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.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Poor Jeremy. Not much sooner had the notice for this dinner gone out to the members did he get inundated with acceptances. Whilst not normally a bad thing, on this occasion there was a strict limit on the number of places available. All twenty were snapped up literally within minutes, and many IWFS KL members had to be put on a waiting list. 

It was difficult not to see why. A marvellous selection of wines from one of the leading chateax of St Julien and paired with the food from one of the leading restaurants in the city at a steal of a price. Most of us were on tenterhooks, wondering if we would be part of the chosen few. 

The email with the seating duly came and those fortunate enough to have made the cut found themselves duly allocated. I got to be one of the lucky ones along with my nearest and dearest. Maybe being the food and wine writer in situ for the IWFS helped. No dinner, no write up. Ah, the perques of leverage.

Let the drinking begin!
Located in the Shangri-La Hotel in the Golden Triangle business district of Kuala Lumpur, Lafite remains one of the go-to restaurants for fine French style cuisine. In recent years, the menu had become somewhat molecular, though the quality remained unmatched. The evening’s offering from new-ish Chef de Cuisine John Nash saw a return to more traditional ingredients in what appeared a well thought through attempt to match the wine and cuisine. A delightful evening appeared in prospect.

We learned from Secretary Jeremy's notice that Chateau Beychevelle is classified as a 4th growth though many consider that it should be moved up the classification list. The Chateau's origins go back to the Middle Ages, it being constructed in 1565, and covers some 90 hectares. It is affectionately known as the ‘Versailles of the Medoc’ because of its elegant classical architecture and formal French gardens. The soil is deep Garonne gravel which ensures that the wines extend way down into the sub soil to gather the special nutrients that are conveyed up into the grapes. The grape varieties in the final wine are typically: 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc & 2% Petit Verdot. Vinification is carried out in the traditional manner. The wine is aged for 18 months in oak barrels with production in the range of 40,000 to 50,000 cases. 

We were also to be joined by Mr Aymar de Baillenx, the overall Manager of the Chateau who would explain a little more about his wines at the dinner.

7 Spice Prawn and Crab appetizer
IWFS Secretary Jeremy had advised us that things would get underway at 7pm arrival, with a 7.20pm intro to the wine by the guest of honour and food and 7.30pm to eat. We were a bit delayed and on a 7.25pm arrival at the restaurant, we were somewhat surprised to see everyone queued up in the reception area clearly waiting to be seated. It was reminiscent of waiting for the dinner hall at school to open. And no aperitif to boot. Merde. Greetings were interspersed with many a grumbling of “I’m thirsty.” After all, the IWFS is a wine and food society, and so the wine should come naturally first. The maitre d’ must have heard the rumblings of discontent, for no sooner had we said our hellos we got ushered to our tables and quickly served with a glass of the Chateau Beychevelle Grand Bateau Blanc 2010. Though not as crisply refreshing as one might have wanted in an aperitif wine, no one seemed to be complaining. Methinks everyone was happy to finally have something to sip and swirl. On its own it was crisp enough, with fair fruit and a pleasant nose, though somewhat thin in body. 

The appetizer of 7 Spices Prawn and Crab with caviar, avocado and orange was a delightful m̩lange of tastes and textures to get the food adventure underway. Looking like a chunk of high end sushi, the avocado softened and enhanced the taste of the crab and prawn beautifully whilst the caviar and orange danced across the tongue. So many sensations Рgrafefruit, salt, savoury Рand not overly sweet. Pairing a low acidity wine with all of these tastes now made sense. A more acidic wine would have hammered all these into submission. A great start.

Chateau Manager Mr Aymar de Baillenx was then invited to share some knowledge of the wines. He didn't say too much, evidently preferring to leave the wine and the food to do the talking. Smart man.

Pan Fried Sole Fillets
The second wine to come to the table was the Secret de Grand Bateau 2010, another Sauvignon Blanc though presumably from a different parcel of land. The difference was palpable. A very well made wine, almost Burgundian in the mouth with layered textures though the nose came across as a bit barnyard – that slightly fermented sense which suggests the vines may be a bit close to the compost heap. Honeyed finish, almost cloying. Might make a useful dessert wine.

