July 9, 2021

5 bottles for Friday

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While I have seen Belo a couple of times over the last couple of months, this particular foursome hadn't sat down at the same table since our fabulous wine dinner 3 months ago. Belo had recently been introduced to Castellana and found it worthy of a return visit. I, of course, was only too happy to oblige, as I had been curious about the place since some time last year. Thanks to the efforts of PR8, there was a flurry of posts on social media - with a particular dish grabbing all the attention. So yeah, it was an itch I kinda wanted to scratch.

I was a little surprised when I arrived at our table. The size of the table for four people was, shall we say, more suitable for a trattoria. There wasn't a whole lotta room here, particularly if we wanted to have a couple of decent wine glasses each.

After some discussion, it was decided that the ladies would take the 4-course option of Castellana Journey Around the World, while the Baller and I would take the 7-course option.

Interesting to see this sourdough at an Italian restaurant.

Our amuse bouche was a little tartlet with some Aussie winter truffle shaved on top.

Norwegian langoustine, "Cristal" caviar - this was, apparently, a journey from Piedmont to Norway, with the zabaglione made with egg yolk and wine coming with diced onions/shallots - which were pretty strong and kinda overpowered the caviar, topped with a nice langoustine from Norway.

I was curious about the "Cristal" caviar, since I know the caviar favored by many chefs around town is actually Kaviari's Kristal. The manager didn't know what brand the restaurant uses, and I asked him to check with the kitchen. Sure enough, they do use Kaviari.

Bassano del Grappa asparagus soup, Grana Padano cheese, "Vigezzo" cured ham - asparagus soup made with both white and green asparagus from Bassano del Grappa, and the texture was a little grainy thanks to Grana Padano. Little flakes of ham on top around the edges.

"Carnaroli" risotto, Amalfi lemon, Japanese sea urchin - while the sea urchin may be from Japan, the risotto was actually pretty bland. Maybe we were meant to use the sea urchin as seasoning by stirring them into the risotto? The alfalfa sprouts on top were also a little too strong and clashed with the sea urchin.

Homemade tagliolini, "Au Koque" carbonara sauce, Vigezzo valley cured ham - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR. This was all over my social media feed at one point, and it got me curious. I haven't had a decent, "authentic" carbonara in ages, and I was curious to see how this one would turn out. This wasn't the classic Roman version, but apparently more Piedmontese with the use of soft tagliolini. The sauce was also very different, as it was much, much more wet and liquid compared to the traditional Roman version. Au koque-style sauce apparently meant gin and raspberries were added to the yolk. Instead of guanciale we have prosciutto from Vigezzo.

The presentation was certainly pretty, but we all agreed that there wasn't enough prosciutto. While the sauce was pretty runny and not what I had expected, the flavors were pretty decent, at least.

But no, this wasn't an amazing dish. Not the same amount of happiness I used to get from the off-menu carbonara at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana. It's like a "diet" version of the traditional dish, and it's not something I would have cravings for.  Not even close.

Japanese "ikejime" wild rockfish, seasonal vegetables umami, Albenga artichokes - I suspect the fish was actually coral rockfish (珊瑚目抜), which was very tender. However, the whole dish was perhaps a little too delicate and bland, as the fish itself didn't have a lot of seasoning, and the vegetable broth was also pretty under-seasoned... Maybe the chef was trying to show us the "purity" of it all.  About the only part which tasted strong was the artichoke cream.

Iberico pork cheek, salsify "oyster plant", ginger mayo - when we were told about the beetroot powder, Sankala and I were a little apprehensive... but thankfully it wasn't too strong.  The ginger mayo was pretty interesting. 

I'm glad the pork cheek was nice and tender, thanks to the collagen.

Homemade hazelnut marzipan gelato, red cauliflower chips, passion fruit gel, "Crystal" caviar - so do we have another different caviar named "Crystal", which is different from the "Cristal" we got at the start of the meal, which is actually Kristal?  I suspect not.

I see some chefs try to incorporate caviar into their desserts, and I applaud them for trying to be creative. However, I didn't quite get this one. I have in my life enjoyed dishes where sweet and savory ingredients were woven together to create something magical, but this was not it. Not to me, anyway. Maybe I need to be enlightened by eating more desserts like this. I did enjoy the hazelnut gelato on its own, though.

There was an abundance of bottles tonight since we were all clearly very thirsty... and it was Friday night, after all!

Jacques Selosse Rosé, dégorgée le 15 octobre 2009 - very savory and mineral, like Chinese salted plum, with apricot, marmalade notes. Fragrant and a little floral, the nose was very beautiful - especially after more than an hour in glass. Finish was a little short though.

2002 Coche-Dury Meursault - opened for 1 hour prior to serving. It slowly started to open up to show the classic toasty and popcorn nose, along with some lemon. Acidity was still pretty high and a little surprising, even though the palate was now more mature. Still got plenty of life left.

2004 Robert Arnoux Romanée-Saint-Vivant - opened in bottles 5 hours prior to serving without decanting. Really fragrant with lots of toast, leather, bacon, a hint of coffee, black fruits like cherries, and floral notes. Some 6 hours after opening the coffee notes became even more prominent. Pretty nice.

1986 Mommessin Clos de Tart - served 2 hours after decanting. Minty and eucalyptus, with black fruits, grilled meats, and leather. Tannins still here. Half an hour later became much more elegant, more lush and open on the nose, with floral notes. But still grippy on the palate.

2007 Biserno Lodovico - served 2½ hours after decanting. Nose was very ripe, minty, potpourri, dried herbs, a hint of Asian and exotic spices. Unfortunately this also showed some brett, and was generally lean on the palate. I had expected this to be more lush. Maybe Monica Larner is right, after all...

We had a pretty good time. I guess 5 bottles of wine - OK, only 4 bottles were really enjoyable - would do it. Looking forward to our next gathering then... maybe with our CC Dogcow in tow.

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