September 4, 2015

Summer surprise

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It's finally my turn to host my MNSC dinner.  The schedule this year has been somewhat jumbled up, and thanks to scheduling conflicts that often happen over summer, it was finally happening more than 2 months after my birthday.

I was scratching my head a little while trying to find a suitable venue.  The venue for my tasting last year - The Principal - has closed due to skyrocketing rent.  I had wanted to host my tasting at my favorite new restaurant in town, but gave up on the idea when the restaurant couldn't provide enough wine glasses.  This drove me to explore choices located in 5-star hotels, because they generally don't have problems providing a large number of wine glasses.

Someone had recently gone to Summer Palace (夏宮) at the Island Shangri-La and commented that food had improved.  Frankly, I had never cared to dine here.  The place was always crowded - and incredibly noisy - at lunch, and the food was never anything outstanding.  When one has a choice between dining here and at Golden Leaf (金葉庭) at the Conrad Hong Kong just a stone's throw away, it's always been a no-brainer.  Which made it even more puzzling that the Rubberman has chosen to give this place two macarons ever since their very first edition for Hong Kong and Macau in 2009...

Every single one of the boys asked me why I had chosen this place for tonight.  None of us have been here for the last few years, and FourSquare reminded me that my last "check-in" here was more than 3 years ago while lunching with Ann Colgin.  These days the restaurant is well-known to be frequented by Mainland Chinese customers - especially since the hotel itself is popular with this demographic - and a quick scan across the dining room seem to confirm this popular belief.

But hey, they didn't blink when I told them upfront that I was doing a wine dinner and needed lots of glasses and decanters.  They also didn't seem to have any issues when I showed up with the wines yesterday, and explained to them I needed some of the wines decanted a full hour before the restaurant actually opened its doors... so other than the issue of only providing Bordeaux-style glasses for red wines, this place seemed to fit my requirements.

I showed up promptly as the restaurant opened its doors at 6:30 p.m. and was led to our private room at the back of the restaurant.  I should have been relieved at the sight of all the wine glasses and decanters on the side, but I became nervous immediately.  After years of staying away, I had completely forgotten that the signature "Shangri-La smell" filled the entire hotel - even in the restaurant.  This would most definitely have an impact on our ability to taste wines, and I could see the boys slamming me to picking such a poor venue.  Thankfully, that never came to pass.

Baked stuffed crab shell (焗釀鮮蟹蓋) - I've always loved stuffed crab shells, and I wanted to see how these stacked up.

There was plenty of crab meat stuffing, plus onions.  Gotta say I was pretty impressed.  Loved the sweet flavors from the crab and the shredded onions, and of course the breadcrumb crust.  One of the boys remarked that he thought this was better than what you'd get at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) which, incidentally, has always been a favorite of mine.  I wouldn't disagree with him.  I'd do this again in a heartbeat.

Double-boiled chicken with matsutake mushrooms (松茸燉雞湯) - nice and clean flavors, with the fragrance of matsutake mushrooms (松茸).

Deep-fried shrimp toast with truffle pesto (松露醬鳳尾蝦多士) - another dish that I've always loved when it's done right.  These were pretty good, too... with enough oil to make the toast really crunchy and satisfying.  The truffle paste on top made it a little different, and nice.

Pan-fried beef ribs with goose liver paste (鵝肝醬煎牛仔骨) - I guess I was expecting a little more goose liver, and it took me a while to pick out the flavors from just the soy sauce, but I guess the flavors were a little more complex than usual.  The beef was very tender as expected, and I do love the onions.  A nice twist to the usual.

Deep-fried mashed taro stuffed with cheese and mixed fungus (芝士雜菌芋盒) - the worst dish of the evening.  I chose this instead of a plain veg to see what creations the kitchen can come up with, and...

...this wasn't impressive, at all.  Inside the mashed taro shell, the cheese and the mushroom were simply bland.  Wasted calories.

Steamed fillet spotted garoupa with shredded ginger (陳皮薑絲蒸海東星斑扒) - not bad at all.  Love the shredded aged tangerine peel (陳皮) for the wonderful fragrance.
Deep-fried chicken wing stuffed with crab meat and onion (脆皮炸釀鳳翼) - I also have a soft spot for stuffed chicken wings, and wanted to see how well they do it here.

