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Foodie fete

Updated: 2012-09-09 21:20
By Rebecca Lo ( China Daily)

Foodie fete

Foodie fete

Two signature dishes, shrimp dumplings (top) and lamb chops, presented at the Langham Food & Wine Festival from Sept 13 to 23. Photos provided to China Daily by Langham Hotels

In Hong Kong, fine wine and gourmet dishes will come together in a rare marriage with celebrity chefs and an extraordinary sommelier in attendance. Rebecca Lo has the details.

Zachary Yu is the epitome of grace under pressure. The self-taught sommelier is Langham Place Mongkok's dedicated wine guy and he is responsible for ensuring all the dishes prepared by guest chefs jetting in for Langham Hotels' first ever Food & Wine Festival are perfectly matched with the wine being showcased.

If coaxing celebrity chefs the likes of Albert Roux, Igor Macchia and Claude Bosi to commit to a menu wasn't challenging enough, Yu also has to contend with the two-Michelin starred restaurant Ming Court undergoing its first major renovation since Langham Place opened in 2004. But all's well, by the time the festival starts on Sept 13, the restaurant will be ready.

It's all in a day's work for Yu, born and bred in Hong Kong.

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"This is the first time anyone has attempted this type of food and wine festival with so many chefs gathered in Hong Kong for 10 consecutive days," Yu says, his enthusiasm hardly contained despite his hectic schedule.

"The wine selections are all top labels. We will have 13 wines in the Penfolds vertical tasting. I've paired dry Pinot sherry with sashimi and oysters, sweet sherry vinegar with hairy crab, and robust sherry vinegar with xiaolongbao (steamed bun) that's similar to Zhejiang vinegar.

"Some rare wines will only be available during the festival, and there is a charity auction at a gala lunch with all our distributors contributing a magnum or lager of fine wine. It's amazing to have so many labels that our chefs are already familiar with."

One of the guest chefs is Susur Lee, a Hong Kong native who has made his home in Toronto for the past three decades. He is the owner and chef of Lee and Lee Lounge in the Canadian city, along with Zentan in Washington and Chinois on Sentosa in Singapore. He plans to open a second Chinois in Jakarta next year.

Along with contributing the appetizer paired with Allegrini wine to a gala lunch on Sept 23 at Ming Court, Lee will also prepare Asian dishes to be paired with sake at Tokoro Robatayaki & Whisky Bar from Sept 19 to 23.

"I'm planning on preparing Japanese and Chinese fusion dishes for the festival," says Lee from Toronto. "The dinners will consist of set menus, a la carte and tastings."

Having witnessed monumental changes in Toronto's Asian dining scene, he feels that the city's new immigrants keep him on his toes.

"Ingredients have to be very exact to meet their criteria - many of our guests are very critical diners," he says. "We have also seen different regional cuisines emerging, such as restaurants featuring Wuhan, Sichuan and Hakka dishes."

Yet he admits that "people in Hong Kong will spend more when dining out compared to Toronto. And there is more variety. Hong Kong diners are more willing to experiment".

Executive chef Tsang Chiu King of Ming Court agrees that the festival is a great opportunity to try out new dishes while capitalizing on the synergy between renowned international chefs.

He will be contributing dim sum to the gala lunch alongside Lee's appetizer, along with preparing a champagne lunch featuring Krug products on Sept 16, hosting a master class featuring Lustau Sherry the same evening and dinners on Sept 17 with Vega Sicilia and Sept 21 with Grace Vineyards, all at Ming Court.

"The champagne lunch will include a lot of seafood - it will be a lot of fun," Tsang says.

"Zachary is a big help since I don't know that much about wine, I'm a beer guy. Over the past decade, we are seeing more and more wine paired with Chinese food.

"Many of our customers are between 30 to 40 years old, they grew up in the West and may dine out five or six times a week. They can accept fusion dishes. If we don't change, they won't come back. For example, we are using more black truffles in our dishes. And we will always ask our customers to comment on new dishes. We hope to meet their expectations and are constantly evolving.

Foodie fete

Zachary Yu, Langham Place Mongkok's sommelier

Foodie fete