A must-visit foodie pop-up!
TEST KITCHEN is a dining movement which acts as a platform to give local and international chefs an opportunity to showcase their talents in Hong Kong. Each pop up is different and unique to the chefs who create the menus and I was lucky enough to try out their latest venture; Sandlådan.
Running from 17th – 20th November, the pop-up featured two talented young chefs from Finland; Toni Toivanen from the legendary NOMA and Eric Räty from Café Gray Deluxe, who together presented an astounding 8-course Nordic tasting menu.
Test Kitchen is designed to be an interactive dining experience and as soon as I entered the space this was made apparent. Our long communal table was placed alongside the chefs pass, enabling the diners to see exactly what was going on in the kitchen, to interact and ask any questions (and take photos!) throughout the meal. The decor was simple (in keeping with the Scandi theme) to really allow the main event to be the food.
As soon as I was seated I was presented with a gorgeous gin and tonic; made with the Finnish gin Kyrö Napue and paired with Fever Tree tonic (voted the world’s best G&T!). As a huge gin fan, it was the perfect way to kick off the evening and worked as a nice touch to incorporate Finnish produce into the meal at such an early stage.
The Swedish word “Sandlådan” means a kid’s sandbox, a playground of ideas and dreams; and the entire menu was in keeping with this fun and playful theme. Using fresh and seasonal ingredients, the dishes showed off the chefs Finnish roots as well as their global inspirations, giving the diners a real sense of their personalities throughout the meal.
We started off with an amuse bouche of “Lonkero” grapefruit sorbet with gin and fresh juniper berries. Inspired by the famous Finnish cocktail and served on a crushed can, the dish instantly invoked the chefs creativity and playfulness. It was a delicate, fresh and fun start to the meal; which excited me for what was yet to come!
We then enjoyed super fresh mackerel, cured with cassis leafs and served with creme fraiche and blackberry. A really different pairing which worked beautifully alongside the fish. The rich and flavoursome rye malt bread which followed, was again immaculately plated. Served with smoked kombu, seaweed (which had been stewed with blueberries and mushrooms for two days!) and the most delicious and creamy Finnish butter, it made for another unique dish!
For the next two courses of Chestnut Veloute and the “Plat du Jour’ of Turbot, we were served a fruity and crisp German Riesling. The veloute was paired with oven roasted apple and celeriac, it was creamy and silky, but remained light with the sweet chestnuts and fine slices of fresh green apple marrying beautifully. The Turbot was favourite of mine, perfectly cooked; it was delicate and buttery and served alongside lightly charred Chinese chives and watercress.
We then switched to a Californian Chardonnay, to accompany the next course of Veal Sweetbreads and Langoustine. The langoustines were beautifully cooked and plump, served alongside juicy sweetbreads, crispy chicken skin and a foam made from the langoustine shells. Everyone at the table agreed that we could have eaten more of this delicious course!
Our final main course was simply titled “The Beef”. An amazing and full of flavour cut served alongside a duo of sauces – hollandaise and plum. Paired with a full bodied Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon, it was the standout dish of the night for me. Simple, but beautifully cooked, allowing the quality produce to do all the talking.
My favourite of the desserts served was the “F.F. Citrus” – a delicious trio of citrus; compiled of a lime posset, blood orange granita and citrus meringue. The combination of the different temperatures and textures of the dish, coupled with the differing levels of tangy acidity and sweetness made it really amazing.
Test Kitchen is an immersive and unique dining experience, showcasing quality produce and incredible chefs. I loved being so up close and personal to the kitchen and found myself constantly transfixed by the chefs at work, always looking forward to the next course! For foodies, it would be a great place to come with a group of friends, or for a different kind of date night; but don’t expect a quick dinner here, it’s definitely more of a marathon than a sprint!
Vincent Mui, the founder of TEST KITCHEN, is obviously passionate about the world of food and is dedicated to discovering new talented chefs. Through their monthly pop-ups, TEST KITCHEN brings different chefs from around the world to the 852, so be sure to keep an eye on their website if you are interested in attending future events!