Enchant your summer with a visiting culinary heavyweight from Singapore – Chef Bjoern Alexander Panek, the ex-mastermind behind two-Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Octavium, comes to LUMA
LUBUDS group has joined forces with Chef Bjoern Alexander Panek of newly opened Matera in Singapore (and formerly of the 852’s very own two-Michelin-starred Octavium) to cook up a culinary storm this August and September. The highly acclaimed German-born chef has curated exclusive tasting menus that pick up on Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Thai traditions. His East-meets-West interpretation of flavours and cooking techniques showcases his confident and competent yet convention-defying culinary approach.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer in this collaboration at LUMA:
Amuse-Bouches – Scallop Burrata, Caviar, Chives; Tomato, Passionfruit, Chia Seeds, Tomato Jelly; Smoked Bean-curd Roll with Vegetables; Celtuce with Sichuan Peppercorn
Our LUMA meal kicked off with an almost savoury version of a petit four. Amongst the amuse-bouche quartet, we most enjoyed Chef Panek’s signature scallop burrata. Chunky bits of sweet and tender scallop are paired with burrata, topped with a dash of lime juice and lime zest and finally wrapped in pickled daikon to righteously cut through the richness. The finish is lasting, and the experience is pleasurable and rewarding.
The smoked bean-curd roll is an interesting play on the traditional Chinese crispy bean-curd roll (素鵝). A further layer of flavour is bestowed upon this dish following a Westernised smoking preparation.
In the tomato dish, it’s appreciated how the team have tried to deliver a slightly acidic dish to enhance our salivation at the start of the meal, but the passionfruit element is slightly too overpowering and acidic for my liking. The sweetness of the tomato barely shines through, and it seems to me that the chia seeds don’t add much value given that the crunch from the passionfruit is already adequately present.
The celtuce was sufficiently fresh, crisp and crunchy, with a dose of peppercorn aroma – a standard preparation.
Red Prawn Carpaccio, Citrus Jelly
Red prawns are renowned for their abounding sweetness and profound shrimp flavour, and this dish is no exception. On top of the thinly sliced, glimmering sheets of red prawn, there are chunks of red prawn and tobiko scattered to give both bite and crunch – a rather smart way to elevate the textural element of the dish. Instead of lemon, blood orange is incorporated as the acidic component to complement the seafood, further enhancing the sweetness of this elegant crustacean.
Lobster, Carbonara Sauce, Egg Yolk, Parmesan
Cooking lobster tail remains a tall order for most chefs as they are rather non-forgiving when cooked. The lobster in this dish was textbook tender and glided effortlessly when cut across, whilst retaining some springy and almost crispy goodness from the muscle fibres. This dish doesn’t stop there – the first wave of magic happens within the sauce, which is a classic carbonara, but with the guanciale already intelligently blended into the sauce, giving it the authentic full smoky and salty package. The second wave of magic comes from the slow-cooked egg yolk on top, which serves as a silky jam to enhance the creamy and buttery aftertaste of the lobster. The third and final wave of magic comes from the drops of chive oil, which give the dish some much-needed freshness to break up the richness on the palate. A note of mention goes to the Parmesan tuile; despite being there as a garnish, it’s quite pungent in flavour, and one may decide to eat it on its own rather than together with the lobster.
Squid Spaghettini, Squid, Thai Style, Crispy Garlic
The menu includes two pasta dishes. The first pasta is a squid spaghettini with a Thai twist. The pasta was sufficiently al dente, with a hint of tom yum flavour in the background. The squid was flash-fried and succulent. As is often the case, the tom yum mix of lemongrass, lime leaf and galangal can be overpowering, but in this dish, the squid remains pristine and flavourful on its own.
