June 10, 2011

Surf and Turf

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Another drunken birthday dinner, this time with the Specialist and friends.  There had been some debate about the dinner venue, prompting some of us to try out places like the new Brainless Restaurant.  In the end, though, we defaulted back to 8½ Otto e Mezzo... due in no small part to its generous policy on corkage.

The Specialist started early at the bar, and I joined her and a few others about an hour before dinner.  Given my limited capacity for alcohol, I was careful not to over-indulge too quickly.  I nibbled on some air-dried beef to pad my stomach lining...

The amuse bouche was a small serving of marinated salmon and green apple cubes.

Thankfully the menu wasn't pre-set tonight, so I was able to get my two favorite dishes here.  I never seem to get tired of them...

Artisanal chitarra with "datterino" tomato and red king prawns - I chose to take a full portion of this, although this didn't get me an extra prawn...  Very simple and pure.  Yummy.  The sweet basil really picks up the flavors.

Colorado rack of lamb, artichoke purée, black olive and lamb jus - the Specialist kinda rolled her eyes as she knew exactly what I was going to order.  Well... I don't get to have this a lot, and I'm not likely to have many opportunities to enjoy this in the near future... Very delish.  Still got just enough fat to impart that flavor, and done medium rare just as I requested.  I think some people were a little shocked at the sight of me picking up the bones with my hands and just stripping them clean with my teeth...  Guess they don't know me well enough!

I was pretty full and couldn't handle dessert... or so I thought.  One of my problems is that I get peckish when I'm drunk... and just have to munch on something.  There was still half a pear tart left on the Specialist's plate, and as it was gonna go to waste anyway... I decided to put it to good use.  Mmm mmm good.

This was an evening with lots of free-flowing wine, and I was definitely over my quota...

Jacques Selosse V.O. (disgorged May 3, 2010) - sweet, caramelized and oxidized, yeasty with minerals.  Later on savory like salty plum (話梅).  I love Anselme Selosse's wines, and this blanc de blancs blend of three vintages is another interesting example.

2003 Vogüé Bourgogne Blanc - nose of straw and sweet like marshmallow.  Very interesting.

1990 Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill - slightly oxidized nose with minerals.  Crisp and acidic on the palate.

1983 Haut-Brion Blanc - strange nose of plastic, burnt rubber... a little funky and stinky, with minerals and pipi de chat.  Pretty disappointing.

1985 Hospices de Beaune Mazis-Chambertin Cuvée Madeleine-Collignon par Bouchard - about an hour after opening (but not decanted at the Specialist's orders): nose of leather, floral, black olives, a little mint.  Smooth and very feminine.  After 2 hours the wine became more full-bodied.

2003 Faiveley Mazis-Chambertin - very pronounced animal notes, with cherry, forest, dried herbs and strawberries.  Very fragrant.

1985 Léoville-Las Cases - grass, smoke, lead pencil, mint and a little soy sauce.  Very classic claret that is drinking beautifully.

2002 Cheval Blanc - sweet and minty, but in generally the nose was pretty closed despite having been decanted.  A little smoke and some ripe fruits.  Still kinda tannic on the palate.

2004 Le Gay - smoke, ripe fruit, coffee, dried herbs and alcoholic.  The nose was open and nice, but the wine was still very tannic.

1900 D'Oliveiras Moscatel, leftovers - I had half a bottle leftover from a dinner last month, so I decided to bring it out to give others a taste.  Prominent nose of salty plum (話梅) that has been soaked in Chinese Huadiao (花雕) wine, with nutty and grapey notes.  Definitely a little more oxidized compared to last time...

Tonight I was once again a little tempted to kill my waiters, as they completely failed at wine service and rubbed up against my biggest pet peeves when it comes to wine:

First: why do waiters insist on making sure everyone has a big pour in their glass, so that the bottle is emptied pretty much after one round?  We brought our own wines, so it's not like the restaurant would sell more bottles if we drank quickly.  Good wines need time to breathe, and we always want to see how it evolves over the course of an hour or more.  How are we able to do that when we only get one pour?!  And why does the waiter keep pouring the same big pour, even after I told him off?!

Second: 99% of restaurants in Asia still insist on serving wines at the wrong temperature.  The old European rule of "room temperature" refers to the room temperature in Northern Europe, NOT Asia.  25ºC is waaay too warm for a red wine, especially for wines like Pinot Noir.  Very few so-called sommeliers in town get the temperature issues right, but I met a smart kid last year who impressed me.

At the other end of the spectrum, restaurants insist on dunking a bottle of white or bubbly in an ice bucket and keeping it there for the next hour.  The result?  Wines that are so cold that the nose just doesn't open up.  Most of the time you'll find me cupping my glass with my hands, trying to warm up an ice-cold white.  This ain't beer, guys!  The back label of Selosse's V.O. suggests that the wine be served at a temperature of 12ºC, and I completely agree!  All of the Champagnes and whites tonight were too cold, and the Haut-Brion Blanc took something like half an hour just to warm up to the right temperature.  What a waste of good wine!

Danilo wasn't in the house tonight, and perhaps that has something to do with the service.  We had pretty decent wine service at my last wine-heavy dinner here.  The inconsistency has got to be due to the lack of training.  I may love the food here, but the wine service tonight left me with a very bad taste in my mouth.

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