Sunday, May 27, 2018

Ta Vie Hideaki Sato

Ta Vie, from its inception in mid 2015, has become the talk of the town. It should be no surprised because Ta Vie's head chef and part owner was the former chef de cuisine of Tenku Ryugin (2-star) named Hideaki Sato. Ta Vie's name was translated as "Your Life" in French and "Journey" in Japanese. It's Chef Sato's intention from the beginning that his restaurant will be the place for the people to interact while enjoying the journey and exploration of his creations, mainly using Asian high quality products. Ta Vie is probably different than many other fine dining restaurants owing to Sato-san's strong background in both Western (French & Italian) and Japanese cuisine. In addition, he was also skillful in baking bread, making pastry as well as a qualified sommelier. Thus, Hideaki Sato is the main 'brain and muscle' of Ta Vie. The attention to details was applicable in all aspects. For instance, there was a bottle of Azumino mineral water (soft, mild and natural) from Japan with ta vie's label. Furthermore, the homemade sourdough bread (soft inside with good crust outside) and churned butter (pleasant) were made daily in the kitchen. With regards to the main attraction, there was only one degustation menu but, of course, guests were encouraged to share their dietary restrictions upon making the reservation (if any).

Tasting menu featuring Asian produce

Caesar salad topped with Hotaru squid served with Hotaru squid caesar dressing - Hotaru Ika is one way to say that "It's Spring". The Firefly squid was tender and bursting inside with an oceanic & acquired taste. This concentrated umami flavor (also from the dressing) was a good combination for the crisp romaine lettuce, fresh mountain vegetables, parmesan cheese and some croutons. An interesting and tasty dish; quite a strong beginning I would say

"Clam chowder" served with whelk "Matsubu" twist clam and peas with chef's twist - Another unique interpretation of a famous dish by Hideaki Sato. The hot clam soup was light (not too intense); this way, the ingredients inside could shine such as the crunchy and sweet Tsubugai, earthy green peas, and fresh Spring vegetables. You will not feel heavy at all ...

Homemade pasta with "Aonori" sauce and Hokkaido Uni - It was an extra dish from the kitchen and one of Chef Sato's specialties. My main issue here was the texture of the pasta and it seemed deliberate that it's made to be uncharacteristically soft instead of al dente. However, the green seaweed sauce and creamy (Bafun) sea urchin was well-absorbed by the pasta, thus make this dish flavorful. Overall, I still enjoyed this delicate creation

White strawberry and Chioggia beetroot served with fruits tomato tossed with Thai basil and Burrata cheese - This 'intermezzo' was surprisingly tasty - juicy & aromatic pineberries, rather sweet and earthy Italian beetroot, fresh and savory tomato - were good combinations, The soft & milky burrata with aromatic basil + balsamic vinegar acted as the "sauce" for these fruits. Awesome!

"Civet" braised abalone covered with "Abalone shell" - The abalone 'shell' was edible and tasted like crackers. The awabi and shiitake were nicely intertwined in their meaty texture and a contrast of earthy & sea flavors. The caramelized onions and brown sauce (prepared with cognac & madeira) provided more depth to the dish's overall flavor - a winning creation

Japanese langoustine with pork tail, Yunnan ham and langoustine broth - I think it's the first time I consumed Tenaga-ebi; the size was large with elegant flavor and firm texture. The perfectly cooked langoustine was enhanced by the broth to make its flavor more complex yet still balanced. On the side, this langoustine was accompanied by a cabbage dumpling filled with pork tail as well as Yunnan ham to enrich the taste; the 'chicken consomme' also contained some flavor from the long-armed prawn. One of my favorite dishes for the dinner

Beef tongue stew served with onion nouveau and fresh Yunnan morel - The beef tongue was actually thick and carefully cooked with Chinese yellow wine. The back part was tender & fatty (hence more delicious) while the front part was meaty / crisp. The Yunnan morel, having sponge-like texture, was decent though the taste was not as intense as its French counterpart. The best part here was the sauce - a perfect old school French saucing resulting in rich and delightful flavor

Almond ice cream with meringue Served with fresh strawberries & scent of Sakura blossom; covered with fragile candy glass - A beautiful dessert for Spring. It was the feast for the senses: cool plating, pleasant & refreshing scent, soft vs hard texture contrast, a few flavors worked altogether - sour, sweet, nutty. Enjoyable ..

Caramelized French toast served with black truffle toffee, golden Oolong tea ice cream with salted egg yolk - I found these dessert had different degree of flavor intensity. The french toast, topped with shaved cashew nuts, was probably the best one - soft & tasty. The black truffle toffee was very strong with predominantly truffle flavor; on the contrary, the oolong ice cream was delicate with a hint of grated yolk (to reduce any cloying taste). It was quite good

After the dessert, I opted for a tea (pandan, mint and lemongrass) as my digestive, accompanied by light mulberry jelly. For the drinks, I had a combination of cold Hakurakusei sake (subtle & delicate with nice aroma) in carafe and 3 glasses of tea tasting, served chilled, consisted of Yunnan Pu'er, Yame Gyokuro and Jinxuan Ginseng. They were interesting and satisfying in general. Ta Vie is located in the 2nd level of a boutique hotel Pottinger at Central. The atmosphere was intimate, charming and quiet. The dining room tended to be dark combining Asian and European styles. It may not be as luxurious as the like of Caprice or Amber nevertheless well-designed with spacious tables and comfortable sofa / chairs. Ms. Hiromi Takano, Hideaki Sato's wife, is the restaurant manager - the same role she had at Tenku Ryugin. Under her leadership, the service was well-paced and efficient. She and another female staff were friendly, passionate and knowledgeable. Overall, it was a very good diningg experience - innovative and delicious food, solid drink selection, discrete and amiable service, elegant dining room. A return here is probable; preferably in different season so that I can try Chef Sato's different creations. The pictures of the dishes can be found at Ta Vie Mar '18

Food (and Wine): 94 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 94/100

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