Monday, July 12, 2010

1994 E&E Black Pepper Shiraz @ Nine Fine Foods, Walcott Street, Perth

Tonight I drank a 1994 E&E Black Pepper Shiraz from my cellar - my second last one left.  Shared it with my best mate (who else?) Brandon.  Had it with dinner in this fantastic gourmet Japanese restaurant called Nine Fine Foods.  Your average sushi place is a fast food joint by Japanese standards.  This place, in contrast is artisanal.  Well presented, tasty dishes, some with a fusion twist to remind you that we're not in Japan.  Great, friendly and enthusiastic service, although it can be hard to get someone's attention after you've ordered and all your food has come out.  What happens if you're still hungry for more of that delicious goodness?  And there's that age-old conundrum.  Why is it so hard to get someone's attention when you want to pay the bill.  Surely that's one of the most important things to a restaurant?  Patrons paying the bill?  Anyway, with the excellent food and friendly staff, it was impossible for me to be grumpy about these ancient conundrums that have plagued diners through the ages.

And the best thing?  It's BYO.  Ahh joy.

At 16 years old, I was half expecting the E&E have been past its prime, but all I could do was say WOW, and stop myself from guzzling the thing quickly.

From the get go, this is an amazing wine.  A light bouquet of restrained earthy berry fruits which belies the strength of flavour yet to come.  In the palate, it had restrained fruits (a blend of dark berries, and even a hint of cherry), a subtle, lingering vanilla flavour that made me want to keep drinking, and surprisingly (but perhaps not) a good deal of tannins left - almost like this wine still has another 3-5 years before it starts going downhill.

There was simply nothing wrong with this wine, and everything right - it was a wine that made you smile, and want to keep drinking; cherishing that very last drop in your glass as a drop of water to a parched man in the desert.

An interesting contrast to some of the greatest wines in the world that I had the previous Friday night.  Maybe I'm just a philistine, but the E&E was like what I'd expected the Grange to be.  Then again, the Grange had another 8 years of age on it.  Still - a $100 bottle of wine that tastes perfect, compared to a $1,000 bottle of wine that smelt supremely sublime, but ultimately needed a lemon to get rid of the acid tang in the back palate.  I know what I'd choose everytime.

Copyright Melvin Yeo 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Michelin Star dinner at Friends

On 9 July 2010, I had the privilege of enjoying a special one-off dinner at Friends Restaurant, with a very small group of 7 other fellow members of the Parisian-based international gastronomic society, La Chaine Des Rotisseurs, including my friends Wayne & Amanda Teo.   2 Michelin star Executive Chef Andrew Barnes (formerly of Longridge, Le Gavroche & 90 Park Lane in London) had come up with an 8 course homage to the multiple Michelin-star doyens of the culinary world.

We were well looked after by our gracious hosts Clyde and Lesley Bevan.  I enjoyed a clever drink before we sat down - Campari, shaken vigorously with crushed ice (if I remember correctly).  It tastes quite differently (in texture as well) to the stuff that comes straight out of the bottle!

Here's the drool-inducing line-up, together with the outstanding wines they were paired with:
Pot au feu of pigeon
(copyright Amanda Spencer-Teo)

Marco Pierre-White - The Restauramt, Hyde Park Hotel
Tagliatelle of oysters
2000 Dom Perignon

Andrew Barnes - Longridge Restaurant
Jerusalem artichoke and thyme soup, truffle foam
Salon Blance de Blancs Le Mesnil 1996

Marco Pierre-White - The Restauramt, Hyde Park Hotel
Ballontine of Salmon
1996 Dom Perignon Rose

Gordon Ramsay - Aubergine
Pot au feu of pigeon
1986 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue Chambolie-Musigny
Shoulder of milk lamb braised in saffron
(copyright Amanda Spencer-Teo)

Michel Roux Junior - Le Gavroche
Shoulder of milk lamb braised in saffron
1986 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac 1st Growth

Andrew Barnes - Friends Restaurant
Roast fillet of beef, truffle butter, truffled creamed potatoes, braised cabbage, root vegetables, syrah jus
1986 Penfolds Grange

Anton Mosimann - Moismann's, Dorchester Hotel
Symphony of fruit purees

Paul Heathcote - Longridge Restaurant
Hot apple crumble souffle
1990 Chateau D'Yquem Premier Grand Cru

Roast fillet of beef, et al
(copyright Amanda Spencer-Teo)
The soup was the clear winner.  Thick and creamy, but completely smooth and consistent, with a hauntingly ephemeral smokey flavour overlaid by the truffled foam on the surface.  And of course - the Salon ... not something that your average cashed-up punter would even know about, let alone appreciate (good for you and me, since you can still buy bottles of the 1996, which is just becoming ready to drink).  Amazingly balanced palate of powerfully tight, lean, restrained acid contrasted with subtle pale fruit flavours (don't ask me what that means - I'm just trying to translate what my tongue tasted!)

Fruit puree
(copyright Amanda Spencer-Teo)
The fruit puree was also delightful.  A swirl of colours and flavours on the plate, it was fun just to try to guess the fruit, although a little dollop of finely diced corresponding fruit gave the game away.  The strawberry, paw paw and kiwi bits were my favourites.

The '86 Lafite Rothschiled was superb (and yes it was breathing for 8 hours before being served), Robert Parker may have given it a perfect score of 100 points, but maybe I just like my New World Barossa/Clare style better (shock horror!); then again, there was the 2000 Dom, '96 Dom Rose (yes there are still some around!), and '86 Burgundy from Cotes du Nuit.

The '86 Grange presented with an utterly beguiling bouquet of vanilla milk with caramel underlay.  Yum.  Sadly, there was a bit of acid sharpness in the back palate that took 30 minutes and a lemon slice to dissipate - a clever little trick taught to us by Clyde.  But to be honest, if you need a slice of lemon to make a wine taste better, well ...

And I can now chalk down having tasted the exquisite 1990 Chateau D'Yquem!  Sweet but not too sweet, and not "oily" for that matter (unlike cheap dessert wines), with a delightfully crisp and dry finish.  It was flawless (and Robert Parker thought so too, if I recall correctly) - nothing wrong with it at all.  But I'm not sure if I'd pay $1,200 a bottle though - I'd be equally happy with a $150 bottle of Chateau Coutet et Barsac, or even a $40 bottle of De Bortoli Noble One, so maybe it's all about the relativities. Then again, it's probably because my poor palate isn't quite that sophisticated.

I could crap on for quite a bit longer, but you're probably getting tired of reading, so that's it for now.

Copyright Melvin Yeo 2010