Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sketch, London

Sketch (Lecture Room/Library), 9/8/2017, (8-Course, £120 incl.VAT), French, Michelin 2-Star

I was trying to select 3 fine dining restaurants for my short staying in London and found out the newly opened Sketch was a hot spot in the Mayfair section of London. It is an enterprise of celebrity chef Pierre Gagnaire, comprised of 5 units - the Lecture Room/Library for fine dining, the Pink Room for casual dining and 3 bars. 

In terms of the interior decoration, the Lecture Room is an ostentatious presentation of Contemporary Art, Avant Garde and French style with a lot of mirror, gold trimming and red color decoration. Although magnificence is an understated description, you could feel a lot of inspiration in this spectacular ambiance.

It offered a Tasting menu of 8 courses including Feuilletés (equivalent of Amuse Bouche), and Petit Fours complimentary.

1st Course - Feuilletés

a). Parmigiano cheese ball with toasted almond powder. These cheese balls were lighter and tastier than traditional Gougère in French cuisine (a baked savory made of Pâte à choux). 

b1).Manchego cheese with quince layer and paprika. 

b2).Squid ink sheet (made with flour and egg) with goat cheese. Most of the squid ink dishes that I tasted were with pasta. This new creative application of squid ink was very delightful.

c).Deep fried spaghetti coated with donky-pinky (chopped lardo di colonata ham), condiment, coriander, black sesame, white sesame, chive, tomato sauce. At the bottom, there was a beautiful coriander flower. It was an amazing presentation.

d). Vodka jelly with Martini, lemon zest and green olive. This appeared to be a variation of the Bloody Mary sorbet (my favorite) that I had at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.

e). Chestnut paste and dry prune wrapped in duck breast ham.

I love all of these cute bite-size Feuille’s, they are enjoyable visually as well as gastronomically.
Breads (sour dough and sweet brioche) were served with 3 kinds of butter (citrus, regular and caramel)

2nd Course - Raw Sea Bream and Tuna Tartare/Shitake/Crunchy Summer Vegetables

Sea Bream and tuna tartare were at the bottom, then multiple layers placed upward with shitake mushroom, granny smith apple slices, lemon sorbet, diced red pepper, carrot, celery, fennel and shaved foie gras. It was very appetizing, especially for a summer meal.

3rd Course - Gambas & Pig – Pan-Fried Gambas/Pig’s Head/Green Peas/Melon/Fresh Almonds

Iberico Serrano ham was from Spain, gambas (both baby and grown-up were served in the plate) from Sicily, pork was from France in head-cheese form. In addition, there were a few razor clams from Cornwall (upper England). Mustard seeds were also in the plate to give an overall more sophisticated taste. This dish has adopted some Portuguese style of cooking.

4th Course -  Agnolotti – Mild Onion and Potato Agnolotti/Spinach Velouté/Black Australian Truffle

Agnolotti was cooked to the right texture. I have never had Australian truffle. It has a darker color than French truffle or Italian truffle. It also has a firmer texture in the mouth. However, it has less aroma and less truffle taste.
5th Course - Scallop - Hand-Dived Scottish Scallop Mousseline/Artichoke with Mint/ Parmesan

Hand-Dived Scottish scallop was seared and served on top of mousseline with mimolette cheese. Scottish scallop was famous for its fine quality and chef prepared it tender and succulent. In addition, there were sautéed artichoke with mint and julienned cuttle fish and caramelized onions. This was a very French style dish, using cheese instead of other fruity flavored acidity. 
6th Course - Denti – Denti “Saint-Germain”/Auergine Caviar with Black Garlic, Courgette and Rocket: Pesto

This course was comprised of two plates – one vegetable and one fish. Blanched and julienned courgette (zucchini squash), fresh arugulas, pine nuts were at the bottom of the plate, served with gorgonzola dressing and aubergine caviar. Tiny aubergine seeds were given a classy name as “aubergine caviar”.

The 2nd plate, with a coordinated design pattern, served Dentex. Dentex is considered the most valuable and one of the most difficult catches of fish that can be caught from the Mediterranean Sea as well on the Eastern Atlantic. In this plate, Denti was from Portugal. It was cooked in the cream sauce first, then coated with bread crumb and fried. Dentex has a texture and taste similar to sea bass in cooked version. But, it has a more transparent appearance when in raw. I personally consider Dentex is tastier than sea bass in raw condition, but taste about the same in cooked condition. In this dish, the 1st round of cooking in cream sauce made the flesh tender and smooth. The 2nd round of cooking made the outside crispy. The hardest part of processes was to make sure not to overcook.
7th Course -  Lamb – Rack of Salt Marsh Lamb from Wales Roasted with New Garlic and Bay Leaves, Miso Auburgine/Chorizo/Red Radish

Boneless loin of lamb was roasted medium rare, tender and succulent, served with giro mushroom (from France), baby carrots and cabbage. On the side, there was a stuffed Swiss chard with pine nut. All vegetables were cooked in chicken soup to enhance the taste and flavor. Giro mushroom tasted almost like straw mushroom. My favorite part in this course was the stuffed Swiss chard which was cooked soft and perfectly flavored.

8th Course -  Pierre Gagnaire’s Grand Dessert – A Combination of Six Miniature Desserts in Two Services
I love Pierre Gagnaire’s dessert. They are dessert galore.

1st Service – 3 plates
a1). Arlette – a buttery, light and flaky puff pastry with green tea and coffee flavored,  in green and brown color design.

a2). Almond cream at the bottom.
a3). Liquid lemon glazed by apple (in green color). Diced granny smith apple and sliced pink lady apple for decoration on top.

b1). Coconut parfait with marshmallow in the center and white chocolate cake at bottom.

b2). Diced dragon fruit and aloe vera.
b3). Red currant and dragon fruit jell.

c1). Chocolate ganache made from 66% cocoa content and dark chocolate.

c2). hazelnut sponge cake, coffee jelly (in black color).
c3). Chocolate praline tart (standing vertically).

2nd Service – 3 plates

a1). Light cheese cake cream.

a2). Fresh figs and marmalade.
a3). Fresh walnut and biscuit of almond.

b1). Red wine sorbet. One ice cream parlor in Ljublijana, Slovenia made the 2nd best.

b2). Granité of Tequilla (Patron). This was as good as the Bloody Mary sorbet.
b3). Ginger bread crumbs and fresh grapes.

c1). Mirabelle prune.

c2). Compote with red currant.
c3). Red currant ravioli with prune filling.

These were true Pierre Gagnaire style grand dessert as I still remembered the multiple courses of dessert at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. My big sweet tooth certainly was very happy. There was still more to come.

Petit Fours

1).Yuzu Jell with Tonka Bean and Hot Oil. I stated noticing the popular usage of Tonka Bean since March when I dined at Quadri in Venice and a few restaurants in Chicago. Chefs are craving for its spicy and fruity aroma which can be used in both savory and sweet applications, although it is still banned in US because of its coumarin content. The overall taste was almost like mild mocha, almond and caramel.

2). Puff pastry with Raspberry Purée.

3). Caramelized Olive Tart with Chocolate Cream and Powdered Nougat in Dry Foam. Nougat is a family of confection made with sugar or honey, roasted nuts and whipped egg white. In this dessert, nougat was grounded into powder to balance the slightly salty taste of olive. It was a perfect ending after all the varieties of dessert.

With all what I have enjoyed, in terms of quality, # of courses, varieties, ambiance, and impeccable services, this was certainly a value fine dining meal. The Tasting menu was priced very modestly may be because it was new for the season. I truly appreciated fine dining in “Pierre Gagnaire” style.

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