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.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

IWFS Charity Dinner: Excellent food and wines, but small portions…


Kalsom and Edna
The annual President’s Charity Dinner is the IWFS Kuala Lumpur's black tie gala dinner and the Cilantro restaurant was again chosen as the venue. It is a favourite dining venue of many members. Chef Takashi Kimura’s cuisine combines a wonderful French/Japanese blend that has proved a great success with a wide range of discerning diners. It is consistently reliable and always to a very high standard. 

The aim of the dinner was once again to raise funds for two worthy charities through donations and through the auction of wines donated by members and suppliers at the dinner. The IWFS Kuala Lumpur gives a three year commitment to the charities it supports, essentially to allow both donor and recipient to more efficiently plan their finances. The charites supported are the Beautiful Gate Foundation For The Disabled and the Damai Disabled Persons Association of Selangor & Wilayah Persekutan, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Each helps the disabled to achieve an independent and self sufficient lifestyle through both wheelchair purchase and emotional support. The ability to travel greatly increases the chances for gainful employment by the disabled and so engender the gains in self esteem that work naturally entails. 

The IWFS Ladies ready to rumble!
Some wonderful wines and gifts were donated and it was hoped that the auction would exceed the RM100,000 raised the previous year. Not to be. The amount fell short but was still a most impressive RM84,000. The generosity of IWFS Members and their friends is praiseworthy and commendable, and greatly appreciated by the charities who proudly sport the IWFS Logo on their vans and properties! 

Fifty nine members and guests attended the dinner, all being welcomed by excellent oysters and some sashimi looking spoonfuls which went gangbusters with the crispy clean and dry throat slaking fizz. The Chateau Taittinger Brut NV is a delicately balanced champagne known for its consistently excellent quality. It is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier wines from over 35 different vineyards and vintages, and a minimum of three years ageing in the cellars is needed for the fizz to reach the peak of aromatic maturity. Gold yellow in colour with fine bubbles, with an open and very expressive nose delivering aromas of peach, brioche, with hawthorn, acacia and vanilla notes. A good start.

Ocean Trout and Uni Tatare
Which was sadly not sustained when matched with the first course. The Ocean Trout and Uni Tatare was essentially sashimi, soft boiled egg and crispy potato. The combination of the ensemble was wonderful, with the egg binding the potato and the fish and  resulting in a texturally magnificent bite. The champagne did nothing for the food except wash it down. The bubbles cleaned the egg gunk from the tongue, but in terms of taste there was nothing to write home, or indeed write here, about.

The apparently iconic 2008 Ch Vieux telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc (91 WA) is one of the top white CdP’s of the appellation. Produced by the Brunier family, it is a  blend of 40% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15% Bourboulenc and 15% Roussane. The notes say the wine "reveals lots of minerality as well as notes of lemon custard, honeyed nectarines, quince and white currants. Ripe, full-bodied, heady, super-fresh. Layered and long.” We found a nose of apricot and honey with great texture and slight oil on the palate. Full bodied with wonderful balance and structure and which, to paraphrase Lerner and Loewe, we could have drunk all night. A stunner, with great depth and structure, and indeed worthy of the iconic tag.

Jeremy Diamond and Jeff Walmsley
The combination Lobster and Lily Bulb souffle came across as somewhat bitter and acidic, mainly due to the Lily Bulb. Presumably included to give the dish some fibrous texture to the beancurd-like feel of the souffle (which it did), the tastes didn't really harmonise. Bitter vegetables rarely do any favours to wine and so it proved here  - as far as matching with the wine was concerned, the souffle was better on its own. And this match was very good. The lobster tamed the oil and acidity to bring out a nutty butter richness that went beautifully with the souffle. In turn this enhanced the minerality of the wine without sacrificing the fruit and gave a sandpaper scratchy lime finish along the back of the throat. Total result. Life was good. 

