Modern gastronomy is not much like what it was 50 years ago. In fact, it is not much like what it was 15 years ago. In the 2000s, molecular gastronomy was on the rise thanks to mavericks like Heston Blumental, Ferran Adria and Pierre Gagnaire. The top three spots in 2006's venerated 'World's 50 Best Restaurants' list were Ferran Adria from El Bulli; Heston Blumenthal from The Fat Duck; and Pierre Gagnaire from his restaurant in Paris. The upper echelons of gastronomy look somewhat different today, with 2015's list listing top restaurants like the famously innovative NOMA, deeply Italian Osteria Francescana and traditional yet avant garde El Celler de Can Roca. All boast elements of molecular technique, yet revert to alternative methods of gastronomy like fermentation and pickling. Sustainability, earthiness and commitment to the creative processes that connect cooks to ingredients, diners to farmers, are the focus.
NUR has existed for a year and a bit, broadening Hong Kong's dining scene to include the category of nourishing gastronomy. Comment to a Hong Kong local even four years ago that a restaurant who sought to build a clientele based on local, healthful ingredients was set to open in the middle of Central and you'd have been met with a smirk at best. NUR have proven that such noble pursuit is achievable, and have gained a Michelin star along the way. To taste food that is nearly entirely regionally-sourced, is vegetable-heavy and pays homage to all manner of fine cookery is educational as much as inspirational, satiating and unusual, especially in a city that believes the addition of foie gras, truffle and uni will make everything better.
The new menu is seasonal, carefully acknowledging Chinese and Western ingredients with a strong focus on fermentation. Fermentation is the process of bacteria and enzymes converting carbohydrates organic acids, which changes the flavour and texture of food and ultimately avails more nutrients to the body. Given that many cultures have been eating this type of food for literally hundreds of years, there is much data to say our bodies thrive with the bacteria fermentation creates. In simple terms, fermenting food makes it more interesting in flavour, varied in texture and more nourishing for our bodies.
A whirlwind of nine courses at NUR featuring a variety of these fermented foods will set the diner back $1188, a modest amount we have handed over to many a less memorable restaurant too many times.
Standouts from the welcome snacks were the sweetcorn taco and a flaxseed cracker we were convinced incorporated smoked mackerel somewhere, but actually cleverly mimicked the flavours and textures through the use of house-made ricotta (smoked), shiso and slow dried tomato. Goose was a new entry which, having been brined for a week and then smoked, dry aged, thinly sliced and brushed with garlic, impressed a flavour that is the essence of Hong Kong in charcuterie form.
Girolles are pickled and enhanced with cep oil, basking in a sunflower seed risotto with parsley puree, coco beans, sweet corn and finished with mushroom stock. Japanese Hamachi, cured and quickly seared, is served with pickled watermelon (flesh and rind), pistachio puree, lettuce stems and finished with a fermented honeydew melon juice and lemon marigold oil.
Rhug Lamb Shoulder
Heavier courses commence with the egg. A dark soy and konbu marinated Taiyouran egg sits atop sugar snap peas, snake beans with a parmesan and rocket emulsion, finished with rocket leaves that makes this a umami hit combining Italy and Asia's powerful savoury seasonings. Wild flounder with popped amaranth and fermented grilled cabbage and Rhug lamb shoulder glazed with the housemade fermented chilli sauce (Nuracha, if you will) round off the mains.
Desserts are very, very excellent. Yamanashi peach, compressed with a lemongrass and lemon balm is then infused with peach juice. Served with a cashew milk tofu, cashew nut praline and toasted shaved cashew nuts, the dish is sharp and sapid. The favourite is by far cherry though, which sees Japanese cherries soaked in kirsch, and served with an indulgent and perfectly moist pistachio cake with cherry leather, roselle cream and anise powder.
Japanese Cherries, Pistachio Cake
Between the goose juice, Rhug lamb, slow dried tomato and lettuce stems, the best of what's available in our Asian region is given the best treatment and turned into the most delicious nourishment available in Hong Kong. It is fine dining with purpose–nourishing gastronomy.
3/F., 1 Lyndhurst Tower, No. 1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central; 2871 9993