November 3, 2010

Burgundian Chairman

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I made a return visit to the Chairman (大班樓) tonight.  They've been open for a year and put on a set menu for the evening.  They also paired the food with the wines of Vincent Girardin.  Marco Caschera from the domaine was in town to showcase the wines, and Altaya Wines set up a series of dinners - including this one - to showcase the wines.  Someone from Altaya jokingly called me a groupie, since I had been at an Altaya event for three out of the last four nights...  Poor Marco came around to talk about the wines to the three tables in our area, but I think I was one of the few who actually gave a damn...

Dried baby shrimp (蝦米) - these were sooo fragrant and tasty.  I could smell them as soon as they were placed on the table, but had to move the plate away as it interfered with my ability to smell the wines.

Pickled baby ginger (大班樓子薑) - these stems were two weeks old, and were pretty tasty.

Deep-fried shrimp heads (椒鹽九節蝦頭) - I've always loved shrimp and prawn heads, and they're especially tasty when deep-fried.  The bodies of the shrimps would show up in another dish later.

Deep-fried taro dumpling with smoked duck (荔甫馬蹄煙鴨盒配桂花醬) - the "dumpling" shell is made of taro and deep-fried to perfection.  The stuffing is made with smoked duck, and just explodes in your mouth with the intense smoky flavors. And the osmanthus sauce (桂花醬) Wish I had more than one...

Ox tongue marinated in wine and vinegar (蒜香酒醋牛舌) - tender cubes of tongue, in a delicious blend of wine and vinegar, topped with finely chopped garlic, chili, coriander, ginger and something with lemon citrus flavors.  I thought it might have been lemongrass, but my famously poor palate was overruled by the Resident Froggie...

Braised baby pigeon (滷水BB鴿) - these 18-20 week-old pigeons were also smoked, and were lovely in terms of flavors.  They were also incredibly tender.  I had a quarter and would definitely have wanted more.

Double-boiled turtle soup (老火水魚湯) - this was OK, as I don't get excited about soft-shell turtles.  But the bits of ham at the bottom were pretty nice to munch on.

Stir-fried shrimps with sugarsnap peas (蜜糖豆豆炒九節蝦仁) - these tiny shrimps were pretty succulent, although I thought the flavors were a little too pronounced to be natural, and wondered whether any sodium bicarbonate was used.  Froggie didn't think so, and reminded me that it is against restaurant policy.  The peas were really, really wonderful.  The spring onions added a little something extra, although I would have been just as happy without them.

Flower crab steamed in chicken fat and Huadiao wine, with riceflour rolls (雞油花雕蒸花蟹配陳村粉) - this has always been a favorite, and we eagerly used the rolls to soak up the sauce.  My piece of crab was definitely very sweet.

Pan-fried duck with glutinous rice (炸釀糯米鴨) - the duck was made with a layer of glutinous rice, water chestnuts, and flaky crust on top.  One of the few dishes that didn't really impress me.

Traditional gold-coin chicken (古法金錢雞) - we were so excited that this was on the menu.  They came without any buns, so I grabbed one with my hands.  The layers of chicken liver - marinated in wine - were good, as were the layers of pork fat and char siu (叉燒). Pretty delicious, although I like the version at Manor (富瑤酒家) slightly better due to the abundance of honey glaze.  The staff gave us a couple extra ones and I did end up having two...

Stir-fried kale with preserved fish sauce (咸魚醬炒芥蘭) - the pungent, tasty sauce really made the dish.

Three shrimp fried rice (三蝦炒飯) - fried with shrimp, dried-shrimp and shrimp paste.  Very tasty in terms of flavors, but they had overdone it and this was now way too dry to be really enjoyable.

Almond cream (生磨杏仁茶) - this was pretty thick and viscous.

Wolfberry ice cream (杞子桂花雪糕) - this was reasonably nice.

The range of wines from Vincent Girardin were pretty interesting.  I've always like Girardin's wines and have bought some over the last few years, but this was more of an eye-opener.

2007 Vincent Girardin Saint-Aubin Les Murgers des Dents de Chien - really sweet nose with minerals and flint.  A little hint of hot and ripeness on the palate.  Toasty corn notes at the end.  Pretty surprising on the upside.

2007 Vincent Girardin Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes-Dessus - minerals, steely, citrus lemon, a bit sweet and buttery.  Reasonably ripe on the palate with slightly higher acidity than the Saint-Aubin.  Definitely feel the difference in terroir.

2006 Vincent Girardin Santenay 1er Cru Clos des Tavannes - really sweet and fragrant nose with white flowers and minerals.  Very nice.  Reasonably sweet and smooth on the palate.  A little toasty at the end.

Wine service continues to be an issue at this restaurant.  I understand that the restaurant may not have so many glasses for an evening like this, so it's perfectly fine for us to just have one wine glass for all the wines that we were served.  But the waiters should always check with the customers to see which wine was in the glass, before coming in to top up more wine.  They never did.  As a result I had a glass mixed with two different wines.  After I objected, the waiter apologized and changed my glass for a fresh pour.  My friends were not so lucky.  They drank a mixture of all three whites.

2007 Vincent Girardin Beaune 1er Cru Les Bressandes Vieilles Vignes - smoky with Chinese medicine notes, along with spices and mushroom.  Not as open and fruity, rather closed.

2007 Vincent Girardin Pommard 1er Cru Les Grands Epenots Vieilles Vignes - a beautiful wine, with lots of black fruits such as blackcurrant.  Very young and vibrant, a little smoky, and sweet on the nose as well as palate.  Very enjoyable.

Our bellies full, we adjourned outside the restaurant for a little "after dessert".  The bunch of us stood in the street to sample the box of durian Mrs. Dysan had carried back from her trip to Singapore.  I don't know which cultivar this was, but it didn't really get me going.  It was more like Thai durians...which were a lot more fleshy, but this was also a little dry.  The fragrance was pretty good, though... Between the durian, the pungent stench of the sewers below us and the occasional dog that came around to make a deposit, this was one "fragrant" corner of the Fragrant Harbor!

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