Mission

Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

IWFS KL Marco Polo Duck and Pinot - Quacking!!

photo by Doc Stephen Hall
July 27 2017

SHORT VERSION
Good night. Excellent tasting and well prepared/presented variations on Duck bits matched with some lovely Pinots from across the world. Naturally everyone played "which wine is best" and everyone came out with different preferences. They all had their own characters - Marko was bolder and darker, Gloria was glorious in balance and restrained power, Craggy Range was a beaut, all integrated and balanced yet with a lovely dark cherry note that kept exploding the longer you left it in the glass. But the Burg did it all for me - layers on layers of chewy fruit and silky tannins - lovely lovely wine. Food ranged from very good to brilliant tasting and all matched exceedingly well with the wines. Fantastic service in both food and wine from the Marco staff, way better than I think most might have expected. Indeed, this was the first time I recall staff ever getting a collective tip from the IWFS. And great versatility from the chef in his ability to present duck in the many ways that he did. Slight whinges from the odd member here and there, but the vast majority of the attending rakyat came forward to say how much they thoroughly enjoyed the evening. As did I. Not many photos, too busy having a good time!!

LONG VERSION
Regular readers will know that I am a large fan of the Marco Polo. Lenglui and I get great service and the food is always top notch. But we had yet to introduce this great restaurant to the IWFS and see if we could stage an event there. It is basically the pork factor - the IWFS KL tends to steer away from including pork dishes in events. Not that the non-pork eating members raise any issues - this is just the way it has come to be.

The story behind this dinner was that Lenglui and I invited IWFSKL President David to a House of Pork session at the Marco during one of their Pig Nick promotions (i.e. all dishes contain an element of pork). It was a joyful reunion for David with the Marco, confessing he had not been there for decades and heaping praises on the chef and the food. Seems he had been nursing an idea to develop a dinner where all the dishes were duck based. He had not seen this for years and was hugely keen to re-experience it. So he had a chat with the chef and Marco GM Dean and the thing quickly came together. At a lunch to discuss the dinner, the idea of Pinot Around The World was thought to be fun and the perfect wine to pair so the Duck and Pinot Dinner concept was complete. 

IWFS KL Committee was originally a bit apprehensive at hitting the target of 50, but hit it we did. Sidenote - Chinese cuisine restaurants normally charge by the table of 10 diners, which means that this price remains payable if the table has less than ten. This can mess up the individual pricing that the members get charged so it is always a bit hairy trying to fill all the seats. A last minute group of four plus one gave us the full card of 50 for five tables and so all was on. 

We arrived just as the corks on the Drappier champagne got popped. My first glass felt a shade under-chilled for taste, though later pourings would prove less flabby and give more of a bite in the lovely biscuit and honey apple. It is fun doing the pre-dinner round, catching up with the ones you haven't seen for a while and trying desperately to remember the name of their spouse. Lenglui is brilliant at names; I do not have this gift and get reduced to surreptitiously asking while the spouse is being engaged by another member. 

President David got everyone sat before giving a speech thanking everyone involved (me and Lenglui, May and the Kiwi for the wines, Marco Manager Dean for getting it all in motion) and we were off.

The first of the pre-poured reds in glass came to the table. Staff had been instructed to seek to pour the exact same amounts into the glasses so that no one could whinge that a neighbour got more than them. Which worked. One slight problem was that all the glasses were the same shape so when the later wines came those who were more disciplined in their boozing forgot which one was which. No such problem for me - most of mine got sucked down before the next course had made it to the table. 

The Tofu Nugget. And friend. Quack.
The Money's 2011 Markovitz was being paired with two courses and was a stellar choice to open proceedings. Full rich plummy nose with cardamom hints gave way to crisp dark berries and pepper in the mouth. The food tamed the tannins to even out the balance which gave rise to a good meaty mouthful to wash down the food. For me, the first course stole the show - the tofu nugget in particular was generally acclaimed by the table as wonderful. The duck paste was rich and juicy and the deep fried sear on the tofu made the whole thing totally delicious. The Smoked Duck Breast was a bit French in its blandness, though the duck feet were…  interesting. Braised in some rich herb soup, the web fell off the bones. It is all collagen, apparently, and very good for the skin. I think like most of the Western attendees, we were figuring that we'd only ever try this once in a lifetime so here we would go. I don't think I will repeat the experience. Though the braised soup was magnificent, all Chinese Chemist shop but infused with the grease of the duck. Darn Ho seck, this - I was fighting with my table neighbour to suck it down. I decided to let him win. He is a nice man. 

The Roasted Peking Duck came sandwiched in some doughy soft baked tortilla bread wrap which got wolfed down before a photo could be taken (actually, very few photos seem to have got taken by anyone in the room - total focus on the food. Which is as it should be, n'est-ce pas?) This was quickly followed by the duck soup with the highly expensive and medicinally versatile cordyceps flower. The Chinese apparently swear by this  little herb which is praised to cure everything from arthritis to failing eyesight. And it is hugely expensive (and totally indigestible - it was pretty intact on its morning exit from the system - my Doctor tells me one must check these things). I find Alka Seltzer does it all for me. With the occasional panadol. 

