April 21, 2011

The colorful monk

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Tonight I had the pleasure of meeting Mounir Saouma of Lucien Le Moine again.  I first met the colorful Mounir last November when I visited him and his wife Rotem at their cellar in Beaune, during which I tasted through 37 wines from the 2009 vintage in one sitting.  They are clearly very passionate about their wines, so I jumped at the chance when he came into town to showcase his wines.

The other attraction about dinner tonight was the venue.  There has been a good amount of talk since Mirror first opened, and they seem to have been doing brisk business as reservations are hard to come by.  I have heard pretty mixed reviews about the place, so I was kinda curious and wanted to check it out for myself.

2006 Lucien Le Moine Bourgogne Blanc - very buttery, a little toasty, some corn, flint, a hint of plastic, a little smoke, and sweet grass.  Caramelized sugar on the nose at the end.  Decent balance for an obviously ripe vintage, with noticeable acidity.  A very pleasant drinking wine and surprisingly good for this level.

Egg plant caviar with sea eel and orange sauce - interesting to see the conger again, having just had some last night.  I initially thought that the combination of eggplant and orange would be strange, but quickly realized the rationale behind it.  The eggplant actually is slightly bitter, but the acidity of the orange sauce neutralizes it.  Not bad.

2006 Lucien Le Moine Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières - very heavy toast on the nose, almost pungent at first like a smelly armpit... lots of minerals. After a while the sweetness emerged, but subsequently the wine closed down and didn't give much at the very end. Ripeness was apparent on the palate. Actually worked well with the eggplant sauce to neutralize the slightly bitter flavor profile.

Slow cooked farm egg with tomatoes & provencale sauce black truffle served with toast - we were asked to mash up the "onsen egg" and mix it thoroughly with the sauce, then spread the mixture on toast.  The egg was pretty well done, and I liked the combination with the tomato and provençale sauce.  Unfortunately the slices of toast were soggy, and yielded to the weight of the topping.  Couldn't they have managed to keep them dry and crisp?!

2006 Lucien Le Moine Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets - lots of toasty corn in the big and powerful nose, with mineral notes. A bit sweeter on the palate than the Puligny.

Frog leg soup with watercress veloute - this is a signature dish and I've seen pictures from other people's reviews.  The dish is first served with only the frog legs sitting on a bed of watercress purée.

Then the waiter proceeds to pour the "frog leg velouté" into the bowl, which we then mix thoroughly with the watercress purée.  The velouté was very thick and smooth, with a very interesting mouth feel... almost like some kind of lubricant.  My fellow diner who has had this dish before mentioned that the chef doesn't actually use cream, but a kind of vegetable-based ingredient.  Interesting...

2007 Lucien Le Moine Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes - nose was still avery closed, with mint, potpourri, a little smoke and some fruit. A little sharp in terms of alcohol. Good concentration here, with obvious tannins well-balanced by the acidity.

French yellow farm chicken breast with mousseline black truffle and tomatoes confites - not too bad, but not terribly interesting either.  Some of the chicken pieces were reasonably juicy, but there were complaints from my fellow diners about their chicken being a little dry.

2007 Lucien Le Moine Chambertin Clos de Beze - mint, iron, blood, red fruits, a little smoke, a little of that animal smell along with minerals. Smoother on the palate, and not bad after a while. To be honest this wine just wasn't very accessible tonight, given the shortened aeration period.

2007 Lucien Le Moine Bonnes Mares - nose was more open than the Clos de Beze, and much more of the leather and meaty notes, along with forest, herbs, chocolate, toast and definitely some corn. A big and massive wine. Like the Clos de Beze, this wasn't very accesible and would benefit from more aging and/or more aeration before drinking.

French cheese selection

2006 Lucien Le Moine Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Clos des Ormes - lovely and open nose, with floral, violet notes along with leather, smoke, toast and sweet fruit... a little jammy like strawberry. This was much more accessible and my favorite red during dinner.

Petit fours - one look at these madeleines and it's obvious that the kitchen had failed on this.  Way too brown on the top, and in fact all of them had "burst".  The bottom wasn't browned in the least, leading us to speculate that silicone molds were used.  Well, I guess I've had worse madeleines in this town...

2008 Lucien Le Moine Clos Saint Denis - Wow! I had a pour of this wine from a bottle that had been opened and decanted some 12 hours earlier, and it just blew me away. Sooo silky and smooth... and the nose was amazingly floral, full of violets. In my slightly tipsy state, I kept wondering if I were drinking a Viognier-laced Côte-Rôtie... I wish there were more of this nectar in the bottle, but alas my glass contained the very last drops...

This was a pretty good evening.  I finally had a chance to try out Mirror, and given the price of dinner (ex-wine) I think the quality I got was reasonable.  It's not gonna rank anywhere near the top of my best restaurants in town, but it certainly isn't as poor value as some have indicated.  They are in that giant swathe of mid-priced restaurants, which is never very exciting in my book... but that's just my own peculiar dining philosophy.

I had a lot of fun talking to Mounir.  Incidentally, the Japanese leg of his Asian tour was cancelled at the suggestion of his local importer.  Perhaps they felt this was the wrong time for Japanese customers to engage in some conspicuous consumption and drink wine.  Mounir and I think the exact opposite - it's time for the Japanese to drink up, have some fun, and cheer up the nation!  Anyway, he has donated several methuselahs of his wines and the Japanese importer will auction them and donate the proceeds towards disaster relief.  I am sure they appreciated his kind gesture.  Here's to yet another supporter of Japan!

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