Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Farewell Dinner at the Blue Butcher

Last night, I went to a farewell dinner for a co-worker who is transferring to the New York office.  The dinner was held at Blue Butcher, a relatively new restaurant in Hong Kong.  Located next to and above The Press Room in Sheung Wan, it has a deceptively small entranceway and bar but a huge dining space two floors up.

The restaurant is very dimly lit and the music can be a bit loud, but overall it was a very comfortable dining experience. I liked that the restaurant had a variety of chairs and tables. Some tables had high backed chairs that seemed almost throne-like, and others had lower slanted back leather chairs. There were also old-school brown leather barstools that neatly lined the wraparound bar, and low slung chairs in a cocktail nook.  The atmosphere was one of an urban, exposed loft, but at the same time felt very comfortable and, well, masculine.

We sat at a long dark oak table for fifteen people. 

The food was really well done.  I was particularly impressed by the quality and consistency of our food, given the size of our party.  The service and presentation was smooth and attentive (which can be an issue in Hong Kong at times, to put it mildly).

The starters came first, consisting of:
  • Norwegian salmon tartar with avocado, burnt lemon vinaigrette and horseradish,
  • Compressed organic heirloom tomatoes with burrata cheese, drizzled with white balsamic and basil,
  • Spanish ham and egg with grilled asparagus, mushroom and thyme, and
  • Bone marrow sprinkled with salt, paired with toast, caper berries and parsley.
Of these, my favorites were the tomatoes with burrata cheese and the Spanish ham and egg.  The Norwegian salmon tartar did not have a good mouth feel and I thought the horseradish was too pungent.  The bone marrow was rich but so fatty that I thought I would get sick if I ate more than a teaspoonful.  That is to say, I think I am just unable to handle bone marrow - and not that there is anything faulty with their preparation.

Then the larger plates and side dishes were presented all at once in a flourish, in such variety and volume that it seemed as though we were at a medieval banquet, albeit with electricity and approximately ten times more hygenic.

The large plates consisted of:
  • Free range charred French chicken with organic baby carrots and pearl onions, presented in a cast iron skillet, and
  • Platters of slow cooked Australian Wagyu bone-in rib eye. 
I thought both of these were superb.  The chicken was very tender and juicy, clearly having been stewed in broth for a long time.  The baby carrots were sweet and tender and cooked just right.  The pearl onions were so sweet that at first I thought they were tomatoes.  The rib eye was cooked to a perfect medium rare (a very deep pink but not excessively bloody), and was tender and tasty.  The rib eye was served with your choice of dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, and horseradish.

Note that the restaurant has its own walk-in dry aging room lined with Himalayan pink salt bricks.  I do not know very much about the steak aging process, but that sounds pretty impressive (and just pretty) to me.

The side plates consisted of:
  • Roasted potato wedges,
  • Baby romaine lettuce served with bacon bits and tossed in a light Caesar dressing, and
  • Corn kernels sauteed lightly with garlic.
With so many items to eat, I skipped the potato wedges and the corn entirely, but did practically wolf down an entire side salad by myself.  The bacon bits in the salad were chopped up and reduced in (what I think must have been) a maple syrup reduction.  They were smoky but also sweet.  At first, given the way the bacon was clustered, I thought they were candied walnuts.

We finally finished the epic feast with dessert, which consisted of a tart mango sorbet with fresh berries and a maple syrup apple tart.  I capped off everything with a hot cup of mint tea, to which they added some fresh mint leaves.  That was a genuinely nice touch, and just about enough to send me into a full-fledged food-induced coma.

All in all, it was a very satisfying meal.  I was thoroughly impressed and would return again, especially for a large party.  It is not easy to find reservations for such a large group of people in Hong Kong, and the consistency of the food and speed of the service earned high marks in my book.  I did hear, however, that the meal cost a princely sum.  This may have been due to the copious bottles of red wine ordered and the sheer size of our party, but perhaps bear that in mind!

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