A last little tasting menu for the season . . .

So if you are a Laowai in Shanghai over Christmas there are two options for you. Either you return to the western country you came from, or you spend Xmas freezing and relatively alone. Fortunately every restaurant knows that it needs to fatten up the westerners lest they get homesick, so there is a serious amount of culinary excellence going on everywhere over this period!

I decided to return to an ‘old’ favorite for Xmas eve, Ecole Restaurant Ecole Paul Bocuse and their tasting menus!

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If you didn’t know this already, I’m into food. Not in the i-like-to-eat-way but I genuinely LOVE good food – if you don’t believe me go have a look!

So after the usual beginning of a glass of house Champaz and a smoke to loosen up, its onto the decadence!

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Venison with freshly grated truffles . . .

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Lemon sorbet with Vodka, with a few extra shots of Vodka . . .

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Now at this point, once again, there have been wine pairings with each course and so a few little sweet bites and a double espresso is ideal . . .

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Thats how we do Xmas eve in Shanghai! THIS is how they do Xmas in Shanghai if you are interested (a mix of bizarre and normal!)







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The magic of Ultraviolet . . . could this be the greatest culinary evolution ever?

I live to eat, it’s that simple.

Some people eat to live, some say they live to eat but I truly believe I do fall into the live to eat category (that, and drink I suppose). Because I am hard wired this way I try and spend as much time as I can in places that create great food (great food is a number of things  just expensive food!)

You can imagine my excitement when I managed to get two seats of the ten at the legendary Paul Pairet’s (just do yourself a favor and look at the food section of his page!!)new creation ULTRAVIOLET (a place that has been 15 years in the making). He is the legend behind many things, but for me most importantly, the creator of probably my favorite restaurant in Shanghai, Mr and Mrs Bund!

So what is it exactly . . .

I battled to describe it really but it is the combination of all senses experienced and expressed through 22 courses of perfectly selected food combinations and forms, drink pairings, sounds, lights, projections and smells ( I dare you to try imagine the number of combinations needed to pull this off – let alone to the unparalleled levels of excellence to which he has done) I dare say this is the greatest culinary experience anywhere in the world right now.

It is as if food has been operating in 2D for so long and someone has come along and skipped 3D but given us food in 4D.

It starts with a briefing at Mr & Mrs bund and a presentation of a small folded piece of tissue paper that gives just enough information on the impending proceedings to make me giddy with excitement.

(Some pics are my own but for some I relied on the professionals and have stolen them with pride)

Now I’ve been trying to work out how exactly I can explain this to you without going course by course (because that would take days and also I think this is one thing you want to experience yourself)

So I thought of dividing this into food and experience . . .

The experience.

As you enter the room you realize that everything is done with a purpose, from the names projected onto your seats, to the surrounding canvas of a room that will become the greatest culinary enhancment of all time.

The exceptional host or director Fabien Verdier introduces the proceedings and then the projectors take over. A small house is projected all around and slowly you start to descend beneath the earth, then the underground and so on until you find yourself in a world created by the dreams and imaginations of what I can only express as true genius!

From then on every course has sounds, sights and table projections, that take this from a tremendously complex tasting occasion to an all encompassing all engrossing orgy of the senses!

The perfect ending is when a screen appears and a live demonstration of one of the deserts ensues, slowly as you watch the walls fold back to reveal the artists at work and a tour of the kitchen (at this point you are thinking can these people think of any part of my mind that hasn’t been blown!)

Each course is perfectly served, described and consumed. I know this will sound contrived and cliched but I dont really care. Its as if Chef Paul and his team are the musicians and Fabien the conductor to which both combine skill, precision and true talent to make one of the greatest gastronomic symphonies of all time!

Now, The food.

As you are told right from the beginning the food is the most important part, it is after all a restaurant (from another galaxy, yes, but a restaurant none the less) and everything starts from the food and is developed outward. The food in a word must be, perfect and it is without question!

Here is just a small sample of some of my favorite out of the 22 courses in UV A menu.

Amuse Bouche was an apple wasabi sorbet lodged between the perfect fork / chop stick utensil – one bite, pallet cleansed, heart racing and mind engaged.

Ready to go!

Micro fish, no chips served in the perfect wet and rainy British setting! This paired with a shot of micro brewery beer. (I think the total collection of things in this dish was one of the most powerful for me!)

