NUR-ly Perfect Gastronomy at NUR

There are a number of new restaurant openings in April, succinctly illustrated in Lifestyle Asia’s 10 New Restaurants to Visit this April. which I have been using as a guideline.  Dinner at Cocotte a couple of weeks ago was an enjoyable affair with well-executed French brasserie dishes, and I have a reservation at Mott 32 next week, but it was last night’s dinner at NUR that had me rushing to the keyboard with blogging fever.

Not in a while has Hong Kong seen a restaurant opening as refreshing as this one. NUR has all the elements of modernist fine dining that I love, but without all the fussiness.  Innovative cuisine, beautiful plating (I just love the use of edible flowers), thoughtful choices on the source of ingredients and a perfectly cohesive flow of tasting courses, without having to dress up, keep your back straight and talk in hushed voices.

NUR’s dining room is well-spaced out, almost too much so – they could easily fit another table in the dining room for all the eager diners waiting to get a reservation. Or maybe it’s because I’m so used to tables being packed together in small spaces in Hong Kong restaurants that I find all that space slightly unsettling – speaking like a true Hong Konger!

The Private Terrace table (smoking area)

The Private Terrace table (smoking area)

There is a non-smoking terrace overlooking the Wellington/Lyndhurst junction, and one intimate table for four on the smoking terrace – whether or not you smoke is your choice, but you may have other guests coming out for a cheeky one. It’s a beautiful space, apart from the exhaust fans whirring overhead, which you kind of just get used to after a while. There, you are surrounded by NUR’s private garden, complete with interesting plant specimens to look at while you’re waiting for your next course. It demonstrates a physical translation of the main vision of the restaurant as well – nourishing cuisine, responsibly and locally-sourced whilst lessening the carbon footprint as much as possible.

There are two choices of tasting menus, “Light” with six courses at HK$788, and “Feast” with three extra courses at HK$988. We went all out, bien sur, the reason being the tomato course which has received rave reviews but is not included on the Light menu.

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From right: Beetroot crisp with watercress emulsion, Carrots with cumin yoghurt and carrot powder, Nasi pear and cucumber with jasmine kombucha

We started with some amuse-bouches –  the beetroot taco wasn’t crisp any more when it came to the table and collapsed upon touching it, but the watercress emulsion was smooth and tasty. The carrots were wonderfully glazed, and the pear and cucumber morsels were very refreshing and light, with a healthy shot of jasmine kombucha.

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Gillardeau Oyster, cucumber, wasabi

The oyster was served raw and cool with a warm cucumber and wasabi foam, which we spooned out of the shell eagerly.

Believe it or not, I forgot to take a photo of the tomato course! I guess I was too excited to eat it. The main element of the dish is heirloom tomatoes from the Zen organic farm in Fan Ling – they were quite simply, fabulous. It has inspired us to make a trip out to the farm next weekend, which I will blog, naturally. A clear tomato broth was poured over the tomatoes at the table, warm and infused with tomato flavour, and 100% lives up to the hype.

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Irish organic salmon, beetroot, smoked buttermilk, dill

The salmon, which appeared to be cooked sous vide, literally melted in mouth. The beetroot had been marinated to create a sweet and sour element to the dish which went well with the creamy smoked buttermilk, herby dill sauce and crunchy popped grains.

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This dish is reminiscent of Michel Bras’ famous dish called gargouillou, hailed by some to the best vegetarian dish on earth. The 4 page recipe is certainly the most complicated one that you will ever find for a salad!

The NUR version is most certainly not as complicated, but combines the basic elements of serving raw and cooked vegetables, a tasty sauce and flowers to create a complex a salad that is not only healthy but also beautiful.  For an additional cuteness factor, you are given chopsticks to eat this course.

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Tangerine – Thai Tapas and Daily Specials

If you visit the Tangerine Facebook page (like I did), you will be overwhelmed by the number of daily specials there are – quite literally every day of the week apart from Sundays. If that isn’t enough to draw you to this restaurant, then perhaps the super-friendly staff, or the decent food (at a price that is kind to your wallet) will.

Myself and a couple of girlfriends chose to go to Tangerine on a Wednesday – that would be “free welcome drink day” – Thai Mohitos that started us off quite nicely. They carried us through as well – we had two each and both were complimentary. I’m not sure if that was a normal thing, or if they just liked us. Either way, we were off to a good start!

I don’t think I have ever been served an amuse bouche at a Thai restaurant before, but these ones, small cubes of fried tofu topped with a mildly-spiced curry sauce, pleasantly piqued my appetite for more. As an amuse bouche, they served their purpose!

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Amuse-bouche: deep-fried tofu cubes with curry sauce

For our ‘something healthy’, we opted for the sizzling deep-fried tofu with basil and chili (who were we kidding, right? Ha – let’s call it relatively healthy). The portion was generous, a mound of tofu mixed with chilies, fried basil, chopped beans, lettuce and onions, thinly covered in a sweet-sour dressing.

