Amusing the bouche

I’ll leave it until the end of this article to reveal what is in the photo and just say for now that it is something I ate last weekend that exemplified the art of tantalising and amusing the palate.
The concept of the “amuse bouche” comes, of course, from France and was introduced to haute cuisine as part of the nouvelle cuisine movement. Today, these small appetisers offered to diners by the chef in addition to the courses ordered from the menu are common place at pretty much any restaurant that offers – or claims to offer – fine dining.
But I do feel that many have lost the plot. Too often I see a pointless shot glass of soup or something equally banal proffered as an amuse bouche and ask myself why?
The whole idea of the “amuse bouche” is for the chef to impress the customer, showing off some of the kitchen’s skills. It should put a smile on the diner’s face whilst sharpening the senses for the dishes ahead.
What looks like fine potato crisps in the photo are in fact “scallop crisps”, a creation from one of Portugal’s most talented chefs, Hans Neuner, of the two-star Michelin Ocean Restaurant at Vila Vita Parc.
Dehydrated by cooking for around three days at 66ºC, these shavings of scallop flesh looked like something that had been deep-fried but, after an initial crunch, they melted in the mouth with a subtle flavour of scallop, complemented by the aroma of smoked mackerel fillet concealed beneath the “crisps”.
This was just one of four amuse bouches served ahead of the restaurant’s latest menu.
I don’t have space here for more but will be posting a full review on the portugalresident.com website on Friday.
By PATRICK STUART [email protected]