March 19, 2012

(Sugar and spice, and) Everything nice

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An old friend's in town on business.  I haven't seen him in a while, so I was really happy to have a chance to meet up with him.  He suggested that we go to Tutto Bello, one of his favorite places in Taipei.  I can't remember how long ago my last visit was, but that visit many moons ago - under a very different chef now famous around town - did not produce a return visit for me… until now.

I arrived to find that, to my surprise, the dinner party had doubled in size.  My friend had rounded up a few of his good friends who share his passion for wine, and there was already a spread of bottles on the serving table…  This is a group of regulars at the restaurant, so the menu has been arranged by the kitchen.

Seared Hokkaido scallop with white asparagus - FAIL.  The giant scallop was tasty in terms of flavor, but seriously overcooked… to the point of almost being crunchy.  The white asparagus was not bad.  The thin slivers of mullet roe on top of the scallops were decent.  The sauce was made with ham, mustard and truffle, and I could definitely taste the acidity and slight kick of yellow or Dijon mustard.  I soaked up the sauce with some of my bread…

Champagne crab claws - these delicious claws from the champagne crab (松葉蟹) were cooked in yuzu-flavored butter from Bordier.  I've had some experience with cooking seafood in the same butter, and I do love it so.  I devoured these in no time.

Also on the plate was some angel hair pasta cooked in squid stock, olive oil and chili.  Not too bad…

Truffled French fries - a really nice way to enjoy some fries.  I could just eat this all night.

Challans duck - I originally ordered lamb chops, but when I heard that the duck was Challans, I quickly changed my mind.  This was a lot thicker than I had imagined, and I'm glad I ordered medium-rare.  Pretty nicely done, since the skin was brown and crispy, while the meat was still very pink.  We were told it was a "Thai" sauce, and it tasted of peanuts.

Chocolate dessert - this is one of those "surprise" concoctions where hot chocolate sauce is poured over a chocolate sphere, melting the outer shell and revealing the contents within.  Pretty typical mix of ice cream, chocolate and berries.

We had a pretty impressive line-up of 6 wines, even split between reds and whites:

2004 Domaine de la Bongran Viré-Clessé Cuvée E.J. Thévenet - lots of toast, sweet, toasty corn, a hint of citrus.  Very lovely nose.  Pretty ripe on the palate, with some acidity.  A wine that punches above its weight.

2004 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon - much bigger nose of toast, sweet and ripe on the nose.  Later on a little acidity showed up on the palate.  Clearly a few classes above the last wine.

2007 Arietta On the White Keys - I detected pipi de chat in the first whiff, slightly pungent, which faded gradually.  Very sweet and tropical, showing ripe peaches.  Too ripe on the palate, which led to a somewhat bitter finish.  Eventually notes of green apples and muscat emerged, typical of the dominant Sauvignon Blanc in the blend, as well as plenty of flint and minerals.  It seems I didn't get the memo and brought the only wine that wasn't from Burgundy…

2000 Perrot-Minot Charmes Chambertin Vieilles Vignes - very fruity, lots of red fruits, a little grilled meats, a little smoky and fatty.  Pretty nice.

2007 Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py Cuvée 3.14 - I was so happy to see someone has brought this bottle, since I have a magnum of the same wine but have yet to taste it.  Distinct nose of forest and pine needles, potpourri and mint.  Clearly more tannic.  Very interesting and enjoyable.

2003 Frédéric Esmonin Mazy-Chambertin - tighter on the nose, with ripe fruit, a little grilled meats.  Later on a little plastic showed up in the nose.  Still somewhat tannic.

Another very enjoyable evening, and many thanks for the generosity of the other gentlemen this evening.  I'm glad I had the opportunity to come back, since the cuisine is clearly much better under the current chef.  I think I'll need to make a few more visits...


Michelle Chin said...

for some reason, the FAIL word cracked me up.

Peech said...

Well, I know it may not be easy to achieve a perfect mi-cuit but c'mon... these were definitely overcooked and a huge waste of premium ingredients!


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