Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hong Kong: Day One

Our first meal in Hong Kong was lunch, and as it was late, we were too hungry and desperate to go hunting down recommendations from our Lonely Planet guidebook, so we decided to just pop into the nearest convenience eatery.

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There are loads of "Cafe de Coral" outlets around Hong Kong, a little like our foodcourts, except that the whole place is occupied by one stall, AND you pay upfront, even before you order your food.

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My roast pork rice was rather mediocre; although if you do find yourself eating here, their char siew rice is much better.

I feel we were rather spoiled, as it was arranged by an extremely generous Mr. Edmund Ching that we should have dinner at a restaurant he is a shareholder of. FINDS, short for Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, is one of the top restaurants in Hong Kong, in fact Lonely Planet lists it as the top restaurant in the Central/Lan Kwai Fong area, an excellent meeting venue for a pre-clubbing meal.

Given that it was Monday evening, there were no pre-clubbing crowds, so we were fortunate enough to experience the full force of their extremely polished service. Our every need was seen to by the helpful and friendly staff, and dinner was to be a multi-course degustation prepared by Executive Chef Jaakko Sorsa.

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Our first course was a fish-heavy offering designed to showcase the variety of Scandinavian cuisine. There was a lavaret mousse, smooth and cloudy, perfect with the restaurant's home-made crisps of dark rye bread. Next was a sort of gravlax, cured slices of salmon seasoned with dill. There were also some potato blinis folded over a lavaret fumet, and some smoked venison to round off our plate of starters. An excellent beginning, and a real eye-opening experience into the sophistication of modern Scandinavian cuisine.

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This was quickly followed by lightly-grilled salmon in a morel sauce. Chef Jaako has an exquisitely deft touch with his seafood, using extremely fresh ingredients and combining robust flavours with muted ones, hence the salmon and morel pairing.

As an aside, the restaurant manager, a Swiss, told us that Swiss morels are edible straight from the ground, while Finnish morels were poisonous and had to be boiled twice before they could be eaten. Intrigued, I have since discovered that this likely refers to the false morel, as all true morels are edible.

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Our next course was an amazing tomato soup. It was so foamy that you could literally just dig into it with your spoon; it was like eating a cloud. The best thing about it was that it was so intense, yet so clear, almost as if it was just pure tomato essence. Imagine our surprise when Chef Jaakko revealed that the soup was made from pounds and pounds of red tomatoes, distilled till only the clearest tomato oils were obtained. Little surprise, then, that we all enjoyed this immensely.

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Our first meat course was a venison tenderloin, a fairly robust meat that was served with some glazed vegetables and a celeriac puree. Venison imparts a stronger flavour than beef, but the tenderloin was surprisingly soft and easy to eat all the same.

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I was getting kind of full by this point, but there was no stopping the chef. Next came a cut of ribeye that had a healthy and tender marbling of fat ensuring an extremely succulent slice of meat. The parsnip puree served as a secondary sauce and helped to balance out the richness of the steak.

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Dinner finished with a platter of desserts, including some homemade yoghurt sorbet, a fantastic chocolate mousse cake, an interesting rhubarb soup and a fresh fruit jelly.

Incredibly stuffed and delectably satiated, I was most grateful to my gracious host for giving me this rare opportunity to enjoy some really amazing cuisine. FINDS is definitely a restaurant you should visit if you're ever in the area.

FINDS (Scandinavian)
2/fl, LKF Tower
33 Wyndham Street
Hong Kong
(Entrance on 55 D'Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong)

Tel: +852 2522 9318

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