Marco staff doling out the Duck
The pre-poured Craggy Range came to the table and my table buddy went ecstatic. Full, perfumed, rich mouth of spring fresh cherry and a low growling balanced finish. Fresh and windy slopes kissed by Southern Hemisphere sunshine must be somewhere behind this lovely drop of wine. The Kiwi had extolled it to the hills and rightly so - could suck on this one all evening. Shame it didn't go with the soup, but then in my experience few wines do. 

The Stir Fried Duck Meat looked like minced fried garlic but the combo with the lettuce leaf made for a good vegetal crunch on the meat. The Gloria Ferrer Pinot being paired proved a bit more fruit driven than the Craggy Range, but the integration and balance were full and delightful. We got this on special from supplier AsiaEuro and it is a belting wine. I almost visited this winery about ten years ago on a Sonoma Valley road tour but for some reason opted against. Lenglui later found a few bottles here in KL and enjoyed them thoroughly. The 2012 is showing deligthfully at this time - great character, full of mountains and air. In contrast, the JJ Confuron was serious burgundy - complex, layers, sun kissed fruit from the vines and showing great finesse and body. Somewhat leaner than the Gloria, it was one to sip and savour rather than slurp and chug. Lovely drop. 

I gave my table buddy the telephone number of the Gloria supplier and he went double ecstatic. He even let me have another spoonful of the dark duck juice. Nice man. 

The Braised Duck was full of juiciness and lovely tender treasures but it would be the Sauteed Duck Intestine with Liver and Tongues that would draw the "oohs" and "wahs" from the table. The liver and gizzard were particular favourites. It all looked a bit fierce with all the evil looking seared and black charred onions and peppers so I poked around it a bit and eventually chewed on some of the duck. I think. I also tried the liver. It was liverish. One more to scratch off the "been there ate that" list. Not a dish I would rush back for. Everyone else loved it. There you go. Apparently it gave the Craggy Range a softer mouthfeel. Wouldn't know, mine had disappeared. 

The fierce Sauteed Duck internals
The Duck Rice was a bit over-salted, probably due to the wax duck, and would have benefited greatly from some Chinese Liver Sausage ("lap cheong") to give some greasy bite and fire to the thing. Didn't do much for the wine. But by this time, few were in the mood to care, feeling mellow and happy and going round the tables toasting and cheering health. Somewhere around this time, the Money slipped me two large notes to pass to GM Dean as a thank you for the excellent service by him and his team. Never known this before - I was so shocked that I actually gave it to him. He poured me a snifter of the last remaining bottle in return. Nice man.

And that was it. Everyone seemed clearly in good spirits and to have thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Lots of "thank yous" and "well done and well organised" from the members. So that is good - we do try to organise good hearted parties for the good members. Some constructive and not unfair comments about the dishes (Roast Duck where got?) and the wines (No white ah?). And we all finished off the remains of the Marko with Mossie and the diehards. Great night, most enjoyable.  

Postscript - it seems that one of the members got a bit verbal and unnecessary during President David's end of the dinner speech. Being over at the other side of the room doing a Mossie scour for bottle remains (successful on this occasion), I missed the proceeding and only have the anecdotal, so better to maybe reserve comment. Though I must confess to feeling pity for people who seem to feel that life is hugely unfair and always feel they get dealt a raw hand and do nothing but whinge to the world and its dog. You want a raw hand, go live in Afghanistan or Syria. When you can wake up and jangle change in your pocket and brew your morning coffee, you in the top 5% of the world's population. Be grateful and thankful.

I think also perhaps some folk should learn to either hold the booze or give it up. The vino is still the best truth serum in existence - it will always draw out the veritas. And the character. Which is not always a good thing to allow to happen. It is difficult to shift a perception of an insight into someone's character as a result of an outburst seemingly caused by over-indulgence - angry outbursts can suggest an inability to maintain self control and one can get mentally bookmarked as variable. Once in a while, okay can let it go (let it go...  I am one with the wind and sky-ee-yyy...). It happens. But beware should it be observed that a pattern seems to be developing either in self or others - this can strongly suggest the booze is in control of the self (or the other) and that it is maybe time to seek some serious counselling or sign the pledge. I think I have quoted Christopher Hitchens elsewhere when he said the booze can be a wonderful friend but a terrible master. So darn true.

So much for reserving comment, eh? Don't think the foregoing is much of a problem for me - I seem to be boozed most of the time. People keep giving me the good stuff to drink, it's a bugger so it is...

MENU
Appetizers
Fried Lotus with Salted Egg
Crispy Shimeji Mushroom
Sliced Broccoli "Sze Chuan Style"
Drappier Carte d’Or Champagne N.V.

