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Mar 27, 2008 12:53 AM

Pierre (Gagnaire?) in Hong Kong

I had dinner 2 weeks ago at Pierre, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. Overall, it was the most expensive meal I had during my visit but, in terms of taste/quality, was not as good as my experiences in L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (#1 in my own little red book), Amber, Caprice, Zuma and Nobu on other evenings.

I felt Pierre's cuisine was not only overly-fussy and complicated, but many of the tastes & textures seemed to clash.

Anyway, here's what I had:

Starter: Le Rouge, which consisted of
- Balik salmon fillet Tsar Nikolaj, organic roe, red cabbage salad;
- Veiled Torbais bean puree, with red sorbet;
- Red beetroot & onion confit with Campari;
- Red toast cuisine consisting of squid, carrot & ham.

The novelty of the starter was that EVERYTHING was coloured red! Taste-wise, only the squid passed muster. I didn't know what to make of the fire-engine-red toast, other than it's basically bread which had been stained a shocking red with beetroot juice, a stain devil which also happened to make guest appearances in almost all the other side-dishes.

Entree: La Langouste
- Australian crawfish Cardinale, with winter vegetables Maraichere, white balsamic vinegar mayonnaise;
- Shiitake mushroom bouillon, with "smoked haddock cooked with mineral water and Toscano olive oil be Santa Tea" (I think the menu-writer ran amuck here - I didn't understand a single word of what's being said);
- Pain souffle, Thai grapefruit (I surmised it was going to be a French-bread souffle flavoured with Thai grapefruit juice - but I couldn't find either the souffle nor the grapefruit amongst the collection of mini-dishes set in front of me - anyway, it's molecular gastronomy, so I'm guessing we're not expected to be able to identify a souffle or a grapefruit in their "original" form. Either that, or they'd pulled a fast one on me)

Dessert: Mint Sirocco "Version No. 2" (yep, that's what 's being said on the menu. And it was BAD. If this was Version No. 2, I don't even want to know what Version No. 1 must have tasted like!)
- Lemon & mint jelly, vanilla crumble & sugar nibs with white chocolate;
- Moroccan granite;
- Mint tea (yeah sure - a shotglass of mint-flavored tea - this is supposed to excite me?)
- Corne de gazelle (don't know what it was, and couldn't find an item to correspond to it, even after eliminating the other items on the table in front of me. Maybe it was the sugar bowl?);
- Honey parfait.

All in all, a rather anti-climactic experience. I loved Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, and I enjoyed Sketch in London. But Pierre in HK is, well, not really Gagnaire-like. No unique taste sensations that evening, no orgasmic pleasure that assailed my palate, no hidden "umami" moment for me to take away as an unforgettable gastronomic, gustatory experience. And, boy, when the bill came - that did hurt!

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  1. Hello KL!
    Reading your posting on Pierre reminded me of a rather similar 'funky' meal I had there last year. Like yourself, my selection of appertizers also featured a range of psychedelic looking items. However, rather than a ' colour theme ' based, mine was more like a ' geometric theme ' based. I was served a concouction of mousses, terrines and other unidentified ingredients items that were molded and constructed into various shapes and forms. Rectangular sticks, cylindrical tubes, circular balls, pyramid triangles and flat circular discs! Frankly, if they had inserted a couple of LEGO blocks into the mix, I would have accepted and try eating them! Ha!
    Although I am not all that keen about Pierre's food in general, I quite enjoyed their wine service. In particular, I find their sommelier most knowledgeable and frtendly. They are also the only restaurant in HK I find that actually high light 'Burgundies' rather than Bordeaux in their cellar display!
    Did you have a chance to try out the Michelin 2* Pierre Gagnaire in Tokyo? .

    1 Reply
    1. re: Charles Yu

      I wouldn't have minded unusual colour-themes or fancy shapes - if the food had tasted good (e.g. Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental does a good job here).

      Didn't have a chance to try Pierre Gagnaire in Tokyo yet, but I certainly hope they do a better job there than their Hk counterpart.

