July 20, 2009

The showdown

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Tonight was my turn to host a dinner for the MNSC members. We had never chosen Pierre as a venue, so I thought it'd be an interesting change. Coincidentally the restaurant is operating with a substitute chef from Paris after the recent departure of Philippe Orrico, so it was a chance to see what new changes were taking place here.

The typhoon over the weekend had cleared up much of the pollution, and some of my guests had a spectacular view of Hong Kong harbor as well as the skyline of Kowloon and New Territories. I must remember to come to dinner more often!

Instead of serving the usual Champagne to start the evening, I picked a bottle of 2005 Didier Dagueneau Pur Sang and asked the guests to taste it blind. It was classic - nose of minerals, flint, muscat grapes and green apples. Later a hint of oak with a bit of creaminess. Definitely an acidic finish. As expected, many of our MNSC members were unfamiliar with pure Sauvignon Blanc.

The amuse bouches arrived and they were delicious, especially the parmesan foam sprinkled with bit of pancetta. That's a great way to start the meal.

Les Langoustines:

Mousseline: beurre blanc with cardamom, courgettes brunoise and bean sprouts - this was pretty nice with a layer of egg whites, and the diced courgettes provided the dish with some crunchy texture so that it wasn't all soft and mushy...

Grilled: salpicons, red shizo leaves and confit-grilled aubergine - a cute little skewer like yakitori, lightly grilled so that it was still fresh and succulent. The mound of eggplant mash was pretty good.

Pan-fried: terre de sienne served on pearl barley étuvée - this was quintessentially Gagnaire - with sauce made from the head of the shellfish and flavored with cumin. The langoustine tail was soft and juicy, and sat on a bed of slightly chewy barley. Very, very nice.

1983 Guigal Hermitage - I had no expectations for this wine so the surprise was on the upside, turning out to be fairly beautiful and rich. Lots of fruit here with the usual farmy plus a bit of violet/floral notes. A bit light-bodied.

1983 Chave Hermitage - this wine would always outperform the Guigal, and was much more concentrated and powerful. It was very floral and sweet, with tell-tale bacon fat notes.

The wines were paired with pan-fried foie gras: cherry, lin chi mushrooms and celery. Perfect execution here, and the sweetness and the acidity of the cherries cut through the grease just as well as the acidity of the wines. But the muchrooms aren't lin chi.

1989 Bahans-Haut-Brion - smoky, farmy and a bit medicinal, with farmy, smoked meats and lead pencil all surrounding a core of sweet fruit. This was clearly the crowd favorite tonight.

1989 Chapoutier Hermitage Le Pavillon - explosive sweet nose with orange, tangerine and even rubber notes, but the nose became more muted with time. Body was lighter than I expected and the tannins were silky soft. Once again a 100-point Le Pavillon failed to wow me, but it did better than I expected.

Polyphénol sauce seasoning a blue lobster fricassée poached in a noisette butter; potato tamy and dry black olives - this was completely not what I expected. We actually joked about this dish coming from the restaurant next door - Man Wah - as it just looked incredibly Cantonese! I definitely have had something that bore a striking resemblance to this at Fook Lam Moon a couple of times, also with diced red and green peppers... The sauce was made from the tannins of Syrah grapes, which matched the wines for the evening.

1999 Sine Qua Non the Marauder - this was exactly as I expected it... a huge, sharp and alcoholic nose with lots of iron and minerals. Explosively sweet with lots of orange and a hint of grilled meats. This wine needs a lot more cellaring time and it was just waaaay too early to open this. It's my kind of wine but not exactly appreciated by the crowd.

1999 Torbreck Run Rig - it was obvious that this was also a New World Syrah, but it was softer than the Californian. Nice sweet nose of orange and strawberries. This is also one of my favorite Aussie Shiraz.

L'agneau: saddle of lamb from Aveyron roasted with sarriette, finished in an aromatic butter. Green square of herbs, choi sum ravioli, cold juice - the lamb was very, very juicy and tender. The layer of herbs around the lamb - as well as the flat square on the plate - was interesting. The so-called 'choi sum ravioli' looked like a Chinese fun gor (粉果) and induced a few chuckles at the table.

Skewer with vadouvan, confit shallots - again this was served yakitori-style with a 'dip' on the side. Pretty good, but then lamb has always been good at Pierre.
The side dish was kinda fun... sautéed red capsicum and mushrooms, with a ball made of black glutinous rice.

The highlight of a meal at Pierre Gagnaire's restaurants is often the desserts. We had four this evening:

Coffee with cachaca and spicy milk jelly, sugar nibs. Butter cream coffee - it's great to smear the butter cream coffee on the jelly...very yummy.

Vacherin and hibiscus jelly, strawberry meringue - this was really, really yummy...especially the strawberry meringue on top. And I've always liked anything made from hibiscus.

Apple ice cream and green apple tuile. Blackcurrant sauce - the green apple tuile was really cool, and you really get the taste of green apples out of the wavy forms.

Dry fruit marmalade, chocolate ganache with nougatine. Fresh passion fruit sauce - probably my least favorite dessert of the night, and once again we having something in front of us that looked like a fun gor...

One of the things I looked forward to for this evening was the test of blind tasting abilities between two friends who are brother and sister. Both are serious wine lovers, and I've always wondered whether the sister - with a more diverse taste in wines - would fare better at one of our MNSC tastings. I was very impressed with the results. The sister turned in a great performance, nailing one of the wines completely including the vintage. But in the end it was the brother who prevailed, pinning down both wines in the last pair of reds. Once again we showed that blind tasting at MNSC is as much about knowing the host as knowing your wines.

I think overall it was a pretty good evening. The wines themselves were pretty interesting, and the cuisine was pretty creative and well-executed. I think we would see more MNSC dinners being hosted at this venue... And finally, kudos to Pierre the sommelier for working with the chef on such an interesting food and wine pairing.

1 comment:

Geoffrey Wu said...

Dear Peter,

On behalf of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, my name is Geoff, responsible for our Social Media & E-Commerce. We would like to thank you for your time to write up such wonderful review on Pierre.

We look forward to welcoming you back at Pierre very soon.

Yours Sincerely


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