First Course
Tofu Nugget (tofu stuffed with duck paste and deep fried)
Marinated Duck Web and Wine with Five Spices Teow Chew Style
Smoked Duck Breast with Mixed Fruit Salad
Markovitch Pinot Noir, Carnuntum, Austria   2011 

Second Course
Roasted Peking Duck
Markovitch Pinot Noir, Carnuntum, Austria   2011 

Third Course
Double Boiled Wild Duck Soup with Cordyceps Flower
Craggy Range, Te Muna,  Martinborough Pinot Noir  2012

Fourth Course
Stir Fried Duck Meat with Black and Pepper Sauce in Lettuce
Craggy Range, Te Muna,  Martinborough Pinot Noir  2012

Fifth Course
Braised Duck stuffed with Eight Treasures
Gloria Ferrer, Carneros,  Estate Pinot Noir  2012 
Domaine JJ Confuron, Les Fleurieres,. Nuit St George  2012

Sixth Course
Sauteed Duck Intestine, Liver and Tongues with Black Bean Sauce
Gloria Ferrer, Carneros,  Estate Pinot Noir  2012 
Domaine JJ Confuron, Les Fleurieres,. Nuit St George  2012

Seventh Course
Steamed Rice with Preserved Wax Duck
Gloria Ferrer, Carneros,  Estate Pinot Noir  2012 
Domaine JJ Confuron, Les Fleurieres,. Nuit St George  2012

Eighth Course
Seasonal Fresh Fruit Platter

THE WINES
Drappier Carte d’Or Champagne N.V.
The 75 percent Pinot Noir is evident in this champagne, which although non-vintage unfolds with some cellar aging to add layers of complexity. The wine is grown and crafted in the southern-most part of the appellation and is perhaps a rather unsung champagne, given the weight and breadth which it delivers. Drappier’s sense of substance is real, and comes in part from the high proportion of Pinot Noir and in part from the fact that the grapes get riper in the warmer climate. A sense of white stone fruits (think peaches and apricots) dominate the flavour, along with spicy, aromatic notes.

Markovitch Pinot Noir, Carnuntum, Austria   2011 
Ripe cherries and mild spices are awash with fruit in this masculine style. Savoury notes are evident in the aromas and an underlying structure which is most appealing for the long dark fruit notes, creamy undertones and an elegant yet broad finish. Grown in limestone soils with moderating lake influences, this is a Pinot to remind us of a how skilled Austrians have become in crafting the elegant grape. If the district’s name looks like something from ancient Roman times, that’s because it is an ancient trading crossroads. An earlier vintage was a high scorer in a Singapore blind tasting for Burghound in Asia in the company of big name Burgundies, judged by MWs and Pinot winemakers.
                                
Craggy Range, Te Muna, Martinborough Pinot Noir  2012
Martinborough only produces 2.8 per cent of New Zealand’s wine but its reputation of Burgundian style Pinot Noir goes back three decades, and longer for Kiwis such as Craggy Range guiding light, Steve Smith MW. Although a single vineyard site, the Te Muna Road vineyard is planted with eight different Pinot Noir clones, across 40 individual parcels of vines. Combined with over a year's ageing in small oak barrels, this produces a wine with enhanced complexity. Deep red, with an almost blackish tint; it is not a small wine. Silky on the palate, flowing to a long, spicy finish. Craggy Range is now globally famous, and was voted 2014 New World Winery of the Year by US magazine Wine Enthusiast. Wine Spectator 93 points. Bob Campbell M.W. Five Star. Michael Cooper, Five Star. Potential Classic

Gloria Ferrer, Carneros, Estate Pinot Noir  2012 
This vintage (the 20th from eleven parcels of land) benefits from both the fog and coolness of the Carneros Bay and some astute winemaking, in which the relatively high alcohol is not evident. This 2012 is a bold style which has had time to integrate the concentrated blackberry opulence, creamy oak and just enough acidity to bring the whole together into a long savoury finish. The wine is aged nine months in French oak (35% new) and while punched down and pumped over, there is much greater elegance and finesse than one sometimes finds in other warmer Californian efforts. The  wineries website suggests pairing with seared duck, so here we are. San Francisco Chronicle Wine Show 2016, Gold.

Domaine JJ Confuron, Les Fleurieres, Nuit St George  2012
Carefully tended 35 year old vines from an excellent site in Nuit St George and judicious use of new oak by Alain Meunier produce subtle, lingering aromas and palate sensations. The wine is bio-dynamic and from an excellent vintage. While it may be a trifle young, this 2012 classic will provide an interesting comparison for Pinot lovers. It is worth the struggle to leave it to open in the glass. The Fine Wine Review tasting in 2015 states  “This wine is smooth and airy with very dark fruit. It is a pleasure to drink now, even though some tannin is in the background, and it shows more finesse than one would expect of Nuits. 90/A.”  Huon Hooke praised the wine in 2015 as “smoky, savoury” while being “clean, accessible and excellent.”


Many thanks to Dr Stephen Hall, Chair of the Wine Sub Committee, for these wine notes, and for not objecting to my stealing his excellent photo at the top of this post. Well, not yet anyway...

Friday, July 28, 2017

Boys Night at Casa Rosa - excellent steak!

Plump oysters - belter!
July 26 2017

A magnificent evening of steak, oysters and wine where we all got happily drunk whilst feasting on some really good and well cooked meat. 

The Boys all rave about the steak at Casa Rosa, and we are all friends with the owners IJ and Cynthia who are always hugely generous with their time and food. They also operate the Jakes Place franchise. Casa Rosa is located in The Pines condo complex in Mont Kiara, requiring visitors to negotiate the guard at the gate, get your visitor laminate and find a parking spot (easy on a Wednesday night, weekends a bit more complicated). Casa Rosa had a previous incarnation in Damansara but had to move when the BIG group bought over the property and renovated the entire row of shops.

