November 28, 2008

Relaxing Friday lunch

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My colleagues and I went for a relaxing lunch at Pierre today. The excuse today was to have a belated celebration for my colleague, who took delivery of his prized 1994 Porsche Speedster earlier this week.

For this occasion, I brought out a bottle of 1994 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese to match the vintage and the country of origin of the car. This is an aged bottle, and showed a big nose of urethane/plastic, acetone and petrol. Then lemon notes emerged with green apple following. Initially fairly dry, it gained a bit more sweetness as it opened up. A wonderful wine to drink at lunch.

As it was with our last visit, we had a special pre-starter after the amuse bouches. This looked suspiciously similar to what the chef sent us last time... cold, springy/chewy sole coated with a layer of solid cream sauce. Each piece is topped with a bit of caviar, and served with tiny balls of crème fraîche. The lone oyster packed a wallop of incredible flavors that took me completely by surprise.

My first course was 63° eggs, yabbies Nantua and chicken mousseline with green olives. I am a fan of these soft-boiled eggs, served with two marshmellow-like morsels made from yabbies. The mousseline was pretty yummy - a little rich but not enough to make you uncomfortable.

I didn't get myself a second course. In fact, none of us did except for our colleague G-girl. As someone else put it, she decided to "press Button #1, #2...and #3..." I guess she was hungry.

My main course was filet of seabream, couscous, confit lemon and oriental vegetable broth. The seabream was pretty tender and moist, topped with dried mushroom slices. The bed of couscous tasted of a light curry - I guess it is Oriental after all. The overall combination worked well together, and I'm reminded of a rice dish from my lunch here in May.

I chose not to have dessert today, since I most definitely over-indulged last night. The final nibble of bonbons on a stick was a nice way to end the meal.

Songs that keep running in my head

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Over the last couple of days, several songs keep popping into my head from Imogen Heap, also known as the voice behind Frou Frou. The names may not sound familiar to you, but these songs have shown up in a few popular movies which you may have caught:

"Let Go" in Garden State
"Holding Out for a Hero" in Shrek 2
"Just for Now" in The Holiday - which is on "repeat" in my head so here's a video I found on YouTube - not the official video but made of footage from the movie.


 I also really like "Breathe In", but I'm unable to embed the video so here's the link to it on YouTube.

November 27, 2008

Why have turkey when there's beggar's chicken?

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Once again on Thanksgiving Day, I have chosen to have chicken instead of turkey. This year the venue is Tien Heung Lau (天香樓), my favorite Hangzhou restaurant. What a dinner this turned out to be!

A few of us arrived early, and started with a small plate of country paté (肴肉) and vegetarian goose (素鵝). This was pretty standard and did its job of toning down our hunger... Of course, those who arrived late never saw any traces of this plate...

We decided to skip a few "classic" dishes which didn't measure up to our standards on previous visits. The freshwater shrimps stir-fried with Longjing tea leaves (龍井蝦仁) got passed over for not being fragrant enough. The Dong Po Pork (東坡肉) was also nothing special.

As usual we started with some selection of cold appetizers, which was a combination of malantou (馬蘭頭, chopped Indian aster and tofu), soy-marinated duck (醬鴨), and another portion of vegetarian goose. The malantou is as good as it's ever been, while the duck was less salty than a previous visit.

Sadly the deep-fried freshwater eel (爆鱔背) wasn't available today, but we made up for it with the deep-fried frog legs (炸田雞腿). This was really nicely done, very light and one can really taste the true flavor of the flesh. Our resident Froggie thought this was much better than the grenouille that she is used to having...

Twice-cooked pork is something we ordered for the first time, as I seem to remember reading about it on the internet...but unfortunately I didn't care for it. The pork just wasn't fat enough for me...

One of the highlights of a meal here is the smoked yellow croaker (煙薰黃魚), and it never fails to elicit praises from the crowd. The smoky fragrance stays with you for as long as there's skin left on the plate...and the soft, supple flesh is just amazing. I would say that this dish gives the traditional Cantonese steamed fish a good run for the money as the best way to do fish.

There were 7 of us tonight, enough to share another traditional highlight - the beggar's chicken (叫化雞/富貴雞) - which had to be pre-ordered. This being our Thanksgiving dinner, of course the chicken has become all-important. And it certainly did not disappoint. Why anyone would choose to have roast turkey instead of this chicken is beyond me... (OK, so there are certain traditions that people keep to...) The minute that the chicken is taken out of the pot and unwrapped, the fragrance hits you and there is no doubt as to why the restaurant is so named ("heavenly fragrance").

The waiter finishes opening the chicken and reveals the mushroom stuffing inside - kinda similar to the turkey, innit? - all the while steam keep rising from the plate. Soft and moist meat seemingly from a banquet in the heavens is yours for the taking.

Lest we forget, this is hairy crab (大閘蟹) season and we are in a Hangzhou restaurant. As some of us are not crab lovers, we pass up steamed hairy crab and opt for the classic stir-fried hairy crab roe with noodles (蟹粉撈麵) instead. There isn't anything more that I can say about this dish which hasn't already been said. I quickly wolf down my bowl of noodles and secretly rejoice when one of us chooses not to have the crab roe...

Two veggie dishes complete this great meal, although we would have preferred the veggie with salted pork (鹹肉塌窩菜), unavailable as 塌窩菜 is not yet in season. Stir-fried winter bamboo shoots with pea shoots (冬筍炒豆苗) is great as both are in season. Alfalfa stir-fried with wine (炒草頭) is interesting as the texture reminds me of sweet potato leaves. This is stir-fried with Chinese rose wine (玫瑰露), which is used in the production of Cantonese sausage (臘腸, 潤腸).

We are served the complimentary dessert of glutinous rice balls in fruity fermented rice soup (什果酒釀丸子), which everyone enjoyed despite being stuffed.

I brought a bottle of the 2006 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, which I thought went down easy with Hangzhou food due to its sweetness. We also enjoyed some Huadiao wine (花雕), which has been blended by the restaurant using something of a solera system employed by sherry producers. The oldest vintage dates back some 20-odd years. Wonderful stuff with served warm.

This was a great meal that everyone enjoyed immensely. And yes, I was thankful for my good fortunes this year as well as my good health.

