September 11, 2011

MNSC at 10: 1961 horizontal

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The main reason why I'm back in Hong Kong this weekend was for tonight's dinner.  This was another long-awaited MNSC gathering, and it's been 2½ months since our last dinner.  Once again we are doing a kick-ass theme to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our little group, and tonight the theme was 1961 horizontal.

The venue was a little out of our list of usual suspects.  The Pawn has recently hired a new chef from London's Tom Aikens, a restaurant I remember fondly from my visit a few years ago.  The chef has created a tasting menu to work with our list of wines, and I was curious to see how different things would be from my memories of the Pawn from prior years.

Diver caught scallops, black pudding, crispy smoked bacon, cauliflower puree & pine nuts - I remember the food at Tom Aikens being relatively refined and dainty, but the size of these scallops was a little ridiculous...  Taste-wise they were OK, and the black pudding was a little mild.

Pan roasted Barbary duck breast, confit leg croquette, beetroot, honey & black olive puree & pickled carrot - honestly, the duck breast was simply too bland.  Where are the gamey flavors?  I want my duck to be succulent, not seemingly soaked in water and tasting diluted or under-seasoned.  The croquette was much better, and I liked the beetroot twist.

Thirty five day dry aged Scottish beef, braised shin, roasted fillet, & smoked marrow potato mousse & English garden vegetables - in comparison the beef was much, much better.  The smoked marrow potato mousse was really interesting, with intense smoky flavors.  Unfortunately it was also completely liquid, and leaked out of the bone and onto the rest of the plate.

We wanted roast suckling pig but the restaurant didn't have any tonight, so we ended up with slow roast shoulder of lamb, rosemary, garlic, for 3ish.  This was perfect!  Slow-roasted until the meat is tender enough to fall off the bone yield to the knife, this was full of the lamb flavors that I love so much... I would have traded a full portion of this for the rest of the other dishes!  Thank you, may I have another (three)...?

Rum braised pineapple, peanut crumble, Valrhona chocolate crème & yoghurt ice cream - I love pineapple, and this block of rum-infused fruit was very delish.  I also liked the chocolate crème, and it's been some time since I last enjoyed a chocolate dessert...

Now onto the wines for the evening...

When I arrived, a couple of the boys had started to sip a little white wine.  The weather was still kinda warm despite being mid-autumn, so I asked for a little pour.  2010 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes is made from Torrontes Riojano and displays really floral and tropical notes like lychee and peach.  Very lovely and easy to drink.

All the reds were opened and decanted between 15-30 minutes before dinner.  As it turns out, this was far, far too short a time for at least one of the wines this evening...

It is amazing to look at the colors in the glasses...considering that all of these wines are now 50 years old!  Just goes to show what a legendary vintage this was and the level of concentration...

1961 Rayas - the color was very, very light and it was easy to pick this wine out from the rest of the group.  Definitely oxidized, nose was very sweet with lots of caramel, sugar and ripeness.  A little bit of potpourri and cedar.  The second pour showed a little more concentration and more fruit.  A little disappointing.  91 points.

1961 L'Evangile - smoky, a little bit grassy and sweet.  92 points.

1961 L'Eglise-Clinet - big nose of cigar smoke, pencil lead, a hint of green peppers with plenty of grilled meats.  A beautiful wine and just about everyone's wine of the evening, much to our surprise, especially since this was the only wine that wasn't a château bottling.  97 points.

1961 Léoville-Las Cases - smoke, savory like soy sauce, pencil lead, lovely nose.  One would expect this to under-perform the others, but that wasn't the case for me.  94 points.

1961 Latour - nose was very muted.  A little grassy, a bit of fruit, and the nose showed a little sweetness after 2 hours.  The palate and the concentration was still there, but the nose was nowhere to be found...  I can pretty much say that this was everyone's biggest disappointment this evening, given the reputation of this wine and its current market price.  90 points.  Pineapple thinks he's tasted this wine 7-8 times this year, and none of the bottles actually showed well - they were all closed and tight.

1961 Mouton-Rothschild - ripe fruit, a bit of smoke, meaty, a little coconut butter, and in the end some soy sauce.  Very smooth on the palate.  Performed much better than the Latour.  94 points.

I am really, really privileged to have been able to share and taste this group of wines with the boys.  These are legendary wines that I don't expect to be able to taste very often, and it's too bad that most of these weren't given an opportunity to reach their potential tonight.  But I guess when one spends enough time drinking wine, these occurrences will come up from time to time... C'est la vie!

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