August 18, 2012

Burning down the house

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I was getting together with a couple of foodie friends today, and someone suggested Gold by Harlan Goldstein as the venue.  It just so happened that Harlan had pinged me a couple of weeks ago, telling me that I should come try out his new dishes.  So what do you do when you're in need of a table for a Saturday night, and happen to be on friendly terms with the chef of a popular and difficult-to-book restaurant?  You shameless beg the chef for a table, of course!

I try not to do it often, and honestly there are only a couple of places around town where I feel brave enough to do so, but somehow I always end up asking the Boss Man for a table… and he's always been kind and accommodating.

Along the way, we lost one of the crew to an Indian wedding, so I decided to rope in My Favorite Cousin, since she's always up for a good meal and I know she enjoys going to Gold.  After I extended the invitation, I realized that I would be totally outnumbered by 3 Aussies… Yikes!

I had a lot of time to kill between my afternoon coffee and dinner, so after I got tired of carrying a ton of stuff while walking around a ridiculously packed Causeway Bay, I headed to Central and parked myself by the door just inside the restaurant.  I was an hour early, and I wanted to cool off with some juice.

While I waited for the rest of the gang to arrive, the Boss Man came over to greet me.  I haven't seen him in a while, and he was eager to show me the new dishes on the menu.  As Harlan went through every page to show me what's new, I started to get a whiff of something burning…  We soon realized that the menu was hovering too close to the candle, and the heat was causing charring in the pleather.  Oops.  Good thing we caught it early…

My Favorite Cousin was the first of the others to arrive, and ordered some giant French fries, truffle mayo as she was starving.  I eventually gave in a had a couple of these, as I didn't want her to devour the whole portion and miss out on the rest of the meal.

We ordered a few starters and pastas to share, while each getting our own main courses:

Slow-cooked Italian octopus, fennel, olives, smoked onions and melitzanosalata - pretty good.  I thought the octopus was a little charred and smoky, too… besides being a little salty.  The use of herbs like dill, chervil together with fennel made for an interesting blend of fragrances and flavors.

Fresh heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese, black figs, ice-plant and aged balsamic - nice, milky and gooey burrata… and I can't say no to heirloom tomatoes.  There's no such thing as a decent burrata in Taipei, or at least I haven't discovered it.

Black truffle tagliolini pasta, French porcini, chanterelle, blue foot mushrooms, and smoked slow-cooked egg - basically, a plate full of shrooms.  Very nice.  Oh and of course the egg was just awesome.  I can eat this all day.  The tagliolini was a little bit on the soft side, but I didn't care.

Spinobello pasta, Spanish red prawns in a baby shrimp sauce and shaved bottarga di muggine - has there ever been a time when something like this was on the menu and I didn't order it?  I don't think so.  I shared one of the carabineros with My Favorite Cousin, who obligingly took the tail so I could suck on the giant head.  The sauce was awesome as usual, and the spinobello was nice with enough bite.  The tagliolini has just been KO'd…

Slow-cooked Colorado lamb rib, soft polenta, Iberico ham, lemon and fava beans - the minute I saw the words "Colorado lamb" I was sold…  Of course I desperately needed to try and benchmark it to the other Colorado lamb…  This was almost as tender, similarly fatty (and therefore yummy), but much heavier in terms of flavor thanks to the sauce.  The thin strips of jamón ibérico - reminiscent of the Yunnan ham (金華火腿) used to prepare "superior broth (上湯)" - added more salt to the mix.  The counterbalance came in the form of lemon polenta, as the citrus flavors made their small contribution to lighten up the dish.

Black cherry and nut cannoli: mascarpone, black cherry gelato and mint - this was very yummy, but I did not detect a hint of black cherry… and neither did my friend who ordered the same dessert…

In addition to my heavy DSLR, I also lugged around 3 bottles of wine during the day.  Now you know why I decided to show up an hour early instead of continuing to walk around...

2007 Cloudy Bay Te Koko - classic Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, with green apple, mineral, pipi de chat and muscat grape notes.

2005 Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay - my first taste of this wine.  Smooth, some toasty oak, a little sweet on the palate with a spicy finish.  Very ripe and alcohol is evident on the palate.  Someone else said they thought they were chewing on a piece of wood… which is how I used to feel about Chardonnays aged in new oak barrels during my ABC (anything but Chardonnay) phase some years ago.

1985 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde - I was a little apprehensive about opening the first bottle from a batch I purchased at auction last year, and my fears were justified.  I think there was a hint of TCA here.  The nose showed brett, some fruit, prominent notes of salty mineral and soy sauce, and even a little tea-smoked duck (樟茶鴨)… This bottle is tasting a little tired and over the hill, and nothing like what I tasted a few years ago.

This was a lot of fun.  I got to try out some of Harlan's new dishes while revisiting a few old favorites.  Most of all, I got to hang out and talk food with fellow foodies.  A great evening all around.

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