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, July 5, 2013

IWFS APZ Westin - Stellar night!!

July 1st 2013

Making friends at IWFS APZ
Coming off the horrible food that was the Opening Dinner at the Shang and into the fun that was the Chinoz on the Park, we were all togged up again in our tuxedos and best baju and dresses for the farewell dinner for the IWFS APZ Festival in Kuala Lumpur.

The Westin Hotel had been chosen, possibly as a result of The Governor having seen his daughter get married there recently and maybe being able to negotiate a decent deal on having a second function there. It's sometimes all about leverage, isn't it?

Whatever, we left home at 7pm and arrived at 7.40pm thanks to some slow traffic across town and the reception area was still quite empty. A bare few familiar faces dotted here and there from the Kuala Lumpur branch snacking on the canapes and sipping a glass of the lovely Duval-Leroy "Rose de Saignee" NV Brut. This was a fruit driven crisp clean and refreshing drop of fizz that zapped the tongue tip and cheeks with seething and scintillating bubbles. It had one problem - too darn easy to drink and too darn friendly waiting staff eager to pour. I must have downed a bottle pretty much on my own during my walkabout pre dinner photoshooting. O, the hardships we sometimes endure…

The Champagne Station, well patronised
As intimated above, the Canape Experience was distributed during the Aperifif session. Having a camera in one hand and a glass in the other means I often miss the canapes, as proved to be on this occasion, though they looked quite delightful and inventive. I did manage a couple of the quail egg and caviars - this was a lightly chewy bite through the egg with the caper and caviar giving a thrill to the fizz. Most pleasant. Everyone else seemed to scarf them down quite quickly because the charming ladies bringing them around seemed to disappear. Hungry lot, the IWFS.

The well photographed Traditional Chinese musicians
Suddenly the doors opened and everyone from the hotel entered the room. The hotel had smartly erected a champagne station so that everyone was able to walk past and grab a glass rather than hunt for the person with the tray as we had to do at the Shang. There was a wandering magician and a Chinese duo on Guqin (seven stringed zither) and Erhu (two stringed fiddle) who proved more a photo opportunity rather than a musical treat since they could barely be heard above the din of the chattering and clinking. We spotted the Governor who again bemoaned his previous sins for having landed him with organising the festival but who significantly cheered up when handed a glass of fizz. Good fizz has that effect on people. 

IWFS APZ Members at the Westin Hotel Ballroom
A gong announced that dinner was ready to be served and after a swift bathroom call into the ballroom we dutifully trotted. The Governor gave a brief speech of welcome and we were off.

First out was the Trio of Boston Lobster, a triple helping done in three styles to showcase. Of the three, the Lobster Thermidor was absolutely off the map and one of the best I've had for a long time. Totally fresh lobster, the flesh was crunchy, sweet and supple. Having that bisque feel in the jus set it off perfectly. 

The poached was okay, showing a different texture, lighter and less aggressive sweetness - somewhat more crab like than strict lobster but still excellent. 

The delightful Trio of Boston Lobster 
Lobster Timbale means it is baked in a drum shape mold so the result looks a bit like a Latin Drum. Well, and maybe but we didn't get a great sense of baked. If memory serves, it felt as if the flesh had been grated and packed into a tea candle holder with maybe a hint of radish or cucumber for texture. Well tasty, though, and lovely with the melon and lemon oil adding a slash of acid fire. The melon gave a sweet sticky coat to the throat wthich the lemon oil cut through to combine for a slight grating sensational tickle. The more disciplined had some fizz on the table whose bubbles were still fizzy enough to cleanse.  Bravo chef - stunning dish.

The 2010 Catena Zapata Tilia Torrontes also did a fair job with the Lobster though for some reason felt a bit thin, possibly as a result of its low acidity not helping to cut through the lobster. Also, sweet wine with sweet meat is a lot of sweet. The nicely balanced wine on its own showed fair fruit with a honey and lychee nose and a thinly firm finish. As said, it seemed to lack a bit of body for me, and though its pairing with lobster might have made sense on one level the result was not a cheery match on this occasion. In fairness, it was not supposed to match in the first place - according to the menu it should have gone with the appetizers which, given their sharper qualities, made sense. So it goes. As fate would have it, the Tilia was to prove the pairing star of the night. 

The lobster should have gone with the 2006 Marimar Estate "Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. As it was, most of us didn't get a chance to check the pairing as the lobster had pretty much disappearded from the plate. On its own, the Pinot had good fruit and a fair body, with dark cherry to the fore and a slight oxidised note. For some reason, got a sense of a rich rosewood feel - like sat in a boardroom somewhere sucking on a newly varnished table - and sweet jammy sugar on the finish. Maybe too sweet, bordering on the sickly. Full in body.

The Scallop Ravioli
Next out was the Herbal Black Chicken Essence with Scallop Ravioli. Essentially scallop ravioli in chicken broth without the chicken. The broth itself was fine, with a nice balance of salt and chicken taste without overtpowering. The scallop felt a bit fishball, and looked like it had been mashed up and reconstructed and the result looked like - stodge. Tasted a bit like it too - firm pasta bite and fish taste but ultimately - stodge. Sorry, chef, not sure what you were trying to do with this one but I missed it. 

It paired quite well with the Tilia, perhaps because there was not much in the way of harsh flavours but enough to take the sweet edge off the wine. The Pinot died. The chicken broth neutralised both sweetness and acidity and the wine went blandly to its sad end. RIP.

