7 April 2013

HKK

HKK is a fine dining restaurant from the Hakkasan Group overseen by Chef Tong Chee Hwee through whom Hakkasan earned its Michelin Star back in Alan Yau's day. Tong Chee Hwee is a supremely talented chef who has put together a 15 course tasting menu based on the traditions of Chinese banqueting. HKK also offers a la carte during lunches, but evenings are the choice of the tasting and vegetarian tasting menus only.  The is a matching wine flight for each menu, as well as an original idea, an orchard flight, offering non-alcoholic fruit juice cocktails to match, which I was quite excited to try.

The first drink was brought to the table, 1724 tonic water poured over saffron, with a perfume bottle atomiser adding grapefruit essence. The water went a lovely golden colour from the saffron, and had a good taste of grapefruit. An excellent start.

Appetisers started with a delicious Bai hua prawn for me, a prawn in a crisp batter with a sweet goji berry sauce and some roasted pine nuts. Vegetarian option was Suan-tian-ku-la tomato, a delightful little yellow cherry tomato, hollowed out and filled with pine nuts and mushroom. Following this an excellent cold dish, drunken chicken. This was Poulet de Bresse marinaded in 20 year old Gu-yue-long-shan rice wine and served on a bed of jelly fish. Jelly fish was a lovely texture, slippery, crunchy and gelatinous with a subtle ocean taste but not a distinct flavour. This was a lot more delicate than jelly fish I've had previously. The chicken itself was excellent, the use of Poulet de Bresse apparent. My wife had a delicate and visually stunning salad of lotus roots, cloud ear (a gelatinous fungus) and lily bulb served in a extremely fine lacy cradle of lotus root.

Next up was the astonishing Peking duck. For couples and larger tables the duck is prepared in the middle of the room, divided up into portions with deft slices of a cleaver by the chef. First you are recommended to eat the portion of skin, this is as good as it gets, firstly so translucent you can see through it, crisp,  rich without being overpoweringly fatty, incredible depth of flavour. This is dipped in sauce and some sugar, just enough sweetness and acidity to cut through the remaining fat. Next, a portion of breast with skin attached is eaten with some chili infused salad. Finally a pancake with onion, sauce, cucumber and some sesame seeds. Without doubt the best roast duck I've ever had both in London and in my travels in the Far East. Vegetarians were not forgotten with an innovative alternative on offer, a soft pancake was to be dabbed with a bit of plum sauce, onto which was placed a slice of truffle, spring onion, cucumber, topping this a crisp slice of beancurd. Following this a soup of Poulet De Bresse was presented with a spoon heaped with some ginseng, chrysanthemum petals and goji berries. The spoon added some sweet elements to a very well flavoured chicken soup which also contained some silken bean curd. The vegetarian soup was a hot and sour soup with similar additions, and excellent, pungent and intense soup. The drink to match these courses was a refreshing blend of grapefruit, red pepper, peach and elderflower

Following this, the much talked about Dim Sum Trilogy. 3 dim sum along with a paint brush to coat the dim sum with a sweet soy sauce. The lobster scallop and caviar dumpling was delicious, as was the high technical layered pastry and daikon. The vegetarian version included a fabulous truffled mushroom dumpling, and a vibrant and fresh edmame dumpling. Stir fry of gai-lan, shimeji mushroom and lily bulb in XO sauce took me back to holidays in the Far East, I'd forgotten about XO sauce and the flavour from the dried scallop, and had a moment where it took me back to some fond memories of meals in Singapore and Penang, the gai-lan was superb, cooked perfectly. For my wife, steamed luffa melon, very similar to cucumber as they are from the same family, but lifted by aubergine and chili. I then had an excellent lobster noodle dish, very tender lobster with homemade glass noodles and a yellow bean sauce. The vegetarian option was extremely good, vegetarian chicken, with a texture very similar to chicken was mixed with soy beans in a black pepper sauce and baked in a hollowed out red onion. This was intensely savoury and had captured some of the flavours and tastes I would associate with caramelization and maillard reactions from roasting meats whilst being a vegetarian dish, very clever stuff.

A palate cleanser of hot and crispy taro milk cake and jelly of perfumed osmanthus flower followed, provided with Da-Hong-Pao tea, a rare variation of wuyi oolong held in very high regard in Chinese culture worked perfectly, preparing us for the next round of dishes.