One of the magnificent steaks
I had always found the steaks at both the old and the new Casa Rosa to be good but not great. Solid and wholesome, but lacking in some je ne sais quoi something. Couldn't say that about this visit - excellent seasoning, hot on the plate, tender as a bedroom whisper and with perfect bite and chew. This was big ass rib eye that tasted magnificent. I think there were different marbles because the menu and bill showed different prices and different designations - some were SK, some were SSK but it wasn't clear from the menu what these all meant. Find out next time. 

Winewise, we had Sparkling South Africans and a couple of whites to start (an Oyster Bay, naturally, and my 2014 LFE Reserve from Chile) before hitting some well tasty red. Interesting contrast between the crisp and frisky Oyster Bay and the aged and layered LFE. The bit of stink on the LFE put some people off, but once past this the wine offered rich apricot and a hint of toast. Not bad.

The Boyz
Can't remember much about the reds, but there was an Italian magnum along with various other lovelies. I took a 2012 Bordeaux which went respectably well with the meat whilst all the others look pretty Italian from the photo. There was one big ass Aussie Shiraz that came out at the end, possibly bought from the Casa as a nightcap which was delightful. 

The booze
The bill came out at about RM350 ish per person for four dozen oysters and five steaks between nine of us. No corkage but I did slip the wine boy a few Ring for his trouble. After this he kept feeding me wine - there had to be about five glasses in front of me at one time. Everyone seemed to think I was slow in drinking but I don't think so. I had made a friend.  


Would I go back? Yes. The ambience is friendly, the service is good, and the steak was excellent. Well worth a visit, though maybe select a designated driver or Uber - the booze at Casa Rosa can flow a bit too easily!

Casa Rosa
Mont Kiara Pines, Aspen Clubhouse
50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
03-6203 1978


Cheers!!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Marco Polo Restaurant - Still the Business

The Marco Polo Promotion Menu - weekdays only
July 11th 2017

The Marco Polo does some brilliant promotions through the year. And one of these is for the restaurant to go back to when they first opened in 1980 (this year makes it thirty seven years ago) and do their menu at the prices that were being charged then. I was there the other night with the Rubber Baron and gang and the food was knockout and even more so at the prices. We had the Siew Yoke, some Breaded and Battered Mushroom, Roast Duck, Fried Fish, and other bits. The gang like their Shark Fin soup and tongues and jaws hit the table when all were advised of the price that would be charged - RM12 per bowl with seafood. Yes. Abalone with beancurd and broccoli at RM23. Stir fried sliced fish with scallion and ginger at RM10, Roast Duck for RM30, Sang Har Mee with a massive King Prawn at RM15. Madness prices. We also went for the Marco Polo Roast Suckling Pig on promotion at RM198 which is still one of the best in the city. Turned into a cracking good meal. 

The Roast Suckling Pig
By unanimous agreement, the Duck was exquisite - full bite and chew on the meat, light crisp on the slightly smoky skin and champion with the sweet honey lemon sauce. Sang Har Mee and the Roast Pig tied for second.

But the real winner was the Baron - he got the bill. I didn't actually see the bill, but the Baron's face was a picture of wondrous delighted amazement. Lucky, lucky boy. 

Winewise we had a full and slightly creamy 2012 Vasse Felix Cabernet to start, two decanted reds (one of which was a Spaniard we had recently bought and wanted to try - quite macho and spicily agreeable with the brilliant duck) and we finished off with this amazing dessert wine the Baron had brought back from a trip to the Greek island of Santorini. It was called VinSanto, the winery is Sigalas, and this was a 2004. The back of the bottle says it is the "descendant of the wine which the ancient Greeks used to name "passos" and made from sun dried grapes of the indigenous grape varieties assyrtico and aidani" and which have grown on Santorini "since antiquity."  The old method apparently was to lay the grapes in the sun for ten days and then move them to the shade for five. On the sixteenth the grapes could be put into the jars.  Which sounds like a Greek version of the Italian Amarone, though the Greek version comes in a slinky slender bottle, all dark and brooding. 

Amazing wine!!
I don't know how it tasted in antiquity, but this one was an absolute stormer. All peppery figs and drippy toffee and gooey spice dark honey and dear O Lord a finish like a double brandy fortified mince pie with a glass of vintage port after Christmas dinner. If mince pies could be liquified, this wine might be the result. Definitely got to find some of this on the travels - brilliant, brilliant wine. 

The Marco promotion ends just before the end of the month - the 22nd July as memory serves, and the promotion is available on weekdays only (ie not on weekends). Maybe better you call ahead to check - 03 21412233. There are two seatings - 6pm and 8.15pm. I will be back there twice next week and our IWFS is having an all Duck and Pinot Noir wine dinner there on 27th. If you can't do this promotion dinner, go there anyway. Dim Sum lunch or a la carte dinner is always good. Or consider the Marco Sunday buffet lunch at RM51++ with special prices for seniors (RM36++) and kids under 10 (RM28++) - great value and a huge selection of food. Hooooooooooooooo… seck hor! 

