By Thúy Hằng
Like air and food, coffee has become something many people can’t live without. Without a cup of coffee, they can’t “wake up” in the morning or focus on what they're meant to be doing. The number of coffee shops opened by both international and local brands as well as those run by individuals has been increasing in Hà Nội every year, plus the crowds that you can see whenever you pass a coffee shop in town are evidence of how crazy people are about coffee.
Anyway, although most people know very well the taste of this brown drink, I’m sure not many have an idea about how it tastes in food.
Last week, I was among the first diners to have the chance to taste a creative menu presented by the Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi. Entitled ‘Coffee Cuisine’, the menu is the latest global culinary initiative of the Mövenpick brand, which has been roasting its own premium coffees for more than 50 years. The new menu features eight dishes, of which every creation has an ingenious touch of coffee sparkle thanks to the expertise of Mövenpick’s Chief Barista, Kevin Mohler.
According to the hotel’s General Director, Nicolas Josi, the ‘Coffee Cuisine’ menu celebrates the best of Mövenpick’s famous culinary expertise.
“It promises to offer any diner a chance to experience coffee like never before,” he said.
Smoked salmon tartar. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
We started our dinner with the amuse bouche – smoked salmon tartar with coffee oil and a mini baked potato (for any order of any dish in the 'Coffee Cuisine' menu, guest will receive this complimentary dish). It’s really a pleasant starter as the smoked fish is very ‘smooth’ [thanks to the oil] yet retains its firmness.
Executive Chef Nguyễn Ngọc Quyên reveals that the fish has been marinated with a little bit of coffee, which results in a lightly fragrant coffee flavour from the first bite. In addition, during the cooking process, the fish is put into a bowl placed on a bed of ice, aiming “to keep the fish firm”. I was also happy with the potato as its mini size didn’t fill me up. It would be a disaster if you are full right after the first dish!
Fresh spring rolls with scampi, vegetables and cold-brew espresso dressing. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
The dinner continued with two other starters – fresh spring rolls with scampi, vegetables and cold-brew espresso dressing (VNĐ220,000), and tuna poke with avocado coffee cream, sweet potato cakes and sprout salad (VNĐ280,000). Like its name, the fresh rolls look like a painting of spring with vibrant colours – the young green of salad, the red threads of chilli, the coral pink of tiger prawns, the white bean sprouts and rice paper, and the yellow dressing, which is a mixture of cold-brew espresso, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey.
Unfortunately, the dressing for my rolls was not enough for me to recognise its delicacy, but I still vote for this dish because of its super freshness.
I was also impressed by the freshness of the tuna poke, which was shown through the firm texture of the fish. Like the salmon tartare, the tuna was enlivened with coffee, light soya sauce, and sesame oil. The slightly caramel-flavoured fish was served with an avocado cream. Although other diners mixed the tuna and the avocado before enjoying the food, I just took the fish. I am not a fan of avocado as it always gives me indigestion.
Salmon sashimi with flamed-off coffee beans. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
We had to wait a bit as Chef Quyên prepared her fantastic demonstration of the next dish – salmon sashimi with flamed-off coffee beans (VNĐ250,000).
Salmon strips were hung over a lemongrass stalk and placed over a plate of roasted coffee beans. Pouring some anise-flavoured liqueur over the beans, Quyên then took out her blow torch. Voila! The flames covered the coffee beans and smoked the salmon. Don't think that I overstate but I really felt 'the warmth' of this 'innovative' sashimi when I put it in my mouth. The salmon breathes a light, smokey smell yet retains the freshness of raw fish. (You can learn about the recipe for this simple yet delicate dish in Ông Táo's Kitchen column on Page 20.)
Lamb loin with coffee and herb rub. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
Honestly, I am not a fan of lamb dishes because I don’t like the gamey flavour of the meat. However, my “antipathy” toward lamb was vanquished by the main course of ‘lamb loin with coffee and herb rub’ (VNĐ600,000). The meat is soft, juicy, and noticeable indeed, and the flavour is pleasant. Chef Quyên said the meat should be marinated with coffee, garlic, cayenne peppers and paprika for at least three hours, before being pan-seared properly for medium-rare. The meat was served with tarragon mustard and cherry tomato salad.
The second main course was a duo of beef – beef mignon and meatball with espresso crust (VNĐ550,000). While the tenderloin is quite aromatic thanks to the espresso enhancement, the meatball is a bit much as it is marinated with coffee together with a bit of coffee powder, resulting in a burnt taste.
The 'Coffee Cuisine' menu also features a poultry main course – spring cassoulet – chicken with café crème sauce (VNĐ280,000).
Small puff- pastry “opéra” style with Ice Espresso Croquant, deconstructed served with Mövenpick espresso. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
And for dessert, we enjoyed the small puff-pastry “opéra” style with Ice Espresso Croquant, deconstructed served with Mövenpick espresso (VNĐ100,000). The cold ice cream smacking the slight flavour of espresso offered delectation for my taste buds. The coffee dose was enhanced when I took a sip of the pairing espresso. I was overwhelmed by a mellow feeling when the sweet-bitter drink diffused on my palate. Once again, I feel that I’m lucky to have a chance to taste something special. VNS
Mangosteen Restaurant - Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi
Address: 83A Lý Thường Kiệt St, Tel: (024) 38222800
Comment: Very creative recipes resulting in aromatic yet delectable dishes. Reasonable price. Diners can also select several other flavourful dishes from the restaurant’s daily menu.
Note: The 'Coffee Cuisine' menu featuring only eight food creations is available during March and April.