It did, however, come into its own with the Pan Fried Sole Fillets in grapefruit, vanilla and mushroom. The sole was tender and pleasantly not overcooked, so the texture came through wonderfully. The grapefruit lent nice acidity whilst the mushroom gave underlying crunch. But the genius was the melted butter with which the sole had been doused. It cut the sugar in the wine and helped bring out the acidity making for a more rounded taste on the wine and a delightful complement to the food. A lovely match.

Both the third and fourth wines came out together so everyone had a chance to compare them ahead of the food. The general table consensus for the Grand Bateau Rouge 2010 was “yummy”. A Cabernet Merlot blend, this had a great nose of berries, black pepper and spice. Very smooth going down with nice weight and even  tannins though the alcohol felt a bit prominent. A very easy drinker.

Lenglui enjoying the Sole
The Secret de Grand Bateau Rouge 2010 was a standard bordeaux blend with some Cab Franc being added to the Cab Sauv and Merlot. It came across as slightly sweet though well balanced with even tannins. Damson and plum suggested a higher percentage of Merlot. Very full finish, though like the predecessor the alcohol felt a bit on the high side. 

The Braised Rabbit Stew with white bean, frisee and brioche was somewhat drier than one might expect of something called a stew. Not much in the way of gravy but there you go. The bean and brioche lent a pleasant textural foundation for the beautifully braised meat which came over as a shade salted though not overly so. Texturally reminiscent of tinned tuna for some reason. For those of us who remember rabbit stew when they were caught out in the wild, this was a new twist on a classic. I have no notes on the pairing.

We were now on the home straight with the two main eventers making their ways to the table. Both the Amiral de Beychevelle 2008 and the Chateau Beychevelle 1998 were blends of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. The Amiral was pure bordeaux, with cassis prominent in a smooth sleek and velvet nose. Qutie tannic as one would expect for a wine so young, with a lovely balance that needs a minimum eight more years in the bottle. The 1998 naturally outshone all that had gone before it. A lovely expression of a top end bordeaux, this was the business. Cassis, blackcurrant, herbs, rain and hillsides. A true smell and taste of the romance that can only be France.

Pecan Crusted Venison Loin
The Pecan Crusted Venison Loin with sweet potato, brussel sprouts and juniper berry was not as rich as previous experience with this kind of meat would have suggested. Mine was medium rare, and was lovely. Enough texture on its own, the pecans and sweet potato brought out the softness of the meat and the ensemble came together in a crunching mouth melting finale. Although the sweet potato did look a bit off putting – large brown pellets reminiscent of something that Bambi might have, er, left in the forest. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes. 

The venison naturally cut through the tannins and was a belter with both wines, though the Beychevelle 1998 took the honours. Dessert of Quince and Apple Cobbler with oatmeal, white chocolate and caramel sweetened things off in a liquidly creamy crunchy and not too sweet kind of way. Though for some reason all at the table were calling for more bread. It was terribly, saltily, moreishly delicious and doing stout service in soaking up the remains of the wine which was being poured to any who could still raise a glass. Which leads one to wonder whether enough food had been served. Though no one voiced any complaint on this point. Maybe the bread was just too good.

In all, a great evening of wine and food and friendship. It was unfortunate that there were insufficient places to accommodate all IWFS KL members who wanted to attend. But there will be many more in the future. Look out for the President's Ball on December 8th at Cilantro!

International Wine & Food Society Kuala Lumpur

Ch. Beychevelle Wine Dinner’

7-Spices Prawn and Crab
Caviar, Avocado,Orange

 Grand Bateau Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Pan Fried Sole Fillets
Graoefruit, Vanilla, Mushroom

Secret de Grand Bateau, Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Braised Rabbit Stew
White Bean, Frisse, Brioche

Grand Bateau Rouge, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2010
Secret de Grand Bateau Rouge, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc 2010
Pecan Crusted Venison Loin
Sweet Potato, Brussel Sprouts, Juniper Berries

Amiral de Beychevelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc,Petit Verdot 2007
Chateau Beychevelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot 1998
Quince and Apple Cobler
Oatmeal,White Chocolate, Caramel

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