December 18, 2008

Chicken saves the day

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Caught up with a couple of friends to pop open a couple bottles of wine. I haven't been back to San San Trois, and felt that I could introduce people to one of my two favorite chickens in town.

We decanted both bottles of red, and I ordered the food while I chatted with my friends. The familiar manager is conspicuously missing, which should have given me a clue.

A plate of sashimi arrives. SASHIMI?!! When did I order this?! The waitress explains that in the middle of chatting with my friends, I had agreed to her suggestion and indeed ordered raw fish. I am pretty upset, because the manager I know would never even have suggested that I pair raw fish with red wine. This is not a good start to the evening. I try to shove the fish down as quickly as possible so I could move on to drinking wine.

The usual duo of pan-seared sushi follow: seared toro (炙りトロ) and foie gras. The chef in front of us is also not the usual chef, but the guy who used to watch on the side. I smell trouble. Sure enough, the toro wasn't done the way I like it. It was just a bit too well-done. The foie gras is also a bit too singed... To be honest, I felt that the quality of their pan-seared sushi has been declining over the last 2 years, but they were still good enough that I kept ordering them. After tonight I think I will think twice...

The grilled kama came next, and this was also a bit sub-par. There was not a lot of meat and a bit more of the fat than usual. The best part about tuna neck is the meat that is not fatty itself, but has been flavored with fat around it. Unfortunately there just wasn't enough of it. So this evening is going horribly wrong by this point, including the wine. But more about that later.

Finally, the pièce de résistance - roasted Bresse chicken. My friends like the dark meat with bones so I'm happy to have them take the legs and the wings. With the Bresse chicken, the white meat is juicy and fatty enough to still be delicious, so I focus on this. Thankfully the chicken is still done well tonight. There is just enough fat to make it tasty, and the crispy, roasted skin fills the air with fragrance. Yum yum! Once again, the day is saved by....the Powerpuff Girls...NOT!!

Back to the wines...I brought a bottle of 1988 Henri Bonneau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve des Célestins with much anticipation. However, as I uncorked the wine in the office, a very musty smell came from the cork, and I can't help but think that the wine is corked. After we started drinking at the restaurant, my fears were confirmed. What should have been an awesome bottle was indeed corked. And I think I bought this bottle from I was much luckier with its older cousin - the '86 - which I bought at the same time and drank a couple of years ago. The nose was initially muted with very little fruit and some wet chalk. It did improve over time in the decanter, but still a fraction of what it should have been. Totally disappointing.

In contrast, the 1996 Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Combottes was a beautiful wine. Initially the nose was heavy smoked game meats, sweet red fruits and plums. Classic, beautiful Burgundian nose. With time additional notes such as strawberries and florals emerged. Thankfully we had at least one great bottle for tonight.

I am wondering what happened to this restaurant. Was tonight simply bad timing - when both the seasoned manager and the chef were off-duty? After the performance tonight, I am not so eager to make a return visit some time soon.

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