      Anyway, it's truly amazing how much money HK restaurateurs put into their restaurants' oftentimes opulent decor nowadays, but neglected the cooking part.

    2. While I haven't been back to Pierre in over a year, I did rated it above Petrus, Caprice and Robouchon.

      Maybe it's time I went back to confirm...

      2 Replies
      1. re: Peech

        What a nice blog. Oh yes, you really need to go back to Pierre - you'd find their approach towards serving (and cooking) much different from a year ago. The Saint Jacques is still on the menu but they have tweaked it, no more accompanying zuchinni, asparagus or potato ice-cream this time. Instead, they paired it with liquorice butter & hazelnuts, tartar (of scallops?) with a turnip infusion; guacamole & baby salad; roasted coral (?), confit daikon, braised endive & orange jelly.

        I guess Pierre tried to be more daring in their experimentation with molecular gastronomy - which may or may not be a good thing. For me, Ferran Adria's El Bulli managed to perfect it to a "tee" (dined there in 2003, but their chocolate straws filled with molten guacamole still stayed in my mind). Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck impressed with its pseudo-English interpretation, whilst HK's own Bo Innoseki injected a bit of Canto-dai-pai-dong playfulness with its deconstructed "lap mei fun".

        But molecular gastronomy, in the hands of the uninitiated, can be an unmitigated disaster.

        1. re: klyeoh

          Ok will schedule another visit to Pierre. I agree that they should not go to molecular gastronomy - very few places get it right. Clearly El Bulli is the leader, Mandarin Tokyo is not bad, but I feel that Bo has gone downhill since its early days. Have not been to Fat Duck but a friend of mine thought it wasn't even close to El Bulli.

          My worse molecular experience was Tang in Dubai...horrible!

      2. Mmmmhhh, what a pity - his restaurant in Paris is my absolute favourite. Just booked a table there for next month but yours is not the first very poor review and I'm starting to reconsider.

        Would Gaddi's be a good alternative? (I'm staying at the Pen).

        I've been Robuchon in Tokyo so many times that I didn't fancy going to their HK restaurant but I may have to reconsider...

        1 Reply
        1. re: sinbarambam

          I've always had a weak spot for Gaddi's. But it's become quite unexciting recently though, just like the other Peninsula eating spots - Spring Moon, Felix, etc.

          Why don't you try Caprice @ Four Seasons - it's a beautiful restaurant, has fantastic views & serves much more palatable food than Pierre.

        2. Oh that's too bad..
          I went to Pierre about two weeks after its opening (They said I was the first person in the world to reserve at Pierre H.K., ha...) and I was very much satisfied. I liked there as much as Gaddi's, and more than Caprice or Petrus. May be it became worse since then? I plan to visit there again next week, and I will see how it has changed.

          The following URLs are my postings when Pierre Gagnaire visited Restaurant Schoenbrunn at Lotte Hotel, Seoul, Korea last year. His dinner event was so popular among Korean diners (although it wasn't as impressive as Pierre H.K., not to mention PG Tokyo, IMHO), he is going to change Schoenbrunn, where he offered his dinner event, into his own Pierre Gagnaire restaurant later this year. LOL

          4 Replies
          1. re: kosmose7

            Had lunch today at Pierre when Monsieur Gagnaire was in residence. I have to say that I really loved this meal, and I'm normally not impressed by lunches at these establishments. Pierre is at the forefront of creativity in the culinary world, without going down the path of molecular gastronomy.

            Anyone who even thinks of using red peppers as the main ingredient in desserts has gone to have been thinking pretty hard about how to attack from new angles.


            1. re: Peech

              Yes! I heard that Chef Gagnaire would be in H.K. this week! Too bad I will be in H.K. next week.. ha. Looking forward to seeing him in Seoul this fall.

              1. re: Peech

                I'm flying into HK from San Francisco this Sunday - he's still there next week?

                1. re: klyeoh

                  He will be in H.K. from May 24 through May 31.