October 3, 2016

Toasting the legendary Henri Bonneau

Pin It

It was finally my turn to host a tasting for the MNSC boys, and it took us a real long time to come up with a date that worked for everyone.  I was racking my brain to come up with a venue, when I remembered that it's been a while since I was last at Duddell's (都爹利會館).  Given the ownership, of all the Chinese restaurants in town, you would think that this place would have a sommelier who knows how to handle fine wine, right?

So I got Pineapple to set me up, and arranged to drop the wines off earlier in the day with the team at the restaurant.  With full confidence (which, as it turned out, was in fact misplaced) in the team, I showed them the order of the different wine flights but left them to decide on when the wines should be opened, and whether the wines should be decanted.

Given I'm not real familiar with the strengths of the kitchen here, I was more than happy when Pineapple asked the chef to put something together.

Duddell's appetizer combination (都爹利拼盆):
Barbecued Iberico pork with honey glaze (豉味蜜餞黑豚肉叉燒) - this was OK.  The strip of fat down the side was nice, and the char siu was fairly tender, but it somehow wasn't as moist as I would normally prefer.

Deep fried frog leg with spicy salt (椒鹽田雞腿) - it's been a while since I last had frog's legs at a Cantonese restaurant, and certainly a while since I had it served "full size".  If memory serves, the ones offered by Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), Seventh Son (家全七福), and Guo Fu Lou (國福樓) all come a size or two smaller.  These remind me of the ones at Tien Heung Lau (天香樓), because they were so plump and so satisfying to bite into.  Yum.

Marinated pork leg (滷水豬腳仔) - these trotters were pretty good, with just enough spice to pick up the flavors beyond just the soy sauce.

Fish maw broth with chicken (古法雞絲魚肚羹) - a very good substitute for those who don't eat shark's fin soup.  The fish maw has been cut into strips, and the shredded chicken was fairly tender.  Thankfully the chef went easy on the starch, although the broth was a little saltier than I had expected.

Crispy salted chicken (富貴鹽香雞) - wow!  This chicken was amazing!  That crispy skin was pretty much how the skin on a duck confit would taste - with the fat oozing out as pressure is applied with one's teeth and tongue, filling the entire mouth with that wonderful fragrance and flavor.  This was by far everyone's favorite dish of the evening.

Pan-fried M9 Australian wagyu beef, wasabi soy sauce (芥末香煎澳洲M9和牛粒) -  FAIL.  The kitchen must not have gotten the message that this was a wine dinner.  How else would you explain the chef sending out a dish with wasabi?!  Even though this wasn't 100% pure and wasn't clearing my sinuses, it still had a significant impact on our palates.  Now, I will take some responsibility for this as I only glanced at the menu quickly when it was sent to me this morning.  I should have objected to the dish and asked for a substitution.

The other crime that the kitchen committed was to overcook the beef.  Wagyu is meant to be marbled and tender, so imagine how disappointed I was when the most premium dish on the menu ended up being the worst dish.  It was just tough and I couldn't taste any of the marbled fat.  There was really no excuse for this execution fail.

Poached hairy gourd in fish broth (魚湯浸節瓜甫) - I loved this delicious fish broth, but once again the kitchen failed to realize that this was a wine tasting... and that fish broth don't work with no red wine.  But once again I'll take responsibility for not rejecting the dish before dinner.  Oh and I love hairy groud, too... so this dish was right up my alley.  Complete comfort dish.

Egg white fried rice with fresh crab meat and black truffle (松露蟹肉蛋白炒飯) - maybe this isn't fair on my part, but I tend to see dishes like this as prime examples of how some Chinese restaurants have tried to add in certain Western ingredients to try to make dishes look more "luxe".  Dropping a few tiny eggs of caviar on top of dim sum items, dabbing on a bit of gold foil, black truffle, or even matsutake (松茸) mushroom.

Very often, these additions don't actually have much substance, as there was so little of the ingredient that it didn't add much to the actual flavor profile.  Tonight the black truffle was clearly visible, and I understand that the chef only added a little in order not to overwhelm the delicate flavors of crab meat and egg white.  But then why add it in at all?  I thought the whole point of truffles (black or white) was to just hit the diner with the amazing fragrance?  You either go big and pack a punch, or there's no point.

Fortunately, these bowls of XO sauce have been sitting on our table even before the appetizers arrived.  The Ox announced that, after staring at them for the entire dinner, he was gonna pile it into his bowl of fried rice when it came.  I thought it was a great idea and followed suit.  At this point of the evening, after we've all had a fair dose of wines, what I wanted wasn't a delicate, elegant fried rice.  I wanted FLAVA!  And adding in a few spoonfuls of that spicy, oily XO sauce felt reeeeaaal good!

Chilled sago cream with mango (香芒楊枝甘露) - always one of my favorite desserts, especially in warm weather.

Petit fours (美點薈萃)

Even though my birthday is long past, I still keep to the tradition of serving at least one bottle from my birth vintage every time I host an MNSC dinner. And I specifically put in a flight to commemorate the legendary Henri Bonneau, who passed earlier this year.  I had the privilege of paying him a visit 5 years ago, and it was certainly one of my most treasured memories as far as wine trips go.

1970 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon - obviously mature, with lots of Chinese licorice, very sweet, lots of caramel and sugary, but also savory and mineral notes, some salted plum.  Big on the attack.  Sooooo beautiful.

First flight: opened 1¾ hours prior to serving, not decanted.
1970 Lafleur - seemed to show wet cardboard nose on top of leather, smoky, and earthy notes.  The group voted to throw this out because it was corked.

1976 Lafleur - pretty fragrant, with a hint of floral notes.  Elegant with a little sweetness, almost a little jammy.  95 points.

Second flight: opened 2½ hours prior to serving, not decanted.
1991 DRC Richebourg - stronger animal notes, a little stinky and funky.  Later a little musty, and not very pleasant on the palate.  88 points.

1996 DRC Richebourg - very fragrant, with plenty of sweet, red fruits.  A little plummy, too.  After 20 minutes in the glass, the palate also wasn't as pleasant.  96 points.

Third flight: opened 3½ hours prior to serving, not decanted.  This drew some criticism from the boys, since this was an "L" and not a standard vertical or horizontal.  But I didn't care.  I wanted to open these three bottles together to remember Oncle Henri.
1990 Henri Bonneau Cuvée Speciale - ripe, a little leather, a little sharp on the nose.  A little flat on the palate and slightly green.  93 points.

1998 Henri Bonneau Cuvée Speciale - ripe, plummy, black fruits, jammy, a bit smoky.  Palate was going downhill 4 hours after opening.  97 points.

1998 Henri Bonneau Réserve des Célestins - a little minty, pretty sweet and fruity, ripe, almost jammy, with a little forest notes.  96 points.

Slightly disappointed that a couple of bottles didn't show well, but very happy that I got to serve the pair of Cuvée Speciales together.  While the blind tasting performance of the gang was pretty consistent (and dismal) across the board at the beginning, I think Curry finally breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn't getting shafted again at one of my tastings...

I do think, though, that we should put an end to our fully blind tastings after more than 10 years.  The performance tonight - especially during the first flight - should leave no doubt as to our abilities in this department.


Anonymous said...

Total crime that you opened those bottles with that menu. What were you thinking? Other than the chicken, there is nothing on the menu I would pair with fine red wine.

Peech said...

Well, at gatherings with this particular crowd, wines come first and food is just there to fill our stomachs... Food/wine matching isn't necessary, although it would be nice if it worked out better


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map