July 11, 2008

Fabulous chicken...again

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Last night a few of us got together for another long-awaited dinner at San San Trois, one of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong. In the past, I had heaped lots of praise on the food here, and it was an opportunity to show my colleagues what it was all about.

We started with small selection of sashimi, with hamachi (はまち), shima-aji (嶋鰺) and uni (雲丹) on the plate. While the hamachi and shima-aji were OK, I didn't like the dark brown color of the uni. Normally I would only eat uni whose color was very light orange, indicating that it was fresh and creamy. Well...I wasn't wrong. The uni was very disappointing. I shall stick to my principles in the future...

We also had the usual pan-fried sushi: kama and foie gras. These are normally among my favorites. However, I felt that today the chef had overcooked both pieces (at least for me). There was a bit more charring on the edges than usual. They were still delicious but not top-notch today.

I had reserved a portion of grilled kama (tuna neck), and this was done fairly well. There was the usual mix of tender and moist flesh with the slightly drier bits on the outside. Using the ponzu and oroshi to balance out the oily flesh was just right.

We also had some matsutake (松茸) mushrooms grilled on a small flame in front of us. I know this to be considered a delicacy in Japan, but I'm not quite convinced that grilling brings out the best in the shroom. A dab of salt adds to the taste, but it was still a little bland.

Finally, the piece de resistance! The roasted Bresse chicken arrives in front of us, and the manager quickly starts carving it up, demonstrating his expert skills with the knife. We were first served the legs of the chicken, which I enjoyed as is and without additional condiments. The free range chicken has just a small amount of fat, and this imparted the right amount of flavor to the meat. And the skin was roasted to perfection... As usual, I dipped the rest of the meat into the teriyaki sauce, and it was just gorgeous.

For the first time in quite a while, I was able to enjoy desserts at this restaurant. Usually I am already stuffed beyond belief at this point. We shared a portion each of the Japanese mask melon, yuzu ice cream, mango parfait and the signature dessert of the restaurant. While I enjoyed the refreshing taste of the yuzu, most of the pleasure came from the signature dessert - a concoction not unlike the usual sago rice with coconut milk.

I did bring along my own wines today. We started with a half bottle of the 2003 Schlumberger Gewurztraminer Kitterle. This was consumed with the sashimi. While I normally expect the Alsatians to ferment their Gewurz with some residual sugar, this wine was much sweeter than I expected. Perhaps I should have remembered that 2003 was a very ripe year for French wines...and brought something drier for the food. Anyway, the typical Gewurz characteristics were all there - lychee, minerals... But I must admit that I still find something in Schlumberger wines not quite to my liking.

During most of the meal, I enjoyed drinking the 2001 Kistler Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast. We had another bottle of this in the office just last Friday afternoon, but I thought it would go well with both the kama as well as the roast chicken. Indeed the wine opened up very well after 1 1/2 hours, and the usual grilled meats, minerals and very sweet red fruits were all present in the nose. Gave it a little more time, and even caramel started showing up. Full-bodied but not overpowering. Despite this being Kistler's cheapest offering, I still found it very enjoyable.

We thought we could finish another bottle, so we decanted the 1997 Beringer Merlot Private Reserve Bancroft Ranch. I still have a few cases of this wine because I enjoyed it so much, but this bottle was definitely off. The fruit in the nose was masked by the unpleasant smell of wet chalk and other aromas, and I think it even suffered from a bit of heat damage. Not great and we did not finish the wine.

I was falling asleep at the end of the dinner, from a combination of the alcohol and the fatigue over the last couple of weeks catching up with me. I went home fairly satisfied, with fond memories of the Bresse chicken fresh in my mind...yet again.


kosmose7 said...
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kosmose7 said...

I love San San Trois too! :) Their soft shell crabs and pannacota are really good, and the lunch set is also good value for money. They used to have much better views years ago though, before the messy reclamation works started. :(

One more thing... As far as I know, uni has two kinds. Murasaki Uni (紫ウニ) has lighter color and Bafun Uni (馬糞ウニ) is darker. So while it is true that fresh uni has bright, beautiful colors like you said, orange color is not necessarily a barometer of freshness.


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