Restaurant Pétrus is an old stalwart of high cuisine in Hong Kong. Perched at the top of the Island Shangri-La Hotel, it has one of the best views of any restaurant in the former British colony. Staunchly rooted in traditional haute cuisine, Pétrus has not succumbed to the creeping fashion of “fusion”. As expected, the wine list of 1000+ labels includes a vertical selection of Chateau Petrus wines.
On Chateau Petrus wines
Chateau Pétrus is reputedly one of the most expensive red wines in the world, which is remarkable when its wines and others from Pomerol were unknown and unloved for centuries, whilst Médoc, Graves and even Saint-Émilion built their reputations. It’s only since the 1950s that Pétrus and its neighbours began approaching anything like ‘celebrity’. Of course, with limited production and hype comes desirability and astronomic price tags like those of any Limited Edition object!
I had the good fortune to be amongst a trio of purists-at-heart who dined at Restaurant Pétrus. My companions were urbane and sophisticated gourmands so I had a lot to learn. It was mid-Summer in humid Hong Kong and my blazer and tie were just bearable in the calm and cool corridors leading to the dining rooms. The classical marble, brass and glass decor helped to create an ambience that would not be out of place in a building on the Avenue des Champs Elysées.
Aperitif: Ruinart Brut Rosé Champagne
A fragrant floral coupe but dry at the end-palate; what better Summer aperitif?
“Non! There was none, on the night”.
SOUPE D’ARAIGNEE DE MER ASPERGES VERTES ET CHAMPIGONS DES BOIS
Atlantic spider crab soup with green asparagus tips and wild mushrooms
There was a palpable and simultaneous sigh of relief after the first sip because we knew we were in good hands. Something as innocuous as soup can be the true test of a kitchen. The melding of ingredients from the land and sea in a balanced yet flavourful marriage, at the beginning of the meal, gives the diner confidence about the evening to come. The fruitiness of the Condrieu white wine was a counterpoint to the earthiness of the mushroom and crab.
HUITRES “ROYAL CABANON” DE DAVID HERVE NOIX DE ST JACQUES A LA NAGE
David Herve’s “Royal Cabanon” oysters, scallop in a warm nage
Cooking à la nage means poaching in a court bouillon and serving the court bouillon and the vegetables around the food as part the garniture. In this case, the ‘vegetables’ was actually black truffle, which made for a particularly aromatic garnish. As one would expect, the coyly posed oyster in my photograph and accompanying scallop were warmed through but not cooked to chewiness. Although not strictly a ‘sauce’, the nage made us comment that the saucier was “on form” that evening.
ASPERGES BLANCHES DE PROVENCE JUSTE POCHEES SAUCE MALTAISE
Poached white Provence asparagus, Maltaise sauce
Keeping to simple but quality ingredients, this variation of hollandaise sauce with orange juice and its rind, made a mild piquant sauce that brought out the delicate flavours of white asparagus. We were beginning to suspect that the saucier was “on top form”.
OEUF DE MARANS ET ARTICHAUTS SAUTES A LA TRUFFE NOIRE MOUILLETTE AU LARD DE COLONNA
Organic Marans egg and sauteed artichokes with black truffle bread finger with Colonna farm bacon
The Maran was one of the last chicken breeds to be introduced to the UK. It was developed in Marans, France in the mid 1800s as a dual purpose breed – meat and eggs. The dark brown eggs became popular, which led to English farmers breeding the Maran.
I must admit that I could not really tell if the Marans egg was any different to any organic white egg from a chicken that had been fed just as well. I was apprehensive before the dish arrived because artichoke, black truffle, bacon and egg are all flavoursome ingredients and had the potential to compete for prominence. That apprehension was ill-placed and I need not have worried. Now, we really thought the saucier was most definitely at the “head of his class”!
