Tuesday, January 12, 2010

HK Food Review: Dinner at WHISK (@ Hotel Mira)

We had dinner at "WHISK" on saturday nite after picking up an article review on it (read article). The primary interest stem from the fact it was a venture by Justin Quek, a chef with French cooking by training and trained under Michelin-starred eateries in France. I use to like his dishes at Les Amis Singapore, until he left that is.

WHISK is located on the within Hotel Mira (previously miramar) at TST, along Nathan road. It was undoubtedly the acclaimed crispy suckling pig main that had enticed us greatly.

The meal was good on the whole. The food was excellent but the service was more of a let down and undeserving of the great dishes served.

The ambiance was neither pretentious nor ostentatious. Rather the formal dining area was decked in with clean modern lines, combined with chic contemporary wintry colours and design.

The menu was in huge neat block prints that made it easy to read. Believe it or not, menu impression is important. I have been to this french restaurant Absinthe (Singapore) that had such long descriptive words in swirly curly typeset that reading the menu had actually given me a headache.

We settled for starters, the "roasted king sized scallops" and the "lobster bisque with herbal souffle". As for the mains, we had the suckling pig (HK300+), as well as the lamb rack (HK290+) with a bowl of side sauteed wild mushrooms to go with.

About 10-15mins into our ordering, the same waiter returned to us, stammering in English something about pork. We didnt understand what he was saying. He stuttered with great difficulty about one lamb for me and what for my partner? We looked at him quizzically and asked what was the problem. The waiter looked confused and then said oh nothing, never mind and started to walk away. I asked him if everything was fine about our order, one suckling pig and a lamb rack. He looked at me looking insecure and went off. Bizarre...but my food came anyway.

On the whole, I really think the meal was excellent on a score of 9 out of 10.

The scallops were cooked to perfection and decked nicely with couple of raw veges.

My lobster bisque was also rich in flavour, though I had doubts about the souffle crust. For one, I had expected the pastry to be more crispy with a bread like texture when mixed with the soup. Instead, it was alittle bland and didnt seem to soak up the soup flavour with dunked into the bisque. The texture was kinda weird, soft and gluey like melted marshmallow, rather than something that I could chew with. Perhaps its me, I never like souffle, so I personally wish the soup covered pastry had more crunch to it. However, I had no faults with the taste of the soup itself nor the portion.

Next was the suckling pork and the lamb rack.
Honest to god, the pork was divine. And note, you need allowance of 30mins to cook after ordering. The skin was crispy but non greasy. The meat was stewed to perfection which melts softly into your mouth without losing its flavour nor meat texture. No description does it justice. U have to taste it to understand it. It is pork cook to perfection. Simple as that.

My lamb was cooked perfected to pink. However, the only flaw i found was the accompanying vege sides that came with the rack. It was supposed to be grilled eggplant. What I found was a half eggplant bed, slapped with asparagus, tomato and carrot sitting on it over a paste of something that resembles mayo or potato mash, which are both something that I disliked. I couldnt decide what it was without tasting but it looked off putting enough to me that I left the whole thing alone, save for the asparagus that tasted good. There were also 4 slices of baked potatoes which wasnt stated in the menu description which annoyed me. I hate potatoes. If I had known they were gonna be there, I would have requested them to swop it to something else like salad. The wild mushroom side dish we ordered was good and thus I had something to munch along with my tender lamb.

We had the chocolate with caramelised banana for dessert. It was not stated on the menu that it would be a tart until the waiter informed us. We went ahead anyway. It was alright, but a little too rich for such a wafer thin shortbread crust. I wasnt too sure about the ice cream that came with it. Wasnt that spectacular. Thank god I had tea. So I suppose, I could have skipped dessert.

Everything was fine till it was bill time. I saw we were charged $75 for a 800ml mineral water.
I asked the waitress "Is our bottle of still finished?" She said she would check. The reason I asked was that I was only served a 3/4 glass of water throughout the entire night of 2hours dining. Including my husband's glass of water, I was wondering what happen to the rest of my water since there were no refill.

The waitress came back informing that our bottle of water was finished. I was pretty shocked. We informed her it was impossible since I fail to see how two 3/4 filled glasses of water would amount to 800ml of water. That tiny 3/4 glass cannot contain 400ml of water. The waitress said "its 750ml" I replied "No, its PRINTED as 800ml on your bill". She opened the receipt book and replied "Let me check."

She disappeared for good 10mins, and returned with a NEW bottle of mineral water ready to serve me. My husband stopped her, asking her where is OUR BOTTLE of water? She said "Oh dont worry you will not be charged for this." We told her that wasnt the point. Then she asked in an annoyed manner "So what do you want?"

Apparently she didnt quite understand what the problem was. So we had to explain ourselves. We asked her if we are being served communal bottles of water, rather than a dedicated bottle of water. We felt as if we were being charged for a bottle but being served leftover water from bottles ordered by other patrons. We were unhappy that we never saw our water, and questioned the handling of the bottle we were gonna pay for esp it isnt cheap water. She insisted immediately that it was a dedicated. So we queried "Then why couldnt you show us our bottle of water? I didnt asked for more water, I had maintained my position as to where is my bottle of water and why are u having so much difficulty with such a simple request?" She looked abit stunned and scurried away. We waited for a good 10-15mins, before the same staff appeared with a used bottle but NOT COMPLETELY empty.

Firstly, I didnt believe that was our bottle because the consumption amount simply did not tally with what we had drank. Secondly, even if that is our bottle, it WASNT empty but she had told me it was finished during the time we asked for the bill. That was at least a good 2 mouthful of water. So how could she have lied about something like that is beyond me.

We told her we didnt mind paying for what we ordered but it is not right if the restaurant cannot produce immediately our bottle nor even show us our bottle, instead, it seemed as if we are subsiding water for other tables which didnt make sense. I didnt see what is the issue with leaving the ordered water ON OUR table instead of hiding it away out of sight from the paying customer.

Anycase, we paid for it and had a 10 percent discount for HSBC credit card. As I said, the food was great but service wise...still have a HUGE room for improvement esp when it comes to serving English speaking clientele.

While we were heading out towards the restroom, the french guy who was the floor manager caught up with my partner and once again apologised for the incident. He explained he didnt know exactly what had happened and perhaps our bottle of water had been accidentally swapped with another table. He offered his apologies. We told him we were fine but imagine you ordered a bottle of wine and ended up drinking left over from somebody, yet you are payin the full price of a new bottle just didnt make sense. We suggested they should just leave the bottle on the table and only take it away after it has been determined and shown to the customer it is completely empty.

PS: picture from Iphone so pardon the resolution.

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