The main courses of Sable Fish with Bottarga and Scallop Mousse, Pyrennees Lamb with Houba Miso, and Blackmore Wagyu with Mushrooms were all paired with the Ch Branaire Ducru 2000 (94 RP) and the Ch Branaire Ducru 2008 (91 RP). Chateau Branaire Ducru is a Fourth Growth St Julien with a long history stretching back to 1680. The notes say the medium to full-bodied 2000 "is close to full maturity and… hits the palate with authority, displaying silky tannins as well as wonderful richness, depth and texture" whilst "Its deep ruby/purple hue is accompanied by scents of boysenberries, black currents and spring flowers."  and Ch Branaire Ducru 2008 (91 RP).  In contrast, the 2008 has been acclaimed as a "stunning success for the vintage" and revealing "notes of lead pencil shavings, sweet raspberries and black currants and a subtle touch of oak. Elegant, restrained yet authoritative and impressively intense, it is a medium to full-bodied."

Wong Yin How and his little friend
Both were lovely wines to drink. The medium bodied 2000 had good bramble fruit on the nose and palate, blackcurrant and cassis notes with great balance, sleek structure and long finish. The 2008 had bigger fruit on the nose, was also nicely balanced with easy smooth tannins to produce a lighter finish. 

The lamb was perfect. Wonderful combination of lean young meat texture with a hint of jus whilst the miso lent a salty squeeze on the tongue for taste. One of the best I have tasted. The problem was that there wasn't a lot of it. Three bites and the plate was cleared. Whilst it is true that we foodies pay for the artistry of the chef and his or her wizardry with the ingredients, there is still a need to feel satisfied at the end of the meal. On previous visits, there was sufficient food to feel a reasonable sense of fair value for the price. Didn't happen here. To contrast, the Lenglui and I had enjoyed a wonderful lunch that day generously sported by the EO Jewellery folks at KLCC and thanks to an invite from fellow IWFS member Ong Li Dong. The turkey and lamb lunch with brussel sprouts, stuffing and gravy supplied by Chinoz on the Park were excellent and the stollen cake that followed was just like a taste of the old Christmas - all sticky jam stodge and icing sugar. Put us in mind of Jam Roly Poly school dinner desserts - very evocative. 

Comparing the two, it is difficult not to say that the lunch was far better in terms of satisfaction. Yes, one could argue it is a different experience and that the taste of the Cilantro dishes is the one that we are prepared to pay so much for. It just would have been better if there could have been a little more of it. The beef looked better value and a brief steal of a piece from Lenglui's plate showed the usual Cilantro standard. Was also most excellent with the wine. Did not get a chance to try the fish.

Chocolate and Pear Mouselline
Dessert of Chocolate and Pear Mousseline with mixed berries got paired with a Ch Roullerie Quarts de Chaume Aunis 2010 (93 WS). Seems there is a micro-climate similar to Sauternes In the AC Coteaux du Layon of the Middle Loire (where the Quarts de Chaume is located)  that creates the conditions for Botrytis. The Quarts de Chaume produces brilliant sweet wines purely from Chenin Blanc that are “Rounded and lush, but defined and pure, with gorgeous creamed green melon, fig, glazed pear and papaya character, backed by notes of maple and apricot." A big round mouth of crisp apples and sweet honey with good acidity to produce a long viscous finish. 

The wine matched nicely with the mousseline which came across as chocolate cream with brandy butter snaps and hints of chestnut, caramel and cinnamon. A delightful mouthful, though not really a match with the wine. Milk based desserts never quite seem to hit it off with the cloying sweet viscous quality of dessert wines. It would have been magnificent with apple pie. Not that we'd ever see apple pie on the Cilantro menu. Would have to be called Pommes des Marche Saute et Crustee. Or something more epicurally and euphemistically seductive. We foodies need to be romanced. Yes, we do. Don't we? 

Merry Christmas!!
As ever, the Cilantro service was pleasantly excellent with staff serving and removing things from tables silently and unobtrusively, whilst all the members were doing the small talk round. I do envy people this skill, the ability to remember names at the drop of a hat and to generate relevant and engaging conversation and forge an immediate and unforgettable impression. On a stage with a microphone is one of the safest places in the world for me, but making friends with a newly met stranger is something that does not come naturally. Guess we are all different, eh?

In sum, great wines, excellent food, but such small portions. The company was excellent and the members raising so much for the charities is most commendable. Here's hoping that 2013 brings us all heatlh, contentment and great food and wine adventures!!

No comments:

Post a Comment