Inside we've got crab meat and onion, which is kinda like the stuffed crab shell all over again.  Well, since I really liked the stuffed crab shell, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that I liked this chicken wing, too.  That crispy skin!  Definitely a crowd favorite tonight.

Fried rice with seafood and X.O. sauce in a stone hot pot (X.O.醬海鮮石鍋炒飯) - OK, so this probably wasn't the best dish to serve at a wine tasting... with the spicy kick coming from the X.O. sauce running interference with the palate.  But I gotta say this was a damn delicious bowl of "flied lice"... and the fact that it came in a stone pot meant that there were some rice crispies (飯焦) to be had.

Double-boiled whole young coconut with fresh milk and egg white (原個椰黃燉蛋白) - very nice with simple flavors that are not too sweet, and the faint fragrance of coconut.

I'd been planning this line-up for a while, and had to change one of the wines because my original choice has shown up at an MNSC tasting earlier this year.

Jacques Selosse Brut Rosé, dégorgée à 18 octobre 2009 - definitely mineral and salty plum nose, very yeasty... almost like what you'd get from a freshly steamed Chinese bun (包子).  Nose was also initially a little strong, not quite pungent.  Very nice on the palate with a pretty long finish.

First flight: opened but not decanted about 45 minutes prior to serving.  I had planned to put the bottles in the "wine condoms" to disguise their identity, but the restaurant had thoughtfully wrapped them up in aluminum foil.  Unfortunately I didn't look at the wrapping job properly, because I hadn't realized that the white capsules were peeking through to tops of the foils.  Given this crowd, pretty much everyone figured out that I was serving old Leroys...

1970 Maison Leroy Clos-St.-Denis - more sweetness and ripe fruit here, with some savory notes.  Went downhill quickly.  85 points.

1970 Maison Leroy Chambertin Clos de Beze - savory nose, with lots of soy sauce notes.  Very ripe, and surprisingly grippy on the palate - perhaps from the sediment.  Went downhill pretty quickly.  85 points.

Second flight: decanted around 2½ hours prior to serving.
1990 DRC Echezeaux - there was a decanting mistake that I didn't catch earlier... This was supposed to be opened 2½ hours before, but not decanted until 30 minutes prior to serving.  The extended decanting time obviously hurt the wine, and it didn't drink anything like I had hoped.  Initially a little savory on the nose, still got some nice fruit, and it was clearly over-decanted.  Too acidic on the palate.  88 points.

1990 Angélus - nice and lovely nose.  A little medicinal, with nice fruit and concentration here.  Very fragrant nose.  Smooth on the palate with medium-to-full body.  What a beautiful wine!  98 points.

Third flight: decanted 2 hours and 45 minutes prior to serving.
1995 Harlan Estate - a little burnt rubber at first, smoky, still slightly closed.  Opened up a little later, and it was very well-balanced.  Still grippy on the palate after 20 years.  96 points.

1995 Bryant Family - lots of coconut butter, tons of oak, vanilla, much sweeter on the nose than the Harlan.  Less tannic than the Harlan, but they're still there.  Fantastic wine!  98 points.

Fourth flight: decanted almost 4½ hours prior to serving.
2000 Mouton-Rothschild - incredibly open and fragrant nose.  Lots of coffee and smoke, slightly savory notes and some pencil lead.  What a beautiful wine!  99 points... and tempted to give it 100!

2000 Pavie - more muted compared to the Mouton, with a hint of smoke and a little pepper.  Nice and smooth on the palate.  Maybe this was over-decanted? 94 points.

A very, very fun evening... at least for me!  The food was a surprise... and definitely a lot better than what I remembered.  I think everyone else was surprised, too...

But there was one little annoyance.  Well, maybe two.  I wish the staff had a little bit more training with wine service, especially when it comes to wine dinners.  I know that all the different decanting times and serving times can be a little confusing, but I was still surprised that it took repeated instructions from me to have the first couple of flights served in pairs.

The second annoyance came at the end as we were packing up the leftovers.  We were told that we couldn't take the dessert "as is" because the coconut shells couldn't be taken away.  If we wanted the dessert to go, we had to spoon it out of the serving shells.  WTF?!  What was so precious about them shells?!  Does the restaurant plan on re-using them?!  What other reason would there be for not allowing them to be taken off the premises?  Anyway, our waiter checked again, and eventually we were able to take the dessert out in their shells...

1 comment:

Jon said...

Hm, I don't know why they keep the shells. Anyhow, the stuffed crab looks good.


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