December 30, 2014

A date with Uwe

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Chef Uwe Opocensky has been pretty nice to me over the last couple of years, having orchestrated a number of really fun and memorable dinners for my friends and I.  We've been talking about getting together for a drink for some time, but someone in his position is understandably very busy... Well tonight he finally found some time to chew the fat with me, and I promptly fished out a special bottle from my cellar for him.

We started the evening on his turf, grabbing a drink and some nibbles at the Mandarin Grill + Bar.  In spite of my protestations about being happy just to drink Krug Grande Cuvée, I was happy to be sipping on 2003 Krug.  The nose was surprisingly floral, although that could have been partly due to the scented candle on the table...  The wine was deep and rich on the palate, young and vibrant while not aggressive.  Acidity balance was just about perfect for me.

Cured ham - very nice.  Toast had a surprisingly pronounced smoky flavor.

Cooked ham - apparently this was from the same pig as the cured ham, but with different preparation.  Inhaled in 2 bites.

After getting a little buzzed from bubbly on an nearly-empty stomach, we moved over to grab dinner at Arcane, the new restaurant headed up by Chef Shane Osborn.  I had originally wanted to wait a little before trying this place, but since Uwe brought me here and introduced me to Shane, I knew I was in good hands...

CL de la Chapelle Instinct Brut - I only had a sip, but this had higher acidity and was also a little more "clean".  Many thanks to the chef for this.

Our amuse bouche was a grilled cheese sandwich, with black truffle shavings on top.  What's not to like?!

Sauteed langoustine, pork belly, sweet garlic purée, pine nuts and balsamic jus - I fell in love with the dish as soon as it arrived, before I even raised my fork.  The smell of those langoustines kept coming at me, and my mouth started watering.  Taking my first bite confirmed that these were beautifully done and the texture was perfect.  I loved the fact that baby bok choy was used to impart the tiniest hint of bitterness.  As delicious as the langoustines were, the dish got even better after taking my first bite of the thin pork belly below.  The crispy, crunchy browned piece of heaven worked really well with the langoustine.  Wow!  Just wow!

Sauteed potato gnocchi, white truffle, cep purée, roasted leek, morel ragout, Parmesan - this was an unexpected gift from the kitchen.  Gnocchi slightly browned on the outside, enveloped by the full seasonal fungus flavors from ceps, morels and the white truffles.  The roasted leeks were very, very tasty, too!  Burp.

Roast suckling pig with choucroute, purée of root vegetables and star anise, morteau jus - no surprise that I would order the suckling pig... While the crackling was decent and the fat was tasty, I had a little trouble with the meat.  There was nothing wrong with the meat per se... since it was reasonably tender and juicy.  However it just wasn't as nice as I had hoped for.  Uwe's take is that the pig might have been a little old, and the ratio of meat vs. crackling was off.  I could certainly see his point.  The choucroute was very delish, and I did find the addition of star anise interesting...

Yuzu and lemon posset, poached mandarins, mandarin ice cream, white chocolate and cardamom sugar - another wonderfully refreshing dessert after a heavy meal.  I love citrus fruits, especially mandarin oranges, and here I've got the additional fragrances of yuzu and lemon on top.  Slurp!

Canelé - I had seen pictures of these on social media, and my advice to the chef is... dude, if you can't make a decent-looking canelé - and I know this is one of the toughest pastries to make - don't bother serving the sorry-ass looking specimens to your guests.  These were seriously fugly...

Uwe's told me more than once that he loves Colgin, so it was only appropriate that I went to the cellar and fished out a bottle for tonight.

2002 Colgin Herb Lamb Vineyard - double-decanted 2 hours prior to serving.  Sweet fruit in the nose but not very explosive, nor was there the usual exotic coconut butter.  Smoky and very minty.  Very tannic, and a little "hot" on the palate from the 15.5% alcohol.  Improved significantly once we chilled it and brought the temperature back down.  3½ hours after opening, the sweet fruit showed a little better, along with some leather and animal notes.  Not bad, but certainly not showing its best.  I guess I needed to stand the bottle up for more than 2 days for the sediment to settle...

This was a really fun evening for me.  Naturally the conversation focused on food, covering a range of topics from the prevalent use of chicken bouillon powder in Chinese kitchens to our favorite meals and restaurants of all time.  I'm really looking forward to the next time we sit down together at the dinner table... at a top restaurant in Tokyo!

1 comment:

Sue-Ann said...

An interesting array. I would have liked the roasted pork dish. Like the presentation there for that one.


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