August 23, 2008

Where to have dinner when you're battered by a typhoon

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My friend Wendy was in town, and stuck in HK with nothing to do on a day when the city shuts down, batten down the hatches and braced for Typhoon Nuri. She needed a place for dinner, and since she was staying at the Conrad and most of the city's restaurants were closed yesterday, we decided on my old trusty standby - Brasserie on the Eighth.

Given that I've been to this restaurant many, many times, I was determined not to order the usual suspects. Usually it's either steak tartare, bouillabaisse or caesar salad to start, followed by the grilled kurobuta pork chop that I love so much. Instead, I started with something that I haven't ordered here for a very long time - foie gras.

I used to stay away from foie gras whenever I dined here, because it was always too dry from overcooking. However, the Tasting Foie Gras last night was well done. The sauteed liver was well-seared on the outside while retaining its soft, juicy consistency. Naturally there were a few grape halves as well as a piece of fig confit as accompaniment. The little bon-bon of mousse was fine and smooth as I spread it over a piece of toast. Finally, the triangle of terrine was also reasonably good, with the nice texture of veins adding to the experience. Very good indeed! I guess I can start having foie gras here again...

For main course I had the slow-braised beef short ribs in red wine sauce. This is something I have had once before, and it performed well on this particular night. The meat was so, so tender...almost melting in my mouth. Of course, the presence of fat and a bit of tendon helped create this effect. A simple dish that was well-executed. The steamed vegetables on the side helped to balance the full, fatty flavor of the meat.

On my recommendation, Wendy had the steak tartare to start and the bouillabaisse as main course. She chose to have the Grand Marnier souffle while I decided to be good and stay off dessert...

I brought along a bottle of the 1997 Arietta Red, an interesting Cabernet Franc-dominated wine. Arietta is run by John Kongsgaard, one of my favorite Californian winemakers. As I expected, I was blown away by the nose of this wine. It was just so amazingly sweet through and through, with strawberries, cotton candy, and a hint of leather. The wine was very, very sweet on the palate, and I was frankly surprised by the strong presence of tannins in this wine. Being from 1997 and at over 10 years of age, I naturally expected the wine to have soft and lovely tannins on the palate. Well, there was still enough tannins for me to chew on, and the wine has been poured from a decanter! Definitely a powerful, full-bodied wine that was still drinking well more than 3 hours after opening. Interestingly, when I opened the wine at home, I had to remove lots of tartaric acid crystals that had formed on the bottom of the cork, which had also stuck to the inside of the neck.

I was glad to have braved the wind and the rain for this dinner. I'll know where to go during the next typhoon...

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