Sunday, 15 March 2015

A night at the Spandau Ballet - Gold by Harlan Goldstein

We have discovered that dining in Hong Kong is slightly different to Australia, in that it is more difficult to just walk in to a restaurant and ask for a table without a reservation, even if the restaurant is mostly empty.  With this in mind I had decided to make a reservation for dinner at Gold by Harlan Goldstein on a Friday night.  Unfortunately on the night in question FMUS was still suffering from a stomach bug, so we had to reschedule to the following week.  Finally that night was here, and we headed in for what we hoped to be a good meal at the flagship restaurant of one of Hong Kong's more prolific restauranteurs.

Harlan Goldstein is a New Yorker who worked under 3-Michelin starred chef Jean Banchet in Chicago, before travelling to Asia and working at some of the top hotel restaurants in the region.  He moved to Hong Kong and, after working at the Aberdeen Marina Club, has now opened his own stable of restaurants in Hong Kong.  We had eaten at one of his other restaurants very early in our Hong Kong experience (see post here) and were impressed with the simple yet tasty dishes served.  We were hoping that with a Michelin star, Gold would top our experience at Penthouse. 

The first thing we noticed when arriving at Gold was, you guessed it, the gold interior.  Spandau Ballet playing in my head, we were seated by very friendly wait staff and given the menus.  Spandau Ballet changed to Austin Powers references though, when we saw that even the menu was covered in gold lamé!  Joking aside, the menu looked interesting, with an option of a 5 course tasting menu designed by Harlan but no hints were given as to the courses you would be provided.  There was also a three course tasting menu, with some of the options on that menu quite appealing, however there were other dishes on the al a carte menu which appealed more.  Feeling a lack of a sense of adventure this evening, I preferred to choose from the al a carte menu, and FMUS reluctantly agreed.  

I was intrigued by the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, with a micro green herb salad and lobster cajun sauce.  This certainly was a jumbo crab cake, and superbly done to boot.  I was pleased not to discover any cartilage in the crab cake, which made a nice change from other crab dishes I have tried in Hong Kong.  The micro green herb salad didn't seem to have any herbs in it, but was fresh nonetheless.  I enjoyed this starter, although I must admit for a Michelin starred restaurant, for my tastes, it was a little too rustic.  

FMUS spied a couple of his favourite ingredients in the one dish, and had to try it.  The 63 degree octopus with chorizo bolognese and smoked paprika potatoes was again a rustic looking dish, but the flavour combination was anything but rustic.  The slow cooked octopus was tender and an excellent example of how to prepare the delicacy.  Interestingly, the chorizo bolognese was unlike anything we'd seen before and paired beautifully with the octopus, with just enough heat to be interesting by the time the dish was over.  A couple of crispy potato chips were included and while not strictly necessary, gave some additional texture.

For the main, after much deliberation, FMUS decided to go for meat - a nice piece of 12 oz New York strip-loin.  It was served with roasted garlic and a bernaise sauce on the side.  He had also ordered some giant steak fries with truffle mayo (which of course I had to also try!).  The strip loin was recommended to come medium but unfortunately came medium rare, which made the steak a little tough.  There was good flavour in the meat, but it really could have been spectacular if it was cooked as described.

The menu proclaims that Harlan is the 'king of slow cooking', so with that kind of description, I had to try something from the 'slow cooked' section of the menu.  My dish of "melted in your mouth" salmon with Italian red prawn, chorizo, romesco and wild rocket certainly lived up to its name for the main protein, in that the buttery salmon really did melt in your mouth, however I found the salmon was completely overpowered by the other components of the dish.  The chorizo was probably unnecessary (and in fact I only ate one piece) and, for my palate and I found the sauce to be intense, which threw the balance of the dish out. My other main issue with the dish was that one of the large prawns had an overly fishy taste, which can sometimes indicate a lack of freshness.   It really detracted from the salmon.   To be honest, I was expecting the salmon to be the star of the show, particularly given it was called 'melt in your mouth salmon' but instead, it was completely hidden from view!  It was a mystery to me.

After that main I didn't really feel like a whole dessert, but of course FMUS could not finish the meal without something sweet.  After placing his order for Harlan Goldstein's Nitrogen Creation, we were invited to check out the deck area while waiting for the dessert to be prepared.  The deck area is at the rear of the restaurant, and looked out over Lan Kwai Fong and the highrises of Central.  While the night we were there it was cold and miserable (thanks Hong Kong), I could imagine that the deck would be a great place to enjoy a few cocktails on a hot summer's night.  

Back at the table, the dessert presented was simply beautiful.  The refreshing mango flavours were complemented by yoghurt and a coconut mousse.  Fortunately for me the waitress had brought an extra spoon, and while I had declared I was not really able to eat much else after the main, I did have to stop myself from stealing all of the dessert (Much to FMUS's chagrin)!  This was definitely a great way to finish the meal, and I was wishing I had ordered one of these for myself! (Note from FMUS - Me too!!)

We were surprised that, for a Friday night, the restaurant was mostly empty.  While I may have made some tactical errors with my food choices, Gold is still a Michelin starred restaurant, with service to match.  

I must admit that I enjoyed the food at Penthouse more than Gold, but am interested in checking out the other restaurants in the Goldstein stable as, on the whole, the menus at all of the venues appeal to me.  


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