November 25, 2008

An evening with 3 Burgundian winemakers

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My friend Paulo kindly invited me a dinner at the Classified cheese room. The evening was a casual presentation of wines from three Burgundian domaines: Nicolas Potel, Jean Boillot and Jean-Jacques Confuron. We had the respective winemakers with us: Nicolas Potel, Henri Boillot, and Alain and Sophie Meunier. I had the pleasure of sitting between Sophie Meunier and Katie Turvey, one of the winemakers from Kilikanoon.

We started with the 2003 Jean Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchère before dinner, which had toasty oak and minerals in the nose. The wine was ripe and sweet on the palate.

The first plate to arrive was the charcuterie platter, which included some chorizo, pork loin (lomo), parma ham...etc. We had some really nicely baked bread to go with this.

The 2000 Jean Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles from magnum had lots of the classic minerals and was ripe and sweet on the nose. Initially it was a little acidic on the palate but improved in glass.

The leek and potato Vichyssoise with soft poached egg and winter truffles was creamy, rich and delicious - a great way to stay warm in the cold cheese room. But again, how can you call this a Vichyssoise when it is not served cold?

The 1985 Nicolas Potel Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes was easily the wine of the evening for me - it was so beautiful that I wish my glass would never go empty... Lots of green apple, sweet grass, straw and honey in the nose. Oh-so-smooth on the palate due to its age. I need to get my hands on some of this...

The smoked duck gizzards with frisee salad and pommery dressing was pretty interesting. There were slices of smoked duck breast and a small amount of gizzards.

2006 Nicolas Potel Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Hauts Jarrons was a relatively big and full-on wine, with plenty of red fruits on the nose.

I was full after taking just one look at the hunk of roast pork belly with pomme (de terre) purée, apple sauce, cider jus. The meat was gigantic, and it was done so well. The meat was soft and tender, with that nice layer of fat giving it all the flavor one would want. The skin was quite thick and crispy, and it took some effort to cut it into bite size pieces, but one is well-rewarded for the effort.

The 2004 Jean-Jacques Confuron Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru comes from a couple of vineyards. It was silky smooth and velvety, with loads of fruit and a bit of grilled meats on the nose. Such fragrance! While tasting the wine, Paulo commented that it was "Unmistakably Chambolle-Musigny!" I reminded him of MNSC's general poor performace in blind tastings, and told him I would make sure to test him at a future blind tasting that we hold...

Our dinner was held in the cheese room, so it was only fitting that we end with a cheese platter. As wonderful was they were, I was just so stuffed that I managed to have just a small piece...

The final red was the 2000 Jean-Jacques Confuron Romanée Saint-Vivant from magnum. The wine was still very fresh and young, with sweet caramel and a hint of grass on the nose. It was still a bit grippy with higher acidity than I anticipated. I think this wine actually needs more time to pull itself together.

The final drops of alcohol for the evening came in the form of Dow's 20 Year Tawny Port. How could I ever turn down nectar like this...?

November 24, 2008

Altaya annual tasting

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I attended the annual wine tasting hosted by Altaya Wines at the Grand Hyatt. Paulo is a friend and a member of our MNSC, so we all try to show our support, and get to taste some fantastic wines at the same time.  This was their biggest event so far - taking up the Residence area with two large tables serving finger food and the wonderful cheese selection from Classified - one of Paulo's other ventures.

There were 24 tables serving wines from around the world, and many winemakers or family members of the winemaker were there to pour their wines for us. The familiar faces were Pierre Perrin from Chateau Beaucastel, Rob Fisher from Fisher Vineyards, Don Weaver from Harlan Estate... There was also a strong contingent from Burgundy, including Nicolas Potel, Henri Boillot (both in person), and Alain and Sophie Meunier from Jean-Jacques Confuron.

I spent more than 3 hours at the tasting, going through many wines and chatting with friends and winemakers. There were just too many wines so my notes are a bit simple and blurry...

2004 Harlan Estate - waaaay too early to drink

2005 Henri Boillot Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Vergelesses - loads of minerals, flint, oak and sweet butter in the nose.

2005 Henri Boillot Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets - nose of prunes, grilled meats and smoke. A bit acidic.

2004 BOND Melbury - minty, pruny, with lots of oak and high alcohol. Pretty tannic right now.

2006 Fisher Whitney's Vineyard Chardonnay - still as sweet and ripe as I remember. Lots of buttery and toasty oak here.

2006 Nicolas Potel: Bourgogne Rouge Cuvée Gerard Potel, Côtes de Nuits-Villages Rouge Vieilles Vignes, Nuits-St-Georges - while these were decent wines for everyday drinking, they weren't as impressive as the 4 wines that followed...obviously!

2006 Nicolas Potel: Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Hauts Jarrons, Chambolle-Musigny Vieilles Vignes - these wines were obviously a class above the first three, and are amazing value for money.

2006 Nicolas Potel Grand Crus: Clos St.-Denis, Charmes-Chambertin - really, really nice wines, especially the silky smooth Charmes with the lengthy finish.

2004 Argiano Solengo - not that impressed. Still a bit tannic.

2005 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge - classic Beaucastel and good to drink now.

2005 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc - another beautiful Rhone white from Beaucastel that is accessible now.

2005 Kilikanoon Killermans Run Shiraz - not a bad effort that is typically Aussie Shiraz

2005 Kilikanoon Covenant Shiraz - aged in a mix of American and French oak, the vanilla and tropical fruit of the American oak really shows through here.

2004 Kilikanoon Oracle Shiraz - nose is more subtle here as this is aged in French oak.

2003 Le Pupille Saffredi - a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this was only so-so...not quite sure why this is a famous wine...

Quinta do Noval Colheita Port 1995 - I love all tawny Port, so understandably I went back for a few more pours of this one. Lots of typical nuts, caramel and a bit sharp from the alcohol.

2002 Suduiraut - my favorite of the trio tonight. Nose of celery, straw, honey, apricot, orange marmalade. There is enough sweetness here to make it interesting.

1998 Suduiraut - a bit bland on the palate as there really wasn't enough sweetness. Nose of cotton candy, apricot and marmalade.

1982 Suduiraut - not sure why some people were so wowed by this wine. Maybe because they had heard that 1982 was a great year for Bordeaux, without realizing that it wasn't exactly a good year for Sauternes... There's not enough botrytis here, even though Suduiraut produced one of the best wines in this vintage due to early harvest. Nose of tangerine and acetone, but pretty dry on the palate.

The event wound down around 9:30pm, and the winemakers converged on the Pawn for drinks...

