November 9, 2009

Whipping up a new venue in town

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Just a few hours after getting off the plane from Shanghai, I'm headed to an MNSC gathering at Whisk, the new restaurant at the Mira whose menu is put together by Justin Quek.  It certainly has been the talk of the town lately - along with Cafe Gray.  I was really looking forward to the dinner, especially since our host promised us an unforgettable tasting.

We were in the private room with a one-way mirror looking into the kitchen.  The decor of the room itself was fairly understated, although the view opposite the kitchen overlooked the Chinese restaurant downstairs, and we got the full view of the really, really bling set of lights...

Tonight's menu - put together by Justin although he left Hong Kong last week so wasn't in the kitchen himself:

Tartar of marinated oysters and Nordic salmon with dried seaweed - this was interesting, as  I'm expecting salmon tartar in my mind but then come upon the taste of something stronger at the same time.  Do I like it better than plain old salmon tartar?  Still thinking about this one...

Carpaccio of wagyu beef with truffle salt and aged Parmesan - now THIS was a really nice dish!  The fragrance of white truffles filled my mouth, and the saltiness of the aged Parmesan also enhanced the overall experience.  The beef was, of course, very tender and practically melted in my mouth.

Roasted scallop in Shao Xing wine with ceps mushrooms - this was probably the only dish where I thought the execution was a little weak. I thought the scallops were a little overdone.  Flavor-wise I guess there may have been a bit of the Shaoxing wine (紹興酒) although it wasn't very apparent to me.  The ceps were very nice, though.

Rice roll of duck confit with Chinese sausages, foie gras and fresh white truffle shaving - wow! Here was a fusion dish that worked very well.  Being a big fan of duck confit, I was naturally drawn to this dish.  The white truffle shavings, of course, dominated and left me wanting me.  I honestly wanted to ask for seconds...

Roasted crackling suckling pig with mesclun salad, spiced red wine - Justin always knew how to roast the piggies, and this was another yummy example. The delicious crackling - which stuck to my teeth a bit - kept the meat moist and tender.  The red wine reduction kept the dish from being boring.  The mesclun came with some truffle oil.

Grilled home-smoked M4 bone rib eye with autumn vegetables - I'm typically not a big fan of beef at these types of restaurants, so I had low expectations for this dish.  The execution was very good and the meat stayed red and tender as I had asked for. The creamy mash was especially nice.

AOC cheeses from Philippe Olivier - this was a bit of a let down, as we only had Emmental and Cantal.  The apricot jam in the middle, however, was absolutely was the bread.

Duo of chef's dessert - vanilla custard topped with mango sauce, and a flourless soft-centered chocolate cake.  I normally detest soft-centered chocolate cakes as being a dessert that has been done to death, but I was very impressed with this particular version.  It was light, airy and not at all heavy like the usual suspects.  The vanilla custard was pretty yum, too.

Our host did deliver a fabulous tasting as he promised.  There were a total of eight wines (not including Champagne) served in three flights, and all were pretty fantastic.

1996 Salon - served pre-dinner and accompanied the first course.  Toasty, yeasty nose and fairly acidic on the palate.  Needs time.

1973 Petrus - classic claret nose, a bit musty at first with grilled meats and a sweet fruit core.  A hint of marmalade and a little smoky and spicy on the nose.  Closed down for a little, then showed green peppers and vegetal notes.  Pretty sweet on the palate.  91 points.

1973 DRC Echezeaux - Wow! Amazingly sweet, fruity nose.  Obviously a Burg, with some bacon and floral notes.  Finish was a bit short which led me to lower the score a little.  94 points.

1973 Beaucastel - nose was very fruity but initially overwhelmed by a burnt charcoal / rubber smell... Very farmy with bacon fat.  Nose was very sweet and absolutely beautiful when the burnt rubber smell disappeared.  Wine was very cloudy as it was not decanted.  Died a horrible death in glass after the second pour...what happened?  Only nose of black olive tapenade remained.  93 points.

1982 Jaboulet La Chapelle - Wow! The nose was very sweet with obvious floral / rose characters.  Also showed grilled meats and orange notes.  An amazing wine!  97 points.  With the floral notes I thought it was a Côte-Rôtie with Guigal's La Mouline.  Who would have thought it was an Hermitage?  Most definitely my wine of the evening.

1982 Grange - nose was amazingly sweet and jammy, and a bit metallic at the same time.  Also notes of caramel, cotton candy, vanilla and coffee.  A classic Grange.  95 points.

1982 Vogüé Musigny VV - the weakest wine of the flight.  Nose was pretty sweet, fruit and floral but the body was light.  89 points.

1990 La Conseillante - initially smelled of stinky cheese, toasted black sesame and smoke.  I didn't like it quite as much as the others.  93 points.

1990 Henri Bonneau Marie Beurrier - nose of smoke, farmy, arm pit, a bit stinky...hint of wet chalk, cumin.  Then sweetness emerged with orange and raspberry.  A very good wine.  95 points.

Once again an MNSC turned out to be a real revelation - that wines from a weak vintage like 1973 - the birth vintage of our host - could actually blow us away if kept in very good condition.  And of course I was glad to have finally tried Whisk, and happy to see the high quality of the food and service.  I look forward to crossing the harbor for future meals...

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