July 12, 2013

Old and French

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Having attended a few fantastic birthday dinners over the last couple of months, it was now my turn to return the favor by throwing one of my own.  I had struggled to come up with a wine list that would be interesting enough, as I've got a harsh critic or two among my guests.  The choice of venue also took a little effort, as I wanted to avoid some of the usual suspects but needed somewhere with a private room.

After some deliberations and booking multiple venues, I decided to do it at The Principal.  My past dinners there - all hosted by partners behind the restaurant - have been pretty delicious.  They've got private rooms available without the exorbitant minimums that some other restaurants demand.  And what's more: their corkage policy of charging per head - as opposed to per bottle - works fantastically well for wine-heavy dinners like this one.  One of the partners very kindly booked a room for me, and introduced me to the team to set up a menu that would work with the wines I wanted to bring.

This has been a quiet time at work for me, so I showed up at the restaurant extra early… A couple of friends were also eager to get a head start and showed up a half hour early, so I brought along an extra bottle of bubbly to entertain them…

2009 Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Noirs Lieu-dit "Les Ursules", dégorgée en Juillet 2011 - 100% Pinot Noir.  Slightly mineral and metallic, a little toast.  Very ripe on palate.  Second pour showed a much more open nose with heavier toasty notes.  Not bad but I expected a little more.

A trio of amuse bouche showed up before us:
Mojito-infused melon - pretty hard and crunchy.  Reminds me of the fruit salad at Catalunya.  Definitely tasted the alcohol...

Chorizo gougères - pretty tasty.

Smoked eel with pineapple - we were told that there was a slice of pineapple on top, but it seems like a layer of agar instead…

I took the black truffle roll, which smelled fantastic and tasted fine, too.  Unfortunately the texture was soft and mushy…

Caviar: bacon custard, pancetta - I could kinda get the faint flavors of bacon in the egg custard, but didn't see the piece of pancetta like last time…  The caviar is apparently from French trout.

1970 Dom Pérignon - totally oxidized, so sweet on the nose, with sugarcane, Chinese licorice (甘草), caramelized sugar, orange marmalade notes.  Totally up my alley.  Very flat with almost no bubbles left.  Good acidity here on the palate.  I expected this to be a lot more lively and complex.  Guess this bottle was over the hill…

King crab: Alaska, avocado, yuzu, wasabi créme fraîche, grapefruit, herbs - the roll was made by wrapping avocado slices around crab meat, gherkins and capers.  The citrus fruit on the side appeared to be pomelo and not grapefruit…  The crab legs were very tasty, with some herring roe on top.  The wasabi crème fraîche was pretty strong, and made things pretty interesting.

1995 Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet en magnum - a little toasty, kinda sweet, honey, caramelized sugar.  Pretty ripe, but acidity still there on the palate.  Served about two hours after decanting.

Turbot: baby fennel, celeriac purée, watercress - not a fan of this… The turbot was pan-fried and not very interesting, as there was no sauce or anything to impart flavor other than being lightly salted.  This meant that I could taste a hint of the "fishy" flavors.  The celeriac purée was nice, the fennel was fine, but I didn't get the use of bitter watercress.

1964 Bouchard Corton-Charlemagne en magnum - a little green and vegetal, grassy.  Could it have been a little corked?  Acidity still here.  Somewhat elegant but a far cry from the other magnum from 4 years ago.  Served about an hour after decanting.

Saltbush lamb: tenderloin, sweetbreads, eggplant, chickpeas, Ras el hanout yoghurt - I really should stay away from lamb tenderloin, as I find it a little too lean and doesn't give me the same joy as eating fattier lamb chops.

A pair of Hermitage comes next, followed by a red Burg…

1970 Paul Jaboulet La Chapelle - very ripe nose, a little stewed prunes, savory like black olives and soy sauce.  Served about 45 minutes after decanting.

1978 Paul Jaboulet La Chapelle - a little medicinal, slightly dusty, pencil lead.  Nice, lean and slightly austere.  Savory, smoky and very toasty.  Funny how my tasting notes for this bottle are similar to the one from the ex-chateau bottle last year…  Served after 3½ hours in decanter.

1995 DRC Grands Échézeaux - despite the Specialist questioning the dubious source of the wine, this drank just fine.  Nice and lovely nose, with plenty of fruit.  Pretty elegant.  A little alcoholic on the palate.  Served about an hour after opening.

Black sesame: panna cotta, macadamia sponge, soy milk, miso ice cream - loooved the black sesame, but maybe it overpowered the subtle flavors of the macadamia sponge…  Interesting to see miso used, and it was pretty savory.

Petit fours

125 Years of Bruichladdich - distilled in 1970 and bottled in 2006 at the natural cask strength of 40.1%.  This is the style of Bruichladdich that I first fell in love with… sweet and caramel on the nose.  Not a hint of peat even though it's from Islay.  It's been a few years since I acquired this bottle, and it seems the angels had been pretty greedy of late and taken a little more out of the bottle than I expected!

VERY drunk after an evening like this… and surprised I made it home in one piece.  Despite the Specialist's warnings, it appears that I DID fall asleep at the dinner table…

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