Akrame – Trying to make the fleeting, unforgettable

DSC01237

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).

DSC01240

Amuse bouche – Olive crisp and greek yoghurt

DSC01241

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.

DSC01242

In waiting for the soup course …

DSC01244

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.

DSC01245

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.

DSC01246

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.

DSC01247

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

DSC01248

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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

A Dim Sum Compendium

I recently read an article about a book called “The Paradox of Choice – why more is less”. Being quite an indecisive person when it comes to consumerism, I can relate to the authors premise that whilst choice is good for us, we are presented with too much choice nowadays. It can be psychologically disadvantageous and ultimately, makes us more unhappy. And so, faced with all of this choice, many of us do the simplest thing – choose the same option over and over, because we know it, because we’re comfortable with it.  While this is all a bit too serious as an introduction to dim sum, the logic is quite the same.  There are many choices in this city for Dim Sum – which one should we choose?

I have a long list of Dim Sum restaurants in my phonebook, a Dim Sum Compendium, if you will. Some are the good old favorites, some are the easier option, some take that extra effort to get there but are worth it, and some are on my “To Eat” list. All are worth trying – why choose, when you can have them all? Continue reading

Shanghai Part 2: dinner and bar hopping!

Saturday 7:30pm 8:00pm: Dinner at Xiao Bai Hua Restaurant 小白桦酒店 This is the image that I was greeted with when I first walked into the restaurant in the evening, and thus this is the image I shall greet you with on … Continue reading