June 26, 2017

Petrus without Petrus

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So it's my turn to host an MNSC dinner, and once again the decision rested on which restaurant with a professional sommelier would accommodate my request to bring a large selection of my own wines.  Amber was out of the question, and while I wanted to host the dinner at Lung King Heen (龍景軒) because I wanted to rely on the service from my sommelier friends there, the kind restaurant manager had made clear that it was impossible to fully accommodate my request.  That means Caprice was out, too, as the Four Seasons Hong Kong has the same corkage policy in its restaurants.

So I next approached both Petrus and Mandarin Grill + Bar, and when both of them agreed to my request I had a dilemma on my hands.  In the end I chose Petrus for this dinner and made sure I visited the Mandarin Grill on an earlier occasion.  After an earlier visit where I got a little taste of Chef Ricardo Chaneton's cuisine, I wanted a chance to see what else he can deliver.

I dropped my wines off before lunch today, leaving the decisions on opening/decanting fully up to the sommelier.  Ricardo showed me the menu he had designed for us, and it looked impossibly long.  We had the Burgundy Room to ourselves, and I knew we were in for a good night.

A couple of us were running late tonight, so we sat around on the coffee table and sipped on a little bubbly while we waited.  Thankfully we only delayed starting dinner by about a half hour.

Tomato, basil and mozzarella in a light meringue - classic caprese flavors, but in a totally different form.  Delicious and light.

Emulsion of lime -  with milk, lime juice and lime zest. Love the lightness of it all.

Brandade de Morue - classic flavors, done as croquetas with soft centers.  

Daniel Sorlut oyster, cucumber, Granny Smith and kaffir lime - absolutely beautiful.  The oyster was perfectly tempered by the cool and refreshing cucumber and the sweetness and acidity of the apple.  The kaffir lime zest delivered very strong fragrance, which I liked very much.

Red crab, almond and Burlat cherry - the almond foam was very sweet, with beautiful and delicious fresh almonds.  Didn't taste much curry in the crab meat, but that didn't bother me.

Frog leg fricassee with Madras curry, potato textures and Oscietra from Uraguy - very delish.  You've got potato foam as well as potato soufflé/puffs, which went very well with the caviar.  Of course, the frog leg fricassée worked seamlessly with the other ingredients, too.

"Calamari ramen - Japan meets France" Brittany encornet, organic grilled French vegetables bouillon and Piment d'Espelette, white sesame, nori, shoyu and egg - an interesting dish!  We've seen calamari cut into thin "noodles" which curl up in reaction to hot broth before, but this was the first time I've seen it served in a bowl just like ramen.  This even came with some nori (海苔) seaweed, half a poached egg with a soft yolk, and some "fish cake".  Very nice and comforting.

Duck foie gras, white peach and verbena - the foie was very soft and fine, while the white peach provided a nice touch of sweetness and acidity.

Grilled monkfish on its bone, Cevennes onion and spring coriander - Ricardo showed us the whole monkfish.  The fish was dry-aged for 5 days after removing the skin, then grilled after removing the second layer of skin.  Two quick trips to the oven, then a trip to the salamander after removing the bone.

The Cevennes onions in the pile of green on the side were beautiful - delivering delicious, sweet flavors.  Aside from a couple of really fragrant flowers, Ricardo played a little joke on me by adding a few grains of buckwheat...

Veal tendon, abalone and yuzu - what a beautiful dish!  Such an interesting combination of ingredients here, with the veal tendons delivering sticky collagen while the abalone gave us some springy texture.  Lily bulb and radish on the side gave us a little crunch.  The rich and viscous sauce had a surprising touch of acidity thanks to yuzu (柚子).  Garnished with a little yarrow.

Roasted lamb saddle, green spiced sauce and grilled leeks - Ricardo also brought out the whole lamb saddle before serving.  This was seared on the sides before putting in the oven for two hours at 85°C in order to achieve core temperature of 49°C.

Perfect doneness, and once again the meat was plated with some charred leeks.  The sauce was surprisingly acidic with lime, and tasted almost a little Thai.

Époisses, acacia honey and bee pollen - don't quite remember when it was that I last had Époisses as "dessert", but this was pretty ripe and stinky, tempered with cumin seeds on top.  Very delicious, actually!

White coffee, hazelnuts and white chocolate - this was very delicious, and in fact everyone liked it so much that Pineapple reversed his original decision to skip this dessert - and he was glad he did.

Vanilla guimauve, almond chocolate

Raspberry granite and liquid sphere - very refreshing.

Ricardo knew I just had my birthday a couple of days ago, so he very kindly prepared a little birthday "log" for me. 

I prepared three flights of reds tonight, but unfortunately a couple of wines weren't in perfect condition. I should remember to bring a few backup bottles next year...

We started with two bottles of nice bubbly purchased off the restaurant's wine list:

Henri Giraud Fût de Chêne MV09 - savory minerals on the nose, really big on the palate.  Good balance between savory and acidic notes, and surprising in its maturity.  Almost a little bitter on the finish.  Definitely preserved citrus like marmalade on the palate, with a very fragrant nose.

Flight one: opened just before serving, without decanting.  Unfortunately served too warm by the sommelier.
1971 Maison Leroy Echezeaux - nice sweet fruit, savory on the palate.  Toasty with a little green and a bit of coffee.  Definitely acidity on the palate here.  91 points.  

1971 DRC Echezeaux - Madeira-like, very savory, nutty, with some desiccated coconut.  87 points.  Too bad this bottle seemed over the hill.

Flight two: opened two hours prior to serving, not decanted.
1982 Latour à Pomerol - very smoky, tobacco, a little savory, a little stinky, a hint of green peppers, less sweet fruit than expected.  More cigar, smoky, and toasty.  97 points.  This was definitely the wine-of-the-evening for everyone.  The average rating given by the 6 MNSC members blind-tasting tonight was a whopping 99 points!  Fifteen years ago at a semi-blind tasting of 1982 Right Bank wines, this wine beat out Petrus and Lafleur and was our favorite.  Well, tonight it also beat out a Left Bank heavyweight...

1982 Lafite-Rothschild - a little dusty, really metallic, rusty.  Fine on the palate, savory later on after opening up a little, but still a little tight.  The sommelier should have decanted this bottle.  Quel dommage!  93 points.

Flight three: double-decanted 3 hours prior to serving.
1997 Dominus - Sweet fruit, minty, a little smoky.  Tannins still there but sweet on the palate.  95 points.

1997 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon - very sweet and ripe, caramelized, almost honey.  Slightly alcoholic.  95 points.

1997 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select - corked.

In spite of some disappointment on the wine side, I really enjoyed dinner tonight.  I liked every single dish tonight and there were certainly no fails.  I think everyone else was surprised with the food being served tonight since, except for Dr. Poon who had been here recently, this was a place largely forgotten by the gang.  Now that I've dined here twice without Hello Kitty - and drank 1982 Lafite both times! - I think it's time that she got introduced to Ricardo's cuisine...

Many thanks to Ricardo for accommodating me and the corkage arrangement.

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