November 24, 2013

Three smiles of the Seventh Son: Rayas massiiive

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Here we go again...  Mere hours after flushing the alcohol out of my system, I'm back at Seventh Son (家全七福) for another wine dinner... and dining in the exact same private room, as expected.  Even the captain was surprised to see me coming back so soon.

The MNSC boys gathered tonight as Lord Rayas played host, and a rare invitation was extended to the wives to join us.  We have been sticking to a strictly boys-only format for the last couple of years, and during dinner we were given a stern reminder of why that has been the case...

I was wondering how much overlap there would be between the menus from these two consecutive nights. While I was grateful that there was only about 2/3 overlap, I wasn't expecting to see one of the exotic dishes again tonight.  Methinks I've fulfilled my turtle quota for at least the next year...

Some appetizers to start:
Roast gold coin chicken (燒金錢雞) - this combination of chicken liver, bacon fat and char siu (叉燒) wasn't bad but kinda skimpy in my book.  I'm still partial to what I get at Manor Seafood (富瑤海鮮酒家).

Deep-fried frog legs (椒鹽田雞腿) - this was OK, but I'm thinking it's still not as crispy as what I used to get at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).

Deep-fried chicken testicle tofu (雞子戈渣) - it's been a while since I last had this… which is made with, yes, chicken testicle purée and chicken stock.  It's then battered and deep-fried.  Same texture as gaozha (高渣) from Yilan (宜蘭).

Snake soup (菊花燴蛇羹) - the A/C was pretty chilly at the start of the dinner, but I didn't feel no more chills after this!  Interesting, though, that my tongue experienced the sensation I always have when there's MSG in my food.  I'd always complained about the FLM snake soup as being too bland, but I wonder if they're now adding MSG…

Fresh abalone with spiny sea cucumber, mushroom and Chinese lettuce (鮮鮑角伴遼參北菇跟唐生菜) - nice chunks of abalone, and the sea cucumber was pretty delish.  Perfect for red wines… NOT!

Braised mountain turtle with Chinese lettuce (紅燒山瑞跟唐生菜) - of all the dishes from last night that I expected to repeat, this wasn't one… Still pretty good, though.

Chinese cabbage with Kim Wa ham (腿片扒律白) - I think the "律白" is a typo and should have been "津白"… I love Chinese cabbage, and Jinhua ham (金華火腿) just works perfectly with it.

Crispy chicken (當紅炸子雞) - yes, I only had one piece of chicken breast… There was already too much food tonight.  This was OK.

Claypot rice with duck and preserved meats (煲油鴨腊味飯) - for me, the pièce de résistance.  And I'm having it two days in a row!  Rice with duck fat mixed in, topped with preserved Cantonese sausage (腊腸), liver sausage (膶腸), preserved duck (腊鴨) and preserved pork belly (腊肉) and drizzled in soy sauce.  Of course I had a second helping…

But it gets better!  They actually scraped off all the rice crispies (飯焦  in Cantonese, or 鍋巴) at the bottle of the claypot - as they normally would - and dunked them in superior broth (上湯)!  Words could not do justice to the joy I felt as I slurped this up.

I just couldn't pass up dessert tonight, and snapped them up as the staff was packing them into boxes, thinking we weren't interesting in having them...

Sesame rolls (芝麻卷) - yum.

Walnut cookie (合桃餅) - these were so light, so airy, and sooooo delicious!  I do not want to know how much lard went into one of these cookies… but they have the ability to turn me into the Cookie Monster...

Almond cream with egg white (蛋白杏仁茶) - yup, the egg whites were still fluffy and not in big clumps.   Slurp.

Look!  I even got some fruit in, since I didn't get any last night.  Too bad it's sugary watermelon

This being a big birthday celebration for Lord Rayas, I figured he would pull out all the stops.  On the way to dinner, I had a wild guess that he was going to serve a massiiive vertical of Château Rayas.  When I arrived and saw identical-looking bottles - covered in velvet bags but with red capsules protruding out of the bags - my suspicion grew a little stronger.  I felt more convinced when I took a whiff of the first glass of wine.

1990 Dom Pérignon - very smooth, almost a little light on the palate.  Ripe and mature on the palate, with cane sugar notes on the nose.

First flight:  aired for 1 hour in bottle prior to serving.
1969 Rayas - first whiff showed a little plastic, but underneath the nose seemed to be lovely.  A little plummy and sweet.  Smooth with a light body.  93 points.

1971 Rayas - lightest color of all three wines, definitely kinda old.  Showing a little plastic in the nose, with floral notes underneath.  Fuller body compared to the '69.  93 points.

1978 Rayas - a little smoky, farmy and earthy, but not showing much in the nose.  Still medium to light bodied.  91 points.

Second flight:
1979 Rayas - nice and sweet fruit, farmy, smoky with grilled meats.  Showing much better than the first flight.  95 points.

1983 Rayas - a little metallic, reminds me of iron in the blood, which was distracting.  Very sweet on the palate, full-bodied with a long finish.  93 points.

1990 Rayas - plummy, clearly very ripe on the nose, almost a little stewed fruits.  Smoky.  96 points.

Third flight:  aired for 3 hours in bottle prior to serving.
1989 Rayas - grassy, dried herbs, a little plastic. More concentrated on the palate.  93 points.

1993 Rayas - smoky, ripe, a tiny bit alcoholic on the nose.  Also forest and pine needle notes.  95 points.

1998 Rayas - very ripe and very sweet, with forest and potpourri notes.  Beautiful nose.  Exotic with a hint of lychees.  Unmistakably Rayas.  97 points.

This was an amazing experience.  It's rare that any of us would get to do a vertical of Rayas, let alone so many older vintages... including the legendary 1978, 1989 and 1990.  I wish I could have enjoyed some of these vintages more, especially the '78, but for some reason I just couldn't coax much nose out of my glasses.  Maybe I was simply too cold from the A/C earlier in the evening, and my olfactory powers suffered.  Or maybe Lord Rayas UG'd the first flight and the '78 simply needed more time to come to life.  Oh well...

Many thanks to Lord Rayas for this wonderful opportunity, and for hosting the highest-scoring MNSC evening ever.  He ain't called Lord Rayas for nothin', ya know...

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