November 23, 2008

Wine and Korean food

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Last night I was invited to have dinner at an ex-colleague's house. There were a number of us dining with the family, and I was encouraged to arrive early in the afternoon to play with my colleague's daughter.

I brought along a few bottles of wine to share, including two bottles which were featured in Les Gouttes de Dieu (神の雫) - the popular Japanese comic book series on wine. These two wines from the same Italian producer are said to be able to match spicy Korean food, which we would have for dinner. I decided to try and see if this were true. I arrived early and started opening bottles with my colleague's husband.

The 2000 Chateau Musar blanc - a favorite of the hosts - is always easy to drink. The wine has had a few years of aging and now appears to be light orange in color, with a bit of honey in the nose.

I brought along the 2002 Hugel Riesling Jubilee, which showed a big, plasticky nose with lots of petrol. There was only a bit of sweetness on the palate, as Hugel's Rieslings are fermented drier compared to their Gewürztraminers.

The last bottle opened before dinner was something that I have been saving up for quite a few years. The 1997 Napanook was a real pleasure to drink, with a hint of mint and classic red fruits on the nose. It was very ripe and sweet on the palate - not surprising considering the vintage - and the tannins were silky smooth. Considering the price I paid for the second wine from Dominus - the Napa outpost of Chateau Petrus' Christian Moueix - I couldn't have asked for anything more.

As dinner was served, we opened up a few more bottles to go with the food, including the two bottles from Librandi. The 2005 Librandi Duca Sanfelice, made purely from the local varietal Gaglioppo, would have easily passed for a New World wine. The nose was ripe and sweet, full of tropical fruits and vanilla, and eventually saw chili and spice emerge. The wine was smooth on the palate, almost a bit bland. It actually worked reasonably well with the homemade kimchi we had.

The 2005 Librandi Gravello was a different wine, with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in with the Gaglioppo. The nose here wasn't as New World and sweet, but it did have the mint from the Cab and only a hint of sweetness. With a bit of kimchi aftertaste in my mouth, the wine tasted hot and spicy on the tongue.

The 2001 Cantenac Brown was a classic Bordeaux from a vintage that is great to drink now. Typical farmy nose with grilled meats. No surprises here but a solid wine.

I only got to the 2005 Clos du Mont Olivet Cuvée du Papet after dinner, but this was such a good wine! The nose was really sweet with caramel notes, plus the classic grilled meat that comes from the Rhone. I kept drinking this wine instead of whisky after dinner, so I guess I'm showing my true colors...

Of course, we did have more than just homemade kimchi for dinner. There was the green salad; the very nice marinated bean sprouts; and the salad of jellyfish, crab meat spiked with wasabi.  But what I really liked was the chapchae - vermicelli stir-fried with veggies and beef. The vermicelli was so al dente, unlike what you would normally find in Korean restaurants around town.

The huge piece of kalbi - beef spare rib - was marinated perfectly and wonderfully delicious. Of course, the best bit was the tendon that wraps around the bone, and I managed to slice it off using the knife so I didn't have to use my hands while I gnawed on the bone... And one must not forget the delicious slices of sautéed eringi mushrooms on the side.

It was truly a wonderful dinner, and we had plenty of good wines to go with it. Now I'm looking forward to the next week!

November 22, 2008

Atlantis rising out of the Persian Gulf

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So the Kerzners have now opened their latest resort - Atlantis, the Palm - on Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. The star-studded opening party - said to cost USD 20MM - included fireworks that lit up the entire Palm Jumeirah.

 I got a pretty good view of the Atlantis under construction on my trip to Dubai a year ago. Here's what it looked like then: Well, a lot has happened to this world since 12 months ago. The world has changed completely, and the market crash I predicted in Dubai has actually happened a lot sooner. The stock market index is down 65%, and oil has gone from $90 to $140 and back down to $50. The real estate boom is now completely bust.

But the Kerzners know how to throw a good party, and they are probably secretly celebrating the fact that they didn't win the casino project on Sentosa. They will have a hard enough time running the new one in this economic environment...

November 19, 2008


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I got my chance to try out a hot new restaurant today - Domani. Last week there was suddenly a lot of talk about it amongst my friends, so when I needed to be around Pacific Place for lunch, I decided to try it out. Having been told that it was tough to book, I asked Quintessentially to book for me, and was told last night that I had to be waitlisted. They did call back to confirm my table this morning, so I was pretty happy.

When I arrived at 12:30 - a little early for Hong Kong - the restaurant was pretty empty. Surprisingly, even at 1:30 there were quite a number of empty tables. Now I began to wonder why I was waitlisted in the first place...I can't imagine that there were that many cancellations in the span of a few hours!

The space was very nicely done - comfortable seating and nice, high ceilings. There was an outdoor section which looked pretty cozy, but it's a smoking section and I saw people puffing away. 

I ordered a 3-course set lunch, since I was warned about the smallish portions by my lunch date. On her previous visit, she was unsatiated after two courses and thus was compelled to have dessert. I figured I could have something light and healthy...

I started with panzanella con cannocchie, sedano e anguria. The small but juicy and delicious mantis shrimp (with the colorful nickname of 賴尿蝦) are laid on top of a pile of flavored breadcrumbs, with shredded celery on the side drenched with olive oil. And yes those are watermelon blocks on the plate. Overall the dish was reasonably light and tasty. Not a bad start.

My main course was cernia con carciofi e salsa al vino bianco. The garoupa was fried and reasonably tasty, but it was a tad dry for my taste. It's easy to get good steamed garoupa at any Chinese restaurant, or even at cha chan teng (茶餐廳), so I was little disappointed today. The gob of foam on top is flavored with artichokes, and there are also artichokes on the side.

I was actually reasonably full at this point, but went for the ananas, lime, granitas menta. The chunks of pineapple are topped with a big scoop of crushed ice, flavored with lime and Crème de Menthe - hence the hint of alcohol. Pretty refreshing and light.

In spite of the execution for the garoupa, I still thought lunch was pretty decent. I'm curious about how this place would do for dinner, so I'll just have to make a trip back some time and see (and taste) for myself.

November 16, 2008

The scary future?

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HBO was showing Gattaca, one of my favorite movies of all time. Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman co-starred in this movie, and would go on to marry each other afterwards. As I sat watching the start of the movie, I am reminded of two recent conversations with friends. Putting the two together gives a slightly scary picture for the future.

