Akrame – Trying to make the fleeting, unforgettable

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Putting trust in the kitchen

Firstly, before I start, I shall issue a spoiler alert! Akrame is like a good movie that loses a bit of it’s charm if the movie trailer is just a bit too informative, or if there is too much expectation riding on it. I know the whole idea of a restaurant review is to give you an idea of what you’re going to be eating, and help you decide whether or not it’s worth shelling out some money for, but let me just stop you there and assure you – Akrame is worth it. Secondly, whilst all of the photos really do showcase the creative thought and attention to detail in each Akrame dish, the menu changes every two weeks, thus it may be that the dishes you see here will not be served when you visit.

Menu Planning, by Akrame

Menu Planning, by Akrame

As we sat down at our table, PB told me a little story about the chef Akrame Benallal, which I shall now tell to you. He had a very modest childhood and growing up without his father, he learned quickly to take care of himself. When Benallal was doing his restaurant apprenticeship at the tender age of 14, which was 25km away from his home, he used to hitch hike every day without other means to get there.  In 2004, he wrote to Ferran Adrià explaining that he had a lot to learn, and he wanted to work under him at El Bulli. After a stint there and also working with Pierre Gagnaire (who Benallal calls “Beethoven in the kitchen”), at the age of 25 he opened a restaurant in Tours, but his food was so molecular, too complicated. One day, some of his regular customers walked in, and Benallal decided that instead of making his deconstructed molecular tomato dish, he plated a black Krim tomato with salt, pepper and some olive oil … and the customers said it was magnificent. Sadly it was too late as his restaurant went bankrupt, but so the story goes from there …

To read more about the inner workings of this dynamic young chef, this SCMP article is a good one.

There is no menu at Akrame, you are simply offered a choice of a four-course (HK$788) or six-course(HK$998) menu, with optional wine pairing for both (HK$368 and HK$528 respectively), making this the simplest ordering experience you will every have (even simpler than at The Principle).

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Amuse bouche – Olive crisp and greek yoghurt

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The amuse bouches – squid ink ‘paper’ with smoked eel, parmesan cookie with fish roe, turnip with anchovy and brown butter

After being served a yummy walnut and raisin bread with a tonka bean and lemon butter, we are given a selection of amuse bouches. The eel, served on the thinnest of thin wafers, and the turnip disks with anchovy sandwiched in between, were particularly memorable.

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In waiting for the soup course …

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Pumpkin soup with mandarin orange and rye bread crumbs – Paired with Delamotte NV champagne

The serving of the soup always seems to follow the same protocol – the soup dish is brought to the table with flavour components on display – in this case, mandarin orange slices and those wonderful rye breadcrumbs. They really added a nice texture. The soup was served HOT, smooth and silken. The dish was really a sum of its parts, and would have fallen short had it not been for all of its ingredients.

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Braised razor clams with spinach and spinach mayonnaise – paired with Domaine Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru

The razor clams were tender and tasted of the sea on a sunny day! The spinach was so very fresh and the riesling was very well paired.

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Raw oysters with passion fruit foam and oyster jelly – paired with Christian Moreau Chablis

We felt like the passion fruit foam over-powered the taste of the oysters, and both agreed that this was our least favorite dish of the night. The chablis was very mineral-y and complemented the tartness of the passion fruit perfectly however.

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The lobster is served raw, in a mason jar, then poached in a lobster and tarragon broth

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Poached lobster with celery root puree, chopped green apple and celery root, and a green apple compote – paired with La Moussiere Sancerre

At this point, the meal just kept getting better and better! Raw lobster tail poached at the table and served on a lightly-flavoured celery root purée, which really let the lobster shine. What a fantastic dish.

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The Principal: Deserving of a 1 Star Rating

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.

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SNACKS: Passion Campari

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!

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SNACKS: Mimetic peanut

This peanut buttery imitation of a peanut definitely amuses your bouche. I love how it is served on a bed of crushed peanut shells.

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Sesame Dentelle & Pâté Bonbon

These two were less impressive, but you can never go wrong with a pâté bonbon!

