Who else loves some bougie eats? You? Me? I thought so…
No where in Wellington is quite as bougie as my firm favourite, Hippopotamus. Everything at this QT restaurant is perfectly arranged, brightly coloured and delectably balanced. While I’ve been there before, both in my blogger hat and in my own personal capacity, the most recent just before we had our big holiday overseas, I was invited in a couple of weeks ago to try the new menu with Matt which is thanks to the brand new executive chef, Jiwon Do.
Citing time for a change and the desire for a new venture, Jiwon Do took the reigns at Hippopotamus around 6 weeks ago. Do was born in Korea and has spent the past 11 years living and working in Wellington, at Martin Bosley’s, Portlander but also at Hippopotamus from ‘08-‘13 as senior sous chef.
Jiwon Do has won multiple awards in culinary arts in New Zealand and Korea, even training as World Skills Olympic player in Culinary Arts, representing Korea, when he worked in Seoul for the Hilton Hotel Group. Do specialises in a wide variety of cuisine but has a particular love of French, Mexican, Japanese and Korean food – but is without a favourite dish.
On arriving, Matt and I were treated to some delicious French champagne and got to hear all about the new menu and its influences. Do is very inspired by local ingredients and likes to forrage for these in his spare time, proving the passion is most certainly in the pudding when it comes to this chef! We also went all in and ordered some beautiful oysters. I think if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might be getting the picture; WE LOVE OYSTERS! These ones certainly did not disappoint!
For our entree’s we had ‘La Truffe’ - a total truffle orgasm - with salami tartufo, truffle balsamic & butter, duck liver parfait, Cabernet Sauvignon vinaigrette caviar, ‘Over The Moon’ black truffle brie, Kapiti Olive Oil and Kale. It was insanely delicious and my favourite dish of the evening. We also tried Do’s signature dish, ‘Le Chevreuil Sauvage’. This dish is a savoury entrée pretty enough to be an indulgent dessert; it is made with 46˚C Wairarapa venison short loin with horopito, kelp from the East Coast, wild spinach, wood-ear mushroom, juniper berry jus, raspberry meringue, dry figs & gipsy bacon. It truly tastes like nothing you’ve ever eaten and is surprisingly salty and sweet, and herby and gamey all at once. This is a must-order!
As is usual at Hippopotamus, we also received little delightful ‘amuse bouche’ between course. Always an absolute delight which makes me feel most fancy!
For our main’s we ordered the vegtarian La Papillote, served in wrapped paper (Tofu, heirloom vegetables, beach spinach, coconut oil and hummus) and ‘Le Saumon’ (seared Ora King Salmon, Pickled Piko-Piko, sea chicory, soy mirin cured egg yolk, burnt orange butter, Parmesan oil, fennel and salmon roe). I could eat that burnt orange butter every day of my life and never get sick of it! We also chose a full-bodied Chardonnay from the Hawkes Bay to accompany our dishes.
Everything we ate was delicious and interesting, causing you to pause and discuss the food throughout the meal. I always think that food you have to talk about while you eat it over dinner is worthwhile indeed.
Finally we finished the meal with a deconstructed gingerbread cheesecake and cinnamon rhubarb gelato. This was crispy, sweet and creamy, with all the flavours you want in a desert! It was spicy and a splendid way to finish a meal.
We were lucky enough part-way through the meal to meet Jiwon himself. He came out looking friendly and a little warm from the heat of the kitchen. Speaking with him, you could just see his love for the food he creates coming through. It was a real honour to meet such a creative talent.
Make sure you pop in and have dinner sometime to try to new menu. Or better yet, get someone for Christmas a voucher - so they’ll have to invite you along as their guest!