It is my second day in Hong Kong and it is an eventful one. I’m at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for the Hong Kong/Macau Michelin 2016 announcements with one of my closest friends Bernice Chan, a food journalist for the South China Morning Post. How ironic that I meet Chef Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb in San Franciso here in Hong Kong! Fast forward 20 minutes later, I am standing in front of Joel Robuchon, tongue tied and star struck. He is gracious and obliges for a photo.
But Bernice and I can’t stay. We have been invited to Sevva for a press dinner across the street. Situated on the 25th floor of the Princes Building, the night view is incredible, spanning across the harbor, affording the packed patio a glorious night skyline of Hong Kong.
As we sit down for dinner, I am once again tickled by the fact that friends of decades ago are here, at the same table, and for a moment, the memories of my last Hong Kong press dinner 17 years ago seem like yesterday.
Miss Bonnae Gokson, owner of Sevva is just as stunningly glamorous as I remember her. Unlike my previous years in Hong Kong where my encounters with Bonnae are from afar, on this evening, she is sitting only a seat away. Ms Bonnae has always been the epitome of style and grace, and the restaurant is a true reflection of that, from the sprawling chandeliers, refined stemware and exquisite table settings, Ms Bonnae’s attention to little details take my breath away.
We are here tonight to experience the cuisine of Chef Josef Budde, a multi-faceted chef who helmed the Grand Hyatt during my time in Hong Kong. Chef Budde is guest cheffing at Sevva for two weeks, showcasing his extraordinary talent which has enchanted the likes of dignitaries, celebrities and royalty alike. Josef gives me the biggest teddy bear hug when he sees me, and the nostalgia of the old days sweep over me.
No holds barred tonight. We begin the 8-course dinner with Duck Liver Pralines. The square of foie gras arrives in an inverted glass dome with a shot glass of consomme underneath.
Vegetarians are presented with a cube of tofu instead of foie. You’ll never notice the difference just by glancing at its faultless presentation. Take a sip of the warm heavenly broth to balance the palate after a bite of the lusciously unctuous foie. Repeat!
Next is Carpaccio of Lollipop Beetroot, Delicate Comté Cheese & Raspberry Dressing. Paper thin slices of red, golden and chioggia beets are lined on the plate topped with thin strips of Comté and morsels of baby greens. The semi hard Comté is salty with a hint of sweetness, marrying impeccably with the tart raspberries. The combination of sweet, salty, tart is refreshing, a perfect follow from the richness of the previous dish.
Cavaillon Melon, Black Figs, Iberico Cured Ham & Organic Greens is a melange of flavor profiles tantalizing my salt obsessed palate. The Iberico ham’s robust punch is accentuated by the hint of nuttiness which can only come from the acorns typically fed to the black pigs. Paired with cavaillon — a type of cantaloupe –a melon from Cavaillon, in Provence (south of France), it is tipped to be the grand-daddy of melons and the best in the world. The flesh is succulent and juicier than any cantaloupe I’ve ever tasted, and it is sweet like honey. The simplicity of these two world-class ingredients is unadulterated by unnecessary additions, leaving them to shine on their own.
Stewed Lobster A L’Americaine is a mouthful of sweet, delicate lobster in a bath of umami-filled broth. Dots of radish adorn the plate. The wondrous taste of the sea fills my senses and I savor every moment of it.
In Golden Taglierini, Sauteed Hairy Crab Lump Meat, Wild Osetra Caviar & White Truffle Shavings, Chef Budde combines East and West on one plate by marrying Shanghainese hairy crabs with exquisite white truffles from Alba, both of which are only in season this time of year. I taste the angel hair pasta with the crab and truffles and my mouth explodes in sheer pleasure. Then, I add a touch of the caviar garnish for a second bite and it is a palate orgasm so indescribable you’ll have to experience it for yourself. I am utterly blown away by this course.
Next, a production happens to the side of us and I see puffs of smoke rising in the air. Teapots wafting with smoke is swiftly placed in front of us and I mistakenly think it is dessert.
“I Dream of Genie” Champagne Honey Vinegar Sorbet is a palate cleanser before our main course. The tart concoction tingles on my tongue and gives our tastebuds a welcoming respite from the phenomenal dishes we’ve already experienced.
I am no fan of short ribs, but Tournedos of Braised Wagyu Short Ribs, Morel Mushrooms, Madeira Reduction & Autumn Vegetables has indeed changed my mind about this. After taking a bite, it suddenly hits me that it is not short ribs I despise, but rather, poorly executed short ribs. Chef Budde’s braised wagyu short rib is a masterpiece. I have never encountered short ribs which dissolve in my mouth. I hear sighs, ooos and ahhhs from my table-mates. Needless to say, I am floored by the cacophony of textures, of the rich and robust ingredients coming together in a wild crescendo of tastes in my mouth. I savor every moment of this dish, making a point to never judge short rib in the same way again.
Before we are presented with the sweet endings, we partake in a cheese course of Melted Truffled Brie, de Meaux, Brioche, Lavender Honey & Hazelnut. I am bursting at the seams by now and manage to take only a bite to taste.
The same goes for the dessert of Passionfruit Meringue, a playful composition of textures and flavor profiles. My server is concerned and asks if everything is agreeable, worried that I’m leaving so much behind. I assure him that it is more than satisfactory, but I am much too full to eat another bite.
I’m eyeing the beautiful plate of Mignardises, or petit four, but regretfully, I am not able to sample even one of the selections.
It has been quite a long time since I’ve last experienced anything so perfectly executed. Chef Budde will only be at Sevva until November 21, 2015. The 8-course tasting menu is priced at HK$1800 + 10% service charge (USD230 + 10%)/ with wine pairing HK$2500 + 10% (USD320 + 10%).
25/F, Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road
Tel: +852 2537 1388