May 27, 2016

Another Prüm evening

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Some 6 years after the first time, I was once again at a wine dinner with Dr. Katharina Prüm - the winemaker of Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm.  I didn't hesitate to sign up when I first found out about it, because I've been such a big fan of their wines.  The added bonus was that tonight's dinner was held at Zhejiang Heen (浙江軒), a Shanghainese restaurant with a Michelin star that I have never been to.

The crowd tonight was much larger than I had expected, which was a testament to the success of the organizing wine merchant.  I arrived late and Dr. Prüm was already in the middle of her speech.  Pretty soon the waitstaff would start to bring out food from the kitchen, following the preset menu.

Zhejiang Heen signature appetizers: smoked fish, black fungi in Zhejiang vinegar, pickled radish, Ningbo crispy fried eels, transparent bean noodles with shredded chicken, smoked egg (浙江軒冷盤:長江燻魚, 香醋雲耳, 醬香蘿蔔, 寧波脆鱔, 雞絲粉皮. 煙燻蛋) - so we start out with a plate full of different appetizers.  The smoked fish was not too sweet, had a pretty crunchy exterior but remained pretty soft inside.  Black fungus came with good acidity from the vinegar.  The pickled radish was pretty salty with a little sweetness and a hint of spice on the finish.  The crispy eels were pretty tasty.  The noodles were OK, and the smoked egg wasn't bad.

Fired river shrimps (清炒河蝦仁) - yes, my menu said "fired", not "fried"...   These also didn't come with the traditional condiment of black vinegar.

Roasted pork in honey sauce with butterfly pastry (蜜汁烤雙肪配蝴蝶餅) - not a fan.  The piece of tofu skin I get, but I don't understand why a slice of pumpkin was used here.  The ham was also only OK.  Making things worse, the honey sauce was drizzled all over the place, making this messy to eat.

Oh and someone at my table bit into his bun and found a shard of glass.  That is just fucking scary!  Thankfully he didn't bit too hard, so I didn't see blood spurting from his tongue or mouth...

The servers were also pissing me off at this point.  In the space of 10 minutes they have served up the first 3 dishes, without regard to whether the diner has actually finished the previous dishes.  I can understand if you serve me dish #2 when I'm still working on the first one, but when I see dish #3 before I finish dish #1, what you're telling me is that you just don't give a shit.

Pork ribs in vinegar (香醋骨) - these were leaner than I expected, but very tasty nonetheless... with a nice balance between sweetness, acidity, and savory notes.

Crispy mandarin fish with pine nuts (松子桂魚) - not one of my favorite dishes from Zhejiang cuisine, but this was OK.

Crispy deep-fried chicken with 4 treasures (四寶片皮雞) - the menu said "smoked chicken", but I think this was probably the chicken with 4 treasures... on account of all the other stuff on the plate.  The chicken itself was nothing to write home about, but I started scratching my head when I realized there was a piece of deep-fried fish finger here...  I have no idea why the restaurant thought it worked with the chicken, but at least it didn't taste like it came from a box of Birds Eye.

Next I picked up what I assumed to be a battered and deep-fried oyster, only to discover that it was actually imitation crab leg.  WHAT THE FUCK!  A fucking piece of imitation crab leg!  Battered and deep-fried.  In a restaurant with a fucking Michelin star.  It's like that place in Taipei putting spreadable wedges of La vache qui rit on a so-called cheese platter.  Un-fucking-believable.

The fishcake with seaweed was also a little WTF.  The only saving grace on this plate was the big chunk of rice crispies.  This, boys and girls, was AWESOME.  Obviously freshly deep-fried in lots of oil at high heat, both the texture and the flavors were perfect.

Having said that, I still want to throw this plate back in the chef's face.  The whole dish feels like school lunch for a 9-year old.

Tofu skin with green Zhejiang vegetable (百葉小唐菜) - this was OK.

Sauteed beef fillets with onion (京蔥爆牛肉) - pretty heavy flavors here.  A little bit on the salty side, but there is some sweetness in the sauce.  Plus there's plenty of sweetness in the crunchy and slightly caramelized spring onions.

Fried crab in soy sauce with rice flour cake (醬炒青蟹年糕) - also pretty heavy flavors here, as expected, but sweeter.  Love this classic Shanghainese dish.

Fried rice with conpoy and egg whites (乾貝蛋白炒飯) - this was OK, if slightly under-seasoned.

Deep-fried egg whites with red bean paste, red date paste cake (高力豆沙, 椰棗拉糕) - the egg white was so-so, and the date paste cake didn't have much (if any) date flavor.

But I didn't come for the food tonight.  I came for the wines.  And the wines, of course, were fantastic.

2014 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, from magnum - plenty of flint, polyurethane, almost a little floral and clearly jasmine.  Relatively high acidity but with some residual sugar.

2007 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - leaner on the nose, with more pungent polyurethane.  Rounder on the palate with more sweetness.  Very lovely to drink now.

1987 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - lots of polyurethane, a little more white pepper, more acetone, fragrant.  Much higher acidity on the palate than expected, with almost no noticeable sugar.  Good length on the palate.

1998 Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Auslese - much more fragrant and complex, more evolved, with acetone, a little minerals.  Pretty sweet but still good acidity on the finish.

1997 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese - more pungent and plastic, more flint, slate, white pepper.  Sharper on the nose.  Still nice and smooth on the palate.

1995 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese - very, very floral, with white flowers.  Later on the floral notes faded a little to make way for wax and acetone.

2003 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel - very floral, with lots of white flowers, a little bit of slate, and plenty of polyurethane.  Sweeter and richer on the palate, also more viscous.

2003 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel - lean on the nose, with flint, white pepper, white flowers.  Kinda sweet but drier than the Graacher Himmelreich, with sweetness coming on the back half of the palate.  Opened up more and showed more white flowers.  Good length here.

2006 Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Beerenauslese - tons of orange blossom and honey, with acetone and white flowers.  Sharper nose here, a little pollen, and the polyurethane really came out later.  Sooooo rich and unctuous, and of course sweet like nectar.  A beautiful wine.

Beautiful wines.  But any place that has the gall to serve up imitation crab meat deserves to be stripped of its Michelin stars.  I don't think I'm going back there again...

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