December 23, 2008

Half a century away

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Tonight was the last MNSC dinner of the year, which is also the "birthday tasting" of our host. Over the last few years he has consistently brought out wines which were really, really old...and I guess we never learned our lesson about what always tends to happen at his December tastings... The venue was the China Club, which actually does a very good job with the food provided that you arrange a special menu with the chef.

Here's a run down of what we had:
Crispy deep-fried tofu skin (香煎腐皮卷) - something "light" to whet the appetite. I didn't dare pour on the sweet-n-sour sauce for fear of ruining my palate.

Stir-fried tripe in XO sauce (XO醬油泡爽肚片) - any worries about ruining my palate was put to bed with this dish...the spicy XO sauce - lots of chilli here - completely numbed my taste buds for a while. Otherwise this was pretty nice.

Conch baked with goose liver (鮮鵝肝焗格蘭嚮螺) - a really delicious dish done like a crab cake, except the mixture of the liver and the shellfish together works really well. Yum yum!

Fish broth stewed with preserved orange rind and jujube (陳皮紅棗燉生魚湯) - very nice clear broth, like a consommé, with the distinct fragrance of the orange rind.

Steamed fish (清蒸海上鮮) - this happens to be a very, very good steamed green wrasse (青衣) - a delicacy in Cantonese cuisine that is classified as "near threatened" according to Wiki. I don't have this fish very often, but it really was delicious tonight.

Fatty char siu (肥叉燒) - what can we say? We loooove good fatty char siu. This is better than what we had at Fook Lam Moon last week.

Roast duck (掛爐琵琶鴨) - skin is nice and crispy, and the meat is pretty decent, too. A rare occasion when I decided to cut out most of the fat...

Braised beef short ribs (紅燒牛肋骨) - very tender and cooked with many Chinese spices.

Chinese lettuce with fermented tofu sauce (腐乳椒絲唐生菜) - the fermented tofu actually isn't too strong, and is tempered by the slices of chilli peppers.

Homestyle stir-fried rice vermicelli (家鄉炒米粉) - this was absolutely fabulous. You can taste the flavor from the chef having fried this in a wok with high heat, what the Cantonese call wok hei (鍋氣).

We loved it so much that we ordered the stir-fried thin noodles with shredded chicken in soy sauce (豉油皇雞絲炒麵) as an encore. Do I ever walk out of any of these meals without being completely stuffed?

Our generous host decided to serve us some really old wines tonight - some almost a century old. We should have known by the fact that the wines were opened immediately prior to serving, without being decanted. As it turns out, most of our guesses in the blind tasting were off by half a century. This isn't surprising, given most of us have little or no experiences with wines dating from pre-WWII era...

1993 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill - wonderful stuff with nose of caramel and crème brûlée.

1918 Gruaud Larose, chateau bottling - very sweet nose with notes of vanilla, oak, a little smoked meats, and surprisingly strawberry. The last element was the reason we thought it was a Burgundy... Very smooth on the palate. 93 points.

1918 Gruaud Larose, chateau bottling, ex-Nicolas cellar - nose was very farmy with lots of bacon, opulent smoked meats, and even stinky tofu (臭豆腐)! Fairly acidic on the palate. 89 points.

1918 Cheval Blanc, chateau bottling - nose of mint, sweet red fruits, honeydew melon, smoke, with a bit of medicinal brett. 89 points.

1918 Cheval Blanc, Calvet bottling - pretty sweet nose with the finish being a little tart in the beginning, but improved with a bit of time. 92 points.

1928 Cos d'Estournel - nose was a bit medicinal with some fruit. Finish was a little acidic. 88 points.

1928 Léoville-Las Cases - medicinal and brett, farmy, peppery, grilled meat with sweet fruit. Acidic finish. 92 points.

1978 Charles Noëllat Richebourg - explosively sweet nose with lychee, grilled meats (tea-smoked duck), farmy yet caramel nose. Acidic finish. Fantastic wine. 94 points.

1978 DRC Richebourg - even better than the Noëllat. Really sweet nose with tons of lychee, black cherries, preserved plums and mint. 97 points and wine of the evening by a large margin.

I am ever thankful for the generosity of our host, for the chance to drink these gems which will not exist in the cellars of mere mortals like myself. May I suggest that we do this on a more regular basis, so that we get more exposure to really old wines. How about a '21 Yquem next time?

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