Well how could anything live up to the previous night’s Culinary Masters dinner in Macau? Astute organiser Tak Man, Publisher and CEO of Robb Report Hong Kong, laid on something completely different. It was to be An Italian Night at Osteria Francescana by Massimo Bottura, and Tak Man and his Culinary Masters partner, MGM COTAI, brought in the greatest living humorous gastronomic genius himself (that’s him, above).
Circular tables in the Grand Ballroom were set with 90cm-tall arrangements surrounded by different-height candles. Instead of last night’s superb array of different breads there were simply skinniest, tasty grissini. Instead of last night’s superb array of chefs from many lands there was simply Massimo, Italy’s mouthpiece, aided by wine pairings by Clement Robert MS.
It was Ruinart before the meal, and the first pairing was 2019 Gladstone 340 Blanc, Wairarapa, New Zealand. This accompanied Pasta al pesto in abstract, also known as Ligurian pasta without the pasta. Small white bowls held custard of Parmigiano Reggiano and pine nuts layered with brunoised green beans and potatoes, highlighted by intense basil oil and miso pasta al pesto sauce. You could see everyone smiling, savouring every half teaspoonful. Don’t eat it too fast, linger for ever.
Next came Baccalà mare nostrum, namely Emilian cod fillet floating in a broth of Vesuvian tomatoes and green olives infused with Sorrento lemons, wild oregano and extra virgin olive oil Villa Manodori. This was paired with 2018 Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes.
Mr Humorous had already explained that as a kid he liked eating the end bits of his mother’s pasta (he was brought up with five siblings so there was a lot of pasta). The next course was called ‘The crunchy part of the pasta’. So, atop a dollop of hand-chopped ragù and an airy béchamel was a wavy-sail of pasta sheet, coloured for the Italian flag, red, colourless (white) and green. How often has such a memorable ‘joke’ been paired, one wonders, with 2015 Ch Talbot Saint-Julien?
Going round his nation now brought Massimo Bottura to Tuscany. First, a 20-metre black-covered table was set up, with piles of white plate. Next a line of chefs appeaared, led by Bottura. As if in a ballet they moved along the table, splattering as they all created ‘A Beautiful, Psychedlic, Spin painted veal, charcoal grilled with glorious colour as a painting’. Splodges were chlorophyll, creamy potatoes, orange and yellow pepper purée, and there were also pourings of red beet, extra old Villa Manodori Balsamic. At the last minute a portion of perfectly cooked veal was added. Every dish was different. Everyone said they had never seen anything like it. No-one will forget it. A table of kids whom Bottura had been simultaneously hosting in the kitchen joined in, splodging with gusto. Global food consultant Naim Maddad, who had supported Tak Man and the MGM Macau team throughout, was, with the entire assembled company, laughing with delight. (See the YouTube video https://youtu.be/Bn08Qe78xXQ )
It was time for the last two dishes, both desserts. First came ‘This Little Piggy Went to Market’, namely toasted corn crumble topped with Neopolitan black pudding, sanguinaccio, and Original Beans chocolate sauce, which went with 2009 Ch d’Yquem sauternes. And the finale? Wait for it. ‘Oops! I forgot the Caprese’, yes, that was the name for a red tomato made of white chocolate. It held Bavarian cream and red berries splashed with tomato and buffalo mozzarella sauces and drops of basil oil. Deep breath. Still in heaven. Some went on to the after-party but Girlahead had an early start.
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