I was told by a friend that her son has survived his first school interviews, and has been accepted into two nurseries. The kid is 19 months old. Now what's wrong with this picture?

In a crowded city like Hong Kong (the same is true for New York), competition to get into the best schools is fierce, which produces schools that are really stuck-up and snobby. Apparently, my friend's son went through a grilling session, and was peppered with a series of questions. He's a 19-month old kid, for heaven's sake... He's barely started to talk, and he's already being interrogated?! I was joking with my friend that her son will have no problem getting jobs in the future, coz he's been interviewing since before he was 2!

As I discuss this issue with other friends whose kids are now of schooling age, we shake our heads in disbelief. Most of us did go to very good schools in our time, and for me this started early. I went to a prestigious kindergarten in Singapore, the best elementary school in Taipei, the best international school in Tokyo, and a top-20 US university. But I certainly don't remember having to interview for the kindergarten and elementary schools, never mind the thought of being grilled before age 2...

Is getting into the right nursery or kindergarten that important? Are the futures of kids today determined as early as during their nursery years?

Gattaca offers one version of the future, where one can genetically engineer children so give them the best possible future. Those who are not engineered are born with "faults" and are deemed less desirable by society, and are relegated to menial jobs such as janitors. Society practices genetic discrimination and is divided into two classes, where the "Invalid" class becomes like the Dalits or "untouchables" in India's caste system.

As competition becomes fierce in the future, I can easily imagine a day when would-be parents resort to genetically engineering their children to ensure that they get into the best schools, are offered the best jobs...etc. What a sad society that would be, where nothing is left to chance and everything is pre-determined.

I hope I don't live to see that day.

November 15, 2008

Acker's second HK auction

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Acker hosted their second auction in Hong Kong today. Everyone expected prices to come down, and buyers were determined to only bid if bargains were to be had. This was certainly the mindset not only of myself but of my friends.

A lot has happened since their last auction in May: stock markets around the world are down a significant amount, with HK's benchmark index down more than 50% YTD; US Dollar has strengthened as investors duck for cover, and the Pound has gone from almost 2.1 to below 1.5 to the Dollar; economies around the world are going into recession; people are dumping assets to raise cash, including luxury items such as sportscars and fine wine.

What does all of this mean? 1) the wide gap between UK bonded price and US/global auction price is narrowing fast, thanks to the deprecating Pound. In US Dollar terms, London's getting cheaper - and those of us in HK are basically Dollar-based. 2) liquidity in the wine market is very poor. Buyers are all sitting on the sidelines, and the bid/offer spreads nowadays are easily 20-30%. People with cash will only part with them if they see bargains.

Fortunately for John, he and his staff managed to convince consignors to accept lower reserves, so many lots opened at 80% of the reserve price. Some lots started at 70% and there were even a couple that started at 50%. This allowed John to find at least one or two buyers for most lots, even though this time around, I think very few lots actually even hit the low estimate price.

As I expected from watching the Zachys auction 3 weeks ago, the 2005 Bordeaux and Burgundies did not do well. The very first parcel of 2005 First Growth - Lafite - passed. 2005 DRCs found buyers in the morning, but many 2005 Burgundies from other producers - Vogue, Roumier, Rousseau, Ponsot - passed in the afternoon. As with the Zachys auction, buyers shied away from lots with high absolute dollar values. A couple of 3-bottle OWCs of Romanée-Conti were passed up early in the morning.

The most surprising lot that was passed up was the OWC case of 1990 Romanée-Conti. Another rare OWC of this wine sold for around HK Dollar 1.56 million (before premium) at the May auction. This time around there were no buyers even at the "low" opening price of HK Dollar 960,000...  The "super lot" this time was a vertical of DRC Assortment OWCs, from 1990 to 2001. This sold for HK Dollar 1.76 million before buyer's premium.

I think the auction went better than John's worst fears, and therefore it was a success. I also watched him open a lot at 50% of low estimate and work it up to just one spread below the low estimate. That's real auctioneering skill. He had a tough crowd to deal with and he did a great job under the circumstances. 

When I registered for the aucion, I foolishly thought I wouldn't stay the whole day and that I would pop out for lunch. What a mistake that was! Not only did I not get a table seat (had to sit in the back of the room), I also missed out on the wines that they served during lunch, including 1993 Armand Rousseau Chambetin and something from DRC... Aaarrrghhh!!!! Won't make that mistake again. I did get to sip on some 1998 Krug, which was very lovely.

As for bidding, I picked up two lots of aged white Burgundy, plus a few bottles of Californian cab from a top winery. Looking forward to enjoying these some day soon...

November 14, 2008

The Acker pre-auction tasting

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I attended the pre-auction tasting hosted by Acker Merrall and Condit tonight. Tomorrow is their second HK auction, and they invited registered clients to sample some of the wines from the sale. Being fanatics, my friends and I lined up outside the door half an hour before the start of the tasting. I know that at these tastings, there's never enough wine for everyone, so you have to get to the best wines first or else it will be gone.

But once the doors opened just before 7pm, I realized that I need not have worried. The staff at the Shangri-La have been trained to pour just a few tiny droplets into your glass. My guess is that each standard pour is about 10ml (maybe a tad more), which means that a bottle would produce 70 pours or so. They had two bottles of each wine available, so this would serve about 140-150 guests. Given the tiny quantity of wine in the glass, it was really hard to get a good sense of the nose, let alone an accurate measure of the palate. But here are the broad strokes:

2004 DRC Echezeaux - the very first wine I tasted this evening, and this set the bar high for the rest of the session. Wonderful open nose of smoked meats and prunes. A classic Burg through and through. A little acidic on the palate, but a wine that is drinking beautifully now.

2005 DRC Echezeaux - nose is much more closed compared to the '04, with a lot of smoke. You can sense the intensity but it's just too tight.

2004 Comte de Vogüé Bonnes Mares - nose was a bit smoky but otherwise not showing. Slightly acidic on the palate.

2004 Joseph Roty Charmes-Chambertin Cuvee de Très Vielles Vignes - one of the best surprises of the evening. What an open, gorgeous nose with lots of bacon fat and grilled meats! It's drinking so well I had to go back towards the end of the evening to get additional pours!

2005 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays - nose had very high alcohol levels, with a bit of sweet fruit.

2005 Jean Grivot Clos de Vougeot - smoky nose with slightly charred bacon and a bit of sweet fruit. Very tannic on the palate.

