordinarily we wouldn’t have sat there (because we are British and we like to sit alone and whisper about our food together. Heaven forbidden we might have to talk to other people about it) but they didn’t have any tables left so we opted for seats up in the action. And it was great, actually we didn’t talk to the other diners as they were seated around the corner but we did get to see right into the kitchen and have the attentive yet unobtrusive staff explain our courses to us without much fuss.
And then came the food and more food and oh yes… more food. We decided to go for the set ‘tasting’ menu. We come across tasting menus often and I’m always torn between thinking “I’m sure my favourite dish isn’t going to be on there” and “this is a great chance to eat what they do best and not just another version of some dish I’m currently in love” so the tasting menu it was.
We started with l’amuse-bouche followed by a trillion (or 4-5) starters. Onwards was “Le thon rouge” which is tuna tartare and red peppers. The presentation on this one was a little fussy and I’m not that much of a cooked red pepper fan but it was top tasting tuna. A better fish dish overall was the “Le cabillaud” which is pan-seared cod and lemon grass foam. The cod was juicy and the foam fragrant and light. Another notable addition was the chestnut soup in celery broth with smoked bacon and foie gras. The soup was sweet, creamy and moreish but the bacon too salty for me. Our main was l’agneau served with butter, oops I mean mashed potatoes, which were again incredibly moreish and also apparently legendary, although we didn’t know that at the time. To finish we had two desserts; one was a chocolate mousse covered with a sheet of homemade chocolate and presented to us by the waiter who poured hot chocolate on to the chocolate sheet causing it to melt and pour into the serving dish. Its hard to explain but it looked, and subsequently tasted, great. Just when we though we were all finished our coffees arrived with sweet little petite fours of macaroons and fruit jellies. A truly great Thursday dinnertime.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon @ Shop 401, The Landmark 4F, Hong Kong.
Sofitel Metropole Hanoi @ 15 Ngo Quyen St, Hanoi 10000 Vietnam
Having explored the internet a little since this experience I am a little disappointed and also delighted to hear that Monsieur Robuchon has L’Atelier restaurants in New York and Las Vegas that are reviewed as being better food and money wise than the Hong Kong restaurant we went too. And yes, I didn’t mention it but this was a very expensive meal. I’m looking forward to doing my own comparison some time soon… maybe in his Paris location ? mmmmm…..