January 25, 2010

'90 Châteauneuf-du-Pape horizontal

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We had our annual dinner for MNSC tonight.  This is usually the night when we pull out all the stops, and that was definitely the case tonight.

After some deliberation, Cuisine Cuisine (國金軒) was chosen to be the venue tonight.  We came here two years ago for a previous round of annual dinner, and the menu tonight would look very familiar.  This is because once again we requested the presence of Chef Lee Yuk-lam, who kindly cooked his specialties for us in his separate kitchen at the restaurant.

We started with a bottle of NV Jacquart Cuvée Katarina, a blend of all three grape varietals dominated by Pinot Noir.  Lots of smooth, tiny bubbles in the mousse, and the nose was a little yeasty.

Stir-fried fresh lobster (油泡龍蝦球) - actually I wasn't very happy with this, as the lobster was a little overdone.  The chunks were just too big.

Stir-fried shark's fin with bean sprouts and egg (桂花炒魚翅) - now this was the shit... I don't normally eat shark's fin, and would usually offer my portion to someone else, but not tonight.  Not for this awesome dish.  The thick strands of fin was fried with bean sprouts, yellowed chives (韭黃), crab meat and egg.  Fragrant and absolutely delicious.  Wanna see me inhale a dish?  Just send me some of this...

Traditional braised assorted snake soup (正宗太史五蛇羹) - I've gotten used to having snake soup since our dinner here 2 years ago, so this was thoroughly enjoyable.  I definitely felt the heat emanating from my body after finishing the soup...

Stewed whole "Yoshihama" abalone with goose web in premium oyster sauce (二十五頭原隻皇冠吉品鮑魚炆鵝掌) - very delicious and soft abalone, in a really yummy sauce.  The goose web was also very, very good.

Braised Back Fin of Giant Grouper (生炆龍躉翅) - aaaaahhhh... giant grouper again.  The dish looks really impressive when served, with the collection of back fins arranged together.  Loved this dish, as the fin was deep-fried then braised, and retains that delicious flavor that can only come from frying... Flavors were enhanced some very thin strips of ham.

Deep-fried crispy chicken with garlic (蒜香脆皮雞) - skin was crispy and perfect, and a little bit of garlic never hurt anybody... The meat can be a little salty sometimes, but that's OK.

Stir-fried glutinous rice with assorted preserved meat (生炒糯米飯) - this has got to be the best stir-fried glutinous rice I've had in a long time, beating out even my regular favorite at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).  The tiny bits of liver sausage (潤腸) were so full of flavor they dominated, but that's OK by me!  Can I take 3 orders to go, please?

We finished with sweetened red bean soup with dumplings (紅豆沙湯丸), with the usual black sesame filling inside the glutinous rice balls.  A perfect way to cap a pretty perfect meal.

In typical fashion, the budget for wine far outstripped that for food, and was especially true tonight where it was in the multiples.  We wanted to put together a truly awesome lineup of wines, chose 1990 Châteauneuf-du-Pape as the theme and tasted the full range of reds from two of the appellation's top producers.

1990 Château de Fonsalette - while not exactly a CdP (this is actually Côtes-du-Rhône), this comes from the stable of Jacques Reynaud of Château Rayas.  Nose was pretty alcoholic and sharp, smoky, a little bit of wet chalk, good amount of sweet fruit, game meat, leather and a hint of caramel.  The color was a little amber at the rim, and the wine was soft and smooth on the palate.  

1990 Château de Fonsalette Cuvée Syrah - an interesting cuvée made from 100% Syrah whose cuttings originally came from Gérard Chave.  What an awesome wine!  Rich and powerful, with notes of leather, bacon and game meats.  The alcohol emerged sometime later.  Sweet and soft on the palate.  Delicious.

1990 Château Pignan - another wine from the cellars of Château Rayas, this second wine was a little disappointing tonight.  Nose was very green, even a little moldy, with sweet grass and plenty of alcohol.

1990 Henri Bonneau Cuvée Marie Beurrier - the first of the trio from Bonneau, the nose had a hint of green, with sweeter fruit and somehow that familiar plastic, polyurethane nose I generally find in Rieslings...along with a little marmalade.  Very long finish.

1990 Henri Bonneau Cuvée Spéciale - one whiff of this wine and there was never any doubt about the identity of this wine.  The hugely alcoholic nose (16.5%)... so much so that it practically singed the hair inside my nose!  Nose of coffee and loads of sweet fruit, with some caramel, oxidation and almost port-like.  A full-bodied wine with a very long finish.  Honestly it's a little too heavy for all of us, but interesting for academic reasons.  My comment on this wine is similar to what I called the 2003 Clos Mimi Etiquette Rose (with its 19% alcohol) - it's a monster (怪獸).

1990 Henri Bonneau Cuvée Célestins - probably my favorite wine of the evening, and rightly so! Very sweet and smoky, with game meat, bacon, mint, eucalyptus and a little alcohol in the nose.  A very open and opulent wine.  Bravo!  One of my friends made the analogy to a beautiful, sophisticated woman he would spend time and effort to seduce.

1990 Château Rayas - in contrast to the Célestins, this was a woman whose raw sexuality makes you just want to grab her and go at it immediately...or so says my friend.  Sweet nose that was a little funky - but that's Rayas, isn't it?  A little smoky with that familiar tropical fruit and lychee nose.  Beautiful in its own right but somehow overshadowed by the Célestins tonight.  Were she a real woman, she'd be hissing with jealousy.

Wow!  A totally awesome dinner, both in terms of food and wine.  As we get another year older, I can only hope that we continue to have the capacity to enjoy evenings like this.  Let's see what the coming year brings us.

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