Marco Polo Restaurant
1st Floor Wisma Lim Foo Yong
86 Jalan Raja Chulan
50200 Kuala Lumpur

reservations: +603 2141 2233
www.marcopolo.com.my

marcopolorestaurant@yahoo.com

Endnote 
Think I want to say a few words on the eating of Shark Fin. My position is that I will avoid taking it wherever possible since this apparent delicacy involves one of the most inhumane methods of harvesting that our species is capable of. I've seen the videos and they are heartbreaking - the boatmen just slash off the fins and dump the shark back in the sea where, unable to swim, it sinks to the bottom and drowns. And presumably gets eaten by other sharks. I recognise that many of our gastric pleasures are derived from some form of butchery of live animals. But this seems particularly brutal. So I take a stand against eating it and hope that somehow the demand for it will decrease to the ultimate point of forcing the Fin Slashers to find another earning occupation.

If it is ladled out into a bowl and put in front of me, I will normally put it back on the Lazy Susan and allow someone else on the table to take a second bowlful. If asked, I say "I don't know how to appreciate it." Which is actually true - I guess it is a texture thing and as a Westerner I derive little pleasure from its consumption. It is the same with Abalone - park it back with Susan and get stuck into some leftover duck or something. Far better for someone who does appreciate it to have the opportunity to do so. 

But if not to take it would be embarrassing or disrespectful to someone (either host or some other relationship sat around the table) then I will take it and quietly and quickly eat it. I have spent enough time around the Chinese community to understand the importance of maintaining (or not losing) Face, especially in the company of others. Every relationship is important, and nurturing and developing them all are critical. In this, maintaining harmony in the relationship is paramount, and public embarrassment becomes unforgivable. So I eat it, shut up, and move on. 

I get that it is a delicacy that has been highly treasured by the Chinese palate for centuries. And I get that the rest of the meat on a shark is not that good to eat (firm and dry and pretty tasteless have been the two tastings I have had). But to just remorselessly dump the animal back to the deep having hacked it with a knife just for its fin seems beyond barbaric. Yes, people need to earn a buck but there must be less soul destroying occupations than this. 

Might sound like a double standard, but I don't think so. Yes, there are some matters of principle on which to stand - but I am not sure that the occasional eating of shark fin soup to maintain good relations qualifies. Perhaps others might feel different. For me I don't feel I should judge what others find delightful - my job is to judge the chef and the restaurant and not the clientele. 

Should the occasion arise, I will advance my arguments for not eating the Shark fin. But it remains the embarrassment aspect that has to be worked out and this might take another generation or two more. It is passing - Wikipedia notes a report saying that demand in China had declined by 50 to 70% from 2011 to 2013. Also, many now take imitation or substitute shark fin in soup, so as to presumably perpetuate the prestige but salve the conscience and reduce demand for the actual fin.  

In my time, I have on occasion had to sit with (let us call him) The Chinaman. This person is the archetypal "salty" Ham Sap glutton who appears to have little concern for anyone's well being and opinion except his own. He is the one who argues that the consumption of the shark fin will imbue the eater with the qualities inherent in the beast - presumably in the case of a shark this means rapacious hunger, aggression, being the apex predator, and ultimately success in business. Similarly, eating bits of the tiger is supposedly good for virility. In contrast, we eat the pig because it tastes so good. How Turtle Feet fit into this is beyond me, but The Chinaman will salivate over it. 

The Chinaman also likes to Lord it over his business partners and show them how wealthy he is by lavishing them with the best of everything: whiskey, brandy - and shark fin. It becomes a projection of apparent wealth and power, presumably aimed at securing an impression that The Chinaman has little regard for wealth - he is powerful enough to make more money somewhere. As a result, The Chinaman gets big Face. Or so he thinks. Most people see straight through it. 

I have seen The Chinaman happily and greedily suck down bowl after bowl of the Shark Fin, usually on someone else's tab - secure in the knowledge that it will turn him into "Shark Man". He will advance theory after theory as to why the Stock Market is not making money for you and that only by following his Shark Man lead will you come through into the Nirvana that is Making Money. 

Maybe it is a self belief thing - you get the confidence to take that risk because you believe you are Shark Man and are therefore invincible. But I do find it somewhat delusional - the idea that consuming an animal will give you the qualities of that beast. Dead meat is dead meat, and the fact that it came from a shark or a chicken becomes immaterial. Anyhow, this is not intended to be judgmental as to why people eat what they eat. Some eat Shark Fin, I eat stinky cheese and crackers. Not eating the Shark becomes a personal preference which I will honour when I am able. 

I must say that, like the demand for Shark Fin, the Mr Chinamen of the world also seem to be in decline. The Chinese can be a complicated grouping. And pretty alien to most Western perceptions and comprehensions. Keenly shrewd in business dealings, huge risk takers, a love of gambling - yet generous, warm hearted and taking a great joy in life's pleasures. They build lifetime relationships with friends and family and take pains to maintain and nurture them. I feel strangely blessed to have been able to have spent so much time and enjoyed so much wine around restaurant tables in their company. 

Underpinning all of the foregoing is an ecological argument that we should really weigh in our appetites. Overfishing of the sea's bounty is producing observable developments in the sizes of both the catches and the sizes of the fish. Overfishing is a natural economic consequence of demand. And demand is driven by our disposable wealth and our appetites. And it is thanks to these that both the size of the populations and the size of the fish are shrinking. We see it in tuna, whose numbers are also decreasing at an alarming rate and where those being caught are getting smaller and smaller. We also see it in Sharks - they are not being given enough time to grow to maturity before the fin gets cut. It seems also to be happening with oysters - recent suggestions are that globally they are shrinking in size. They cannot cope with the demands of the human belly.

