August 15, 2013

Principal Atherton

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It's been 2 months and we're overdue for another MNSC dinner.  The date for the dinner was chosen months ago, and as it turns out, this was the one night when Jason Atherton was playing guest chef at the Principal.  Given that the principals behind the restaurant are members of our lil' gang, it made perfect sense that we would do the dinner here tonight.

As usual I was thankful that we were in the private room and somewhat isolated from the rest of the guests, although I'm sure the table right outside our door - including my friend KC - probably heard from than an earful over the course of the evening.  Well... this is how it's always been for us, wherever in the world we go...

Our convenor is making a habit of being late to dinner, so we got ourselves some bread to pad our hungry stomachs.  I do need some carbs since my nutritionist is prescribing 5 portions of grains for dinner... and these yummy ones come from Grégoire at Bread Elements.

Pork scratching with purée of apple: apple, sage and herbs - OK, so this was definitely NOT on the nutritionist's list of permissible foods... but who the hell cares?!  I'm cheating tonight.  I looooove pork rinds, but this was a little too big and became awkward to eat gracefully... and I didn't want to break it up with my hands and scatter all the espelette powder everywhere.  Pretty nice and interesting.

The black truffle and garlic roll came around with the next course, and I've now had my 3 pieces of bread...

Chilled pea and sudachi lime soup, with chilled squid and ink aioli - the bowl arrived without any of the soup...

...which was then poured in front of us.  I loved the added touch of acidity and fragrance provided by the sudachi (酢橘), as it worked well with the sweetness and flavors of the peas.  The little cubes of squid were cooked in an 80°C water bath - which made for some interesting texture - and the ink aioli gradually mixed with the pea soup...

English breakfast - there are a number of new-fangled versions of English/Spanish breakfasts around, deconstructing the various elements into something else.  This was a pretty cool presentation, and also very delicious.  Potato espouma, tomato purée, diced mushrooms and bacon bits on top.  SLURP.

Carpaccio of scallops: lemon peel purée, frozen pink grapefruit, black olive and sea herbs, radish (1st try) - loved the sweet taste of the scallops, especially with a light touch of acidity from the lemon peel purée.  The sprinkle of black olive dust added the savory side to the flavor profile.  The small radish provided a little crunchy texture while the larger piece was slightly softer.  A very tasty dish.

BUT... a few seconds after I had finished with everything on my plate, Chef Atherton walked in and announced that he was coming to add the finishing touches to the dish.  WTF?!  How come nobody told us?!  Half of us had already finished the damn thing...  So Chef promptly commanded that replacement dishes be brought out, and he dropped some grapefruit juice into liquid nitrogen to freeze it, then ladled the frozen pulp on top of the scallops...

Carpaccio of scallops: lemon peel purée, frozen pink grapefruit, black olive and sea herbs, radish (2nd try) - honestly, I didn't get it.  The frozen pulp only deducted points to the original dish, not added.  First it drastically lowered the temperature of the ingredients in my mouth, whereas I thought it had been perfect without the pulp.  Then the added acidity threw the flavor balance out of whack, so that I could no longer taste the combination of sweetness, mild acidity and the mild savory notes from the black olive dust.  I was now mainly tasting some cold, somewhat acidity grapefruit pulp.  The harmony was gone.

Roasted blue Scottish Lobster, girroles, artichoke and Iberico ham ragout - yes, Pineapple, they spelled "girolles" wrong on the menu, but it doesn't matter.  The lobster was AWESOME.  I don't know how else to describe it.  The lobster was fresh and had the right amount of bite and bounce.  There were girolles and cubes of ibérico chorizo, and the delicious sauce was made with chorizo.  It didn't take me long to inhale the claw and the tail of the lobster.  This was seriously good.

Roasted Charolais duck, beetroot and potatoes, smoked beetroot juice, cabbage purée - perfect execution.  I loooove duck, and yes I ate the fatty skin, too.  This time Chef Atherton came in fairly quickly to drizzle smoked beetroot juice and duck jus on the plate, before any of us had a chance to touch anything.  Yes, I like my duck pink and a little bloody.  There was also compressed pear (which didn't taste so compressed after cooking), slices of beetroot and purée.  A most excellent piece of duck that also disappeared from my plate in no time.

Peanut butter, pickled cucumber, pineapple - this was delicious!  Cubes of cucumber and pineapple served with some pressed peanut butter powder, and a surprisingly sweet scoop of cucumber sorbet, with a hint of ginger to give some kick.

Nuances of red: yoghurt ice cream, raspberry, orchids and elderflower - the yogurt ice cream was pretty good, and the combination of apple, raspberries, elderflower jelly, hibiscus and orchids added both acidity and sweetness.  A very good finish both visually and taste-wise.

Petit fours: salt and vinegar macarons with chocolate ganache, Oreo macarons, mango and passion fruit jelly

It was Curry's turn to host tonight, and after the unexpected line-up he presented last year - when we expected a Jayer vertical for the entire evening but didn't get a single bottle - we all had high expectations for this big birthday do...

1999 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Perrières - VERY toasty, some lemon citrus on the nose.  Acidity was rather high but very ripe on the palate at the same time.  What a totally awesome wine!

First pair:
1984 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Brulées - opened for 1 hour prior to serving.  Very sweet nose, with strawberry jam and a hint of lychees.  Clearly an oldie as the palate was a little light, with slightly high acidity.  Delicious and very enjoyable.  94 points.

1987 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Brulées - opened for 1 hour prior to serving.  Very dusty, musty, stinky, animal notes, savory like black olives, minerals and metallic nose.  Second pour was better than the first.  90 points.

Second pair:
1985 Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes - opened for 1½ hours prior to serving.  Really sweet and ripe strawberries and tangerine.  Awesome and beautiful.  My kind of wine.  So surprised that this was a Ponsot.  96 points.

1985 DRC La Tâche - opened for 1 hour prior to serving.  More muted nose, with minerals, mint and a bit of forest.  Why did this not show like the Ponsot?!  Can't believe this wine underperformed...  94 points.

Third pair:
1985 Roumier Bonnes-Mares - opened for 1 hour prior to serving.  Forest, floral, minty.  Really sweet and beautiful.  94 points.

1990 Roumier Bonnes-Mares - opened for 1½ hours prior to serving.  Stronger notes of forest, leather and animal.  As enjoyable as the '85 but in a different way.  94 points.

Fourth pair:
1989 Rayas - decanted for 2½ hours prior to serving.  Burnt rubber nose, stinky.  I never got much else out of this wine... not very enjoyable at all.  88 points... and that's being generous.

1989 Henri Bonneau Réserve des Célestins - decanted for 2½ hours prior to serving.  Forest, resin, dates, with some sweetness in the nose.  92 points.

What an absolutely wonderful evening!  The food was fantastic.  Other than the frozen grapefruit bit, I could not find fault with a single dish, from the canapé to the last dessert.  I haven't had the pleasure of visiting Pollen Street Social, but if Jason can do this in Hong Kong with a few chefs he flew up from his restaurants in Singapore, he has definitely set the bar pretty high!

One must also give thanks to the generosity of Curry, who showed us a group of truly amazing wines - quite of few which surprised on the upside!  The bottle of '84 Jayer Brulées just goes to show what an amazing magician Henri Jayer was... to be able to make such a delicious one in a disastrous vintage.  Wow!

As I mentioned somewhere else earlier... THIS is definitely an evening worth cheating on my diet for!!

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