Thursday, 9 June 2016

AnOther Place by David Myers - great food but shame about the pacing

In a world filled with celebrity and Michelin awarded chefs, unsurprisingly I'd never come across US based chef, David Myers.  

That was until I'd arranged to catch up with my Singaporean based food buddy James, who'd booked us in for a dinner at Adrift at Marina Bay Sands.  James had come across David Myers on his travels and assured me that I'd have a fantastic meal at Adrift.

You can't find a more glamorous spot in all of Singapore than Marina Bay Sands, and the flashy looking and well kitted out Adrift ended up being a superb meal.  Our dinner was served to us as we sat in chairs suspended by wires from the ceiling and the ultra modern dining room felt like it would be at home in swanky parts of Los Angeles.

I really enjoyed the meal, but was pretty lazy and didn't write up the visit.

But I did remember the meal fondly and when I saw that David Myers, also known as the Gypsy Chef, was opening a restaurant in Hong Kong - knew that I'd get along and check out his interestingly named AnOther Place.

Located in post industrial Tin Hau, AnOther Place could not have been more different from Singapore's Adrift.  Hidden on the 5th floor of what can only be described as a dilapidated and run down building, we were nervous about riding the old lift and what we'd find when it eventually stopped its slow and perilous journey.  

Stepping into the foyer of the restaurant, we were presented with a funky and cool looking reception that looked like it had been transported to a warehouse.  In fact, the 2,000 square foot place started to unfold as we were led down a series of walkways that looked much like a narrow laneways between buildings.  Eventually, we came across a 'doorway' and once we entered, a further transformation unfolded and we found ourselves in an eclectic looking dining room, that had more than a homely look and feel.  Wooden block tables dominated the dining room and light fittings were made out of deer antlers - crazy that we felt instantly at home.

There was no time wasted talking about menus, our meal had been arranged via email correspondence, not that it was hard to choose from the four or six course tasting menu.  We were always going to go big and a copy of our selected menu was waiting for us at our table, no doubt helping us track our courses as they arrived.  The only thing left to decide on was the wines, which were brought out to the table for the girl to select - a novel approach instead of providing a wine list.

Once the girl's wine selection was sorted (they allow BYO as well), the bottle uncorked and poured, a selection of warm breads was provided with little half spheres of room temperature butter.  We had two options, seaweed infused or normal salted; both of which were lovely when spread into the crusty baguette that was my first choice.  I really love the little details and a restaurant providing butter at room temperature, allowing an easy spread on warm bread, is one of those signs that the restaurant cares about details.

Our amuse bouche arrived shortly after our bread, in fact, I'd only just had time to break my bread and butter one side before I had to set it aside and focus on our first course.  Served in a clear bowl, we were given a bite of well seasoned lamb that was encrusted in a short pastry and placed on a lamb gravy with a rocket yoghurt sitting on top.  A splash of colour came from a vibrant yellow flower.  I loved the contrasting textures of the pastry and chewy lamb, which was sweet and carried a subtle mint flavour.  The gravy was earthy and paired wonderfully with the exquisitely cooked lamb.  It was like a roast dinner crammed into a small bowl and certainly had me salivating for the remainder of the meal.

Ginger marinated toro and akami tuna was next, presented in a simple white bowl and sitting atop crunchy toasted myoga salad, then topped with a sprinkling of sesame seed and garnish for colour.  The tuna was beautifully red and translucent, diced into little bite sized portions of heaven, I quickly started to devour the small chunks of fish.  I particularly liked the thin Spanish onion that gave a little zing and the crunchy base added texture, although I could have done with slightly less.  The fatty part (toro) of the tuna was used, so the texture and taste was intense, so much so that I hardly noticed the ginger under taste.

I glimpsed the vibrant orange of our lobster bisque as it made its way to our table and was instantly excited to sample the David Myers version of one of my favourite dishes.  One mouthful told me all I needed to know.  There was a sweetness and balance from the bisque which ensured that each spoonful was delightful, with none of the harshness that comes from a bisque that's been prepared poorly.  Even better, as I delved into the depths of the bowl, little chewy surprises of lobster, crab and geoduck popped up to add texture.  Yum!

