Kashmiri houseboats floating in a tiny artificial “lake”? An air conditioned one too. Picturesque and detailed, these are open only for dinner and come alive with fairy lights et al. In the afternoon, you get the same menu in the gleaming, small, handsome, marbled first floor restaurant.
Read my full review in today’s Bombay Times!
Is it possible? In one day, under one roof can I get a taste of the diversity, complexity and magic of Hong Kong? Yes it is when Hong Kong’s acknowledged best chef (and one of Asia’s top chefs) Richard Ekkebus wields his magic. In Hong Kong East meets West, classic weds contemporary, it’s gleaming glass and steel shopping malls jostle for space with fresh meat and produce markets along cobbled streets. It’s restaurant’s cape bustles with incessant energy and innovation. Fine dining and comfort food, dimsum and then some. Rising high in the throbbing heart of Hong kong, a slim, stylish skyscraper houses the Mandarin Oriental Landmark, two Michelin starred Richard Ekkebus is it’s culinary director. Here he wields his culinary magical wand with ease, panache and versatility. Please take a look at the two dish photographs. While one is the Asparagus dish from the pure vegetarian menu of Amber, the iconic best restaurant of Hong Kong, the other “Honkiedog” is Chef Ekkebus’s creation of a Hong Kong hot dog for the “Please Don’t Tell” bar on the ground floor of the same MO Landmark
Please take a look at the accompanying photograph of Amber, what you see in the background is actually a bronze chandelier that infuses the room with a golden, amber tone. Globetrotting gourmet who actively encourages Chef Ekkebus’s work, the dynamic and dapper Archie Keswick who helms this landmark is also a yoga aficionado. Here, in this golden Amber toned magical Amber I taste two Michelin starred Dutch genius Richard Ekkebus’s magic. The only Restaurant from Hongkong on the prestigious Worlds 50 best list and 3rd on Asias50best.
In this iconic golden-toned temple classical European culinary tradition tangoes with Hong Kong’s East-meets-West ingredient-sourcing possibilities, resulting in a deliciously sublime seasonal menu in Ekkebus personal style.
Of course I taste all is non-vegetarian signature dishes, but focus on his dedicated vegetarian menu. Vegetarian amuse bouche for all flag off the dinner Gems Of wizardry are served up as the four flavors Salty..(celery black bean caper soya sauce), Sour.. (lemon meringue at puree), Bitter (.and ice with campari and orange jelly), Sweet..(.jerusalem artichoke Tonka bean powder) kickstart my appetite
Beautifully presented Asparagus from Jerome hall’s in orchestra with peas and a medley of herbs is followed by the amazing parsnip which is chargrilled and every part of it is used in the dish and solidified extra virgin olive oil yuzu gel amaranth pearls add to.
The transition pre dessert of Buffalo burrata l strawberries cherry tomatoes refreshes as does the citrus dessert and prepares for the unforgettable. Cacao sorbet caramelized almonds salted caramel acidity of kalamansi which dazzles. Of course I did revel in his stunning non vegetarian dishes the signature Hokkaido Sea Urchin dish and also the Wagyu beef.
Love the sublime light contemporary notes that Chef Ekkebus orchestrates.
NO WASTE VEGETABLE COOKING
Kudos chef Ekkebus for using all parts of the vegetable. Like in the delicious dish of Parsnips, a masterpiece of textural contrast too. I request Chef Ekkebus for tips on using all parts of the vegetable at home. He advises making sure the vegetables are cleaned well and are preferably organic. Drying and frying the skin makes for a crunchy starter, be it carrots, potatoes, turnips. The skin of Tomatoes used in a broth adds a lot of color. Can make a dashi or infusion with vegetable trimmings.
PLEASE DON’T TELL
When the cult-status, speakeasy PDT from NYC opens in Hong Kong, what does the brilliant chef Ekkebus do? Creates Honkiedog for it. The hot dog which oozes with the taste of Hong Kong, the umami of it’s XO sauce of chilli, soybeans, seafood, and crunch of scallions and cabbage. And he does so with as much passion and gusto as he does when creating the parade of refined dishes in Amber. The talented and creative Adam Schmidt creates many a delicious cocktail and mocktail (including the cucumber based tuffnut tonic). Gladis young points out how this cozy bar with recollective design elements such as a copper bar top, herringbone-patterned wood ceiling and taxidermy adorning the walls is renowned for mixology, And making waves in Hong Kong is the edgy “Entertainment suite” party space with everything from a DJ booth to it’s liquid metal, spaceship-glow cabinets house popcorn, wine dispensers and other grown-up treats. And ofcourse, there is the spa with it’s yoga, pilates “The year of the earth dog” treatment, for sure the fusion of East and West has always been Hong Kong’s calling card, but here in the most expensive real estate of Hong Kong is an oasis of energised calm. A true Hong Kong Landmark.