Foie Gras Cigar and red cabbage ash (dip and eat) aptly named ‘Foie Gras – Cant Quit’ and paired with a light Sherry!

Truffle soup bread served under a bell jar filled with cigar smoke (I see you crinkling your nose but honestly I could not believe how this entangled deliciously with the bread! Then again I am a smoker).

This paired with a 2010 Chardonnay from Burgundy.

Sea-bass baked into the bread with cheeses, olives, sun-dried tomato etc and then carved (as you can see above in an Aquarium motif) into slices and served. You can imagine the complexity of baking bread with a fish inside and managing not to spoil either of them!

Cucumber lollipop and frozen Gado Gado  served with an ambiance of Balinese masks floating around the room (you can see the pic above)

Egg tartlette served in a silver egg on a projected frame (one bite)

Well into the deserts, with the magnificently created Mandarin (this is slightly borrowed from one of my favorite all time dishes at MR & Mrs Bund – Lemon & Lemon Tart). If you imagine a whole mandarin soaked in syrup for a number of days and then through witchcraft and black magic somehow putting mandarin sorbet  and mandarin curd into the fruit without breaking the skin. Simply Outrageous!

At this point I am perfectly full, superbly satisfied and ready for a little something sweet to round it all off. A small tribute to your childhood is next with Hibernatus Gummies, frozen flavoured gummie bears served with flash frozen cola rock sweets on a projection of a child’s drawing :) This comes complete with an audio visual Gummie Bears race and a real life one by the kitchen team!

Finally after all of this the walls open, as I have discussed above, and then after a tour of the kitchen a Suzette carrot cake, Coriander-orange-cream cheese (the carrots are actually a mix of many ingredients and then shot out of a carrot gun.)

At the end of the meal its back to the table to ‘do the dishes’ a combination of rose foam, berry washing liquid and just a fun mish-mash of delicious deserts! I love the theme and idea of a non pretentious, fun and relaxed last course!

When dinner is done a proper tour of the kitchen and the ‘behind the scenes’ view of this amazingly incredible (I think Ive run out of superlatives by this stage!) machine! Then off to the UV Nightclub for a wind down glass of Champagne and review of the evenings events to try and re-live each course!

What did I leave out?

Pop rock Oyster, Green the citric, Cuttlefish Guimauve, Aglio e olio, Lobster essential, Cocotte iodine, Charred Eggplant, Tendon Tahine, Encapsulated bouillabaisse, Basilic Aioli Orange, Engloved Truffle Lamb, Wagyu simple, Tomato Pomodore, Crunchy fierce salad, Cheese, Tomato Peach ‘no shark fin’ soup, Avocado Brulee Natella

I’m not sure how much of this anyone will understand but all I can say is no matter what they are called they are the combination of imaginative genius and exceptionally talented people!

Problems with this post!

1. The order of events may not be 100% accurate (this is due to the fact that every part of my brain was being stimulated and engaged at once – taking photos was a hard enough task let alone remembering what was when)

2. If you have read this far you deserve a medal because I think this is the longest post I have ever constructed

3. I have certainly not done justice to these dishes, the surroundings, the chefs, the staff, the host and to probably everything else (even including the most advanced toilet I’ve ever seen) but to be fair unless you experience this yourself you cannot dare begin to grasp it!

All I can say is Thank you UV team for absolutely blowing my mind and for advancing the world of culinary arts!

 

 

The magical Truffle (and the 8 courses made from it) . . .

If you are a reader you will know that tasting menus are somewhat of a dirty pleasure on mine. If not go have a read why! You will also know that Restaurant Ecole Paul Bocuse has become a rather regular date in the diary now for many reasons. Mainly because its a school first and foremost which means the chefs are keen to explore and adventure, and secondly because I just love the way the ‘theme’ their menus.

The latest concoction was a BLACK TRUFFLE theme and coincidentally the swansong of the departing 2012 class (I will miss them dearly but I’m excited to meet the new class!!). So without further delay here it is!

To start as usual a glass of Champagne to get the juices flowing, and then onto . . .

You can see that there was a great deal of trouble smashing this one in my face!

Finally just in case there was a tiny but of space not filled by truffles and magic, an espresso and a few sweet treats (the middle one is a truffle macaroon – like I said I’m gonna miss the class of 2012)

Tonight however I am taking it to a whole new level, if you want a little preview go checkout the website for what I hope with be the culinary experience of a lifetime!

 

 

 

Everybody was Foie Gras fightiiiiinnggg . . .