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UNI: Chawanmushi, sea urchin, sake, dates

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).

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EGG: Free-Range Onsen Egg, Iberico Ham, Parmentier, Chanterelles

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.

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A very souped-up version of Egg and Soldiers

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.

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BLUE LOBSTER: butternut, béarnaise, wild rice, tarragon

The wild rice was crispy like a popped rice, which imparted a smokey, burned popcorn flavour.

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COD: Black and white

The white sauce was a cod-juice cream, and I can’t recall what the black was.

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A view from the top

Bulgarian Bessa Valley Wine

Bulgarian Bessa Valley Wine

The wine 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!

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SUCKLING PIG: Baby endives, lemon purée, cabbage, pomegranate

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.

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In Pictures – Robuchon au Dôme, Macau

We visited Macau earlier this year for a weekend treat with a couple of friends, SO MUCH FUN! I was going through my photos during a rainy, lazy Sunday at home, and apart from being alarmed at how many more photos of food I have than of people (!!!), I loved the memories conjured up by these photos from our weekend, and our Sunday lunch at Robuchon au Dôme.

The rather odd looking Grand Lisboa Hotel in Macau, where Robuchon is located at the very top

I go to so many restaurants, take so many photos, and can’t share them all because the idea of writing a blog post every day of the week is a bit too daunting. So, instead of writing about every dish we had, I invite you to look at the photos that I took of the experience, so you can create your own impression of the restaurant (I hope it’s an amazing one!), then call them to make the first available booking you can. Invite some friends, go to Macau, and go HUNGRY.

Make a meal of it, so to speak! 🙂


Downstairs, the walls of the lift entrance are lined with fabulous wines and champagnes..

The lift opens up to an opulent mirrored foyer, with a pianist playing on a beautifully hand-carved and inlaid piano...

The lift opens up to an opulent mirrored foyer, with a pianist playing on a beautifully hand-carved and inlaid piano…

The epic tome of a wine list, the largest I have ever seen. There are also some really nice options by the glass

The epic tome of a wine list, the largest I have ever seen. There are also some really nice options by the glass

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The Butter Trolley – salted or unsalted

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The bread basket – ask for extra bacon sticks!

A perfect wheel of butter

A perfect wheel of butter

  THE AMUSE BOUCHES 
The Amuse bouche: Cauliflower panna cotta with uni

The Amuse bouche: Cauliflower panna cotta with uni

The vegetarian amuse bouche: Cauliflower panna cotta with a sweet corn velouté

The vegetarian amuse bouche: Cauliflower panna cotta with a sweet corn velouté

My friend AB is a vegetarian, and we had no doubt that such an establishment would be able to cater to her tastes very well. We were excited to see what they came up with, and the amuse bouche was a good start!
Crispbread with truffle butter and sea salt - yum

Crispbread with truffle butter and sea salt – yum

♥ THE STARTERS 
Duo of crab and mozzarella with heart of palm in romaine leaves seasoned with sweet and sour dressing. All the plates are hand decorated as well! See the red to the top left of the plate

Duo of crab and mozzarella with heart of palm in romaine leaves seasoned with sweet and sour dressing. All the plates are hand decorated as well! See the red to the top left of the plate

Gratinated Roseval potatoes with medley of pork and black truffle served with preserved mushroom

Gratinated Roseval potatoes with medley of pork and black truffle served with preserved mushroom

The vegetarian starter - mixed salad with black truffle

The vegetarian starter – mixed salad with black truffle

Although the colours were beautiful, it was completely lacking flair and ingenuity if you ask me! Surely the chef is faced with the challenge of a vegetarian meal quite regularly, and this was very boring.