Rejuvenation. Revival. Restoration. (Trumpets please!) Mumbai’s century old historic Royal Opera house after being closed for a six year renovation is now ( trumpets again!) alive and kicking and singing and cooking. And in all this, playing centre stage is the live music and the gracious venue, actually all four of them (al-fresco restaurant, a cocktail bar, café and jazz bar).
Read my full review on whatshot.in
It’s a mystery. Why does Mumbai have such few Thai restaurants? And this inspite of the fact that we (most of us atleast) get high on Thai (food ofcourse and massages too). So at the end of last year when Nariman Point started bristling with the sweet heat of Thailand and Izaya opened it was time to rejoice.
Read my full review on whatshot.in
Im on a revisit here. After a fortnight of shooting my TV show (several years ago, for ET Now) in France it was only this stunningly beautiful historic chateau in Epernay that magnetised me back again.
And since I’d already shot at the Michelin starred restaurant here, this time I dine at the resolutely modern setting of the brasserie Le Jardin which dazzles. It is a true emotional break for two Michelin starred Philippe Mille, here he plays the childhood memories card to our delight, casseroles, fancy combinations and the taste of superb local produce accompanied ofcourse by fine champagnes. Along with the charming knowledgable locals Edwige, Romain and Camille we raise a toast in the region of Champagne with champagne to the dynamic owner and many generations of Laurent Gardinier’s family who ensure that Domaine LesCrayeres continues to ooze French charm and character.
Happy surprise! Chef Aloo Aloysius Dsilva heads up the kitchen here. I’d dined at and enjoyed his cooking at many of his earlier restaurants including the last Villa Vandre.
Read my full review in today’s Bombay Times!
Mind boggling choices here. Should I take a class in it’s most legendary cooking school? Feast in the Michelin starred uber luxurious restaurant? Dine on traditional brasserie classics? Or take a sip of history in my favourite author Ernest Hemingways favourite bar ? Not to mention that it has the city’s best swimming pool (perfect to burn calories and build up an appetite) Over the years I’ve been doing it all. One step at a time. For sure this ain’t no mere Parisian hotel. It’s a global legend. It is over a hundred years old and still in line with the times. It has not only been witness to history but has even rewritten history, inspired trailblazers and blazed many a trend itself. Beloved of literary geniuses (Hemingway, Proust et al) movie stars, fashion legends, this is the only hotel in the world whose name become part of our vocabulary and has even inspired the song “Putting on the Ritz” ( dress fashionably). Founded in 1898 by two of the worlds greatest names in hospitality, Cesar Ritz and the greatest French Chef Auguste Escoffieur it was the first to have lifts, electricity and private bathrooms. A few years ago it went through renovations but preserved its period furniture and paintings à la Louis XV et al. Christian Boyens who helms this landmark ensures that it continues to be the queen of hotels and hotel of queens.
THE GREAT TABLES OF THE WORLD
Whoa! So many stars in the afternoon? A few days ago, at the iconic Ritz, I attended the elegant and exclusive launch of the prestigious Les Grand Table du Monde 2018 (the great tables of the world).Only Michelin starred chefs present at the launch of this guide established in 1954 to “defend the values of great gastronomy and the art of living” covers 26 countries, across five continents and features 172 restaurants. President David Sinapian, presented the Guide and the ten new members in the salons of the iconic Ritz Paris. My co chairperson of the Worlds 50 best restaurant academy. Nicolas Chatenier flagged off the delicious afternoon with his welcome speech. And a memorial tribute to Paul Bocuse, caviar, oysters to Baba au rum and DomPerignon sparkled the afternoon. It was the brilliant starred chefs who lit up the afternoon. Three starred Alain Ducasse, George Blanc to Pierre Hermes and Yannick Alleno. And playing the perfect host was Chef Nicolas Sale. Ritz’s Michelin-starred restaurant L’Espadon (swordfish), shimmering with mirrors, chandeliers, Louis XV chairs, porcelain and silver cloches continues to provide the perfect setting for his imaginative creations. Fresh from a two-star restaurant in Chamonix, he brings a contemporary vision to luxury ingredients, as in his three-stage starters (lure, raw, cooked) like langoustine with caviar and a main course of Bresse chicken for two.
