Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An evening with Bruno Ménard at Halekulani's La Mer

Nadine Kam photos
Halekulani executive chef Vikram Garg and visiting chef Bruno Ménard share a laugh in the kitchen before service begins.

During a special dinner at Halekulani’s La Mer restaurant Sunday night, Chef Bruno Ménard gave diners a taste of the work of a three-star Michelin chef, one of the most prestigious designations in the culinary world.

In the kitchen before guests arrived, Ménard prepped the staff on the ins and outs of each dish and exacting details of service, including just a small pour of red wine and truffle Perigueux sauce that would accompany a filet of beef tenderloin prepared in the style of venison.

“And we should leave the extra sauce on the table?” one waiter asked hopefully, knowing that Hawaii diners love a good sauce.

A sharp “No!” was Ménard’s response, feeling the beef would stand on its own.

And so went the dinner, complex but spare, using the finest ingredients requested by the chef, with some local ingredients — such as Maui onions and Kona lobster — swapped for their French counterparts. Flavors were clear, clean and crisp, with dishes balanced throughout, every ingredient accounted for on the plate and nothing extraneous.

Each dish was paired with wine from Young’s Market Co., selected by Master Sommelier Patrick Okubo.

A beautiful sunset to start the evening.

Amuse of leek purée, tomato gelée and olive oil ice cream, with pickled tomato and pineapple. Essentially a beautiful light salad in a martini glass.

Kona lobster Parisienne blanketed by tomato-hibiscus gelée, with vanilla chutney and dots of crustacean oil. Topped with handpicked local vegetables. Accompanied by Louis Jadot, Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru 2012.

Delicate and billowy Maui onion soup over truffle custard royale studded with peas, fava beans and yuzu skin confit. Served with Charles Heidsieck, Blanc des Millénaires, Brut 1995.

Coquilles Saint Jacques Pôelées with Parmesan gnocchi, sake-scented cream, måche couilis and brown butter, served with Domaine Long-Depaquit, Chablis Vaudésir, Grand Cru 2009.

Beef tenderloin prepared venison-style, with savoy cabbage, light potato and foie gras cannelloni, and truffle and red wine Périgueux sauce. Topped with a line of salt, pepper and roasted soba tea. Accompanied by Château Rauzan-Segla, Margaux 2008 and Domaine du Clos Frantin, Vosne Romanée Les Malconsorts, 1er Cru 2012.

Valrhona P125 chocolate macaron soufflé with vanilla sorbet and caramelia pearls. Accompanied by Domaine La Tour Vielle, Banyuls Rimage 2013.

At the end of the meal, the chef asked me which was my favorite dish, which was hard to say. My first thought was of the lobster Parisienne layered over beautiful tomato and hibiscus gelée. But the Maui onion soup over truffle custard royale with textured surprises of fresh sweet peas, fava beans and yuzu skin confit hidden within, was heavenly. I couldn’t help but note the classic French dish is similar in concept to Japanese chawanmushi, which the chef might have also noted during his time at L’Osier in Tokyo, where he earned the Michelin stars.

I also loved the lightness of the non-pasta cabbage, potato, foie gras and black truffle canneloni.

At the end of the meal, many a guest, who had paid $295 per person, asked, “When’s the next dinner?”

The idea is planted, so time will tell.

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