Cathay Pacific has partnered with Mott 32, a contemporary Chinese fine dining restaurant under the Maximal Concepts group, to develop a series of new in-flight dishes for passengers flying out of Hong Kong to long-haul destinations including Australia, Europe and North America.
The new menu has already been rolled out and will be available across all cabin classes until the end of the year. According to Maximal Concepts’ founder and managing director Xuan Cheng Mu, the restaurant’s principle in ingredient-focused cooking carries through to the dishes that Cathay Pacific is now offering.
“The aim was to create authentic Chinese flavours with the very best ingredients possible,” said Xuan to Business Traveller Asia-Pacific. “This sometimes involves using different ingredients altogether. Take “Ma Po Tofu” for example. While it has traditionally been made using cheap cuts of pork, we have added a touch of luxury by replacing this with Maine lobster instead.”
Cathay Pacific’s collaboration with Mott’s 32 is the latest in a series of partnerships that the airline had made over the past few months with reputable restaurants and chefs, including The Langham hotel in Hong Kong and celebrity chef Daniel Green.
This, according to Kim Chong, the airline’s in-flight catering manager, is part of Cathay’s ongoing “Life Well Travelled” initiative that promotes the importance of healthier traveling.
“As the new menu will be available on our long-haul flights, we know that many passengers will be going to sleep after the meal service. Therefore, we wanted to make sure that they are able to do so without feeling too heavy or full. The new dishes that we’ve introduced are light and non-oily, which should help passengers feel more comfortable on long flights.”
Business Traveller Asia-Pacific attended a tasting session at Mott 32 yesterday and sampled some of the dishes that are being served onboard Cathay Pacific’s flights. This is our review.
Peking duck salad, almonds, black truffle (F)
The smart combination of crushed almonds, pomello and greens provided plenty of texture to the dish. While the use of black truffle may initially appear to contradict Mott’s 32 claim of serving “authentic Chinese dishes”, Xuan assured me that the fungi was becoming fairly common in contemporary fine dining Chinese cuisine. In any case, the truffle helped perfume the dish and paired surprisingly well with the Peking duck. The protein was undoubtedly the hero of the dish and the contrast between the crispiness of the skin and the tenderness of the flesh was sublime.
Pork salad rolls, garlic and chilli dressing (F)
A flavourful dish that combined the kick from the chili with the coolness of the cucumber to great effect. The pork slices were rolled around the cucumber to add taste to an otherwise rather bland vegetable. While I did enjoy the dish, I did feel that the portion was fairly small with each pork roll being bite-size. For a first class passenger, this would probably work better as an amuse bouche rather than as a complete starter.
Double boiled silky fowl soup, sea conch, matsutake mushroom (F)
I have always been a fan of double boiled soup, and this was no different. Xuan told me that Mott 32 uses absolutely no MSG in its dishes and the soup absolutely confirmed this. The broth was naturally flavourful, and I could taste each and every one of the ingredients used. The use of matsutake mushroom accented the taste of the fowl, while the sea conch was tender and not rubbery at all.
Crispy triple cooked US black Angus beef short rib (J/W)
My favourite dish from the new menu. As a Mott 32 signature, the short rib was cooked three ways to it a “melt in the mouth” consistency. The restaurant’s executive chef Lee Man-sing mentioned that the dish was inspired by the beef ribs that he had tasted on a trip to Hangzhou some years ago. By marinating the meat overnight, this ensured that the protein was bursting with flavour with each bite.
Slow cooked sticky Iberico pork, white turnip cake (F)
You can easily judge the quality of turnip cake by taste. Good turnip cakes would be bursting with flavour, while bad ones would be bland due to the over-use of flour. Mine was definitely the former. A pork and turnip cake combination seemed strange to me, but all reservations were gone by the time I had tried the amazingly tender slow cooked Iberico pork. My only complaint was that the dish was flooded with gravy, which did slightly mask the naturally aromatic taste of the turnip cake.
Maine lobster “Ma Po Tofu” (F)
A popular dish from Sichuan province that has since found its way all around the world. The highly recognisable taste of the dish is derived from its chili- and bean-based sauce, which Mott 32 has retained. However, what has always been a traditional peasant dish has been elevated to fine dining standards with the use of Maine lobster, as opposed to the typical minced pork or beef. The crustacean was cooked to perfection and I was pleasantly surprised that it worked well with the spicy sauce – evoking memories of other popular Asian dishes such as the chili crab in Singapore.
Chicken, salted lemon (Y)
Prior to being served, I was picturing this dish as being the traditional Chinese lemon chicken – which resembles sweet and sour pork. However, the dish was prepared with a twist. Instead of cooking the chicken in lemon sauce, homemade salted lemons were used to marinate the protein itself. This, according to chef Lee, helps to prevent the dish from being overly sour and in fact adds a natural sweetness to the chicken.
For more information, visit cathaypacific.com