March 28, 2016

Tokyo sakura trip day 3: a very Sine Qua Non evening

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It's been nearly 19 years since Cow, Chicken, H-man and I first began working together, and we've kept our friendship over the years.  I try to meet up with them on each of my trips to Tokyo, getting together for a meal (or three) over wine.  It's traditional that H-man and I coordinate and bring wines to dinner - even if it involves me lugging some bottles from Hong Kong and the wines having to suffer a little bottle shock.

The four of us had a pretty good time last year at La Ruée vers l'or, so H-man once again booked us a table there.  Not only is the restaurant BYO-friendly, but sommelier Chiba Kazuto (千葉和外) is apparently more knowledgeable about and adept at handling Californian wines.  This was important because the theme I had proposed for tonight was one of California's highly sought-after wineries - Sine Qua Non.  H-man and I would each bring a pair of wines from the same vintage, with the pairs being 10 years apart.

As soon as I arrived and dropped the wines off with Chiba-san, I delivered another package to the H-man.  He had totally forgotten about the fact that I had bought a copy of Sine Qua Non's book, since the purchase was made almost a year ago.  He was ecstatic at the sight of the beautifully-crafted book, and no doubt would spend some quality time perusing through it.

As usual the menu was pre-set for us, knowing that we would be red-heavy in terms of wine.

Amuse bouche - anchovy sablé and a chiffon-y onion short cake.

Chilled cauliflower cream soup, firefly squid and nano-hana confit - Wow!  This was absolutely beautiful!  I loooove chilled soups, and this one was so creamy and so sweet.  Did I mention that cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables?  And they added a nice touch with the firefly squids (螢烏賊) that are now in season, after they have been marinated in olive oil with garlic, aglio olio-style.  The rapeseed flowers (菜の花) were also a nice seasonal touch.  So refreshing and awesome.

Butter sautéed scallops, spinach purée and potatoes - needless to say the Hokkaido scallop was fresh and sweet, and done mi-cuit.  Served with sugar snap peas and strips of lardon.

Pork braised in beer "carbonnade", marinated purple cabbage - when this arrived I immediately noticed that the pork was kinda wobbly, although I jokingly protested that my piece wasn't as wobbly as I normally prefer.  Knowing that "I like 'em jiggly", Hello Kitty very kindly offered to swap her piece of pork with mine.

And what a glorious piece of fatty pork rib this was!  Besides the obvious, delicious fatty bits, the meat was simply very, very tender.  Love the liquefied onions from the carbonnade.  Chicken was particularly fond of the Brussels sprouts which had started to open up.  Meanwhile Cow remembered that we had a very nice pork dish from our dinner last year, too.  Ugh!  If only we had gotten bigger pieces of the pork...

Roasted lamb chops, seasonal vegetables, curry scented oil, potato purée - and then there was THIS glorious piece of Australian lamb chop.  Plenty of fat that delivered lamby goodness.  Perfect execution, and with the cap, too!  That curry scented oil with cumin just worked wonders with lamb.  Oh man... why didn't I get TWO of these?!

Crème caramel - I decided not to have any cheese while the others nibbled, because I was getting a double portion of this... thanks to Hello Kitty.

But the center of attention tonight was squarely on the wines.  In my wine circles it's rare to see Sine Qua Non pop up, not to mention having four bottles in one sitting.  The excitement level was high!

1996 Sine Qua Non Omadhaun and Poltroon - right off the bat this showed good amount of toasty oak, very fragrant, with lemon, fruity, and floral notes.  A hint of marmalade, with straw and a little sweet grass.  Definitely very ripe and sweet on the palate.  An hour after opening, showed caramelized sugar and vanilla.  Two hours after opening it was still really toasty with lots of buttery corn, which faded a little to show some leather notes even later.  This Roussanne and Chardonnay blend was just incredible.

1996 Sine Qua Non Against the Wall - served 1 hour after decanting. A little chalky on the first whiff, kinda dirty. Unfortunately this never went away for the rest of the evening. A little savory mineral, then showed coconut and vanilla oak. Later on more savory again with soy sauce. Very smooth on the palate. Second pour showing some cooked fruit, a little more smoky and a little leather. Unfortunately this probably suffered from some bottle shock as it was only allowed to rest for 2 days after a flight.

2006 Sine Qua Non The Raven No. 1 Grenache – served 1½ hours after decanting. Soooo powerful, so sweet and rich. The alcohol was so sharp it burned the hairs of one’s nose. Minty and a little dried herbs on top of the sweet fruit, like a young Bonneau one would taste in the master’s cellar, but cleaner. Almost a little pine needle with black pepper. Love how it tastes on the palate. A little coffee after 2 ½ hours and still really sweet. An amazing wine.

2006 Sine Qua Non The Raven No. 3 Syrah – served almost 2 hours after decanting. Lots of iron, ripe and sweet fruit. Amazingly minty with herbs, incredibly almost seemed like cool fruit. Totally awesome. After 3 hours showed some mocha. A monumental wine that begs to be aged for another few decades.

This was such a fun evening! The food was delicious and extremely good value. The wines… well, there’s never any doubt to me that the Krankls make incredible wines, and if it weren’t for the ’96 Against the Wall, it would have been a perfect lineup tonight. I look forward to drinking H-man’s 2006s in 10 years time!

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