The wine pairing for the starters, a nice crisp riesling, which everyone loved

The wine pairing for the starters, a nice crisp riesling, which everyone loved

 SOUP 
Hot Jelly of Shellfish Bouillon with Scallop Royale and Spiced Shredded Lobster

Hot Jelly of Shellfish Bouillon with Scallop Royale and Spiced Shredded Lobster

 What an amazing, amazing dish! Quite simply, the best soup dish that I’ve ever tasted!
Jerusalem artichoke veloute served with foie gras emulsion and black truffle

Jerusalem artichoke veloute served with foie gras emulsion and black truffle

 POISSON / FISH COURSE 
Pan-fried skate wing "Grenobloise" style with lemon caviar

Pan-fried skate wing “Grenobloise” style with lemon caviar

Gratinated Roseval potatoes with medley of pork and black truffle served with preserved mushroom

Gratinated Roseval potatoes with medley of pork and black truffle served with preserved mushroom

Slow cooked Black Cod in virgin oil topped with salmon roes served in a watercress broth and shiso flower

Slow cooked Black Cod in virgin oil topped with salmon roes served in a watercress broth and shiso flower

The wine pairing for the fish course

The wine pairing for the fish course

We visited Robuchon au Dôme for lunch, and ordering wine by the bottle would have been too much. We wanted to savour the meal as well as have some variety with the wines. The Somelier’s selection is surprisingly great value, at MOP 220 for two glasses or MOP 320 for 3 glasses. This way, we were able to taste some very nice wines, and each complemented the cuisine well.

 VIANDE / MEAT COURSE 

Caramelised quail stuffed with foie gras and mashed potatoes

Caramelised quail stuffed with foie gras and mashed potatoes

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Decadence is – quail stuffed with foie gras, with extra mash

Pan fried Iberian Pork fillet, fricassee of artichoke and capers with peanuts and verjuiced jus (jus verjuté?)

Pan fried Iberian Pork fillet, fricassee of artichoke and capers with peanuts and verjuiced jus (jus verjuté?)

The Vegetarian Main - truffle everywhere

The Vegetarian Main – truffle everywhere

Oxtail with pearl pasta, asparagus and wild mushroom emulsion

Oxtail with pearl pasta, asparagus and wild mushroom emulsion

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Served piping hot and with flair!

 The service at Robuchon is of course, outstanding! They were particularly kind and generous when it came to the cheese and dessert selections. Our waiter was AMAZING, but it has been so long and I’m quite upset that I’ve now forgotten his name 😦

♥ DESSERT & CANDY TROLLEY 

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It was fantastical, and beautifully presented, like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory on wheels!

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My dessert selection

The Confectionery Trolley

The Confectionery Trolley

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Heart-shaped macaroons – need to learn how to make those

♥ CHEESE TROLLEY

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A nice and varied selection of French cow, sheep and goat cheeses

Robuchon is the only 3 Michelin Starred restaurant in Macau, and where else in the world can you have a 5 course Michelin lunch at such a wonderfully delicious price (MOP 688, or HK$ 670)! Why, if there was no food to waist size ratio, I’d be on that jet foil to Macau every weekend! In fact, I plan on  going again soon before they wake up, smell the truffles, and raise the prices.
Whilst admittedly we didn’t give them any warning about a vegetarian being in our group, but you would expect a 3 star restaurant to be prepared for anything. AB was happy with her meal, but I felt like they could have been a bit more creative with the dishes, especially the starter and the ‘fish’ course.
The level of service was superb, and although we were almost the last table there, and it got a bit quiet towards the end of the meal (we were there from 1-4.30pm, after all!), we benefited from having a free choice of what we wanted from the cheese and dessert trolleys! 🙂 Or at least we thought we benefited – let’s just say that these restaurants know what they’re doing when they limit you to 3 choices. While it may be disappointing at first, they are really saving you from a stomach ache! As tempting and delectable as they all look, these desserts are not made for generous consumption!

The food, the whole experience, is not one to be missed. It is an insight into the wonderful world of haute cuisine, and it is open to most! Even though the view is somewhat obscured by the grey clouds of pollution, you still feel like you’re on top of the world.

Dinner, of course, is considerably more expensive, but if I’ve had a good day at the tables, I would be there in a blink of an eyelid. Otherwise, lunch works just as well for me!