I was a little conflicted our our fish course.  We were presented with a stunning looking dish of slow cooked Chilean seabass with a melon salad and lychee foam.  The three components lined up on the plate and were as pretty as a picture.  I was expecting a crispy skin on the seabass but instead was confronted by a chewy and slightly soggy texture that felt a little wrong in my mouth - just a bit chewy.  Apart from the skin, the fish was perfectly cooked and had a robust and strong flavour that worked beautifully with the layered pieces of different melons.  Watermelon was the predominant flavour though and it's sweetness contrasted nicely with the fish.  I personally found the lychee foam a little too sweet and overpowering, but the girl thought I was mad and smothered the foam on each of her bites.

Each of our courses had been rushed from the kitchen, with advice from our server that the plates were hot and that we needed to take care when eating.  The same happened for our last savoury course, but with a much sterner warning.  The plate was HOT, don't touch.

Consisting of different cuts of beef, the dish had a square of Kagoshima A4 grade wagyu rump steak, along side a braised short rib and a pile of porcini mushrooms.  Finishing off the plate was a shiso and dikon salad and a yuzu koshi vinaigrette splashed over some sweet potato powder.  I loved, loved, loved the beefy flavour of the wagyu and the intense earthy flavour from the short rib, but hated the slimy porcini mushrooms that made up the trio of flavours.  I found the texture of the mushrooms to be slimy and just didn't sit well with me.  It was a shame, the beef was superb and contrasted interestingly (in a good way) with the sliced dikon pieces wrapped in a shiso leaf. Again, the girl looked at me as if I was crazy, loving the mushroom as well (which was baffling to me as she normally doesn't like mushroom).

It was pre dessert time and a peach sorbet acted as a pallet cleanser after the rich and meaty main course.  The texture of the sorbet was super creamy, more like an ice cream, and full flavoured.  Crisp clear flavours of peach were evident, with a little crunch coming from a crumble that helped stabilise the quenelle in the bowl and help with the ease of eating.

Now, I've had some intense desserts before but the final course of the evening at AnOther place would have to compete for the top spot.  A quenelle of Vietnamese cacao pot de crème was served with toasted marshmallow with crunch sweet tuile.  A sprinkling of sea salt on top of the chocolate finished the look, which was quite fetching.  However, the chocolate was dense and very, very bitter.  Every little bit of the toasted marshmallow was needed to balance out the dark and bitter chocolate - the overwhelming sweetness neutralising the chocolate.  I'm still not sure if I enjoyed the dish or not, I have memories of my palate being blasted by that bitter cocoa, which slightly override the memories of the well balanced bites where I could get enough marshmallow on my spoon.  Yeah, it was an intense dessert!

As you read through this post, you might have a feeling that you need to take a breath.  I felt the same way too, with the tasting menu coming out at breakneck speed.  There was barely enough time between courses to let the meal settle before the next course arrived, and by the time we'd finished, we felt way too rushed.  

It's a little bit of a shame really, considering how much I enjoyed each of the courses.  Five extra minutes between courses would have been all that was needed, just enough time to maintain the hunger for the next round of food.  I'm not sure if the pacing was out on the night, or if that's just the rapid fire approach to the meal (I suspect the former).

In fact, the pacing was the only real issue I had on the night, with super tasty food that had shades of modern French cuisine with hints of Asian influence.  Obviously, Chef Myers wasn't in the kitchen on the night of our visit, but I could see his influence in the menu from my short visit to Adrift in Singapore. 

AnOther Place by David Myers is my kind of restaurant.  Excellent food in a setting that was both funky and comforting, served by excellent staff that seemed interested in being part of the team. It's a place that we'll head back to, no doubt.  I think you might like it too!

I loved the light fittings
An eclectic and homy feel inside - modern table but old style chairs 
It was a weird set up inside - lots of rooms that you never noticed
Such a large space, it seemed to go on forever
AnOther Place had amazing views
And what a sunset!
The passageways felt weird - like you were walking outside
then, you would come across weird stuff like this!

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