January 24, 2009

Closing down a restaurant

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Over the years I have found that one thing that my friends and I are good at is closing down a restaurant at the end of the evening. How many times have we overstayed our welcome, with the restaurant staff waiting for us to clear out so that they can go home? Tonight was no exception. We were having such a good time at Chefshow Time (阿正廚坊) that the boss and the staff were literally on their way out the door as we left...

I brought along a few bottles of wine, and we ended up drinking a bottle of white and a bottle of red. We started with the 2001 Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Boudriotte, which I bought just before dinner. I've always liked the 2001 whites from Ramonet, and this proved to be a beautiful wine. Wonderful nose of honey, straw, sweet grass, orange blossom, honeydew, oxidized pear and lemon. Very slightly acidic on the finish.

We also drank a bottle of 1997 Beringer Merlot Howell Mountain. I bought a ton of this wine a few years ago when it was offered on sale, and it is still drinking nicely. Nose initially showed mint and eucalyptus on top of red fruits, then it was a bit medicinal and showed sweet vanilla. Since this wasn't decanted, it actually took a bit of time for the nose to open up. This wine is still going strong and I will have a few more years to enjoy and run down my inventory.

We asked the restaurant to put together a selection of dishes for us, rather than having us order each dish. The menu was as follows:

Trio of starters
grilled cherry tomato wrapped in bacon (烤培根蕃茄)
- OK but nothing special
grilled scallop with garlic mayo (烤鮮貝佐蒜味蛋黃醬) - the scallop was a little dry for my taste
anglerfish liver with orange ponzu (鮟鱇魚肝佐橙酢) - fairly typical presentation of the liver

Parma ham salad (帕瑪沙拉) - nice and refreshing course

Wild mushrooms sautéed with aged balsamic vinegar (野菇拌炒陳年酢) - pretty nicely done as the balsamic vinegar makes it a little more interesting than the run-of-the-mill sautéed shrooms. The plates were clean in no time.

Grilled veal rib-eye (烤小牛肋眼排) - the veal was tender, juicy and pink. The accompanying pumpkin and okra were interesting. But as I don't like my meat with mustard, I thought the veal jus was a little bland.

Gratinated spicy red king crab (焗烤辣味鱈場蟹) - this is actually pretty interesting, since it's a twist on the typical grilled taraba crab legs. The chef has spread spicy miso sauce on top before grilling, so it's a bit sweet and spicy.

Chicken hot pot (燒酒雞鍋) - this is a variation of the Taiwanese sesame oil chicken (麻油雞). The chicken was pretty nice and there was plenty of veggies, plus some vermicelli (麵線). The soup was pretty nice and light, unlike the traditional soup which is heavy on the sesame oil and rice wine. Pretty good stuff.

Grilled rock fish (鹽烤紅喉魚) - I must admit that it's a little bit eerie to have this fish sitting in front of you, with a big white eye staring at you while one pectoral fin sticks straight up into the air... It seems that every table got one so we decided to get one, too. It was OK but I didn't think this was anything special, other than being glad that I'm having a new type of fish.

We also shared one small bowl of Taiwanese-style braised pork rice (魯肉飯), with each of us having a spoonful. I thought it was only so-so, but it's no big deal.

The best part of the dinner was actually the desserts. We had four of them because the fifth - a chocolate concoction - had just been made and was not ready tonight.

Steamed taro mash with longan (龍眼芋泥) - for a guy who normally doesn't care for taro, this was actually really nicely done. The taro was just sweet enough and the candied longan inside added an interesting element to the dessert.

Strawberry mousse (草莓慕斯) - made with fresh strawberries that are in season, this was very, very delicious. The local strawberries have so much flavor. This was hands down the best dessert tonight and a good way to finish the meal on a high note.

I passed on the tiramisu tonight, and had the almond parfait instead. This was OK and looked more interesting than it tasted.

We were certainly very happy at the end of the meal. Overall I think the quality of the food was pretty good, and the service was very friendly since the staff knew a couple of people in the group. But there was something missing here tonight...creativity. I always thought that this place was supposed to have creative cuisine, but I didn't see much of it tonight. Perhaps I should have specified that I wanted something out of the ordinary... Next time.

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