October 28, 2007

French food in Shanghai

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Last weekend I went up to Shanghai since it was a long weekend in HK. There were two primary reasons for the trip: the Chateau Lynch-Bages dinner organized by the Commanderie du Bordeaux, and house hunting. What was surprising about my trip was that, of the 4 meals I had in Shanghai, both dinners were French! But what a pleasant surprise!

The venue for the Lynch-Bages dinner was Allure at the Royal Meridien. The pre-dinner tasting consisted of the lower-end wines made by the Cazes family, such as Villa Bel-Air in Graves and L'Ostal Cazes in Minervois. Interesting to taste but not exactly the reason why we were there.

The wines served for dinner were the 2005 Blanc de Lynch-Bages (always an excellent dry white), the 2004 Cordeillan-Bages (glad to have finally drunk this wine), the 2003 Ormes de Pez (not a bad effort), and finally the 2001 and the 1996 Lynch-Bages. The 2001 was still a bit tight, but the 1996 was just beautiful to drink now and is a classic Pauillac.

But the highlight of the evening was actually the food. I was very impressed with the menu. The oxtail and goose liver tart was excellent. The sauteed cod was very yummy, especially with the little slices of bone marrow on top. And the lamb shank was very, very nice.

On Saturday, my friend Kevin invited me to a dinner at La Platane in Xintiandi, run by Justin Quek (formerly of Les Amis and Au Jardin in Singapore). The food is therefore unsurprisingly excellent.

We took it a bit easy in terms of wine, sharing two bottles between 5 of us. The first is a house Australian syrah made for the restaurant. Incredibly, it tasted so much like a Cote-Rotie I would never have guessed it was Aussie! The wine was drinking beautifully and I am sure that it would not have cost an arm and a leg.

The second bottle of the night was the 1999 Sine Qua Non The Marauder, which was part of the case that I shared with Kevin. The wine had obviously softened quite a bit since I last drank it a few years ago, but it still packed a wallop of minerals (to me the nose is still full of iron and hence reminds me of blood...)

We shared a few delicious appetizers but the main event was the cote de boeuf, a big hunk of beef that was just done perfectly. It was charred at the edges and tender and juicy inside. Wow! Makes me want to go back for more.

I'm definitely going to pay these restaurants more visits in the future when I'm up there...

October 6, 2007

Drinking a very special wine with dad

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I flew in to Taipei today for a dinner with my parents, on the occasion of dad's birthday. We all knew that Typhoon Krosa was coming towards Taiwan with a vengeance and that I could be stuck in Taipei, but it's a chance I had to take.

As usual the venue for dinner was Paris 1930 at the Ritz Landis Hotel. They have one of the best chefs in town for French cuisine (if not the best), and I have been celebrating special events there for the last few years. We chose from the special menus and I was not disappointed. The chef was pretty creative, and the use of foam and other light touches were employed.

The main event, of course, was the wine. I had brought in the last of the 2 bottles of 1940 Haut Brion that I purchased a few years ago, and we drank it even though I knew it was suffering from bottle shock. Unfortunately I didn't have the foresight to bring it in on an earlier trip to Taiwan and it only had 4 days of rest after being knocked around in a checked-in luggage.

The nose was reminiscent of the last bottle that we drank, and of the other older wines from similar era. The fruit was still there, but this time the "preserved plums" was very evident. Mom loved this wine. I have never seen her so eager to drink anything with alcohol as she did tonight. She commented that this was "her type of wine" because she liked the acidity and the maturity.

Since we drank the wine without decanting (for fear of the wine collapsing in the decanter), the wine was fairly acidic on the palate at the beginning. Of course we knew mom really, really liked all types of Chinese preserved plums so this is definitely up her alley. As aeration occurred in the bottle, the tannins gathered strengh and the acidity faded on the palate. This, of course, meant that mom enjoyed the wine less as time went on.

Since the wine had been knocked around a little and we didn't decant it (hence no chance to run it thru the usual coffee filter), it was fairly cloudy. As we neared the bottom, I stopped pouring because we were obviously going to get the sediement. Wouldn't you believe it, mom insisted on emptying the bottle! She waited until the sediment had time to settle in the glass, then drank the clear (if you can call it that) wine in one quick swoop before the sediment had time to move.

It's been a while since the 3 of us had such an enjoyable meal together. I'm glad we had the occasion to do this and to taste such a special wine. Now I look forward to buying more wines from dad's vintage, and also to mom's birthday next year when we drink a bottle from her vintage!

October 4, 2007

Taiwan High Speed Rail

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I finally got a chance to take the Taiwan High Speed Rail last week during a business trip. The trip from Taipei to Taichung station took 50 minutes. The ride was pretty smooth, and we had seats in business class which was pretty spacious. I have no doubt that this will replace most of the domestic airline traffic as more people get accustomed to it.

The one major drawback of taking the train was the communication aspect. You simply can't get any network connection on your cell phone! During the entire 50-minute trip, I wasn't able to lock on to a single network for more than 2-3 minutes at a time! There were endless tunnels throughout the trip it was incredible. Some of these tunnels only take 5-10 seconds to pass through, but that was enough to disrupt the signal.

I heard from other people at work that the situation isn't any better in the south of Taiwan. I tried calling them a couple days ago as I waited for them to arrive in Kaoshiung, and basically couldn't get through until they reached the station. For business travelers like us, it would be wonderful of THSR spent some money to fix this problem. Of course, I understand that they'd have to make some $$ first...


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