Red Prawn Ravioli, XO Sauce, Dried Scallop
Next comes the heavyweight red prawn ravioli, which truly packs a punch. The rich, glorious orange sauce is made of red prawn and Chinese dried scallop. It’s supported by the jewel in the crown – the ravioli itself. The filling of the ravioli consists of red prawn and scallop, topped with some crisped-up XO sauce that acts as a textural and umami enhancer. It was clear at this point that I was determined to lick the plate clean…
Half & Half Soup
We were served two soups in cappuccino-sized cups, which I thought would be the meal’s intermission, but it turns out that these two preparations are LUBUDS’ signature soups. Safe to say, they have earned their accolades. The onion soup is boiled down to a rich and sweet vegetable stock, with a substantial dose of thyme as one of the aromatics. The lobster bisque is intensely flavourful and thick enough to actually coat your palate. The body of this bisque is full, the taste is dynamic and it’s bold in character.
Black Cod Papillote, Sichuan Chilli Stock
Black cod is like a double-edged sword – tender and flaky flesh that comes sliding off, yet with a rather high oil content that may be too rich for some. In this preparation, Chef Panek pairs black cod with a spicy, tangy and garlicky Sichuan chilli stock, a recipe acquired from neighbouring fine-dining Chinese restaurant The Queen. Referencing the Sichuan dish of fish with pickled cabbage (酸菜魚), this plate is a true marriage of East and West, bringing together the cooking techniques of two very different culinary personalities. The papillote preparation enables the fish to continue to steam through its own convection current – a cooking method that allows a protein to be cooked gently and uniformly, which is especially beneficial for delicate seafood like cod.
Pigeon, Black Truffle, Button Mushroom, Pepper
This dish comes with a special note from the server asking whether or not the diner can handle their pigeon cooked medium rare to rare – of course, we took our chances. The LUMA pigeon is quite something to devour, with the surface being covered with chicken mousse, miso and truffle. The gaminess is overcome by the sweet, earthy notes from the ingredients on top. And upon further questioning of the chef, his deliberate rarer cook on the bird together with his choice of ingredients is exactly there to counteract the gaminess of the pigeon, which may be off-putting to some distinguished diners. Having said that, if you prefer your poultry to be more gamy, you are more than welcome to fine-tune the pigeon cooking time. To finish off this dish, there’s a piece of humbly sweet and soft slow-cooked onion bulb on the side that acts as a palate cleanser.
USDA Rib-eye Cap, Donabe Rice, Comté, Beef Tendon
Now we get to the finale of the meal. As you might know, a rib-eye consists of the eye and the cap, and to many meat enthusiasts out there, the cap is definitely a carnivore’s dream. Grilled to a perfect medium rare, the marbling of the meat is innately impressive, and together with the limited connective tissue, it contributes to unparalleled tenderness. To accompany the beef, claypot rice made with beef tendon, Comté cheese and garlic is served tableside. The use of Japanese rice ensures the plumpness of each grain, and with each grain coated with this nutty, rich and pungent concoction of cheesy and garlicky goodness, the end result is truly explosive.
Having had the pleasure of savouring many fine-dining experiences, both locally and internationally, I can safely say that LUMA has collaborated with the always dependable Chef Panek to produce a sublime menu of synergy. I was particularly impressed by the team’s microscopic attention to detail in achieving well-balanced flavour combinations, coupled with their impeccable seafood preparation methods. The menu is indeed quite seafood heavy, but each course features a unique standout dish of its own, with flavourful surprises emerging course after course. It’s also well curated, offering an organically gradual succession of dishes and near flawless execution. Tapping into the fusion market is a wise move by Chef Panek as diners are always on the lookout for originality coupled with innovation – welcome to 21st-century dining! We wish much success to Chef Panek with his new restaurant in Singapore – Matera – and we look forward to the chef’s next collaboration with LUBUDS here in Hong Kong.
Where: G/F, FWD HOUSE 1881, 2A Canton Road, TST
When: until 30 September 2023
How much: HK$980/person for 6 courses; HK$1,380/person for 8 courses
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.