There are only certain occasions when I agree with the Hong Kong Michelin Guide‘s rating of a particular restaurant in Hong Kong – you know as well as I do that some of their 1 Star ratings are just preposterous. However I am so happy (and so is my belly) to say that The Principal is completely, entirely 100% deserving of it’s 1 Star rating!
Chef de Cuisine Jonay Armas hails from the Canary Islands and takes a fresh and thought-provoking approach to each of the contemporary European dishes. He applies molecular techniques to some, whilst others are more complex versions of traditional dishes, and each dish appeals to your five sensations of taste: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami. There are three Tasting Menus available, and what is more notable is that one is of them is entirely vegetarian.
We went for the 7 course menu at HK$ 890 with optional wine pairing – some dishes are certainly more impressive than others; PB and I found that with each course that was served, we were more and more excited to be served the next. I would definitely say that this is the best of The Press Room Group‘s restaurants, and we are eagerly anticipating our Sunday Brunch reservation in January 2014 (it gets booked out weeks in advance). If you are looking for a date venue to impress, boys, this is the restaurant to reserve a table at.
The server will warn you not to take a bite of this, but to put the whole thing in your mouth. Once you take a bite, a cool, passion fruit Campari-laced liquid bursts out of its waxey container, much to your surprise!
This peanut buttery imitation of a peanut definitely amuses your bouche. I love how it is served on a bed of crushed peanut shells.
On The Principal website, chef Armas says, “My aim is to respect the origins of each ingredient, to pay homage to the cooking methods that have come before while introducing my own interpretation.” Well he has certainly done this with the UNI dish – chawanmushi served in a cute sea urchin vessel and topped with uni and a date crumble (of sorts).
I love, love, love onsen egg, and order it whenever I see it (here, here and here). This one did not disappoint, with potato cream and the most delicious fresh petit pois. When was the last time you ate a fresh green pea? I can’t even remember … before this dinner, of course.
PB lifted up the glass bowl to get the very last bit in the bottom, and all of a sudden, we smelled SMOKE! We didn’t realise immediately where it was coming from and thought that perhaps something was burning in the kitchen, but we then noticed the wood-scented smoke trapped in the hollow space at the bottom of the glass bowl.
The wild rice was crispy like a popped rice, which imparted a smokey, burned popcorn flavour.
The white sauce was a cod-juice cream, and I can’t recall what the black was.
list atlas at The Principal is impressive both in its size and in its range. We opted for the wine pairing for our meal (HK$400), and found it to be of excellent value and selection. We were served a new glass of wine with each course, and towards the end were making an effort to finish our glasses before the next course.
For our main course selection, we were served this Bulgarian wine, and I was intrigued enough to take a picture. I’ve never tried (let alone heard of!!) Bulgarian wine before, so I decided to do a little research. Apparently, Bulgaria is one of the world’s oldest wine growing regions, but a law voted during the Gorbachev period as a result of anti-alcohol measures called for uprooting the country’s vines. The Enira vineyard is located in the Bessa Valley region, and for those planning a trip to Bulgaria any time soon, a wine tasting there sounds like good fun!
Whenever I take a Tasting Menu, I always find that the main course lacks the flair and genius that the appetiser courses do. This suckling pig was nice, but not as amazing as what preceded it.
PB ordered the Saltbush Lamb, which was much more interesting. Served with sweetbreads (the first time I found the courage to try them!) and a wonderful yoghurt sauce. Ras el Hanout is a spice blend that is used a lot in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking – also the first time that I have heard of it.
I wrongly assumed that this course would be a liquid tea. Instead it was a black tea jelly; when you put all of the elements on a spoon together they worked, but it was my least favorite dish. With curiosity I tried the black jelly by itself to figure out what it was. It was a bergamot infused cream – bitter, cold and tasted like Chinese herbal medicine!
Here is another thing that I had never heard of – gianduja. According to Wikipedia, it is ” a sweet chocolate containing about 30% hazelnut paste, invented in Turin during Napoléon’s regency. It takes its name from Gianduja, a Carnival and marionette character who represents the archetypal Piedmontese, a native of the Italian region where hazelnut confectionery is common.” Apparently Turin is the birthplace of the chocolate bonbon, praline and truffle, where they started experimenting with cocoa to create solid bars.
For the HK$1,000 price bracket, The Principal is definitely high up there on the list. Their Sunday brunch is meant to be one of the best in town, and also of good value at HK$ 740 (relative to their dinner menus) with free-flow beverages (the price was raised this month, December 2013).
Address: 9 Star Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2563 3444
(reservations cane be made online)
Check out their menus on the website.