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Dishes by Lindt Excellence Chocolates & Jun Tanaka

BY Boon Koh
Published 30 April 2012

When you think of Lindt chocolate, you think of cute chocolate Easter bunnies, wrapped up in gold foil and fond memories of munching them as a child and getting a tummy-ache the next day. And then there’s Jun Tanaka – a master chef that I’ve been dying to try his food for ages, but never gotten round to eating at his Pearl restaurant in Holborn.

Lindt has and still is one of my favourite chocolates – whether it’s their nutty hazelnut bar or their simple milk chocolate. But last week was the first time that I was exposed to their more creative flavours, ones that provide more of a kick and gastronomic tickling of your tastebuds rather than the soothing and comforting standard flavours.

From their Lindt Excellence range is the Wasabi Dark Chocolate, Chocolate with a Touch of Sea Salt, and Chilli Chocolate. Not conventional flavours, but the combinations do work well together, especially the sea salt chocolate, with that oxymoronic tongue tingling contrasting mix of saltiness and sweet. You’ll love it if you like a bit of texture to your chocolate, as the salt is in the form of small salt crystals, so you get a slight crunch.

Wasabi Chocolate might make you hesitate, but I was pleasantly surprised by how it has the wasabi flavour, but not too much so you don’t get the burning nose sensation. The Chilli Chocolate had the biggest kick out of the two of them.

So how is Jun Tanaka involved? Well, Lindt and Jun decided that to experiment with Lindt Excellence chocolates, to create dishes that bring out the flavours. After some experimentation (how fun it must have been in the kitchen), Jun Tanaka – Head Chef at Pearl, and Stefan Bruderer – Lindt Master Chocolatier, came up with the following chocolate-inspired dishes:

Cured salmon and pickled chilli and Wasabi mayonnaise – this was the starter, but didn’t contain any Lindt chocolate in the recipe. It did showcase the wasabi and chilli flavours. Salmon, cucumber, chilli, and wasabi isn’t a new combination, but here it is done perfectly – lightly cured salmon that is still very fresh and sweet, sprinkled with chilli powder, and paired with a light wasabi mayonnaise.

Next up was Braised Chilli Chocolate beef cheek with Celeriac mash and glazed beetroot. The chilli chocolate sauce looked deceptively like BBQ sauce, and although it was sticky and sweet, gave a massive spicy kick to the really tender beef cheeks.

Wasabi chocolate maki roll combined the cool taste from the pineapple and chilled maki roll, with a slow burn of the Wasabi chocolate dipping sauce.

Finally, Dark Sea Salt Cocolate Molleux (like a chocolate fondant) was perfectly cooked – crisp on the outside, but liquid inside, and served with a cherry and yogurt sorbet that had the smoothness and creaminess of an ice cream. The sea salt chocolate twill on the sorbet was the highlight here, crunchy like a salty crisp, confusing my tastebuds whether I was eating chocolate or a savoury snack!

Overall, it was the first time I’ve had the pleasure of trying so many excellent chocolate dishes – in the past, I’ve normally tried half hearted gimmicky creations, but these Lindt Chocolate creations have definitely been borne out of a love of chocolates and skilful experimentations between the Master Chocolatier and the Master Chef!