August 20, 2016

Eight is (not) enough

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It's been a while since our little group have gotten together for dinner, and figured we could gather up the troops and pop a few corks.  While I was kinda hoping that we'd go and revisit my new Shanghainese discovery, a few people were pretty insistent that we pay ON Dining Kitchen and Lounge a visit.  Apparently I was responsible for ensuring that we got the VIP treatment, since I'm on friendly terms with chef Philippe Orrico, manager Jeremy Evrard, and sommelier Nicolas Deneux.

So... in order to measure up to what was expected to me, I reached out to both Philippe and Jeremy in advance.  I asked Philippe about the new dishes on the menu, and I asked Jeremy to please set aside some wine glasses for us.  And just a couple of days before today, our party suddenly went to a table of 6 to a table of 9.  Thankfully that didn't turn out to be a problem, but it meant we needed more wine glasses...

I ran into Philippe when I arrived, and he had put together a few of his newer dishes for us.  This was pretty exciting...

Our amuse bouche was a serving of Cavaillon melon gazpacho, with melon balls and a slice of smoked duck breast.  It's always good to start with something slightly chilled and refreshing, something a little sweet and fruity, which whets the appetite.

Then came the sea urchin trilogy:
Marinated fish - slice of young yellowtail (はまち) wrapped around burrata core, topped with sea urchin and lots of chopped chives.  We were advised that the perilla leaf was only for decorative purposes, otherwise I would have rolled it around the whole thing and eaten the package.

Egg custard - the egg custard was topped by lobster consommé gelée, sea urchin, and caviar.  And the ubiquitous gold foil...

Foie gras - here the brioche carried sea urchin and foie gras terrine on top.

Snails ravioli, girolle mushrooms, wild garlic emulsion - what a wonderful dish!  We've all had the combination of escargot, girolles, and garlic numerous times before, and you just know that these ingredients work together beautifully.  This dish was no exception.  The texture of the escargot was so springy, and the wrappers for the ravioli were thin and supple.  I could eat 3 portions of this.  In fact, I'd come back for lunch and just order a regular portion.

John Dory and sea urchins, orrechiette, clams, prawn, bisque sauce - the roasted John Dory sits on a bed of orecchiette as well as razor clams cooked in seaweed butter, with a delicious carabinero on the side.  This might seem like a hodgepodge combination, but I assure you that the flavors all work together.  Damn, I love those carabineros!

Then came the main event.  Philippe told me about the Challans duck, which would work perfectly with the wines we were having tonight.  Given that there were 9 of us, we ended up having two of these babies...  This was presented with two services:

Challans duck apicius, first service - first up was the duck breast.  This was really, really delicious.  Philippe adapted the dish with the use of 14 different spices, including star anise, cinnamon, and aged mandarin peel.  It's no wonder that it tasted a little Asian (or Chinese)...

There were only 4 wings that can come from 2 ducks, and since I am supposed to be the VIP here, was it any wonder that I got to have one of them?!  That seemed to have drawn some complaints from those who had smaller portions at the table, but I did share some of it with Hello Kitty, and also got to have a cut of her portion.

Roasted pigeon, artichokes, baby spinach and lemon chutney - how can we come here and NOT have the pigeon, the one that I had declared to be "the best pigeon in town"?!  This wasn't part of Philippe's plan, but there were some at the table who would raise a stink if they didn't get this tonight.

And yes, it was as delicious as ever.  Although I would have preferred it slightly more pink... that would have been perfect.

Challans duck apicius, second service - duck leg Parmentier, with mash potato (duh), frisée, truffle, and albufera sauce.  This disappeared in no time...

What's next after the mains?  Cheese, of course!  Even though Jeremy wasn't here tonight, we were well taken care of by Peter Kong - who told me that he "sneakily" chopped off a wedge from the very last of Jeremy's 4-year Comté.  Apparently there wasn't any new supply coming until next year, and they were hoarding what was left of the stash.  As a "regular", I guess I was pretty lucky that they were willing to let us have some!

