I’ve been having a lot of fun lately
Of course, there has been the regular dining at amazing restaurants…. Always fun
But there’s something special about helping someone discover the joys of international cuisine and Fine Dining.
One of our gym buddies, let’s call him Matty, is relatively late to the exquisite joys of ultra-fine-dining; but boy is he making up for lost time!
Our latest escapade saw a bunch of Aussie buddies dining at the Two Michelin Starred Caprice at the Four Seasons; including one of the girl’s good mates who was in Honkers for the weekend, and regular dining buds Alex and Aaron.
Now, the girl and I have been showing off Caprice to friends for years, it’s a go-to place to impress people (especially because of their renowned cheese board), but it was the first time we’d been since the changeover of chefs. In a strange twist of fate, Caprice’s new chef Guillaume Galliot had a ‘sliding doors’ moment with former executive chef Fabrice Vulin.
That’s right, Chef Vulin took over Chef Galliot’s the Tasting Room in Macau and vice versa, with Galliot taking over Caprice. Kind of a net neutral position given both restaurants were recipients of Two Michelin Stars.
Anyway, little had changed in the interior of Caprice; fantastic views of the harbour, plush interior and open kitchen, which actually seemed to be carrying an even larger brigade of chefs than usual.
Like any group of diners coming together, we all arrived at different times. But once we were all together and introductions completed, it was straight down to business…
Which menu were we going to partake of in our mission to share our Fine Dining experiences with our friends.
With quite a few options, including (quite frankly) some ridiculously expensive options; we settled on the Menu Carte Blanche – Chef Galliot’s super-star highlights menu… Although, for the fisho-phobia at the table, Fi, we had to get the kitchen to come up with some fish-less replacements – a task the kitchen was well up for.
Kickin off the tasting menu was a trio of amuse-bouche designed to tantalise the taste buds and get us well prepared for the delights ahead. With tastes that built from the savoury salmon mashed into a firm puree to a liquid centred puff with slight Indian curry flavours and finally the contrasting hints of lemon and uni, it was fair to say we were revved for the meal to start.
One of my fond memories of Caprice is the plentiful fresh bread and ‘cones’ of salted butter (replaced regularly throughout the meal). You don’t mess with the classics, and I was super stoked to see that Chef Galliot had not altered the formula. My choice throughout the night was the mini baguettes, but the rest of the table seemed enamoured with the chilli bread….
Our first formal course started with oysters; a very common way to commence tasting menus nowadays. As common as the start was, there was nothing common about the flavour combinations of the Gillardeau Oyster with Champagne Sauce and Kristal Caviar! I loved the medium salinity flavoured oysters contrast to the salty caviar and the sweet sauce. My main problem was not with the flavour combinations, but the size of the oyster, which was quite punny. Most of the oysters I’ve been enjoying lately have been ‘mouth filling’, but the Gillardeau oyster was very small…
The simplicity of message and crispness of flavour would be my takeaway from the Foie Gras Terrine from Vendée with Duck Jelly and Medjoul Date. The sweet notes of the foie gras were delectable, especially with a richness of flavour coming from the duck jelly. As good as the foie gras was, the combination of the sweet brioche buns and even sweeter Medjoul Date, really made the dish. Each component good, but together, some alchemy at work, the flavour combinations were delicious.
Quite possibly the best dish of the night was the Brittany Scallop with Carbonara Sauce and Black Truffle. Get this; the large scallops were hollowed out, with the flesh combined with a truffle puree, then stuffed back inside the outer casing of the scallop, then topped with shaved truffle and shaved ham. Finishing the dish was a foamy carbonara sauce, adding a slight creaminess to the earthy truffle and sweet scallop. It was simply as good as it sounded and we all loved it.
Well, apart from Fi, who had some other dish……
I was conflicted about our next dish of Sea Bream with New Caledonia Shrim Consommé and Ginger. With a bit of theatre, the consommé was poured at the table and without a doubt was both crisp and clear, the hints of ginger tantalising the palate. No, there was nothing wrong with the flavours; it was the texture of the fish that bothered me…. Instead of being light and flaky, I found it to be just a bit heavy and dense, even a little pasty on the tongue. It was a little off-putting and detracted from the overall enjoyment of the flavours.
Any doubts about the fish course were dispelled with arguably the highlight of the meal! I mean, Bresse Chicken with Saffron Carrot Variation….. What’s not to like? Bresse is regarded as the best chicken in the world for good reason; the incredible flavour coming from the moist breast was superb, the skin adding a salty and fatty highlight. Mopping up the chicken with the sticky jus was delightful, as was adding some of the saffron-infused sweet corn puree and ever-so-perfectly-cooked carrots. Yeah, this was a total winner and we were all gobsmacked about the flavour.
Now it would be fair to say that a table full of Aussies is going to know good beef; I mean, we really do have some of the best beef in the world back in Australia. So we were all a little disappointed with our main course of Smoked Australian Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with Pumpkin Purée served with Pickled Cucumber and Foie Gras Sauce. Let me be clear though, the beef was perhaps the most tender I’ve had since my last visit to Caprice where I selected the USD$300 Wagyu. But what was missing was flavour! It was like all of the fatty sweet beef flavours had been leeched out…. Even the addition of a healthy supply of shaved truffle couldn’t help 😦
I wondered if it was a simple matter of missing seasoning; either way, it was a strong topic of discussion at the table.
For Fi, the highlight of the evening was about to unfold. Unbeknownst to Fi, I’d asked if we could get a tour of the Cheese Fridge out the back of the kitchen… I was so happy to see the look of unadulterated joy as Fi was shown into the (quite large) cheese fridge.
After we dragged her away, it was time for the cheese board to come by for our cheese course. Now, for most of our group, this was as impressive as a cheese board gets. For the girl and I, we were a little shocked to see that the board had halved in size under the new regime….
I guess it’s all about perspectives and experience…. But at least the guys really enjoyed the cheese that was on offer, and that’s the most important thing to consider.
Dessert should have been a highlight…. I mean, the soufflé is my most favourite of desserts and the Lemon Soufflé with Orange Sorbet and Marinated Exotic Fruit sounded divine… But as luck would have it, the soufflé that had collapsed and not cooked perfectly was given to the guy with the most experience eating soufflés. As I watched the table wax lyrical about how great the dessert was, I couldn’t help feeling a little jealous; my soufflé was in parts soft and gooey, in parts expertly cooked and in parts a bit crumbly…. Well, at least the sorbet was delicious…
We’d been enjoying the hospitality of Caprice for nearly four hours, it was getting late and we all decided to forgo the offered coffee, and struggled through the ample supply of petite-four. It had been quite the experience for us all, for different reasons. We all loved the wonderful and professional service; Matty, Fi and the Girl had relished discussions with the sommelier and marvelled the perfect selection of wines offered throughout the meal.
Fi had been awestruck by the cheese room and cheese board and Matty had been inspired by another round of delicious food that had tested and pushed, then ultimately rewarded his palate.
The only bummer for most of us was the lack of flavour in the beef and I personally was disappointed in the soufflé.
Now, this presents an interesting dilemma when talking about and sharing experiences with a meal. On one hand, it was a very decent meal, and for some at the table who experience this sort of thing less often, it was a super memorable experience…. However, for a Two Star restaurant that’s listed as #93 on the Elite Travellers list of the worlds Top 100 restaurants – it was just a little disappointing, especially given the price.
As I said before, it’s all about expectations and experience; both of which are high for me. That said, we all had a sensational time, and that should count for a lot…. Right?