This February, Test Kitchen brought another chef talent to dazzle the palates of Hong Kong foodies. Chef Ben Orpwood took the inspiration behind London's hottest restaurant concept to Hong Kong in this unique collaboration with HK pop-up master Test Kitchen. The former executive chef of London's critically acclaimed Sexy Fish impressed Hong Kong diners with an exclusive tasting menu full of Japanese and European flavours. This pop-up event in Hong Kong saw him working alongside Chef Michael Hoepfl, with whom he also works closely at Zuma.
We began our tasting with rice crackers topped with uni and tomato powder. It was a quirky, tongue-in-cheek expression of Chef Orpwood's childhood in Australia. All the kids in his seaside home town grew up eating raw fish pulled from the fresh local waters, but it was difficult to make youngsters appreciate raw sea urchin. The chef paired the uni with tomato powder to bring in the essence of ketchup, since he remembered that 'everyone ate anything with ketchup back in Australia'.
The smoked beef tartaredrizzled with ponzu, wrapped in a thin sliver of daikon with rice, was a delicious rendition of sushi. The smokiness of the beef gave the morsel some bite and diminished the rawness of the meat.
We would have never thought to pair smoked eel with pork terrine on toast, but the combination worked beautifully together. The terrine, made with meat from a pig's head, wobbled with gelatinous deliciousness and reminded us of the classic Chinese dish 肉皮冻. Diced jalapeño, onion and cucumber added contrast and dimension.
Using local Hong Kong ingredients, the razor clams dressed with yuzu, shiso and wasabi came mixed with pickled nashi pear. The sweet crunch of the fruit helped to accentuate the sweetness of the seafood.
We enjoyed the smoked raw bonito drizzled with seaweed sauce and Brussels sprouts, although the vegetable actually stole the show. Each Brussels sprout was caramelised to crunchy perfection and was wonderfully nutty. We could have eaten a whole bucketful of these!
The onion and duck egg was a quirky mix of flavours that really worked. The slow-poached egg melted into the sweet-yet-sharp onion purée, which looked a lot like hollandaise sauce. The accompanying leek ash gave off a smokiness comparable to coffee, and the flaxseeds added an earthy crunchiness. The shiso leaves worked very well with the roasted vegetables.
We're not huge fans of black pudding, but this version of black pudding dumpling in truffle sauce and chive oil was quite impressive. The black pudding came from Chef Hoepfl's home town in Germany and was scented with a variety of herbs, with marjoram being the most pronounced. We liked how the truffle sauce wasn't overwhelmingly intoxicating, which allowed the sweet caramelised apples to shine.
Our roasted pigeon arrived in a rather fierce pose with its talons outstretched. The bird came alongside fork-tender asparagus, roasted hazelnuts and a very caramelly sauce with a touch of smokiness. The meat was given even more flavour from its roasting in beef fat.
There was not one, but two, desserts. The Yorkshire rhubarb was a play on the classic pairing of strawberries and cream and came amidst tart sorbet, coconut cream and a rhubarb wafer. It was a light yet satisfying conclusion to a decadent meal.
The double chocolate tofu was an odd concoction that just didn't work. The chocolate mousse was creamy and satisfying yet the tofu on top was exceedingly salty. We couldn't manage more than two spoonfuls. Sea salt and chocolate are a classic combination, but this salty pairing fell flat.
We had an eye-opening experience dining with chefs Ben Orpwood and Michael Hoepfl. The mix of Asian and European flavours worked to accentuate each of their individual qualities. The only dish we didn't like was the odd couple of salty tofu and chocolate.
Check Test Kitchen's website for more upcoming chef collaborations.