October 7, 2018

Dad's bday 2018: ex-château is better

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So... we finally got to the main event for the weekend.  I needed a venue where they knew how to properly take care of dad's wine, yet offered dishes à la carte to accommodate mom.  As it turns out, Épure was such a place.  It has been way too long since Hello Kitty and I were last there, and this was a good opportunity to check out what Chef Nicolas Boutin has been up to.

I was contacted a few days ago by Sebastien Allano, and while he would not be on duty tonight, I asked him to ensure that his people would take good care of our wine.

When we arrived, we were informed that Chef Nicolas had already prepared a menu for us.  Of course, mom wouldn't have the capacity to handle all those courses, so she chose two courses à la carte.

We were also poured a glass of Champagne on the house.  Jacquesson Cuvée n° 739 en magnum was nice and a little yeasty, almost like bread.

Gambero rosso tart - with yuzu mayo on top.  A little sweet. 

Tomato tart

Croquette with octopus and chorizo

il a un casier: lobster, rock fish consommé, saffron, rouille - we were instructed to add the mixture of rouille with lobster meat and lobster tomalley to the lobster and rock fish gelée.  Lovely with plenty of umami.  Pretty good start.

le plus souvent elle rougit: heirloom pineapple tomato, black olive, spring onion - it's always nice and satisfying to bite into a chunky, tasty heirloom tomato.  This one came with tapenade spread on top, with a ring of spring onion and a quenelle of tomato sorbet.  Very refreshing.

ils sont bien élevés: snail, molluscs, sorrel, smoked garlic - interesting to find petit-gris escargots served together with razor clams and cockles, on a bed of smoked garlic cream and sorrel foam, with a sprinkle of buckwheat.  The razor clams were certainly sweet, and we've got some acidity from the sorrel.  The haricots verts and buckwheat added the crunch.

Abalone, pickled kombu, duck foie gras, pear - mom had considered ordering this as her main course, and got a taste of it from me.  I gotta say... I wasn't a big fan of this.  Yes, there was a range of different textures from the soft duck foie to the tender yet slightly chewy Japanese abalone, to the slices of pear (Anjou? Certainly not Asian) which were more firm.  And there were small slices of citrus in there, too... which provided the acidity against the abalone liver powder and the kombu (昆布).  But I didn't see how the different ingredients were supposed to come together, and neither did mom.

inventé par Marie Antoine Carême: the must-have 'vol au vent', flaky puff ring, langoustine, salicornia, liquorice scented coulis - well, OF COURSE we got the vol au vent!  But I didn't realize they made a tasting portion... which came with a much smaller ring of puff pastry, and without the fish.  Still absolutely love it, though... especially with the salicornia.  Mom got the main course portion, and loved the langoustine...  We also reminisced about the first time we saw these puff pastry pockets, which was during our first stay in Singapore in the 70s.

il est doux: Cevennes onion, spelt wheat, black truffle - the sweet Cevennes onion was topped with a tuile (presumably made with spelt) and came with some onion cream to the left, as well as truffle chicken jus.

They stuffed truffle between the layers of onion...  Nice!

Nice mushroom cappuccino on the side.  Slurp.

Colvert duck, amaranth, Solliès fig - the seasonal duck was very nicely done, served on a bed of chervil root purée and sprinkled with some cacao nib powder.  There was some Solliès fig tartare wrapped in amaranth leaf.  Hello Kitty had a strong dislike for the fig tartare, which were very acidic and almost seemed a little fermented (read: rotten).  My reaction to the figs wasn't as strong as Hello Kitty's, but I wasn't a fan, either...  There must be better ways to deliver acidity.

il peut 'Comté' sur lui: Comté Réserve Xavier selection, ossetra caviar - well, well, well... I've had plenty of Comté, and in the last couple of years I've also had my fair share of good caviar, but this has got to be the first time for me to have both together.  The 3-year-old Comté certainly was showing some salt crystals, and the Kaluga caviar actually did work well together with the cheese.

elle est mûre: Tulameen raspberry, beetroot, 70% Guanaja chocolate cream - I literally smacked my own head when they served us this dessert.  Before we started dinner, the staff had asked us for our allergies and dietary restrictions.  The one thing Hello Kitty told them about was beetroot.  And here we were, starting at a dessert covered with a candy shell made of beetroot.

Removing the candy shell revealed raspberry sorbet and fresh raspberries sitting on a bed of chocolate cream covered in dehydrated raspberry powder.  Well, chocolate and raspberry is a classic combination.  I just didn't see why beetroot had to squeeze itself into the picture...

Opéra - once the staff realized that Hello Kitty wasn't gonna eat the beetroot dessert, they sent us a piece of the famous Dalloyau opéra.  Very, very tasty.

Finally, we had some petits fours.

Earl Grey macaron

Passion fruit pâté de fruit

Raspberry tart

But... tonight was dad's birthday, so wine takes center stage. This particular bottle came from the Sotheby's sale of wines direct from Domaine Clarence Dillon back in 2013.

1940 Haut-Brion, rebouchée en 1999, ex-château 2013 - served 30 minutes after opening.  Nose was really nice and smoky... a classic claret, with pencil lead and graphite notes as well as lovely woody fragrance.  Not surprisingly the wine didn't last long in the glass.  Still got some body here even after almost 80 years, and actually gained a little weight in glass with aeration.  After 1 hour the wine was still fresh and lively, with some sweetness.  The peak was clearly between 1 and 1½ hours, after which it started to go downhill.  As an ex-château bottle, the condition was clearly better than the bottle we opened last year.

The Parental Units had a really good time, and I was happy to once again celebrate dad's birthday in Hong Kong with a nice bottle.  Many thanks to Chef Nicolas and the team for taking good care of us.

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