2005 Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St.-Jacques - beautiful nose of sweet red fruits, smoked meats and sweet grass.

1996 Leroy Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Combottes - the first bottle was definitely cooked and smelled of stewed prunes. The second bottle was much better, with nice sweet nose of strawberries that was really enjoyable.

2005 Anne Gros Richebourg - nose was shut and I thought it was plasticky...a big disappointment.

2005 Bouchard Volnay Les Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot - pretty open nose, very sweet with animal fat and smoked meats. A nice wine.

1999 Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin - nose was funky and a bit vegetal, with some Oriental five-spice and stewed prunes.

1998 Guigal La Mouline - initial disappointing as there was not much on the nose and acidic on the palate. The second pour was much better. Third pour from the second bottle was amazing - sweet and classic Côte-Rôtie nose - and the wine is showing amber on the rims.

2005 Chave Hermitage Rouge - powerful smoky nose with a hint of chalk.

1983 Jaboulet La Chapelle - a bit disappointment with nothing but wet chalk in the nose. I've had many bottles tat were much better.

2001 Abreu Madrona Ranch - massive concentration, nose of minerals, iron, vanilla, sweet fruit and a bit of caramel. Really chewy tannins with a long finish.

2003 Sine Qua Non Syrah Atlantis Fe 203 1A - I finally had a chance to taste this, and all I can say is "Wow!" Massively concentrated with oads of sweet fruit, vanilla, minerals, iron, Oriental spices. The nose was just really fragrant and eventually almost Rhone-like.

1995 Latour - smoky, a bit of chalk, and ended up with some sweet fruit. Good but clearly inferior to the '96.

1996 Latour - very powerful nose with classic grilled meats, smoke, a bit of brett and sweet fruit.

1996 Margaux - a very good and classic Bordeaux with smoky nose.

2003 Montrose - a very tannic wine at the moment.

1989 La Conseillante - minty, smoky and sweet nose.

1986 Lafleur - nose of sweet candy.

1982 Lynch-Bages - pretty good classic Bordeaux with smoke and grilled meats in the nose.

1988 Lafite-Rothschild - nose was totally green peppers, vegetal and smoky. Pretty poor...

2000 Angelus - classic nose of smoke and ripe fruits.

1983 Mouton-Rothschild - classic Mouton nose of cigar smoke.

1995 Vega Sicilia Unico - nose was a bit smoky but after a bit of time, the core sweet fruit emerged.

I didn't get a chance to try the 1998 Harlan, because the second bottle was corked and withdrawn. Oh well.

And yes, you CAN get drunk from 10ml sips of wine, as long as you have many, many of these...

November 13, 2008

Chinese food in a Western restaurant

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I met up with an old friend today for lunch and decided to go to Harlan's. It's been a long time since I paid my last visit, and certainly not since the namesake chef's departure.

I chose the set lunch, and started with the "salad" as the waiter called it. In reality this was a mix of shellfish paired with some salsa. It was a simple enough dish with scallops, calamari, prawns and mussles. Though I think that salsa works well with seafood, thoughts about the freshness of the seafood - and whether the salsa serves to mask certain faults - crossed my mind. Thanks, Tony Bourdain...

My main course was the braised U.S. pork belly. Perhaps because I was in a hurry to order and was busy talking with my friend, but I wasn't expecting the dish that was laid out in front of me. This is Chinese! In fact it is like the Chiuchow braised pork belly (鹵水豬肉), with cubes of soft, braised tofu and raddish. The pork was very fatty (and very good), the flavors were fine, and I enjoyed the dish with some rice. But for some reason I was expecting a more "Western" dish rather than something that I usually get from my neighborhood Chiuchow restaurant (for $50 or so)...

The Harlan's dessert surprise was OK... a light, green tea-flavored creation.
Not that the food wasn't nice, but maybe I should have gone with my original choice of spaghetti carbonara - which they chose to call spaghetti with bacon, onions, egg yolk and cheese (or something like that)... I guess I just wasn't expecting to be thrown a curveball...or maybe it was actually a fastball but I had my eyes closed...

The other problem is that the service was really rushed. The dishes arrived so quickly, and you definitely felt that they want to rush you out the door within one hour, which is a pretty unpleasant feeling. We took our time with the coffee and left when e felt like it.

November 11, 2008

Birthday lunch

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I had lunch with the boss and my colleague today, since the boss' big birthday was yesterday. We had been planning to have lunch at Pierre since last week, and used this occasion to toast the boss.

We started with a flute of Gosset Rosé, which is a very nice Champagne. Unfortunately I didn't get much of a nose out of it, despite drinking it out of a very nice flute. The wine was great on the palate, very round and nicely balanced without excessive acidity.

There was the usual round of amuse bouche, and we had a pre-starter from the chef. This was a piece of sole, served cold and with a bit of chewy gelatin at the bottom, topped with a layer of Champagne sauce. There is a refreshing "yogurt" of green apple and cucumber on the side. The fish was interestingly chewy, which I find unusual at establishments such as this one.

Moving on to the first course of the Express Lunch, I started with the crispy soft egg. Now what is it with chefs these days? Why is everyone wanting to play around with eggs in this fashion? For the second time in a week, I'm looking at an egg that has a layer of deep-fried batter on the outside, while being soft and molten on the inside. But the one in front of me was sooo good. The egg whites were done perfectly - soft but solid enough to have that jello-like consistency. The egg sat atop a layer of mushrooms - both dried morels and diced shiitake. The fragrance of the mushrooms hits me as soon as the plate is set down in front of me. It was just awesome.

The pan-fried skate wings didn't quite do it for me. It looked pretty enough, topped with a layer of deep-fried croutons, capers and other herbs. Unfortunately there were also bits of grapefruit in the mix, and given my physical condition today it just wasn't what I needed. But I do not wish to take anything away from the chef, for the execution was perfect. The fish was fresh and delicious, but I never like anything with too much acidity... Maybe next time I'll ask the chef to do something else with the skate wings.

I was in no condition to take in any cheese, although on reflection maybe that would have helped settle my stomach a bit more. We did have some cake to celebrate the boss' birthday, which was a giant version of an opéra.

I brought along a bottle of 2001 Kistler Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, and this wine drank beautifully out of the Riedel Sommelier Burgundy Grand Cru glasses. It was classic Kistler through and through, with lots of sweet fruit in the nose and a hint of the grilled meats. At 7 years of age the tannins are now silky smooth, and it's such a pleasure to drink.

