May 16, 2009

Ruby anniversary

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I'm back home in Taipei this weekend, celebrating my parent's ruby wedding anniversary. Forty years is a long time to be married, and is obviously one of the big ones as far as anniversaries go. While I did ponder about doing something different for the celebration, in the end I opted to return to our tried-and-true venue - Paris 1930 at the Ritz Landis Hotel.

Both Jack and Rolf - old hands who know us and really know what they're doing - were there tonight, which made things a lot easier for us. Given how precious tonight's wine was, I felt a lot more at ease having Rolf do the wine service for us.

So what did I bring for the special occasion? Why, something from the anniversary vintage of course! I had been saving up the bottle of 1969 DRC Grands-Echézeaux - Reserve Nicolas - for this evening. Expectations were high, and I had Rolf chill the bottle a bit before serving to ensure optimum temperature.

The wine was superb. Loads of fruit like raspberries and black cherries, with lots of sweetness in the nose. Farmy with lots of smoked meats and bacon fat. A little bit plummy with some floral and rose notes. Despite using the Schott Diva Burgundy glasses instead of the Riedel Sommelier Burgundy Grand Cru, the full-blown experience of the beautiful nose was still amazing. The wine was just so elegant, with enough concentration and power yet not overwhelming. One of the best bottles of red Burgundy I've had recently.

As for the food, I was initially worried that the quality has deteriorated since the previous chef departed last year. But I need not have worried. The standard was still high, albeit the style has changed. Chef David Chauveau's cuisine is a bit more traditional, but still with a modern touch.

We started with a cup of gazpacho as the amuse bouche. It's actually very delicious and just the right thing to prep one's appetite. Perfecto!

My first course was mackerel roll with white wine marinade, fresh cream blinis and arugula pesto. This was interesting as the roll had mackerel on top, scallop mousse for stuffing below, and it was made into a roll that reminds me of Kansai-style hakozushi (箱寿司). The strong taste of the mackerel was paired with the softer scallop mousse, and the arugula pesto was a good complement.

The next course was the only sub-par element of this meal. Sautéed snails, sun dried tomato and parsley ravioli, truffle oil and corn cream was not what it should have been. The snails were OK, but the raviolis were too dry with too little stuffing. The truffle oil was of course fragrant and made the corn cream very yummy, which became the dish's saving grace.

The roasted scallop and black pudding, mashed potato, pine kernel and garlic cream was originally not part of the Landis Menu I ordered. But I just couldn't pass up a chance to have boudin noir and asked f0r the substitution. I'm sure glad that I did. The scallop was OK but the boudin noir was so yummy, pan-fried so that the edges were a bit charred. Garlic cream hmmmm...

Pan-fried grouse, "gaufrette" potato, broccoli flan, pineapple ketchup sauce - this was really delicious. I expected the grouse to be a lot more gamey, but this tasted more like quail (and was translated as Champagne quail in Chinese). Part of the meat was just a tad overcooked, though. The dollop of pineapple ketchup was pretty tasty.

Roasted loin and braised tongue of lamb, ricotta eggplant cannelloni, "harissa" jus - the lamb loin was tender and juicy, but the real star was the tongue. I love all kinds of tongue but have never had lamb tongue before. It tasted kinda...well...lammy! It was very, very tender as it was braised, and it definitely looked like tongue given the way it was cut to preserve the muscle texture. The cannelloni was really nice, too.

Dessert came and I quickly devoured the almond panna cotta. The raspberry sorbet and the cream was OK, but those three little berries - no idea what they were - had soaked up so much alcohol they were really yummy.

Jack came over and offered each of us a personal vanilla soufflé. Given that this was a complimentary last-minute order, what came out wasn't the best. The top crust was just a little hard where the high heat had hardened the sugar.

Rolf introduced the chef to us, and I chatted with him about a number of things, including andouillette which is also one of his favorite dishes. Much to my surprise, he tried to introduce the dish in the restaurant but most of his cooks didn't take to it. I would have thought that with the Taiwanese passion for intestines, it would be a no-brainer for them to love andouillette...

Tonight's meal was very, very good. I'm glad I stuck to our old favorite, as mom and dad were both happy with the meal. As far as I'm concerned, Paris 1930 is still at the top of the game in Taipei. We'll see what happens when and if Robuchon opens later in the year...

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