TRONCON DE TURBOT CUIT AU FOUR COQUILLAGES AU VERT ET BONNOTTES DE NOIMOUTIER
Oven baked turbot, shellfish in green sauce and Noimoutier’s bonnottes potatoes
To obtain the green colour, the saucier would usually blanche and purée a green ingredient (spinach, parsley or watercress), then squeezed within a kitchen towel to extract the green juice. That juice is mixed with mayonnaise to form the ‘green sauce’. At this point, we were shaking our heads in awe of the aforementioned saucier…
PIECE DE BOEUF WAGYU, GRATIN DE VERT DE BLETTE, MOELLE ET ECHALOTTES EN CONDIMENT
Wagyu beef, green Swiss chard gratin, bone marrow and shallot condiment
The bone marrow and shallot condiment was a delicate touch for detail.
SELECTION DE FROMAGES PAR BERNARD ANTONY
Selection of cheese from Bernard Antony
I like hard cheese, which is not a statement about my outlook in Life…well, not overtly. Maître fromager Bernard Antony is a living legend. His tasting room is open from Thursday to Sunday evening. The cheese shop is open on weekdays in the afternoon and on Saturday morning.
‘Sundgauer Käsekeller Bernard Antony’ (cheese cellar) is at 17, Rue de la Montagne, 68480 Vieux Ferrette, France.
CHOCOLAT JIVARA CREMEUX AUX NOISETTES ET CARAMEL GLACE A LA VANILLE DE TAHITI
Jivara milk chocolate with hazelnut and caramel, Tahitian vanilla ice cream
Regular readers will soon learn that I’m not a dessert person but I can appreciate the attention to detail and selection of ingredients for this creation. In fact, I appreciated it a lot!
AFTER DINNER CHOCOLATES AND PETIT FOURS WITH COFFEE AND TEA
We did not – nay, we could not – get to this ‘course’ because, frankly, we were ‘hors de combat’ (unable to function).
“When we find them, there will be a band of desperate men at the bay. Some of our men, I presume, will be put hors de combat. These royalists are good swordsmen, and the Englishman is devilish cunning, and looks very powerful.” – ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel of Chauvelin’ by Baroness Orczy.
White: Condrieu A.C., 2005, E. Guigal, Rhone Valley, France
Fragrant, opulent medium sweet wine with a hint of acidity, made entirely from Viognier grape, this was THE success of the evening as it matched most of the courses. Best drunk young and cold, this wine had the capability to change its character with food as varied as crab, oysters, black truffle, asparagus, egg, and seafood. It even held its own with fatty Wagyu beef and a sweet dessert!
Red: Brunello di Montalcino, 1999, Tuscany, Italy (no picture)
Made from Sangiovese grape that is known locally as ‘brunello’, this usually powerful red wine was surprisingly “burgundy-like” without the raspy tannins. Instead, it had a “pear and cherry drops” nose and “mouldy wet hay” initial taste. Eventually, the palate changed to a more traditional fruity red as the tannins built up on the tongue or maybe the other umami constituents of cheese balanced things out?
In basic culinary language, a sauce is a flavoured liquid that accompanies food to enhance or bring out flavour. Before modern refrigerators, it was more likely that sauces masked the smell of decomposition! The French are generally acknowledged as the ones who made sauce making an Art-form. The current methodology was classified by a 19th century chef Antoine Carême into one of four “mother sauces”: espanole (brown stock-based), velouté (white stock-based), béchamel (milk-based), and allemande (egg-enriched velouté). Also used is a fifth group of emulsified sauces exemplified by hollandaise and mayonnaise. All sauces are variations of these 5 basic sauces using ingredients like garlic, herbs, spices, cheese, cream, truffle, shallots etc.
Restaurant Pétrus has maintained its position at the top of the Hong Kong haute cuisine firmament. At this level, flamboyant fads and gestures are not necessary; no fusion, no molecular experiments and no ‘special effects’ crew required. It well deserves the ‘AlphaLuxe Five-Tongues’ award.
Such an experience befits the launch of the AlphaLuxe webzine and to share with our readers. I thank you, dear Reader, for joining the party.
Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelog ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous”, that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).