It was with a shared virtual high five then that the team and regulars alike greeted the news that chef Russell Doctrove would be back to mark the exclusive launch of ENTER.Sake in Asia, right here in Hong Kong’s Sake Central.
For over ten years, Russell has been making waves in both high end and casual dining concepts across the Island, prior to which he cut his teeth at the heavily Michelin decorated Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, London, as well as a stint in Roux HQ just down the river in Bray’s fabled Waterside Inn.
On the verge of launching his very own life-long dream concept, Angry Child, Russell took some time out to prepare a five course tasting menu showcasing his beloved Caribbean heraldry, twisted with the use of South East Asian produce.
The SAKE CENTRAL X ANGRY CHILD evening started promptly at 6:00pm with the first of three sell out sittings settling in to enjoy Russell’s dishes, and the carefully selected sake pairings.
A fresh oyster kicked off proceedings, a failsafe beginning always, but no mere lemon wedge or shallot vinegar here. Perched atop a nest of shredded daikon radish, the plump Hokkaido oyster was served with Russell’s Calypso Sauce, made with roasted tomatoes, garlic and chilies, then hand-bashed with a pestle and mortar and let down with fish sauce and lime juice.
This salty-sour-umami-ozone bite was delivered with a glass of ENTER.Sake ‘Silver’ junmai ginjo, which has enough elegance to pay all due respects to the oyster but enough personality and attitude still to manage the Calypso onslaught.
Staying with the ocean theme, next up was the regal yellowtail tuna. Russell told Sake Central that:
“I wanted this to be a fun playful dish where you really get a feel for those tropical flavours”
Fun indeed and exhibiting true chef knife skills the tuna’s fate was a fine dice and marination in a zesty yuzu soy reduction, along with some freshly grated ginger and chopped scallion. Equally uniformly cut daikon cubes that had been steeped in beetroot juice and coconut water, camouflaged themselves in amongst the fish.
Time for some fusion courtesy of a south Indian fresh pickle, known as pachadi, Russells’ chosen ingredients being avocado, blended with coconut cream instead of the traditional yoghurt, the creaminess used to balance off the acidity already in the dish.
Served with the elegant ‘Gold’ junmai daiginjo, rich with fruity notes, a proven partner to light, delicate dishes, but with enough rice creaminess to complement the avocado.
Dinner now would crank up the spice levels with the arrival of Jamaican Beef Patty, housed in a Doctrove family secret recipe pastry, as buttery as it was flaky.
Thailand’s go to minced chicken dish, Pad Krapow Gai, inspired the make up of the complex spiced contents, using lime leaves, coconut cream and dark soy, resulting in a high-heat but richly flavoursome beef mix, ready to be dipped in the Island Sauce.
But rather than dousing out the heat, this sauce cranks up the dial too, its virulent orange colour the result of carrots, ginger and angry scotch bonnet chilies. It takes a skill to meld such a lively ingredient into something aromatic and fruity, the heat-on-heat combination working brilliantly with the more rustic umami rich ENTER.Sake ‘Black’ honjozo, a great leveller to all those flavours in the patty.
Making a return to Sake Central was what is bound to become an Angry Child crowd pleaser, step up Slow Roasted Jerk Chicken. Tweaked by Russell to make it his own, the archetypal jerk paste is transformed into a barbecue style sauce and used to knap the chicken in a spicy rich glaze of a coating.
Unctuous and juicy, crispy onions on top add some crunch and texture and soothing coconut cream begins the come down from the chili high of these last two dishes. A simple ‘All Things Green’ Salad ensures yet more crunch and goodness, and just looks damn good under the chicken.
A slight change of pace with the sake for the final two courses. Instagram favourite Rairaku ‘Sumo’ junmai, isshobin poured, works so well with roasted meats, it was an obvious choice, its lactic notes working well with the coconut with good body to sustain all that heat.
The night’s final sake had everyone talking. Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownie is a challenging dish to pair, and often has restaurants reaching for the raisin sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry.
Our foil for this dish took a very different form, selecting NOTO x Sake Central ‘88’ junmai muroka nama genshu, and served nurukan warm (40°C), its ripe stone fruit and dairy flavours coming through in droves, reinforced and enhanced to match the dessert decadence.
Russell told us:
“I love ube and so wanted to find a way to incorporate that into a chocolate forward dessert, which resulted in the brownie creation. 70% dark chocolate chunks were folded into the brownie mix along with shredded coconut and vanilla extract. A coconut cream cheese layer was then poured on top before the whole thing went into the oven”
The final psychedelic touch is an ube (purple jam) lava made with white chocolate, ube and cream. Camera phones at the ready everyone!
What a journey and what a great insight into the Angry Child concept fermenting in Russell’s psyche. All that creativity is just waiting for an outlet.
“I’m just waiting for the right space to come available for Angry Child, 2021 will be a great year”, Russell reassures us.
Let’s help find him a spot, but until then, the door’s always open for more Doctrove experiments!
A certified sake sommelier, Will Jarvis is the owner and founder of Sake Matters, consulting for a variety of clients in Hong Kong and around the world. He has over 20 years’ experience working in the F&B industry in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, is a trained chef and holds a diploma in hospitality.