I stagger back to the office with the boss, and find myself dozing off a bit from the build-up of alcohol in my system...

November 10, 2008

The twelve disciples

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Tonight we were invited to dinner by a fellow customer of my go-to wineshop. It's been a while since our friend has had the suckling pig at the Kimberley Chinese Restaurant (君怡閣), and we were more than happy to join him on this outing! The food at the restaurant was exemplary as usual, and it doesn't hurt to have the restaurant's manager sitting next to you!

We had two starters: some nice and soft Chiuchow tofu (鹵水豆腐) and braised beef shank with five spice (五香牛腱). Both were great to start with, especially the beef shank.

The pig trotters and the deep-fried fish skin were also excellent. The fish skin comes from the salmon that the hotel uses for its buffet, and I'll remember to doggy-bag a plate of the trotters on my next visit. It's just sooo good...

Next came a very fragrant stewed fish and watercress soup (西洋菜燉生魚). I was very tempted to have a second bowl, but resisted when I thought of all the dishes which have yet to come.

The tiger prawn done two ways: body baked in butter; head in salt and pepper (大蝦貳味:生油焗身,椒鹽頭) was impressively displayed in a large bowl, and we all decided to take pictures of this dish. The prawns were huge, and the head was especially yummy.

Next we had a large garoupa baked in salt, herbs and spices (鹽燒大海青斑), which was interesting in that the chef used lemon and orange rinds, and it tasted a bit like the fish you find in Thai restaurants.

Then came the pièce de résistance - the stuffed suckling pig (金陵全豬烤香苗). What more can I say about this pig that I haven't said before in previous blog entries? It's just one of the loveliest creations ever...

For veggies, we had an interesting creation of stir-fried cucumber with black/green olives and rice crispies (黑白欖脆米炒青瓜).

The final dish of the evening was the oxtail with radish in claypot (蘿蔔炆鮮牛尾配蒸饅頭). This was really interesting as it's the first time I've had oxtail with the skin still attached. The skin was actually a bit chewy, but added extra flavor because of the layer of fat underneath. The chef apparently gets the tails fresh locally. It's an excellent way to finish.

We had some desserts and fruits, and the deep-fried egg cuillers (蛋散) were really excellent, even better than what you'd find at Maxim's City Hall.

But the gathering really is all about wine, and we had 12 bottles to share amongst the 11 diners! Our resident sommelier did a pretty good job in arranging the bottles in order for us to taste.

Jacquesson Cuvee No. 729 - this is technically a non-vintage wine but is based on the 2001 vintage. Toasty nose with citrus and a hint of caramel. Nicely balanced in mid-palate with a bit of a kick, and slightly acidic on the finish.

1996 Pol Roger Rosé - initially served too cold, nose showed some orange marmalade as it warmed up. Smooth on the palate with a nice, long finish.

2002 François Cotat La Grade Cote - this is technically a Sancerre, but this vintage was declassified by the authorities because of too much residual sugar/chaptalization. Without the Sancerre appellation printed on the label, we all thought this was a Chenin Blanc, and was very confused when I detected the trademark nose of green apples that screams Sauvignon Blanc... The pretty nose also had lots of muscat grapes, minerals and flint. A very refreshing wine that was ripe on the palate with a good balance between acidity and sweetness. I can see why the authorities worried about chaptalization...

2005 Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchere Monopole - nose of toasty oak, minerals, ripe fruit and a hint of wet chalk. The wine is still a bit too young, but eventually sweet grass emerged, and finally turned much more steely and flinty towards the end. For me this and the Cotat were the white wines of the evening.

2006 Peter Michael Chardonnay La Carriere - nose of sweet Anjou pear, lemon citrus, marshmellow, vanilla and a bit of toasty oak. Surprisingly the finish was a bit hot and bitter. The nose pretty much fell apart in glass with time...

2003 Dame de Coeur du Chateau Peyfaures - this is a Bordeaux Supérieur with a pretty label, and actually drank quite well. Nose was sweet blackcurrant and a bit jammy and stewed, with plenty of smoke to balance out.

1989 Jean Raphet Charmes Chambertin - a beautiful classic Burgundy, with telltale farmy, smoky nose full of bacon and grilled meats. Lots of sweet fruit in the nose here. A very clear, light-colored wine due to its age.

1999 Landmark Pinot Noir Grand Detour - nose was classic Californian Pinot, a bit sweet, jammy and grapy with orange marmalade notes. Surprisingly cloudy in its appearance.

1998 Clos Erasmus - the last time I opened this wine was in 2003, and of course 5 years makes a lot of difference in the development of a young wine. I am no longer blown away by the fantastically sweetness of the nose, but the wine has matured and developed into something much more complex. Initially the nose was a bit funky, chalky and medicinal. But star anise, mint ad a bit of brett came out later. Interestingly tannic and acidic on the palate at the same time, this wine can do with a few more years of aging. Fortunately I still have a couple of bottles left...

1997 Masi Amarone Costasera - a very alcoholic wine with acetone notes, nose is a bit minty and stewed. Like the Clos Erasmus, this was acidic and a bit tannic on the palate at the same time.

1998 Sine Qua Non E-raised - it's been 6 years since I last opened a bottle of this wine, and it still exemplifies what I love about SQN. The nose had lots of minerals, iron/blood, orange, and vanilla, coffee and caramel from the oak. Very smooth on the palate now, I can see this wine developing much further with age. I guess I will keep my remaining bottles in the cellar for now. Definitely my red wine of the evening.

77 Taylor's - being a fortified wine, you would expect this to be alcholic but I was still taken aback. Nose of wet chalk and ripe fruit like Ribena, a bit sharp. I haven't had a lot of vintage Ports but do prefer my Madeiras...

I know I sound like a broken record, but once again I was really drunk...but happy.

November 7, 2008

The ass and the Idiot

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Tonight I met up with a few old friends in Taipei, and tried out a relatively new place called L'Idiot. The restaurant is run by a friend (and ex-colleague), so there was a lot of anticipation on my part.

The new establishment occupies the former space of Tony Roma's, and I must say thngs are much improved. As you step through the doors, what hits you are two large, irregular structures which dominate the room. Because of the mosaic covering the structures, I am immediately reminded of both Barcelona's Park Güell (esp. the iguana) and the dining room at Ukai-tei in Tokyo. The room was airy and bright, and nice solid wood is used throughout the room.