Named after the noble prize winning author (and my hero) Ernest Hemingway, this charming iconic bar weaves magic. Heres an excerpt from my book “A vegetarian in Paris” (A Times Publication).
“Just what do you think the renowned American author Hemingway did in this bar which he loved? Knock back martinis ofcourse, but, the unverified story goes that its thanks to his boozing ways that the “Bloody Mary” was invented here. “Make a drink which I can drink all day and which doesn’t stay on my breath” he boomed at the Ritz bartender “so that when I go home, bloody Mary cannot smell it”. Mary was the third (or was it fourth wife?) of this colorful, lovable author. Infact, after the World war and the German occupation of this hotel, it was Hemingway who was the first to bring in his buddies and “liberate” the hotel. The award winning mixologist, Colin Field helms this masculine, cozy warm wood paneled bar with leather chairs and high stools studded with his photos and of famous authors were regulars here (Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce to name a couple). On the menu are a few veggie dishes (artichoke platter, risotto) and many a Hemingway favorite cocktail too.”
And this time at this star among the bars (done up with original photos and letters from Hemingway) I once again elbowed my way into the packed space to chat with brilliant bar chief Colin Peter Field and request him for his Bloody Mary recipe. Should you want it, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
It was an amazing dream come true…I attended a cooking class by the world famous Japanese chef Nobu at this legendary.
Ritz-Escoffier School of French Gastronomy in the Ritz. The ethos of the school is based on Escoffier’s words, “Good cuisine is the foundation of true happiness.” It offers training courses and workshops for amateur and professional cooks and I never miss a chance of attending one.
Please take a look at the accompanying photograph (shot amid mountains, an hours drive from Paris.) I’ve shot it on this snowy morning after having just taken an invigorating dip in the outdoor hot Norwegian tub. Had a delicious organic breakfast (with the home made jams on freshly baked yeasty bread). It’s all part of “Echo” the philosophy of well-being which runs through it’s beauty and lifestyle organic products and food in Chateau de Sacy, this beautiful castle on a hill in the midst of vineyards. Chef Nicolas Christoforretti, infuses his cuisine with the culinary richness of the Champagne district. And the lovely Tiphaine Brossier ensures a seamless experience. I get high on this whole new aspect of wellness as I do on nature, art, history, culture and ofcourse champagne. After all I’m reporting from France’s Champagne district where not only is the king of wines and the wine of kings made, but where thirty three French kings were crowned in the UNESCO heritage jewel of a gothic cathedral. Sante!
The Parisian night is thick with excitement. I could cut it with a knife and pop it into my champagne glass I raise a toast to this 250 year old historic treasure that has recently been reborn to global applause and been making headlines ever since. We’re dining amid this contemporary palace’s architectural riches of the 18th century which have been transformed into state of the art 21st century modern French art de vivre.
We re at the tiny intimate jewelbox L’Ecrin, Hôtel de Crillon’s gastronomic restaurant. Id met the young and brilliant Chef Christopher Hache several years ago and he is in my book “A vegetarian in Paris” (A Times Group Books publication). Here’s the exciting bit…next day I attended the prestigious Michelin Guide awards and applauded him receiving his very first Michelin star. So once again Crillon is hitting the headlines. Kudos to our very own superstylish, superstar hotelier Radha Arora who as President of the international group has been spearheading this transformation. As we feast on Chef Hache’s masterpieces of flavour and texture, Im delighted that my young friend, entrepreneur and pastry chef Pooja Dhingra could join me at short notice (thanks to Instagram). Pooja has been seamlessly and continuously delivering Parisian styled culinary experiences in India. Inspirational journey… from working out of a tiny kitchen at home, to three stores, a café, two books and the 31 year old has exciting plans ahead. We nibble the night away as chef Hache continues to dazzle and the ever charming Pierre Jung ensures we have the perfect flawless French gastronomic starred experience. After all we’re in the world’s most excitingly luxurious modern day palace with an 18th century soul.