Mandarin Oriental pop-up serves fine-dining menu Russian artist inspired
Konstantin Bessmertny, who has already published a food book, has teamed up with executive chef Robin Zavou to create dishes inspired by the Russian artist’s works, which will be on display at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
Russian artist Konstantin Bessmertny likes pointing out the absurdities in life, and food is no exception. In 2015 he and Kristoffer Luczak, who is currently executive vice-president of food and beverage at Wynn Macau resort, published The Last Dumpling, a food book that is not a cookbook; instead of recipes it has pointers on the art of dining.
For example, there are instructions – in Chinese – on how to use chopsticks, or that one should avoid drinking during meals. If you do drink, there are 27 tips, including No 10: always have a corkscrew in your house.
Perhaps the most outrageous is showing the step-by-step process of a Michelin-star barbecue by seasoning and pouring oil on a number of copies of the culinary guide on a tray, and then setting them on fire. Does Michelin know about this “sacrilegious” act?
Bessmertny has spent the past 25 years in Macau and he splits his time between there and his Hong Kong studio in Chai Wan. And oddly for someone who depends on selling his art to survive, Bessmertny prefers small pop-up events where he can present his art in places people wouldn’t normally expect to see them. Which is why he is thrilled that the Mandarin Grill + Bar at the Mandarin Oriental is presenting dishes inspired by his work from March 17 to 31.
After looking at Bessmertny’s art, the hotel’s executive chef Robin Zavou’s initial reaction was, “This guy is bonkers, creative and off the charts.”
“Palatable Plate of Art with Konstantin Bessmertny” is a three- or four-course menu with dishes created by Zavou.
The amuse bouche is presented in a caviar tin with a copy of Bessmertny’s Ode to Epicurious. Inside is a delicate blini covered with Oscietra caviar on a bed of chopped boiled eggs, chives, capers and drops of sour cream. Each tin will be cleaned after use and given to diners as a souvenir of their meal.
Perhaps the easiest dish for Zavou to create is inspired by the painting, The Last Dumpling. In the painting four men in suits are holding their chopsticks waiting to pounce on the last dumping in the steamer basket.
The chef’s version comes in two parts – there’s a plate with a swirl of salmon roe paste decorated with edible flowers and individual salmon roe marinated in sake. Then there’s the dumplings, set on top of rocks, seaweed and dry ice for a dramatic entrance.
Inside the dumpling is blue lobster meat topped with salmon roe. We weren’t quite sure what to do – put it in the black rice vinegar or on the salmon roe paste? We picked the latter.
Next came a dish inspired by Bessmertny’s French Connection, a sculpture of an Alaskan king crab with two baguettes made of wood for antennae and two human breasts for its eyes. Zavou created a pungent croque-monsieur with the aforementioned crabmeat and a thin slice of ham with cheese between slices of toasted brioche and topped with truffle shavings.
One of Yo u is an installation of a lamb that Bessmertny says has an underlying meaning related to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Served on top of a sheet of glass over burnt wood, diners will be able to make out the outline of the animal, from the cauliflower purée for the behind and back legs to its head made from a purée of fermented black garlic.
Two lamb loin cuts are roasted and garnished with thinly sliced cauliflower for texture and flavour. The fermented garlic purée was fantastic with the dish.
Spectate! is based on a piece Bessmertny made on a discarded double bass he found. He covered it with images that he says are anti-pop culture. The images are not on the chocolate instrument; crack the edible double bass and underneath you will find passion fruit custard with sponge cake, accompanied with a refreshing mint ice cream.
And to end the meal, how could Zavou resist doing something related to Chinese Dessert? Bessmertny finds in Hong Kong that the last course seems to be toothpicks. And so the chef has created the Western version – petit fours in chocolate. How apt.
In addition to the menu, Bessmertny’s artworks will be for sale and shown around the hotel, including the lobby and Mandarin Grill + Bar from March 17 to 31. The menu is available for lunch and dinner, with three courses costing HK$1,388 and four courses for HK$1,688.
Mandarin Grill + Bar, 1/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, tel: 2825 4004