Our owner/friend tells us that the name L'Idiot comes from the movie L.A. Stories, which is a movie that I remember well. In the movie, the French restauraunt was so snooty that they dictated what their customers can order by examining their financial status. I'm glad they won't be doing it here...

We decided to forgo the tasting menus, and ordered a number of dishes a la carte to share. This was definitely the way to do it with our group, since we had a bit of everything to go around and go to taste what the restaurant had to offer.

Homemade Ricotta - a hint of lemon, pretty light on the palate. Very nice with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and served on slices of baguette.

Fig salad - a simple salad with sweet figs and, surprisingly, bits of Chinese sausage.

Country pâté - nicely done with some herbs and served with thin slices of baguette.

Headcheese - this was something that jumped out at me, since so few restaurants serve it. It was very good, but what we got was only a tasting portion and the whole thing was probably not even enough for me...

Foie gras slices - almost like carpaccio. Once you put them on the baguette slices and it warmed up, the foie gras basically melted... Yummy when drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Wagyu carpaccio with molten organic egg - the thin, fatty slices of beef were delicious. The egg has been deep-fried with breading on the outside, but the yolk was still liquid and viscous - hence the "molten" description. Reminds me of Scotch eggs without sausage.

Tripe with tomato and chickpeas - I'm always a fan of tripe, and they've done it well here.

Uni and roasted bone marrow risotto - a recommendation from the owner so we ordered two portions. The interesting combination of uni and bone marrow made for a very rich and creamy risotto. The rice was reasonably al dente, although it still has some way to go to match Cipriani's level. Of course, I'm not sure that the Taiwanese palate would actually take what the Italians can offer...Many Asians would probably complain that the rice isn't fully cooked...

Gnocchi with pancetta and pumpkin sauce - I remarked to the owner that I've only seen big gnocchi chunks in Taipei. Apparently this is a conscious effort on their part to make them big. Anyway the dish was pretty good, with the sweetness of the pumpkin providing a good balance to the salty pancetta.

Duck breast with orange and mango - the classic dish with a slight twist by adding mango. Generous portion of using a whole breast, and quite nicely done.

Lamb chops - 4 pieces of this were served, all nice and juicy and tender. Pink enough to retain the juice and flavors. My only gripe is that it is too bland and doesn't taste like lamb... but I think most customers would like it.

Side dishes:
Grilled mushrooms - very nice with some pieces a bit dry and chewy on the edges. Intensely flavored.

Mac and cheese - I love mac and cheese and wanted to try out their version. This was done au gratin - with a nice, hard crust on top. It was certainly very cheesy and hit the spot. However, I disagree with the chef's choice of American cheese, and personally prefer cheddar for something slightly stronger and cheesier.

Passion fruit and vanilla soufflé - pretty nicely done and no complaints here.

Caramelized fruits with vanilla ice cream - this was OK but not really special in my view.

I didn't try the molten chocolate cake, since I've had this thing to death since 15 years ago and now refuse to eat it...

As for drinks, we started with a round of cocktails on the house. I brought a bottle of 1997 Cos d'Estournel, which was decanted for about an hour before serving. This was a classic Bordeaux, with a bit of smoke wrapped around the red fruit core of the nose. The wine was very silky smooth on the palate. A very enjoyable wine.

I have to say that this was a really enjoyable meal. Everything was very well made, and reflect the care that the owners and chef put into creating the best possible experience. This is not a highfalutin restaurant (like its namesake in L.A. Stories) but a place that serves us good, solid food and reasonable prices in a relaxed dining atmosphere.

November 4, 2008

Some good ol' fashioned Cantonese

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A couple of friends were in town and wanted to try out Island Tang, the new Cantonese restaurant affiliated with David Tang. For some reason I had the misconception that it was a fusion restaurant, but once I saw the menu, it was obvious that the fare was traditional Cantonese. The setting, however, is classic David Tang.

We sat down and ordered a few simple dishes. Started with deep-fried prawns in sweet and sour sauce (吉列蝦球). The breading was light and the prawns were tender and juicy. Pretty good stuff.

The stewed wagyu ox tail with wagyu sauce (沙爹和牛尾煲) was really good, with the meat falling off the bone, and the "satay" flavor wasn't too heavy. The sautéed green kale braised with minced preserved sausages (臘味崧扒芥蘭度) was pretty interesting. The thick outer layer of the veggie was removed to make it more tender. The sausage bits included both regular and liver sausages, with the flavor of the Chinese wine coming through.

The final dish, and the one that put me over the edge, was the deep-fried de-boned duck coated with taro crust (荔茸香酥鴨). I was joking that this is the Chinese version of duck confit, but the truth isn't far off. The duck was crispy on the outside, with just enough fat to make it really yummy. Of course the taro crust was heavenly. I am normally not a big fan of taro, but the fluffy, deep-fried exterior - combined with the soft interior - was definitely a winning combination.

We left with our bellies filled, and appetites satiated. I had pretty low expectations going in, and this was quite a pleasant surprise.

Ridiculous service at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

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A couple of friends of mine decided to catch up over lunch today, and we picked L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon as the venue. I have only had dinner here, and I looked forward to trying out their lunch menu.

I was given a choice to sit either at the counter or at a table inside, and I was told that I could have the set lunch at either location.  Of course I chose to sit at a table inside for the comfort factor.  I arrived on time and waited for my friends, who were busy with work and showed up much later.  When I finally got my hands on a menu - more than 30 minutes after I arrived, I realized that the set lunch menus were different in the two areas.  I had wanted the $390 set being served at the counters, while one had to order the $580 set dining at a table.

I was a little upset.  While I always knew that the a la carte menus were different, the person on the phone did not tell me about the different menus and pricing. I asked a waiter to change to counter seating so that we can have the $390 set. They informed us that they cannot fit a party of four, and asked us to wait. We called a manager to discuss the situation. The guy was totally unapologetic, and was willing to do nothing. My friends and I start to get really upset.  It was now 1:30pm, and we haven't been able to order the food, let alone start lunch.

While I know that for some reason, L'Atelier has this stupid rule about keeping the menus for the two areas separate, I felt that in this instance, the manager is clearly being ridiculously inflexible. In order for him to keep to his rule, he would rather have 4 paying customers sit around waiting for seats at the counter, even though they are already seated at a table and could be served immediately. What was really ridiculous was his insistance that the staff on the phone was absolutely correct - since one can have a set lunch both at the counter and at a table inside. Basically this is how he sees it: if I needed to know more - such as whether they are the same set lunch or different ones - well then, it's my fault for not asking a direct question. The staff is under no obligation to voluntarily disclose that information.