The main course was a choice of beef or fish and we normally opt for the beef. The Roast Cod tends to be a bit on the bland side and rarely pairs well with the reds the IWFS traditionally pairs with the mains. 

Decanting the Alma Viva
The 2008 Alma Viva en Magnum had been decanted in a ceremony involving two sommeliers and a degree of pomp and theatre. Still a bit of bottle rust and faust on the nose in the glass, leaning toward an oxidised note. Traditional Cabernet cassis, but with cherries on the tongue, full body with medium finish. 

The tenderloin was very good, with a firm full bite and good chew. Maybe slightly overdone, but to be expected when you're catering to 80 pax. At least it came out acceptably warm. It proved an excellent pair with the Alma Viva, taming the tannins with the result that the fruit and the structure and pedigree just shone through. A most excellent steak wine.

The rich and sweet butternut puree softened the somewhat fierce jus, rendering it nicely palatable, which in turn brought out a softer tone in the wine. Lots of tastes and textures going on with this wine. So good.

The excellent Beef Tenderloin with Foie Gras and Butternut Squash
The Foie Gras was.. not spectacular. Nothing wrong with it in taste or texture terms, just.. okay. Not memorable. Have had better elsewhere in KL. But there was a lot of it and it brought out the Tilia Torrontes fruit, the fat in the FG neutralising the sweet honey that the wine was presenting. The Tilia proved the most versatile wine of the night. Crisp apricots and that sweet crunch that seems characteristic of the Torrontes grape. I think I've seen it in the supermarkets - worth a purchase.

We also had the Foie Gras with the Pinot which also worked on one level - The FG took off the acid in the wine and let its light cherries come to the fore. Somehow the FG refreshed and resurrected the Pinot - it was clearly flagging on its own after its decimation by the scallop, but the FG breathed a bit of life into it. Interesting. 

The 2007 Cheval des Andes had a bit of a bottle stinky nose which needed a bit of time to dissipate. This was even after a decant. It came across as…okay. Aged Rioja with that Spanish terracotta brick feel in the mouth. Light body, nice structure, clean finish. Good, not great.

It was very good with the beef, taking that aged tinge off the wine. Sometimes we forget that it is often the match of the food to the wine that takes the lead in the mouth - great food will lift a middling wine into goodness. But great wines can do little when the food is not quite up to scratch. The food has to come first - only then will a great wine take the experience into the stratosphere.

The ice cream in the Westin Dessert Melody was excellent with the steamed chocolate fondant being a total standout. The strawberry meringue and lemon tartlet were probably excuses to break out a dessert wine, and the 2003 Chateau Suduiraut did admirably - a chilled nectarine and apricot liqueur like unctuous golden cheek pincher that we were able to both sip and chug as the mood took us. We also helped finish off the quite large remains of the Alma Viva which had by now come into its own. Hugely memorable wine, one to look forward to should the occasion arise. 

This is how we do it, do it - party time at APZ Kuala Lumpur Westin
By now the crowd were ready to party and the evening had been helped along by two young band boys on stage belting out oldies like there was no tomorrow. We had heard a whisper that the Governor's Dearest had been a performer in a previous incarnation and tonight she took the stage for a number. Well, stormed the stage more like - could hear the roars of approval as the crowd recognised and cheered her on.

Naturally, the Lengjai took this as permission to take the stage himself to get his Elvis Presley on and belt out some standards. At least it kept the crowd dancing. Shocked a few people too - guess they never realised the boy has chops.

View of the APZ IWFS Members from the stage
The Big Boss One gave a speech of thanks to the organisers and presented a large bottle of nice fizz to the Governor (which we subsequently polished off at a committee meeting) and then it was more dancing or go home. It had been a long week. Home it was. The bed was very welcome that night.

IWFS APZ Black Tie Dinner
Westin Hotel Ballroom
July 1st 2013

NV Duval-Leroy ‘Rose de Saignee’ Brut
Duval Leroy "Rose de Saignee"

Canape Experience
Cured Petuna Ocean Trout, Orange Chutney, Salmon Roe, Brioche Toast
Soft Poached Quail Egg, Avruga Caviar, Capers Gremolata, Blini Pan Cake
Black Truffle and Mascapone Pizzette
Apple and Walnut Macaroon

2010 Catena Zapata Tilia Torrontes

Trio of Boston Lobster
Lobster Timbale, Melon Pearl, Saffron Mayo, Lemon Infused Oil
Poached Lobster, Apple matches, Lime Jelly
Traditional Lobster Thermidor

2006 Marimar Estate "Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Herbal Black Chicken Essence with Scallop Ravioli


Char-grilled Tenderloin of Beef, Pan Seared Foie Gras
Pommes au Dauphinoise, Caramelised Shallot, Asparagus
Butternut Squash puree, Morel Jus

Baked Black Cod Fillet and King Crab
Herbs Butter Carrot French Bean, Pea Puree, Fennel Crisp, Sea Urchin Butter sauce, Dill scented Foam

2008 Alma Viva en Magnum 
2007 Cheval Des Andes 

Westin Dessert Melody
Chocolate Fondant with Straccitella Ice Cream
Strawberry Meringue
Lemon Curd Tartlet
2003 Ch Suduiraut

Coffee or Tea
Homemade Petit Four  

Round of applause for the wines!!

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