A Trailblazing Argentinian Chef
Born into a Spanish and Italian family, Argentinian Chef Agustin Ferrando Balbi’s love for food may have started at his grandmother’s dining table but it was the summer spent working at a family friend’s restaurant that ignited his passion for the culinary arts. Enamoured by the thrill and teamwork of working in a kitchen, which reminded him of the camaraderie found in football, another enthusiasm of his, Balbi enrolled at The BUE Trainers before cutting his teeth at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in Buenos Aires and New Orleans.
At a time when his culinary counterparts were hunkering down in traditional European kitchens, Chef Balbi’s rebellious streak took him eastwards to Japan – despite never having visited and not knowing a single word of the language. There, he spent several years honing his craft in Tokyo’s veritable kitchens including 2-Michelin-starred Zurriola, 3-Michelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin, and 2-Michelin-starred Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros and was named one of the Top 10 Japan San Pellegrino Young Chefs (Under 30) in 2015. Aside from shaping his culinary philosophy, Balbi’s time in Japan also holds a special place in his heart – this was also where met Yoshika, his wife and the mother of his two young children.
Moving to Hong Kong in 2016, Balbi helmed the culinary operations of a contemporary Japanese restaurant, HAKU, under the guidance of Hideaki Matsuo. During his tenure, HAKU earned multiple accolades, placing 58th on OAD Top 100 Asian Restaurants and being named one of Hong Kong Tatler’s Top 20 Restaurants of Hong Kong & Macau for two consecutive years. Chef Balbi was also awarded Best Young Talent of the World 2019 by La Liste and debuted at number 87 on the list of Best Chefs of the World 2019.
Now coming onto his own, Balbi brings his wealth of experience to Andō as Executive Chef and Co-Founder, joining forces with Hong Kong-based hospitality firm, JIA Group, for his first solo restaurant venture. Here, Andō’s modern tasting menus are a translation of Balbi’s own unorthodox journey onto the plate – one that nods at his ancestral roots while gazing at the land that shaped his craft. Andō was awarded one coveted Michelin star in the Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau 2021 and 2022.
A Taste of Spanish x Japanese Cuisine
Derived from Chef Agustin’s Latin surname Ferrando, Andō in Japanese connotes a sense of relief, while in Spanish, it is the equivalent of ‘-ing,’ the verb participle to describe the act of doing in the present. Andō’s modern tasting menus are filled with a complexity and multiplicity in meanings, one that nods at his ancestral roots, while gazing at the lands that shaped his craft – Japan. With no printed menus in the restaurant, guests leave the fate of their meal in the chef’s hands. Every course is deeply storied and grounded in a precious memory of Chef Agustin’s unorthodox journey as a chef.
Working together with Zero Foodprint Asia, Chef Agustin accentuates the finest produce by boutique purveyors, local farmers and producers who share his fervent respect for seasonality and heritage. In a bid to minimize carbon footprint and to support the local community, seasonal ingredients are sourced from Hong Kong where possible.
With the increasing reality of overfishing and the looming risk of tuna going commercially extinct, Andō has also removed all forms of tuna from the menu. Additionally, Andō has installed Nordaq’s sustainable water filtration system throughout the restaurant, which purifies water on-site without the need to ship, move and store heavy bottles.
Andō adopts a uniquely interactive dining format, encouraging guests to trust the chef to guide them through seasonal dishes of his choosing without the usual printed menus on the table to reduce paper printing and consumption.
One of the new dishes off Andō’s menu is Tardes en Palermo, which is named after the largest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, where the chef began his training in a Nikkei restaurant, Osaka Buenos Aires. This course highlights French Blue lobster, Kristal caviar, baby peppers for the sweet notes and a roasted piquillo pepper sauce for a deep umami flavour. Balbi gives the recipe for this dish below:
For the Lobster
- 1 blue lobster tail
For the Piquillo Pepper Sauce
- 100ml cream
- 6 piquillo peppers, roasted
- 2 cups white wine
- 50g cold butter, cut into cubes
- 1 bunch thyme
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 15ml corn starch
- 4ml lemon juice
- 2.5ml chilli flakes
- 3 pearl onions
- 1 vanilla bean
- olive oil
- 3 baby peppers
- chilli oil
- Kristal caviar
For the Lobster
- Place the lobster tail on a stick to retain its shape and then cook in boiling water for 3.5 minutes.
- Immediately place it into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
- Once cooled, cut into 3 slices (1 tail should give 3 portions).
For the Sauce
- In a small pot, add the chopped garlic and cook on gentle heat until transparent. Then add the white wine and thyme and reduce to half of the initial liquid. Strain through a fine sieve.
- Heat the reduced wine and add cream once boiled. Add a mixture of cornstarch with water to thicken the preparation a little bit.
- Remove from the heat and add the cubes of cold butter one by one while continuing to mix until the butter is melted. Add the lemon juice and the piquillos peppers. With the help of a hand blender, make a smooth sauce and strain again.
- Add the chilli and finish the seasoning with sea salt.
- Place the piquillo sauce at the bottom of the plate.
- In a separate tray season the lobster tail with the vanilla pods, olive oil, salt and a touch of chilli oil.
- Place the sliced lobster tail in the middle of the plate and garnish around it with baby pearl onions and baby peppers. Use microgreens to decorate the plate.
- On top of the lobster add a quenelle of caviar made with a plastic spoon. DO NOT use a metal spoon for this.
- Finish with one drop, only one, of lemon juice on top of each slice of lobster for freshness.
Recipe courtesy of Agustin Balbi of Andō in Hong Kong.