We were presented with 7 different kinds of cheese, plus the passion fruit and raspberry jams from the one and only Christine Ferber.  Starting from left these were:

Gratte-Paille - a triple cream made in Champagne-Ardenne.  Smoky, with a little bit of acidity but also salty on the palate.

Bûche des Pyrénées - ashy, smoky, very strong gamey flavors.

Chevre de Rove - creamy with some acidity.  Naturally this was also gamey, being a goat cheese.

For some reason I skipped the Saint-félicien...

Comté, aged 4 years - nutty and salty.  Sooooo delicious.

I also skipped Petit Fiancé.

Colombier fermier - salty, nutty, with acidity.

I also skipped the Roquefort that was aged for 2 years.  I was too drunk to eat any more...

Speaking of getting drunk... this group of winos all wanted to bring lots of wine, and it got a little ridiculous.  While we generally get to finish around 1 bottle per person, we ended up with 17½ bottles... and only 8 of us were drinking!  I played the role of dictator and strictly limited consumption to 1 bottle of wine per person - rejecting people's wishes to open more bottles "for tasting".  The theme I had set for tonight was originally "non-Burgundy pinot noirs", which turned out to be apropos given that "Pinot Noir Day" happened to fall 2 days ago.  Not surprisingly, the Candidate raised her objection, since she pretty much only drinks Burgundy...

Inflorescence Côte de Val Vilaine, millesime 2010, dégorgée en Avril 2012 - nice acidity balance here.  Lovely nose which was nice and a little caramelized.  I wasn't expecting a Champagne, but since this was a blanc de noirs made from 100% pinot noir, and was not a Burgundy, this definitely fit the bill...

2012 George Ferae Naturae - a rosé of pinot noir from one of my favorite producers.  Ripe and sweet nose but slightly pungent.  Surprisingly dry on the palate.

2009 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Spätburgunder 'R' trocken - double-decanted after opening.  Very rich nose, with animal notes and a hint of grilled meats.  Very fragrant, almost floral after opening up.  Smooth on the palate but good concentration here.  A beautiful wine that I'd love to taste again in 10 years.

2007 Jacques Cacheux Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots - a little dusty and chalky.  There's still fruit underneath, but the bottle wasn't ideal.

2012 Tuck's Ridge Pinot Noir Buckle Vineyard - a little burnt rubber, pungent nose.  Later on showed some animal and leather notes.

2009 George Leras Family Vineyard - double-decanted for 2½ hours prior to serving, which was probably a little too long.  Nose was still beautiful and fragrant, with plenty of sweetness coming from raspberry notes, almost a little caramelized.

2009 Rockburn Pinot Noir Twelve Barrels - nice and smooth, with some lovely fruit on the nose.

2009 Chacra Pinot Noir Treinta y Dos - double-decanted for 3 hours, nose was fairy muted.  A little minty, some sweet and cool fruit, with a little rubber.  Nice structure on the palate.

2003 Peter Michael Pinot Noir Le Moulin Rouge - sweet nose with eucalyptus.  Lovely.

2013 The Hilt Chardonnay The Old Guard - nose of minerals, a little ripeness here.  Lovely with cheese.

2003 Berthet-Bondet Château-Chalon - opened for 11 hours prior to serving.  Grassy nose, lots of ripeness, a little marmalade, and some minerals.

2009 Araujo Grappa - a little acetone, paint thinner in the nose.  Reasonably smooth on the palate but still a lot more spicy than I had remembered.

Yeah... we kinda went a little out of control with the wines...  The crazy thing was how many bottles we didn't open and had to take home.  We did share many of these with Philippe and Nicolas, and didn't bother taking home the unfinished Château-Chalon and grappa.   Many thanks to Philippe, Nicolas, Peter, and the team for making our evening so enjoyable (and for putting up with us!)  I think I need to go back and visit them a little more.  Gotta show them more love!  And to get more duck, pigeon, and ravioli...

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