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Sizzling tofu with basil and chilies HK$ 70

The prawns also went down a treat – what can I say, we like things that sizzle! Large meaty prawns served on a sizzling cast-iron plate, mixed in with lots of beansprouts and spring onions.

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Garlic Sizzling Prawns HK$ 88

There are a few dishes that really demonstrate just how good a Thai restaurant is in my book, and I always rate restaurants with their peers according to these dishes: Thai Beef Salad, Tom Yum Kung and Pad Thai. I know there are many, many other dishes that could be on this list, but these are my benchmarks. Why? Because they are dishes that can be made oh so well (and when they are good, they are GOOD!), but can also be very easily screwed up.

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Traditional Tom Yum Goong HK$108

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LoveBites Lunches: Chez Patrick Restaurant

It’s Restaurant Week in Hong Kong and for the first time, I went online and checked the list of participating restaurants. DW and I went to check out Chez Patrick restaurant in Wan Chai, which moved here from it’s previous location in Soho, where Chicha now stands. I’ve been meaning to check it out, and a 3-course set lunch at HK$ 248 was a good motivation to do so!

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This event is a good way for some restaurants to gain some extra coverage, perhaps attract some clientele that would have not considered dining there before. Chez Patrick is not one of those restaurants, as chef Patrick Goubier has built a very solid reputation for quality ingredients and excellent French fare, as seen by the success of his restaurant and Chez Patrick Delis. It does give diners a chance to sample some of his cooking at a reasonable price (the 3-course dinner is HK$438) – if this sounds enticing to you, then go and book your table now, as restaurant week ends this Sunday 3rd March!

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His Wan Chai restaurant is tastefully decorated, ash grey wood paneled walls, golden lighting fixtures and a little splash of colour (love that bright yellow banquette!) It’s warm, inviting, and cozy. The Restaurant Week menu covers some French favourites (escargot, quail) a little of the norm (crab ‘cakes’, salmon fillet), and something a bit different (fresh goats cheese nougat). It was easy to make our choices, and while we were waiting for our starters, we were served an amuse bouche.

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As we were about to start, Chef Patrick himself personally came to our table to greet us. He said hello, took our hands and kissed them (!), thanked us for visiting his restaurant, and then proceeded to explain the reasoning behind his amuse bouche. For the chilled gazpacho, he described how he soaks cherries in kirsch overnight as part of his base stock, and adds a touch of lavender. “The goal is to refresh your palate” he says – and refreshing it was, and particularly welcomed on another uncharacteristically warm February day. The salmon rillette is chilled and mixed with shallots, capers and lemon juice – a really wonderful combination that can never go wrong.

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For our starters, we both chose there Crabmeat Cold ‘Cake’, with Fresh Tomato, Basil and Pine Nuts. It was a very generous portion of crab, and although we enjoyed the dish I felt that they might have gone a little easier on the basil. The pine nuts gave a nice bit of crunch.

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For the main course, the Pan-seared boned Quail, Confit Onions and Smoked Bacon Tartlet with Red Wine Sauce was wonderful. The quail was nicely cooked, and I really enjoyed the deconstructed tartlet underneath. I couldn’t remember the dish from the menu, so I asked the waiter what it was, and he told me it was choucroute – I think he’s got his French terms mixed up! A small round of crispy pastry was topped with confit onions and little pieces of smoked bacon, and finally with the quail resting on top.

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Chef Patrick approached us and we asked him lots of questions about the food. He is a wonderfully sweet man, passionate about his restaurant, so friendly and happy to answer any questions that we had – I felt like we could have talked to him for much longer. He speaks with a soft French accent, and punctuates his sentences with a lot of “ya’s”. Where does he source his ingredients? All of the poultry at Chez Patrick is imported from France, and his beef, seafood and other such items are sourced from wherever he finds nice products. Beef from Australia, lamb from New Zealand, lobster from Maine … he mentioned that he is more and more sourcing his seasonal organic vegetables from Hong Kong, and that they ‘are getting much, much better at that, ya.” We are much less affected by seasonality here, and are in a central location for produce. “Not like in France, ya. When there is no asparagus, there is no asparagus!”

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DW ordered the Salmon Fillet, with Red and Yellow Bell Pepper Sauce. It was the most beautifully presented dish, salmon surrounded by a yin-yang of sauce, nestled on a bed of wild red rice. Where is the rice from? It’s imported from France, from the Camarague region at the end of the Rhone River, where there is more wetland, and where the rice is grown. It takes longer to cook than Asian rices, with a nutty taste and is a little more chewy in texture. It was a nice addition to the dish, and almost nicer once we knew exactly where it had been harvested!

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