It is true that shark fin has little audience outside Chinese communities compared to the global domination of the belly of the Tuna. Nevertheless, shark numbers are decreasing and this has to impact the Marine ecosystem, which will in time impact the land ecosystem and eventually impact mammals that walk the land. There appears to be compelling evidence that our planet has entered an Extinctive Event phase (which according to the wonks is quickly becoming irreversible) which has already killed off substantial numbers and species. Whether they are man made or not, action needs taking and we each can still do something to defer and look to ultimately arrest the extinction that is happening. Get people to use less water when washing their dishes. Use the car a bit less. Recycle your paper. And don't be a market for rare animal products that claim to increase virility. Tell Mr Chinaman he is full of shit. The environment does matter. There's only one Earth for all humanity and it's getting increasingly smaller and less able to support us. 

How do you stop people eating shark fin? One at at time. So please - Don't. Eat. Shark. Fin.       No.

The Sang Har Mee

Total and absolute yum

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Three Nights, Three Wine Dinners - Stoked, Sapore and Nadodi

April 6th 2017

Wow…  three wine dinners on the bounce this week. Photos are a bit grim, having been taken with the Samsung. Getting a bit lazy to take the old Sony, and the big flash does annoy the table guests. But I think we still can see the dishes quite well - welcome to another slice of my food scribbles!

French Duck Breast - un peu froid
First off was a Banfi Wine Dinner at Stoked on Monday April 3rd. Second was the Amanti della Cucina Italiano at Sapore on Tuesday the 4th. And third was an IWFS food tasting at Nadodi on the Wednesday April 5th. It is now Thursday the 6th and I am pretty muzzy and fuzzed - that little tweaking behind the eyes that tells you "tonight you must take a night off the sauce". But then you remember you have a couple of half opened bottles in the fridge and you think "how to not finish them off?" We'll see - some of the wines don't do too well after a chilling in the fridge and grudgingly get poured down the sink - some not salvageable even by the little aerator thingy or blending with other half bottles in the fridge. Damn sad.

Iberico Presa - beaucoup froid!!
I digress. Castello Banfi at Stoked started well with a delightfully light and fruity fizz going with some raw fish and woody truffle canapes. The white was equally pleasant in a chugging cheery kind of way with just enough of a hint of character to pique the interest - quite unusual for Pinot Grigio in my experience. It also paired well with the sweet and tasty Prawns and Burrata Cheese - lovely combo this, and well zinged up by the sweet boozy vinaigrette. Two reds came out with the duck and the Bolgheri Rosso was lovely - medium lush and chewy fruit and tannin in a lovely even balance that had us buying another bottle for an end of the evening nightcap. Friendly prices too, though not for the long term - two years, maybe three, but lovely drinking now. The Chianti was a bit standard Banfi - lean and taut - whilst the Brunello was firm and full but frankly forgettable. Also got recognised by Banfi Regional Manager Guillaume Blanchard who was on hand to host and guide us all through the wines. Lenglui and I had attended a Banfi dinner some years back at Le Meridien when it used to have an Italian restaurant there. Better wines tonight than then. Far better. That previous one had frankly put me off Banfi wines - found them thin, fierce, and tight. Tonight it got redeemed. 

May and The Money
The Money and the Banker
Foodwise, the evening got a bit marred by two dishes coming out cold and needing to get sent back and, in the case of the main pork, needing to get replaced with beef as no more pork available. Not sure what went wrong, but all were full of apologies and an extra glass of the good stuff got poured to help recompense. Hmmm…   not sure what it is with Stoked - it has evenings that are total Brahma, and then it trips up with something like this. I think there were some new staff drafted who were perhaps not as fully trained as might have been hoped for. Chef Yau's fish dishes are pretty much always on point - the raw fish canapes and prawns were excellent - but somehow the meat dishes don't always seem to hit the mark for me. Sorry, but I never feel as stunned as I feel I should be. But then Chef Evert's meat at Soleil was similar, but eventually he started putting out some wonderful meat. I live in hope. 

Lenglui and new friends
Stoked
120 Jalan Kasah, 
Medan Damansara, 
50490 Kuala Lumpur

Menu
Trio of Canap├ęs
Banfi Tener Brut NV

Tai Fish
Sweet Prawn, Burrata Cheese, Champagne & Honey Vinaigrette
Banfi San Angelo Toscana IGT 2014

French Duck Breast
Plum, Fennel, Blueberry Caramel Sauce
Banfi Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva 2013 
Banfi Aska Bolgheri DOC Rosso 2013

100% Acorn-Fed Iberico Presa
Portobello Mushroom, Pecorino Cheese, Edible Flowers
Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2011

Coconut Sorbet
Coconut Water, Baked Banana, Coconut Chips

Coffee or Tea

Petits Fours

Sapore is a new kid on the block and the latest venture of Chef Federico. Cutting his teeth at Pietro and getting some chops at Marini's on 57, he is now going back to his roots and serving up some damn fine home style Italian cooking. From start to finish, the food was outstanding. We started with ham, mortadella, salami and the most amazing lardo that was total tongue zapping gangbusters with some salty oven baked bread. Next was a Wild Boar ragout with large tubes of Rigatoni pasta (some said a shade overboiled, but I found mine pretty much perfect) which was all taste and firm whack in the craw. The Suckling Pig was magnificent - tender, cooked, smelling and tasting of thyme and rosemary - fantastic. Roast potatoes could have been crisper (a shade mushy on the bite) but the pig…   I later noticed it was not on the menu so perhaps it is special order. Tiramisu dessert was damn near perfect - light, coffee, cream and cold. Belter.

