Jul 26, 2012|
There isn’t one cohesive term for this phenomenon that’s creeping in, slowly but surely, via the city’s trendiest restos. Some call it “nouvelle”; some say “progressive”; others stick to the vague and foggy “modern.” Most stay away from the term “molecular gastronomy” even though a lot of the dishes involve some form of deconstruction, foaming and gelification.
What it isn’t is traditional, or even contemporary. What it is remains to be defined, at least unambiguously. And whatever it is, you can bet that for practitioners of this school, tools and gadgets found in a chemistry lab are just as likely to appear in their kitchens. More fundamentally, presentation needs to be immaculate, in a less classic French and more Japanese kinda way. Think of an edible variation of an abstract expressionist painting, where no one creator is exactly alike in style, and yet each one seems to be reading from the same rule book.
Read our interview with the master chef behind Hong Kong's revolving restaurant View 62, Paco Roncero.
Sure, it’s been years since Ferran Adria—the most notable head of the movement—and his world-renowned El Bulli restaurant made headlines, paving the way for other ambitious chefs to reconcile precision science with traditional cooking. But in our city, things have been relatively slow to pick up steam until the past year or so. Since the mid-2000s, the Krug Room’s (1/F, Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Rd. Central, 2825-4014) and Bo Innovation’s (2/F, J Residence, 60 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai, 2850-8371) offbeat dishes have boldly pushed the trend towards surprising forms—things in tubes, bubbles and shards, liquid-nitrogenized, sandalwood-infused (the list goes on)—but few others were ready to follow.
Last year, however, was a completely different story, as a whole handful of new restaurants finally rushed in to fill the gap (we’re taking a stab that the closing of El Bulli had something to do with it). Enter g.e (2/F, The Luxe Manor, 39 Kimberley Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 3763-8803) with its mystical menu amid equally mystical surroundings. Then there came Madam Sixty Ate (1/F, J Senses, 60 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai, 2527-2558), which is borderline normal (although foams and crumbs are involved), but beautifully abstract when it comes to plating and layout. This was followed by the oh-so-modern The Principal (G/F, 9 Star St., Wan Chai, 2563-3444).
“Modernist cuisine is a philosophy of cooking,” says head chef Jonay Armas. “Each chef will articulate it differently, but at its core, it’s an approach to food that values pure flavors, precise execution and the use of scientific understanding to advance the art of cooking. There are many influences from other countries, which translates in both cooking methods and the use of produce. That’s how traditional and contemporary cuisines turn modern.”
Meanwhile, Ryugin’s (101/F, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Rd. West, West Kowloon, 2302-0222) Japanese character is undeniable, but the -196-degrees-Celsius candied strawberry with the 99-degrees-Celsius jam gives away that some things are done slightly differently here.
Finally, View 62 (62/F, Hopewell Centre, 183 Queen’s Rd. East, Wan Chai, 2574-6262) by Adria protégé Paco Roncero is an affirmation that this title-less, aesthetic-driven modernist movement is definitely here to stay.