May 30, 2011

Blowin' smoke

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The Specialist took a day off today and was in my neighborhood, feeling a little bored.  I agreed to join her for "one drink" at Tastings, not realizing that it would turn into a much longer evening...

I don't really go to wine bars - nor do I normally buy wine off a restaurant's wine list - as the margins are high and I've got plenty of inventory that needs to be drunk.  On the few occasions when I have met friends at Tastings, I went for the "tasting portion" as I just wanted to get a feel for the wines. 

As with my choice of restaurants, I would try something new but not stray too far into the unknown, for fear of "stepping on landmines".  Most wine bars carry young wines which I find undrinkable, so those are automatically scratched off the list.  I also don't see any point in going for the expensive, premium wines, as most of those are either in my collection or I'll find opportunities to drink fresh bottles with friends.  So most of the time I'm picking wines from the cheaper end... and staying more with whites than reds, because young whites are easier to drink than young reds.

2008 Pierre Bise Lune d'Anjou - a 4,000-bottle limited cuvée made for Caudalie Wines of Hong Kong.  Nose was very tropical, fruity and sweet, like peaches and apricot... also floral.  Surprisingly it is dry on the palate, despite the nose fooling one into thinking that it's a sweet wine.

2009 Bava Gavi Cor de Chasse - really sweet nose, with banana, bubble gum and a little flint.

2004 The Foundry Syrah - nose was savory and a little pruny.

2006 Teliani Valley Mukuzani - I was so surprised to see this bottle, and immediately got myself a pour.  I had a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon from this winery while in Almaty back in 2008, and thought it was pretty decent.  This particular wine is made from 100% Saperavi, native to Georgia.  Nose of Asian spices, oak, vanilla and a little smoked meats.  Sweet and ripe on the palate. 

2000 Musar Red - medicinal nose with spices.

It was dinner time and the Specialist wanted to try out Gold for the first time.  I would never say no to Harlan's food, so I called and got us a table on the balcony.

We arrived and were told that we could have a table inside.  As it was a pretty nice evening out with a cool breeze, we decided to stick to dining outside.  After all, alfresco dining is a luxury in Hong Kong! 

I had picked up a very nice bottle of white wine from the office, had it decanted, and waited for it to open up.  Somewhere along the line, I started smelling pan-fried fish while sitting comfortably on the sofa.  I was trying to figure out if it was seabass or some other fish.  Pretty soon there were strong, big puffs of smoke coming my way... the kitchen was grilling steak, and big pieces, too!  Not something I want to be smelling while enjoying my bottle of white...

Unfortunately, it was a little late for us to move inside as the available table had been sold to another customer.  Harlan promised to move us to a table inside as soon as it became available.  Meanwhile, we stuck it out while Harlan turned on the fan... only to be joined by a group hanging out behind me and smoking cigarettes.  I guess that's the last time I'll do alfresco in Hong Kong...

5J jamón ibérico with burrata and heirloom tomatoes - always been one of my favorites here, and I was drooling last Friday while my colleagues took this - without the jamón - as a starter.  This was a wonderful symphony of flavors - savory, a little fatty from the jamón; creamy with the lightest touch of salt to bring out a little sweetness from the burrata; and of course the sweetness from the ripe tomatoes, along with a certain level of acidity to add a refreshing element to it all.  Perfect for warm weather.

Thankfully, we were able to move inside the dining room after the last dish.  The restaurant was absolutely buzzing tonight, and while I was very relaxed just trying to enjoy the wines, it did take quite a while for the next dish to show up.

Carabinero pici in sakura shrimp sauce with bottarga and fava beans - OK, so I'm a creature of habit... if I like something, I don't mind having it repeatedly.  And yes, I just had the same dish 4 days ago, but I loooove carabineros!  Tonight the pasta came out piping hot, and the Specialist was admiring the steam rising up from my bowl.  Unfortunately, the prawns were a tad overcooked tonight for my taste...and the tails were starting to get a little charred.  The sauce seemed to be not as thick as the one from Friday, but funnily enough... as I finished the dish I found the inside of my mouth completely dry and coated with a layer that felt like collagen...  Interesting sensation - one that I had to neutralize with sips of wine and gulps of water.  Perhaps the execution suffered as the restaurant got too busy.  Overall, though, I was still happy with what I got.

I was satisfied and decided I didn't need the calories from dessert, so we finished drinking the wines instead.

1990 Haut-Brion Blanc - I gave the Specialist carte blanche and told her she could pick any bottle of white from my stash in the office.  Didn't take a genius to guess which bottle she was going to pick...  Nose was very sweet, like cotton candy, ripe orange rind and flint.  Later on notes of plastic and honey emerged, and the Specialist insisted that it was white flowers (and not just any floral notes) that came out as the wine opened up.  It took at least 2 hours in the decanter for this to really open up.  In the end it wasn't as big and explosive as the Specialist had hoped for, but I thought it was a very lovely and elegant wine... perfect to go with food.

2006 Paolo Scavino Barbera d'Alba - grass, forest, sweet, minty, ripe and a little jammy.  Later on a little green pepper and slightly vegetal.  A pretty easy-drinking wine.  Bought this off the restaurant's list so we could get the corkage waived.

As I left the restaurant after my satisfying meal, I chatted with Harlan about the new Italian joint in town.  While I think the quality was good for the price, I told Harlan how some of my friends and I felt - that we'd happily pay double or more of what we paid at the other place and get something with a little magic instead!


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

can you tell me whether the Taiwanese "wuyuzi" tastes similar to bottarga?

I am having difficulty finding stockist for Bottarga di Muggine in HK and wondering if the Taiwanese kind (which I've never tasted) makes an adequate substitute. Afterall they are the same thing right?

Thanks in advance. Great blog by the way. Keep it up and happy eating :)


Peech said...

While I've never compared the two side-by-side, I'm pretty sure the tastes are very similar and most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Good luck in sourcing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Peech.


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