So as you know I’m thoroughly into the tasting menu scenario, blah blah blah. Now if you are a reader you will know there is this magical place in Shanghai called Ecole Restaurant Ecole Paul Bocuse that trains both European and Chinese Chefs in everything culinary.

They produce meals like this (click for the full one) . . .

Now they are not quite the level of our friend Raymond Blanc at Le Maoir but lets be fair they are students and he is a master!

So when this months tasting menu was announced as a Foie Gras cook off between two teams, you can imagine the excitement!

Without anymore drivel – here is the menu . . .

. . and here are the dishes (for fear of retributional violence I didn’t shoot a few courses)!

 TEAM 1: Starter – Foie Gras Terrine cooked with white chocolate, seas salt and rhubarb

TEAM 2: Starter – Foie Gras poached in mulled wine with a beetroot, kiwi & pear salad

TEAM 1: Main – Scallops stuffed with Foie Gras & green asparagus

Team 2: Main – Deconstructed tenderloin burger, tomato compression, foie gras terrine and black truffle gravy

Of course in the spirit of culinary arts there were a few combined desert but by the time most of them cam I was too stuffed (and drunk) to take a pic! This one I did manage – Black currant mousse, passion fruit jelly and cheese cake ice cream :)

Needless to say the restaurant was rather a harsh bunch of bastard but team one turned out to be the victors with an average score of 7.1 / 10, Team two got murdered at 5.8/10!

France in Shanghai or the other way around?

As I have mentioned before I have a serious crush on tasting menus for a million reasons.

Recently in Shanghai I found a great little culinary institute that takes 20 chefs from France (and Europe) and brings them to China, it then enrols 20 Chinese chefs and gets both nationalities to train together to create cross pollination of friendships, learning’s and all that shmushy stuff!

The reason I love this so much is that once a month the students need to create a themed tasting menu (last month was all things mushroom) and this month was all inspired by, my elixir for life, coffee. The students prepare everything from the courses, ingredients, wine parings and the tables . .

So after a warm up smoke on the terrace and a few glasses of Champaz just to get the juices flowing, we were off!

Now after this meal and the vino that accompanied it, I was well relaxed, full and in the mood for a well brewed double espresso to round it all off! The problem is, firstly, I wasn’t quite used to the 8 hour time swing from my London excursion a few days prior (which I suppose did its fair share of damage!) and secondly I didn’t actually click that each and every course was coffee infused!!

Needless to say staying awake through the night until 6:30 am the following morning will teach me to plan my caffeine intake a little better!

The tasting menu to end all tasting menus!

I’m not sure why I have such a fetish for tasting menus, it may be because as GEN Y I need to be stimulated constantly and so am not satisfied merely with a few dishes but I need a million flavors floating around to be happy. It may also be that I enjoy having to punish myself in the gym constantly so I don’t start looking like Kobus Wiese – whatever the reason I try and do them as often as I can in as many countries as I can!

Living in Shanghai there is no shortage of world class menus – even the student restaurants produce things like this!

So when I had the opportunity to be in Oxford and to venture to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons I absolutely headed out to see what Raymond Blanc was up to!

Set in the most English of surroundings (Croquet and bowling greens along with countryside fill the view) the hotel and restaurant you cannot help but feel you are in for something special!

A few glasses of champaz to start in the sitting room, plus amuse bouche that looked like it was crafted by small culinary angels. They serve the menus and then you start to wonder how many courses you can fit into your body that day – the answer? The maximum menu of NINE!

Here we go . . .

Apparently in my excitement and Champagne haze i forgot to capture the first course!

Which was basically a deconstructed Bounty chocolate bar!

To go and make yourself a little more menu crazy go have a look at the rest of theirs and pics from a decent photographer!

Finally after a few glasses of champaz to start and a multitude of different glasses of wine to complement each course you can imagine the condition I was in. Fortunately if I needed to drive home I was quickly sobered up by the bill (excluding tip!)

The funniest moment though was when we got into the cab sufficiently drunk, full and content with enough decadence to last a few days, headed back to the Old Parsonage Hotel we realized that we left the hotel with zero cash and now could not pay our cab fare home. Fortunately a plan was quickly made but the thought of having to walk off nine courses on a two hour walk home was rather amusing!

Back in Shanghai now and back to semi-reality! Tomorrow night though is the next one – an entire meal inspired by coffee!