A Truly Happy Meal For Yen Kuok And Friends At The Krug Room, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
For each dinner in the Creating Memories series at The Krug Room, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong’s executive chef Robin Zavou pays close attention to the fond fragments of the past that each host feeds him during their meetings. The first three dinners were hosted by Peter Cheung, Victoria Tang-Owen and Christopher Owen, and most recently Evan Chow, with each meal distinctly different from each other. For the fourth feast at the iconic restaurant in the heat of summer, Zavou met with Yen Kuok—the youngest daughter of Shangri-La and Kerry Group founder Robert Kuok—to discuss the direction for a meal she would host for 10 of her closest girlfriends, paired with the finest Krug Champagnes.
As a child of the 90s, Kuok wanted Zavou to recreate the fun flavours of her youth—from the simple satisfaction of a McDonald’s Happy Meal to streetside curry fishballs and the cool icy treat that is a Milo Dinosaur. Kuok recalls how, as a child, her helpers would “treat” her to Happy Meals while her parents were out of town—a memory she loves, even if as an adult she realises that the action was more out of convenience. To fit the theme, Kuok asked her guests to come dressed in their finest red and yellow outfits to reflect the vibrant colour scheme of America’s most famous fast food restaurant.
Among the guests were Rebecca McGeoch, Veronica Lam, Maya Lin, Yijia Tiong, Faye Tsui, Lesley Chiang, Bonnie Chan and Queenie Mak, who were all delighted by the feast designed by Zavou and Kuok (at one point, the chef joked about how he and Kuok fought over the creative license for the menu—such was how intertwined their ideas were, in a true culinary collaboration).
In true Krug Room fashion, the meal kicked off with chilled glasses of Krug Champagne—in this case, Krug Grande Cuvée 166ème Édition, which was paired with the opening act of Hong Kong street snacks, fine-dining style. Kuok and her friends delighted over the egg waffle zhuzhed up with truffle and cheese (“a stark contrast” to what she ate as a kid, joked Kuok), the lobster curry fish balls, and the siu mai. Kuok had emphasised to Zavou that the siu mai should taste like the frozen variety you find in any Hong Kong 7/11 store, though obviously made with premium ingredients—and he delivered on this seemingly impossible task.
For the seafood portion of the meal, Zavou presented Gillardeau oysters with peas, wild garlic and nasturtium, as well as cuttlefish served with abalone, liver and lemon—both were served with a magnum of Krug Grande Cuvée 164ème Édition, a blend of 127 wines from 11 different years, from 1990 through to 2008. This magnum spent at least eight years in the Krug cellars before receiving its cork in 2017, and is an ideal pairing with Zavou’s rich seafood dishes. For Kuok, Krug has a special place in her heart as it has always been her father’s drink of choice—even now, when she goes to her parents’ home for dinner, there will inevitably be small bottles of Krug Champagne kept on ice.
Other editions and expressions of Krug Champagne (all four were specially chosen for Kuok’s dinner) included the Krug Rosé 21ème Édition that was chosen to complement the main act—the Happy Meal of beef or chicken katsu sando, served with French fries and onion rings, all served in McDonalds-esque packaging specially sourced by Zavou and his team. Such a tongue-in-cheek dish was perfectly complemented by such a non-conformist champagne; a blend of 57 wines from 2002 through to 2008, the Krug Rosé is bold and broad in its aroma and palette, with both finesse and depth carried through in notes of raspberry, stone fruit and spices. It's a champagne that dances the perfect tango with savoury dishes of all kinds, and can replace a great red wine at the table.
Such whimsical dishes naturally brought back Kuok and her guests to their own childhoods, and soon the conversation was animated with talk of ‘90s boy bands (Backstreet Boys, Nsync, Westlife) and teenage crushes, which carried on over desserts of warm Nutella-filled doughnuts served with Zavou’s version of Milo for dipping—another inspired creation by Zavou that was based on Kuok’s childhood favourite, the Milo Dinosaur (a south-east Asian favourite comprising an iced Milo drink topped with a layer of undissolved Milo powder).
The culinary journey for these young women was filled with moments of surprise and delight, thanks to the culinary verve of Zavou and his team and the craftsmanship of Krug—while the meal drew heavily from childhood nostalgia and references from earlier years, it was filled with many moments of joy that will no doubt create unforgettable memories to look back on in the future, too.