The manager walked away, still insisting that we wait for seats at the counter instead of serving us at the table. 1:40pm came and we were on the verge of walking out to get lunch somewhere else, when a waiter came to tell us that we can now sit at the counter. Team decided to stay for lunch since we were already there, but the damage was done.

There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of service, especially from an establishment purporting to be one of the best in the city. The food was excellent as one would expect. But why would I bother to return to a restaurant that gives me shitty service with that kind of attitude?! I did take pictures and did plan on describing the dishes and my experience, but at this moment, I have zero inclination to do so.

November 3, 2008

An evening with Matthew Jukes

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OK, OK...I know I stole the title from Quintessentially Wine, for whom Matthew works. But it works... Anyway, Matthew was in town again and organized a tasting at Crown Wine Cellars. After skipping all the previous events to which I was invited, I finally agreed to attend and support my friend.

I have used Crown Wine Cellars to store my wines for a few years now, but I have never had an opportunity to dine at the clubhouse. I thought the food was OK - not outstanding but of reasonable quality.

Pan fried sea scallop with wine ripened tomatoes, topped with a saffron dill dressing - the dressing was very fragrant and lovely, but unfortunately there was just the one scallop...

Pan fried Australian beef tenderloin glazed with Marsala and serve with Italian homestyle roasted potatoes - the beef was indeed tender, but somehow tasted different. I guess I still prefer the taste of US beef.

Cheese platter Tarte tatin aux pommes & vanilla ice cream - a wonderfully wafer-thin tarte tatin. It disappeared from my plate in no time.

Now the wines...there were 12 wines in all - 1 Champagne, 5 whites, 5 reds and a dessert wine. The line up was interesting as promised, and included quite a few eye-openers.

NV Ayala Brut Majeur 'Extra Age' - toasty, yeasty and a bit acidic on the palate. I would have liked to have tasted this a bit more, but needed to switch over to the whites... Should pit this special cuvée against some other NV Champagnes to see the difference.

2003 Ostertag Pinot Gris Zellberg - nose was initially muted as th wines were just too cold. Floral, bananas with a hint of wet chalk. A little rie on the palate with a sharp alcohol finish. As the wine warmed up and opened there were also mineral notes on the nose.

2006 Taille Aux Loups Montlouis Sec Rémus - lots of tropical fruits like coconut, banana and a little toasty - with a surprising dry finish given how hot the nose is. A nice Chenin Blanc.

2005 Jean-Claude Bessin Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume - huge and punchy nose, very steely, smoky and flinty...kinda not what I was expecting. On the palate, it was interesting that there was a start and a finish, but pretty much nothing in the middle!

2005 Lis Neris Fiore di Campo - a very funky wine, with a big, pungent nose of blue cheese and plastic. There is a lot of heavy, toasty oak here with a hint of sweetness and lemon. Not really what I was looking for in a white. Matthew suggested that there is some durian in the nose, but myself and a Singaporean guest beg to differ.

2004 Lusco do Miño Albariño Pazo Pineiro - lots of tropical fruit like tangerine, pineapple and a bit of green apple. A little bit tart on the finish, but a very enjoyable wine.

2004 Domaine des Saumades Châteauneuf-du-Pape - nose of ripe prunes, black cherries and very sweet. Stewed prunes and sweet dates emerged later. Tannins are firm here and I think this wine needs another few years of aging, which is quite surprising for something that is 100% Grenache.

2004 Cigliuti Barbera d'Alba Campass - an explosive nose of sweet fruits that kept on giving. Grippy on the palate with firm tannins. This was my second favorite red but needs a couple of more years in bottle.

2004 Jorge Moreira Poeira - made by the winemaker at Quinta de la Rosa (which I visited in 2006), the wine had tons of minerals, iron, chocolate and red fruits in the nose.

2004 Giaconda Shiraz Warner Vineyard - what a surprise! Here is an Aussie shiraz that, in a blind tasting, I would place as a Cote-Rotie any day of the week. Classic Cote-Rotie nose with only the faintest hint of the floral nose from the Viognier, with grilled meats, smoke and bit of that farmy nose. Very smooth and round tannins on the palate. Definitely my favorite wine of the evening.

2004 Frog's Leap Merlot - an interesting wine as I wouldn't have pegged it for a Californian Merlot. Sweet, red fruit nose with lots of smoke, almost Bordeaux-like. Only slightly sweet on palate which is deceptive.

2005 Larredya Jurançon Moelleux Cuvée "a Capcèu" - nose of mandarins, orange marmalade, ripe melon, acetone and honey.

Once again I was pretty toasted by the end, but happy to have discovered a few gems this evening!

November 2, 2008

H&H bagels in Hong Kong

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Brunch at the Press Room today. It's been a while since I was last there, so I was eager to see how things have changed since I was last there.

I was debating whether to order my usual - Croque Monsieur - when something caught my eye. They serve H and H bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese! I am a big fan of H and H Bagels from Manhattan's Upper West Side, and I was determined to finally have a decent bagel in Hong Kong!

Given that the weather was still a bit warm, I decided to start with the leek and potato Vichyssoise. When it arrived, I was surprised (and a little annoyed) to find out that this version was warm. While the chef had the nice touch of adding some black truffles, fact remains that Vichyssoise is meant to be cold. If it's hot then it should be called something else - a simple potato and leek soup, for example.

But I'm happy to say that redemption was achieved via the bagel. While it would have been nice to have a choice of bagels (instead of just plain), it was fantastic to finally be able to have a real bagel in Hong Kong. Almost all the bagels you find here are fake - they're actually bread, not bagels. Here you've got the real McCoy, flown in from New York. While my friend complained about not having enough smoked salmon, I thought there was a reasonable amount of it considering the price. It would have been more perfect to have the bagel served with lox and not smoked salmon (yes, there is a difference...), I suppose that smoked salmon is probably more common here.

No brunch at the Press Room would be complete without me bringing some alcohol, in this case the 2006 Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett "fish". It's easy to drink during the day - a touch of sweetness nicely balanced with the acidity, and some minerals in the nose. It was kept a tad too cold so the nose didn't show fully, but's a casual wine.


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