March 4, 2014

Fabulous trio of 78s

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I first met Neal Martin at a dinner where we indulged in (naturally!) a selection of exceptional wines, and found him to be a soft-spoken and charming guy.  The second time I saw Neal was after an afternoon of sheer drunkenness, and I distinctly remember acting like a totally obnoxious jerk.  So when my friends invited me to join yet another dinner with Neal tonight, I was determined not to repeat what had happened a few months ago.  And to apologize for my behavior, of course...

Dinner was at Kin's Kitchen (留家廚房) in Wanchai.  I had been to the North Point branch a few years ago but that has apparently closed down, so this was now the family flagship.  I was led to a private room just by the entrance, and I could see that Neal and my hosts were already working on the wines...

Prawn duo: sautéed prawn with ham and celery, stuffed prawn (鴛鴦蝦) - the head and tail shell of the prawn were stuffed with diced wild mushrooms, flavored with some curry powder.  This is not unlike some of the stuffed whelk or stuffed crab shell found elsewhere around town.  The flesh of the prawn was garnished with strips of ham and pickled carrots, cucumber and the like.

Coral trout poached in fish stock with soft tofu (豆花煮星斑) - half the tofu is stirred and broken up before being steamed with the fish, allowed the flavors to infuse.  Then the remainder of the tofu is mixed in and served.

This was pretty unique and nice, and the combination of flavors was pretty harmonious.  Soft, smooth and creamy texture.  Yum.

Double boiled soup with vintage tangerine peel, duck, pork and ginger (五十年陳皮燉鴨湯) - when one makes duck soup, it's imperative that only old hens (老母鴨) are used, although I never knew how old the hens would have to be to qualify...

The 50 year-old vintage tangerine peel has given most of its flavors and fragrance to the delicious soup, but still retains some of the citrus fragrance.  We also got some duck meat served to us in a bowl on the side.

Short ribs with cheese and fermented bean curd sauce (慢煮牛肋腐乳芝士汁) - certainly not traditional... The short ribs were cooked sous vide for 64 hours, and they were incredibly tender and moist.  The sauce was made with fermented tofu (腐乳) and blue cheese, although I was tempted to ask what kind of blue was used...

Deep fried scallop with taro batter with passion fruit (芋蓉帶子) - I understand that chefs often use acidity to cut down the oil and fat from certain dishes, but in this case I wasn't sure whether the flavors of passion fruit really went well with the main ingredients...

The taro shell was of course incredibly delicious.  The taro was whipped in a ice cream machine so that the fibers can be broken down, making the texture more creamy.Funny that for a guy who doesn't really like taro, I go crazy over deep-fried taro mash like this every time.  Oh and the scallop in the middle was very nicely done.

Braised chicken with chestnut (栗子焗雞) - the chicken was curiously oven-baked in a cocotte, with lots of chestnut purée to better infuse the flavors.

There were also whole chestnuts to enhance the fall flavors.  Very tender chicken.  Kinda reminds me of mom's version, although she didn't use any purée.

Turnip cup with assorted mushroom with broccoli (野菌白玉杯) - a very clean-looking dish.

Lifting the mushroom lid revealed this... diced carrots and shrooms.

Soup noodle with yellow croaker and pickled vegetables (雪菜野生黃玉宮麵) - OMG this was good.  Growing up eating Shanghainese food at home, the flavors in this bowl was downright homey.  And I love mom's yellow croaker more than anything, so this was nothing short of a little slice of heaven for me...

Filo roll with macadamia nuts, coconut and lemon leaves; almond tea (夏果酥, 杏仁茶) - interesting to find chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves in the rolls.  Worked nicely with the dessicated coconut.

In spite of the wonderful food, with a wine critic in our midst the evening's focus was squarely on the wines.

1982 Cuvée Dom Pérignon - beautiful nose of salty plum (話梅), minerals, Chinese licorice (甘草), a little nutty.  First sip showed pretty high acidity, then marmalade and preserved mandarin peel (陳皮) on the palate.  Just a beautiful wine!

2005 Roulot Meursault Les Vireuils - flinty, very clean at first, seemingly a little mature and slightly oxidized.  A little chalky and dusty suddenly.  Ripe on the finish.

2012 Shäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck Riesling Trocken Großes Gewächs - very floral and fragrant with lychees, a little citrus, ripe and sweet.  Such a wonderful Riesling.

1978 Vogüé Musigny Vieilles Vignes - absolutely beautiful!  Farmy nose with bacon fat, leather, plenty of sweet fruit, and a little savory black olive to add to the complexity.  My favorite wine of the evening.

1978 Jaboulet La Chapelle - really open nose with leather, farmy and animal notes.  Later on the nose opened up even further to reveal floral and violet notes.  Probably the most open '78 La Chapelle I have ever tasted.

1978 Petrus - such an exotic nose, with tropical coconut butter.  Smoky, a little cedar, and pretty savory.  Unfortunately this wine declined a little towards the end.

1998 Fargues en demi-bouteille - honey, apricot, beeswax, marmalade and acetone.  Very nice.

Such happiness tonight.  The food was excellent, and I'm glad to be reintroduced to Lau Kin-wai's cuisine.  The wines, of course, were magnificent.  And most of all, I'm happy to have not made a fool of myself this time... I think...

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