The next drink was a superb melon, celery and red pepper blend, the best of the night. The first main was sea bass on mushrooms with a pickled chili sauce and ginger. The sea bass was cooked perfectly and was an excellent refined version of sea bass with ginger I usually have. The vegetarian option was four treasure wrap, a mushroom, carrot, asparagus and daikon wrapped in bamboo pith and in spicy sha cha sauce. Following this two hot clay pots, one with pork belly, which was basically the best spare ribs I've ever had, an astonishingly good pork dish. My wifes pot was a homemade pumpkin tofu, soft and delicate in great tasting sauce.

The following drink was a nice blend of tamarillo, basil, cinnamon  pineapple and saffron. One of the trinity of Chinese fine dining arrived next for me, abalone. Australian green abalone was presented in an abalone shell, and came with a rice wine truffle sauce and crispy cigar of truffled pastry. The abalone was excellent, soft and tender but with a decent bite and held flavour even with a very strong truffle rice wine sauce. The vegetarian course was one of my wifes favourites, a large morel, stuffed and with a tempura batter was presented on a baby pak choi. This was an excellent morel, with a perfectly cooked pak choi. The sha cha sauce was savoury and spicy and matched the vegetables really well. The final main course was jasmine tea smoked Wagyu beef and water chestnuts. The beef was soft as butter, very rich and fatty but with excellent flavour. The water chestnuts were turned and provided some much needed balance with richness of the beef. These came on a paper thin leaf of sweet potato and with some sticky, glutinous rice and a few deep fried jasmine tea leaves. The vegetarian version was similar, but with vegetarian duck, most likely wheat gluten although resembled duck breast in looks unlike any mock duck I've seen before. The jasmine notes in these dishes were an excellent touch.

The dessert drink was a fabulous ginger, papaya, apple and eucalyptus, the eucalyptus finely judged offering flavour without overpowering.  First dessert was a disc of mandarin jelly, topped with a fantastic pandan sorbet, I absolutely love pandan and this went really well with with well flavoured mandarin jelly. The next dessert was a cylinder of some excellent fresh pineapple, covered in angel hair pastry and fried, with some gorgeous salted lime fruit and jelly pieces, the acidity of these elements matching very well with a good vanilla ice cream.

After this the sous chef, as head chef was not in that evening, and one of the managers came to the table and asked us if we enjoyed it and what our favourite dishes were. A nice touch was a copy of the menu and drinks for each of us stamped with the chop of Tong Hwee Chee. Petit four were a stick of peanut chocolate brittle, a mandarin jelly, an unusual jasmine ganache and
creamy and chewy macaron which I had with a decent filter coffee, and my wife with mint tea. The bill came to just over £260.

HKK provided one of the best Chinese meals I've ever had, with some stand out dishes I'll remember for a long time and every course of excellence, all featuring clever balance across the flavour types so favoured in Chinese cooking but with the addition of some western ingredients, modern cooking methods and careful sourcing.  I loved the orchard flight, preferring this option to wine and all matched the dishes perfectly. The vegetarian tasting menu is made up of innovative and exciting dishes, and would be recommended for any vegetarian who wants something different and wants the same quality and variety that the non-vegetarian menus provide.

Bai hua Prawn

Suan-tian-ku-la tomato

20 years Gu-yue-long-shan drunken chicken and jellyfish.

Lotus root, cloud ear and lily bulb salad.

Cherry wood roasted Peking Duck.

Vegetarian crispy bean curd with truffle.

Poulet de Bresse and ginseng soup with silken bean curd.

Hot and sour soup with silken bean curd.

Dim Sum Trilogy.

Vegetarian Dim Sum Trilogy.

Gai-lan, shimeji mushroom and lily bulb in XO sauce.

Steamed luffa melon and aubergine.

Lobster with pan mee.

Stir fried vegetarian chicken with black pepper sauce in baked onion.

Osmanthus flower jelly, taro milk cake.

Wild Scottish Sea bass with pickled chili sauce.

Four treasure with bamboo pith wrap.

Toban of Rhug Farm pork belly.

Toban of homemade pumpkin tofu.

Australian Green Abalone in truffle rice wine sauce.

Morel mushroom with sha cha sauce.

Jasmine tea smoked Wagyu beef and water chestnut.

Vegetarian duck with water chestnut.

Mandarin jelly, pandan sorbet, jasmine meringue.

Pineapple fritter, salted lime jelly, vanilla ice cream.


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