October 29, 2008

A nice little Portuguese/Macanese joint

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Tonight I met with with a couple of wine lovers, and we had some very interesting wines over a very simple dinner. The venue was Nino's Cozinha, a new Portuguese/Macanese place in Wanchai. We had an al fresco table, which made the experience even more enjoyable. The food was simple yet simply awesome.

Bacalau frito com batatas fritas - bacalhau in potato croquette. Very awesome. The thin outer layer is really crispy and fragrant, while the inside is mushy and - amazingly - light.

Chouriço assadas - really tender and juicy, with just a bit of spice. Goes very well with the spicy Zinfandel.

Camarao assado na panela com alho e cebola - the shrimps have had the shell removed, and sit in a wonderful sauce made of garlic and olive oil. You can smell that garlic from a mile away.

Bacalhao a bras - this is one of my favorite dishes, and they do a pretty good job here. Strips of bacalhao fried with red bell peppers, onions and eggs. I could come and just eat multiple portions of this!

Rabo de boi guisado - the surprise of the evening. The oxtail is not stewed with red or port wine, so the taste is very light. Lots of carrots, tomatos, celery and herbs. Actually this paired better with white wine compared to the heavy reds we brought.

Frango assado com piri piri - kudos to the chef for cooking spicy chicken the way I had it in Lisbon. This is not the Macanese African chicken drenched with lots of sauce, but the real deal with some piri piri sauce kinda sitting at the bottom of the dish. You scoop the sauce onto the chicken only if you think you can handle it, coz it sure is hot! The tiny Sichuan pepper is ground into powder here, and soon the tip of your tongue goes numb... 

Camarao com pimenta no forno - the shrimp with pepper in claypot was a good way to finish the evening. The claypot came about 4/5 full of white peppercorns, and the shrimps were buried underneath. The shrimps were fresh and sweet. As for the peppercorns, I can tell you that the fragrance was amazing. When the waiter first lifts up the lid for the claypot, the fragrance hits you immediately. I am immediately reminded of the Singaporean bak kut teh (肉骨茶) that I had at Ya Hwa (亞華) last month, because that also had a heavy dose of white pepper. At the end of the evening, I found myself playing with individual peppercorns, holding one between my fingers and just sniffing it, enjoying the perfume.

But let us not forget the real reason for getting together - wine! John brought 2 bottles while I contributed one, and three bottles was definitely more than enough for the 3 of us, especially given the high alcohol levels of all three!

2001 Marcel Deiss Mambourg - this is a very interesting wine as it is a blend of all Pinot varietals: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Beurot and Pinot Meunier. At 13.5% alcohol it tasted spicy and ripe on the palate, and was a bit fizzy on the tongue with a long finish. The nose was initially very muted, belying the complexity of the wine, but showed minerals and a hint of sweetness coming from ripe pears. A very tasty wine, and I'd love to get my hands on some of this.

2000 Turley Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard - the star of the evening, and at 16.7% alcohol packs quite a big punch. The wine was very sweet on the palate, but a bit spicy on the tip of my tongue. Nose was classic Turley sweet red fruits, but with some marmalade and a hint of acetone.

2002 Pax Syrah Alder Springs 'the Terraces' - I double-decanted the wine at home because of my last experience with Pax wines. These wines need lots of time to breathe. Unfortunately the result was that at dinner, the nose of the wine was initially muted without a lot of fruit. There may have even been a hint of TCA. But the nose did eventually come out about 3 1/2 hours after opening, with iron, cotton candy, marmalade and red fruits. The tannins were firm and chewy, and the wine was spicy on the palate. A bit disappointing, but maybe it's just bottle variation. 15.2% alcohol.

I was pretty drunk by the end of the evening, and very satisfied with the cuisine as well as the casual atmosphere. I am definitely going back for some yummy Portuguese, and soon!

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