We brought our own wines - a Vivo Prosecco and a 2013 Fontodi Chianti. Prosecco was pleasant, and kept quite cool in the IWFS Bag. The Chianti was a bit mean - thinnish fruit and prominent tannin. Austere would be a good word here. But the leftovers got blended with a roughish jammy leftover bordeaux at home to produce a half drinkable nightcap.

Sapore is well worth a return visit though be advised that unless you are desperately lucky, the parking in the area sucks. I ended up halfway down a dark road outside someone's large and well electrified house. Chef also does a 1.2kg Steak, so that sounds like a date with the Baron at some near future time.

Nadodi Maitre D' and friend
Sapore
18 Persiaran Ampang, 
Desa Pahlawan, Ampang 
55000 KL
Tel +603 42666362
email: sapore18my@gmail.com

MENU 
Antipasti tagliere
Mix of the best of Italian cold cut from parma , capocollo , salami , Lardo di collonata , mortadella , served with pickled vegetable

Pasta
Rigatoni pasta with Tuscany style  and pecorino romano

Main
Suckling pig porchetta style served with roasted potato

Dessert
Home made vanilla gelato
Tiramisu 

Nadodi (which apparently is Hindi for "wanderer") is the latest place to take the premises that once housed the legendary Il Lido on Jalan Yap Kwan Seng. There have been a couple of attempts to kickstart subsequent eateries on the premises, though none seem to have taken hold. The Architect seems to think the Feng Shui there is not so good - it is muscled in on pretty much all sides by some bigass neighbours that tower above it. Whatever, some serious money has been spent on it, and it now sports a fine dining Indian Cuisine restaurant on Level One and a swanky bar on Level Two. 
Destroyed Staple - evaporated in a single bite

The menu blurb runs:
"Modernity and tradition go hand-in-hand at Nadodi. Our artisanal creations make creative use of exclusively sourced ingredients and specialty farmed produce to earn a place at our table, and on your plate. We harness completely contemporary techniques and retrofit an age old traditional recipe with modernity. This can result in surprising discoveries and an absolutely fresh perspective on familiar cuisine tropes that must be experienced."

Lactose Free - Fish Flakes and Sambol - two bites
So it was not Indian Fusion cuisine as someone along the line had told us. Some foodie friends had been under the impression that Nadodi was Indian Fusion cuisine - it is not; there is no other cuisine with which the recipes were fused. But one does need a bit of a sense of adventure to come here. And also to mentally get away from the mindset that sees Indian cuisine as the preserve of the roadside. But the rewards are very pleasant. It is indeed fine dining Indian cuisine with some lovely touches and delightful tastes.  The evening had been organised by the Doc with a view to hosting a future IWFS event there. And on this showing, it looks like it should happen soon. 

Out Of The Shell - Scallop and Foam
Alleppey Lobster and Coconut Crumble
We spent a short time at the upstairs bar with our glasses of bubbles, and gawping at the single Twin Tower we could see peeking behind one of the neighbours. This bar is beyond swanky - red and black and high end sofas with some open air space to listen to the low hum of the Jalan Ampang traffic. Tiger prints seem to abound, and there seems some association with a London club of the same name. It felt a bit overwhelming and macho, and I didn't feel quite comfortable (never quite seem to in these muscle bars) and was glad when we got called to dinner. Though the staff there were most friendly and accommodative. Paid RM53 for Lenglui's VAT (Vodka and Tonic - anyone remember Minder?).

We got sat in a private room that will take about 16 at a stretch and Maitre D' started us off with a nice bit of theatre whereby what looked like a large empty wall frame became a window into the kitchen. We were to have what was billed as the Six Mile Run - a six dish degustation of revisited Indian cuisine. The first two courses did not look promising in terms of diners feeling full at the end of it all - both were half bite size morsels of wonderful tastes and blends but frighteningly tiny. More than half the table thought we would be heading for Char Kwey Teow supper, which thinking was reinforced by dishes three and four - barely two bites apiece. But it all came together with dish five - basically Chicken Biryani with solid rice and amazing sauces. And second helpings of rice and sauce if needed. This brought it all together and laid the replete stomach foundation for dish six dessert which came across like creamy cold and crunchy cendol. 

Dravidian Nation - Chicken Biriyani and sauces - yum!
The quality of the food, its presentations and descriptions, the service of both food and wine were top class. Well worth a visit to impress friends and educate those who feel one should not pay top dollar for food you can get on the streets for a fraction of the cost. We paid RM200 for the six and I would definitely go back for a similar experience. Winewise, we had various Champagnes, a delightful SB from a new NZ vineyard discovered by The Money. The Architect brought a bottle of Pingus, there was a CdR to finish and I think a Bordeaux somewhere in the mix. And May brought a Rose, which was found to be perfect with much of the food, especially the lobster. 

