Robuchon a Galera
The first-ever Hong Kong and Macau Michelin guide was released the very week we were in those two places. It’s not as if I was going to rearrange my plans based on this new intel. As it turned out we already had reservations at two two-stars: Yung Kee and Hutong, and more felicitously, Robuchon a Galera, one of only two three-stars in the book (Lung King Heen, whose chef is profiled in this weekend’s Times is the other).
Do you think they’d doll up an entryway at a Parisian Robuchon in this manner? I did appreciate how seriously the Chinese took Christmas.
Anyone who knows anything about this oddly placed Robuchon in the gloriously overwrought, Liberache-style Hotel Lisboa knows that lunch is a staggering bargain. $200+ shark’s fin and abalone chef’s menus would be lost on me. The set lunch provides a sample of what the kitchen is capable of in five courses for a more palatable HK$ 538 ($69). Fewer courses are available for $42 and $54 but why limit yourself? We wanted the full appetizer, soup, fish, meat and dessert experience.
We also wanted the mildy seedy Hotel Lisboa experience, if only for one night, to soak in the ambience…and carcinogens. I would call bullshit on the Times’ currently popular third-hand smoke article, if it weren’t for the headache and chest pain-inducing properties of our room’s ashtray aroma. And then our first-hand smoking (I rarely smoke anymore, though just like not abiding dietary restrictions on vacation I also enjoy a cigarette or two when out of town) only upped the ante. My disappointment at not encountering any of the fabled Russian hookers hooker lingering in the lobbies and casinos was almost mitigated by the bedside wooden console that controlled the lights and played AM radio-quality Chinese stations.
The wine list was crazy. The hefty tome was bereft of bottles under three digits. No one around us even had alcoholic beverages, though. As we discovered on numerous dining occasions, Asians aren’t big drinkers. Even in casinos everyone sipped hot tea rather than booze. With Robuchon doing like the locals would’ve been a wise move. Two cocktails and two glasses of champagne nearly jacked our bill an extra $100 (and I naively said lunch would be my treat).
Apple granita amuse. Yes, that’s dry ice-induced smoke beneath the plate. Very dramatic.
Lightly smoked foie gras on top of marinated mushrooms with virgin olive oil. Though the thinly sliced fungus takes up more visual room than the curls of liver, the creamy foie gras, with yes, a hint of smoke, was the dominant ingredient.
Japanese egg yolk in herb ravioli, watercress and warm sea urchin in its own juice. This was not my appetizer, but I’m including alternating photos for variety’s sake.
Crab bisque spicy with Espelette pepper under aniseed emulsion. We both chose this saline soup and like pouring the smooth bisque over the foam ourselves. The crab meat-encrusted crackers were a nice accompaniment. I’m not sure what to make of the little blue gem on the tray, however.
Scallop, squid and shrimp in coral broth and flavored with basil. I do not know what they mean by coral. You don’t actually cook with those sea polyps, do you? I just realized that I chose two creamy seafood courses in a row. I can’t help liking that rich, delicate combination. Last night I had $16 lobster ravioli at Carrabba’s, which tasted like what you’d expect from an Italian chain restaurant. The truly amazing thing about this three-star seafood medley is that it only cost $14, technically.
Back of sea bass on crispy skin with braised fennel and beetroot jus.
Roasted lamb rack with oriental fragrance, with samosas medley and coriander pesto. This was actually a lot of food, not tiny portions. Normally, I can power through a tasting menu but this lamb was so unctuous and rich that I had to pass off a number of slices to James (no, I can’t just leave food on the plate). What they call “Oriental fragrance” is Indian spicing: garam masala, coriander and cumin. The mini samosas were filled with a cheese-spinach blend. The off-white blob on the left is the famous impossibly buttery Robuchon potatoes that James has tried recreating at home. He ordered the beef because it came with potatoes and he thought he would get these. Instead, our server came over with a big dish of them and doled out a small spoonful on my plate while he received a different style of potato, altogether.
Braised “Wagyu” beef cheek, aromatic pepper with Dauphine-style creamed potatoes. Despite coming in an individual cast iron crock like the mashed potatoes did in Vegas, these were more like scalloped potatoes. James described the meat as tasting like Salisbury steak. The horror. I think he meant the soft texture, which I would call closer to pot roast. That’s what a cheek is like.
Then came the big decision: dessert or cheese? I’d been savoried to death and we had been eyeballing the dessert trolley all afternoon.
I chose baba au rhum, caramel ice cream and a profiterole tower.
I knew there was an insane Willy Wonka-esque candy trolley in addition to the regular dessert cart and started fretting when I didn’t see it being rolled around. It was James who anxiously asked, “Isn’t there a candy trolley, too?” “Yes, it’s coming,” reassured our waitress, laughing a bit. We didn’t want to get short-changed on sugar. It didn’t go to every table, though, which made me wonder if you did have to ask for it. Or perhaps others had already had their fill and didn’t bother.
We shared marshmallows, nougat and a lollipop. The choices were so overwhelming that when it came down to it I didn’t know what to pick.
I thought the padded purse stool was the most unnecessary but appreciated amenity until I discovered the cache of plastic-wrapped hairbrushes offered in the bathroom. I had to grab one because how often do you get a free hairbrush? Now that's a souvenir. At least I didn’t stuff bread into my purse.
Robuchon a Galera * Hotel Lisboa, 3/F, Av. da Amizade, Macau