September 20, 2008

In memory of Didier Dagueneau, kind of

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Last night I finally had the chance to visit Yin Yang (鴛鴦), a fusion-Chinese private kitchen. A colleague of mine told me about this some time ago, when it was still located in the boonies. It has since moved into a new location in the heart of Wanhai's happening area. The restaurant has only 3 tables - one on the ground floor and two on the second floor. I would recommend that people book the table on the ground floor, since the second floor is noisy due to both the proximity of the tables as well as the echo from the small dining space.

It's the end of a very, very long week for most people in the financial markets, and we all desperately needed a chance to unwind with some good food and wine. The timing could not have been better.

We had pre-chosen the Menu Yin Yang, which we were told would be served over around 3 hours. There were many courses, and we were definitely stuffed at the end of the evening...

There were four parts to the Headlines, all in small portions. These were:

Organic Seasonal Sampler / Homemade Preserves (野家拼) - the cubes were made from sweet peppers, and there was black sesame sauce in the container. The Mexican chilis were apparently really, really spicy... This was OK but not really special.

Smoked Duck Breast / Organic Fruit Marmalade (黃土烟醬鴨) - the duck was pretty nice, like the French magret de canard. The marmalade was very sweet and delicious.

Drunken Abalone (樽煮罎子鮑魚) - not very drunken as it turns out, but the abalone was tender. Served with homemade oyster sauce and chrysanthemem.

Moon River (水中月, Black pig dumpling) - created to commemorate the Mid-Autumn Festival, it looks better than it tastes.

The first main course was the very delicious Yellow Earth Chicken (民謠黃土雞). This was presented whole and cut into pieces. Very nicely roasted, with lots of flavor and crispy skin. Served with chopped ginger sauce (沙薑醬) made from organic ginger. Everyone loved the chicken, and it brings to mind my favorite Bresse chicken from San San Trois.

Another meat dish followed, this time called Red Hot (跟紅頂白, hot baby pig with kumquat marmalade). Basically it's the chef's version of roast suckling pig, and came to the table already chopped into pieces. My first piece, with lots of skin, was excruciatingly salty and needed to be dripped with the lychee marmalade. I also had to wash it down with water and wine. My second piece, part of the rack of ribs, had really tender, flavorful meat without the salt. The skin was so well roasted that it basically had the same texture and taste as the pork rinds that one buys as snack from a store. Well...they are, after all, the exact same thing!

With the Sampan Season (水上人家, Sampan Style Seafood of The Day) we switched into seafood. Today's fare was baby lobster, and it was OK.

The Stone-ground Yin Yang Bean Curd Duet (石磨鴛鴦豆腐) was interesting, with half of the tofu made from black sesame. But it wasn't that tasty without either the spicy ikura sauce or a spicier chili sauce. There was also some custard cream topped with small dried shrimps (桜海老).

The Live Fish Drama (活魚演) consisted of a large fish done two ways - some of the flesh was taken off the bone and made into a fish porridge. This was done quite nicely. The bones were deep-fried and the result was pretty dramatic. The rest of the fish was then served separately and dipped in chili sauce. This part reminded me of steamed Japanese anago (穴子) in terms of texture.

The HK Yin Yang Rice (鴛鴦飯, Surf & Turf version) was very good. The centerpiece is a large cuttlefish stuffed with rice cooked with black truffle sauce. The cuttlefish was soft and tender. Surrounding it were chunks of wagyu beef brisket, which were fatty and yummy, leaving a lingering taste in my mouth. There was even some burnt rice crackling at the bottom of the cast iron dish.

Organic Vegetable (玻璃青菜) was not bad, either, and dominated by okra.

We were stuffed by this point, but there were still the desserts to come... a trio of them! First there was the perssimmon ice cream, which was more like custard cream in terms of consistency. Then we had the sesame-filled glutinous rice ball in black sticky rice - pretty decent. Finally another custard/puddng.

For wine, we started with the 2006 Keller Riesling Spatlese. This was initially very strong in terms of the petrol and wood/oak nose, to the point I wondered if the wine was corked. But it did open up later and there was a nice amount of minerals in the nose. Pretty sweet on the palate, but surprisingly lacks complexity.

I brought along the second bottle - 2005 Didier Dagueneau Pur Sang - in memory of the great winemaker who had just died in a plane crash the day before. I am a big fan of Dagueneau's wines and rushed out to buy cases of wine upon hearing news of his untimely departure. The wine tonight was wonderful - green apple, toasty wood, mineral and sharp, flinty nose. The fruit was clearly very ripe - characteristic of the 2005 vintage across the board. Initially the acidity was a bit high and the wine felt slightly disjointed, but melded into a beautiful wine as the evening progressed. I think everyone enjoyed this.

Finally we had a 2005 Nicolas Potel Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Hauts Jarrons. A little too early to drink the 2005 reds, I think, but the nose turned out nicely. Very sweet cotton candy, strawberries, and surprisingly butter showed up in a red instead of a white! Unfortunately the palate was a bit lacking, and there was no finish. I think this wine could use another 5 years of bottle age.

We left the restaurant after a good 3 hours of wining and dining, feeling very satiated and happy that I had a chance to try the place out. Perhaps there would be a return a few months.


One floor one phoenix said...

what a sad news to hear didier is dead. i've tried pur sang and there's one bot of solex in my rack. now i'd save it for some special occasion. he never gets the reputation he deserves in hk.

Peech said...

I was fortunately enough to get my hands on a couple of cases of Silex, and some more Pur Sang. Let's get together and toast him sometime...


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