It’s sad but true that creative food does not always mean good food. I’ve lost count of the number of unnecessary foams, sands and emulsions I have eaten in the name of ‘creativity’ – yet Chef Uwe Opocensky’s 1963 Menu at The Krug Room (the private dining area in The Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong) gives creativity a good name!
Created for The MOHKG’s 50th anniversary, Chef Uwe’s dishes all take inspiration from famous 1960s meals – but given a fresh twist, a new look and a splash of his trademark creativity. I was lucky enough to sample a few of these 1963 dishes (plus some other Krug Room specialities), and every single course totally wow-ed me; I’m pretty sure my Twitter followers got sick of my excited updates every ten minutes!
We kicked things off with a Caesar salad – cue questions of how on earth you turn a very boring Caesar salad into something incredibly exciting! The answer? Deconstruct it and turn it into the prettiest little garden of salad I’ve ever seen. With Parmesan sprinkled on like snow and soft ribbons of Parma ham, this tasted as light, fresh and lovely as it looked, although I found the paste at the bottom a little pungent for my taste and wished there was more actual dressing instead.
If you thought that looked amazing, you ain’t seen nothing yet! “Fruit Loops 2013” is Chef Uwe’s take on the American breakfast cereal, where each fruit loop has been created with a different vegetable (unlike actual Froot Loops, these have a provenance in real ingredients rather than artificial flavourings!), then submerged in a delicious, warm and comforting chicken soup. The texture of these was spot on – they really did feel like Froot Loops! – although you’ll need to eat them quickly, as they’ll dissolve into your broth otherwise. Fiendishly clever stuff.
Next, it was onto deconstructed fish and chips, with poached sea bass served separately from little puffs of batter and artistically dotted daubs of sauce. For me, this was the one dish where “creativity” had been allowed to come before flavour and, whilst cooked and presented beautifully, the flavours were larking a certain spark and just made me crave proper fish and chips in all their greasy, delicious glory.
Luckily, we were back on course with a wonderful beef bourguignon, inspired by Julia Childs herself! Again, the presentation was out-of-this-world (served up in a halved wine bottle), but the flavours here were mouth-watering. Including three tender melt-in-mouth cuts of beef (the cheek was my favourite), the sauce was every bit as headily inky rich and intense as it should be.
However, the pièce de résistance was the dessert, Baked Alaska. Although possibly more an icon of the 1970s than the 60s, I certainly wasn’t splitting heirs when this landed on the table – the ice-cream was actually shaped like a baby polar bear (cue thousands of Instagram photos)! Meanwhile, the Baked Alaska component was so delicious, I wondered why it had ever gone out of fashion – ice-cream and jam, wrapped in sponge and meringue, hot on the outside, cold on the inside… errr, does that not sound like some miracle of nearly everything good in dessert?
Overall, I was incredibly impressed with how Chef Uwe had reinterpreted these classic dishes to make them fresh, new and exciting but without compromising on taste or appearance. Unlike typical ‘degustation’ menus, I actually left feeling very full indeed – and this is just a small sampler of the whole 10-14 course Krug Room experience! Of course, all this comes at a rather eye-watering price (somewhere between $2,688-4,288 per person depending on which Krug champagne you opt to pair your meal with) but for truly special occasion dining and dishes you won’t get anywhere else, The Krug Room – and especially The 1963 Menu – should definitely be on your Hong Kong bucket list.
The 1963 Menu is available at The Krug Room until October 2013, and afterwards on request
The Krug Room 1/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central
2825 4014 www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong/dining/restaurants/the_krug_room/