Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's all about the money - Whisk

Tomato, strawberry and mozzarella salad
Rent and/or the stock market explain a lot of things in Hong Kong. Like how perfectly good restaurants close down (not over 80% full every night, for instance, hence not enough to cover rent); the advent of private kitchens (stock market crash of 1997, high rents); why we eat out so much (expensive housing, small kitchens that aren't conducive to entertaining or lots of cooking, unless you're dedicated).

So I'm guessing, for a hotel restaurant like Whisk, they have some sort of projected profit goal thingy they have to achieve. And not being exactly the busiest restaurant in town, they'd be desperate for two main things: 1) attract more people, 2) lower (food) costs. With a $218 set meal, Mon-Sat, for 3 courses plus coffee/tea and petit fours, I gotta say they're trying very hard to do 1). But then, how about 2)? How low can those food costs go? To me, it seems like they've lowered it a bit too much. Tasteless beef, cheap balsamic glaze - I'd rather $218 for two courses and better ingredients - I only have one stomach, after all. One thing they don't have to change is the chef. He's turning out great stuff from what crappy things his budget allows. Either that, or he needs to source really local, but I don't think hotel management can accept that kind of operation...

Anyway, to the food - my first course (pictured above). The cheese was a rubbery fail, and they used balsamic glaze. WHY??? The strawberries were sweet enough, which made the whole thing too sweet and didn't have enough of that tomatoey-umami-acid + dairy zing that a mozz & tomato salad should have. I was looking for "fresh" (isn't that what most people look for in salads?) and this didn't have it.

Aussie tenderloin, foie, spinach, truffle mash
Again, let down because of the quality of ingredients, not the chef's skills. Steak was pretty perfect and tender, but the beef just didn't taste of much. I'm also pretty sure the truffle mash had truffle-flavoured oil, which is really fragrant but a bit like a vibrator for your tastebuds - hits the spot for a bit but nothing like the real thing.

And I'd rather they left the foie out. I looked at it and didn't even want to touch it.

Duck Confit
Pretty darned good. The potatoes were really well seasoned - could have been a meal in themselves. That said, perhaps they should have, because they were threatening to steal the spotlight from the confit. The veg underneath was a bit too salty (considering that it lay below an already salty duck), and the potatoes could have been slightly crisper, but now I'm splitting hairs.

The confit was better than the one at Bettys Kitschen, where that single dish costs more than this entire lunch. This skin was really crisp, with a slightly waxy flesh, with a fat + salt combo that's like a less smelly version of good Chinese salted fish (鹹香).

Apple Crumble
That sad pool there is a half-melted quenelle of vanilla ice-cream, with a nice smattering of vanilla beans. I wonder if they've considered putting the quenelle back in the fridge?

So aside from the totally melted vanilla ice cream, this was pretty good. Nice big chunks of apple with a good amount of give rather than completely mushy. The crumble was sable-like but with more butter, lived up to its name.

Caffe Latte
Splatters, automatic machines, sigh. Another day in Hong Kong. That said, the extraction itself wasn't so bad.

Petit Fours
These weren't particularly interesting and I was stuffed by now, so I left most of them.

This isn't Caprice, Amber or Gaddi's, although the chef is doing things that would make him fit right in those places. He needs a bigger budget. I hope The Mira's paying him a nice fat salary and giving him what he wants because if I were him, it wouldn't be long before I'd be damn bored and frustrated and look for somewhere else to go! To be honest, I think I would be willing to pay $100 more if the quality of the produce itself were better.

5/F The Mira
118 Nathan Road (entrance on Kimberley Road)
Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong
+852 2315 5999
Set lunch available Mon-Sat, Sun is a champagne brunch

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