Mind of a Coconut - sounds like some people I know...
Slight gripe on the parking - was told valet would be RM10 (I think only valet is possible - little to no parking anywhere near the place on the outside) but only got RM30 back from a fifty. Might have been a genuine mistake, but I was in a rush and only found out on getting home. Thinking on it, perhaps this is why the place cannot ever take off - there is no easy parking, and one thing that Malaysians DO tend to expect when it comes to eating is easy and free/cheap parking; if cannot park within ten yards of the eaterie then no matter how good the food they'll cold shoulder it. Maybe Nadodi should buy the chunk of land next door and build a car park - now THAT will make money. Maybe I should talk to the Architect...

The Ceramic Football of Biriyani
Nadodi 
Lot 183 of, Jalan Mayang, Kampung Baru, 
50450 Kuala Lumpur, 
Malaysia
Open 6pm to 10pm
Tel: +603 21814334

Menu - The Six Mile Journey

Destroyed Staple

Lactose Free
Fish flakes, Sambol

Out of the Shell
Chettinad Scallops, Tamarind froth

Silence Of Our Lamb
Sous Vide Lamb, Curry Leaf Ash
OR
Alleppey Lobsters
Poached Lobster Tails, Coconut Mango Crumble

Dravidian Nation
Country-chicken Biriyani, Silver Burst

Mind Of a Coconut
Cane Sugar, Sea Coconut

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Emirates "Fort Knox" of Wine

Another good article from Bloomberg reprinted in the Malaysian Reserve Jan 12th 2017 talking about the top end wines available on Emirates first class flights. The author is James Gaddy.

Seems Emirates began a wine programme 12 years ago to develop "the best wine list in the sky" and has spent about US$500 million so far in doing so. 

The article notes Emirates Senior VP Joost Heymeeijer sharing that the wines have been built up through selective smart and early purchases through the years and stored in a Fort Knox style facility in Burgundy where they are stored until deemed ready for drinking. 

On the planes, the fizz gets served in a larger than normal flute and the wines are decanted into carafes for pouring. Nine million glasses of champagne were poured on Emirates flights in 2016 and it is one of the largest buyers of Dom Perignon in the world. They went long on Yquem 2005 and the customers are sucking it down (though perhaps more for the snob value than the infanticide of drinking any Sauteurnes under 30 years old). 

Other First Class delights include 2000 cases (10% total production) from Corton Charlemagne (Probably 2013 - was bought in 2015), and Super Tuscans Ornellaia and Solaia. Business class passengers must suffer with Tignanello, Stags Leap Chardonnay and Chateau Palmer. O the pain, the pain...


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wine Trends in 2017

Cute article by Elin McCoy, Bloomberg's wine buff and writer, pinpointing what to look for in wine in 2017. Is a bit USA focused, but still a good read. Source is Malaysian Reserve Jan 11, 2017 and the link below.

In sum, these are

1 Sparkling wine from more places - fizz is on a global roll with demand for bubbles up across the planet. Should mean more nations will embrace methode champenoise and produce cheaper yet fair quality fizz to satisfy the thirst. English fizz is establishing, but look out for good Lambrusco, Cava and output from Tasmania. 

comment - unlikely in Malaysia. Taxes going up, very niche, have to compete with established lines on price. Well worth a punt if overseas, though.

2. The Loire Valley should make an impact, with more elegant wines at reasonable prices. Given the grim winters in Bordeaux and Burgundy (and the consequent price hike due to scarcity of good booze), the happy Loire harvest should reap vinous dividends.

comment - sounds good. Hopeful Dear Leader or others might bring in at value prices.

3. Light red wines should boom because they're easy to chill (and taste better as a result), easy to drink and perfect with food and friends. Think Loire, Alto Adige, Alsace Pinot and Austrian Zweigelt. 

comment - totally works for me. Great with all the styles of cuisine we get in Malaysia. Bit hard to find though...

4. Chugging wine from cans took off in 2016 and is expected to not slow down any time soon. They are easy to chill, no need for glasses or corkscrew, and easily recyclable. Also look for "cortas" - flat short plastic Bordeaux style bottles that fit through a letter box. 

comment - Cans...  not for me. I would fear a metallic tang. Decent wine deserves a decent glass. But Cortas - absolutely. Now we can have daily deliveries - does anyone remember the Milk Man? Though I can't quite see the Romanee Conti coming in a Corta. Not that it comes in the first place...

5. Less snobby wine lists - goodbye to the leather tome, and hello to the Ipad. Or magazine. Or something more fun and less austere. 

comment - maybe not yet in Malaysia - restaurant wine lists are rarely extensive enough to last beyond five pages and the connoisseurs BYO anyway. Though I could see it happening in Singapore. 

6. Public wine on tap - there is one in Ortono, Italy which is there to nourish and refresh the pilgrims walking the Cammino di San Tommaso route. The Pilgrims fill a glass from the taps and give thanks and praise. And it is 24/7. 

comment - free public booze? In Malaysia? Never happen. Unlikely anywhere, for that matter. Except maybe for the White House - El Trumpo apparently has a vineyard and free samples would make sense. Keep the US rakyat skulled for the next four/eight years…