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.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

De Martino WIne Dinner NEO Tamarind, Kuala Lumpur

DE MARTINO DINNER 24th July NEO Tamarind, Kuala Lumpur

Got an email from Mars at Straits Wine telling of an upcoming dinner at NEO Tamarind being paired with De Martino wines from Chile. Having never tried the restaurant since its takeover by the Tamarind group (I have memories of the place being called Citrus or Citrone and going one time) coupled with a good experience with a De Martino Cabernet, we signed up.

De Martino is a family business started in 1934 when Don Pietro De Martino Pascualone arrived with a dream of making Italian style wines. Third and fourth generations continue to farm the land and make the wine. 

The winery embarked on its ongoing organic journey in 1998 and is now the second largest producer of organic wine in Chile. They seek to be leaders in sustainability in growing grapes, especially in carbon neutrality. In 2009 DM launched the first carbon neutral wine in Latin America and became the first carbon neutral winery in Latin America. In 2011 it was declared Winery of the Year in Chile.

Chile is already on the world map though predominantly associated with the Carmenere grape. This is a shade unbalanced since many other varietals grown produce excellent presentations. Given that Chile has conditions for producing great wine, the De Martino team has challenged itself to Reinvent Chile and show that world class wines can be produced there. It seeks to do so by creating "wines that are a true reflection of their origin and show Chile´s unique diversity." In this, they search for Chilean locations hat have the potential for producing wines with tremendous personality and so seek the elusive perfection that will elevate Chile into the seriously big leagues.

The restaurant is reached by parking the car with the jockeys and ascending a quite gruelling ascent up a stairway to get to the entrance. Not quite oxygen mask altitude or angle, but not for the faint of breath or the corpulent. 

Tuna Ball with Ponzu
Foie Gras Mousse and Beef Carpaccio on Cheese Cracker with Balsamic Reduction
The entrance felt very dim in lighting, like entering a long house full of wood and candles. Nice and atmospheric, with the back opening out into the night air and offering a wonderful view of the KFC Building next door. Quite impressive and imposing in a big city kind of way. The aircon and ceiling fans kept the temperature just the right side of cool without sweaty, though we were all glad to take our seats in the cooler closed section of the restaurant. Nice display of De Martino wines. Shame it was too dim to read what it was all about. 

Got welcomed with a glass of the Estate Chardonnay. Pleasant chugger, nicely chilled crisp good thirst quencher when chilled, good acidity, refreshing and light with honey and pineapples. Not a lot of oak on this one. Light to mid weight, cleansing finish and a bit more-ish. Too easy to drink and it actually kept well through the evening, even when a bit warm was still drinking nicely.

The appetizers felt a bit snuzz - the Tuna Ball was somewhat firm and leaning toward stodgy whilst the Foie Gras mousse and beef carpaccio came across as somewhat similar in taste and texture to blue cheese. Sorry. Didn't quite get this one. 

Getting to the table and a glass of the Legado. Clearly a bigger wine with oak and zesty apples on the nose. Less acidity than its predecessor, with medium body and a bit thin on the finish. Came across like a glass of fresh springwater but lacking the body that would elevate this into the complex. But it proved an excellent foil for the magnificent salmon. It was blissful - poached to perfection with a hint of olive oil and light pepper. The lower acidity on the Legado made for a sleeker coating whilst the hint of virgin oil and salt on the fish further let the wine's peachy fruit come through.
Salmon Confit with mixed Salad and Balsamic Dressing

Nice friendly welcome by Mars of Straits Wine who introduced Axel for a very brief presentation on De Martino. 

Next out was the Duck which was a bit rare but was absolute champion. Great bite and chew and good carvings. The red Cabbage puree gives a nice acid kick to the meat and the asparagus gives a good fibre base. Asparagus killed the wine, as expected. 

Wood-fired Roasted Duck with Red Cabbage Puree,
Grilled Asparagus and Orange Salt
The Carmenere had smoky spice with blackcurrant, and boysenberry on the nose. Full fruit and pleasant tannins with a rich plum finish. The balance felt a bit out, with the alcohol coming in a shade high, though the fuit and acidity were good. Light to medium body. Not really a match with the duck, but it was a good drinker nonetheless. It benefitted from air in the bottle, giving a fuller mouth and smoother tannins, though it still retained a lot of grip.

The wines were getting on the tables ahead of the food. Indeed, The main courses did not all come out at the same time. Mine was on the table for ten minutes and had to get sent back when the others finally arrived. In fairness it got replaced immediately.

Braised Beef Cheek, Grilled Mushroom and Garlic Mashed Potato
It was worth the wait - the warm beef in its jus just melted. Total light air on the back of the tongue with slight salt but totally stellar. Brought out the Merlot a treat and Cab was also cracking match. The beef brought out layers of fruit in the wine whilst the tannins took the edge off the fat in the beef. Match made in the seventh of heavens. Normally don't eat the potato but with the jus and the wine it made for a rich full mouthful of food - starch, protein, fat and wine - perfecto. The beef is one beautiful dish. 

For the Merlot, the nose was initially brilliant - complexity and power shining through. For some reason this did not follow through in the mouth - it was a bit on the thin side in fruit and finish terms, though the tannins were tasty.  When paired with the beef cheeks, though, it came together and started to make sense. The meats brought out a silky feature in the wine which then came together in a full lush mouthful. Definitely a wine that benefits from food. The Beef Cheeks were belter as well - the blend of the meat proteins and marble fat was mouthmeltingly amazing and went perfect with his Merlot. Double Stellar.

The Cabernet is from a single vineyard which is a neighbour to the same sector that produces the Alma Viva. The name Las Aguilas means Eagles. Got smooth cassis on the nose with clean aromas.

The Cab came across as a bit fierce on the back end with the beef. It would be better paired with a Rib Eye or a T-Bone - something grilled to let the tannins better work their magic.The strawberry is belter with the crisp chocolate balls. Brownie is a bit stodgy. The sour plum cuts away all of the sweet that has gone before. To have both styles of dessert on the same place seems a bit confusing. Maybe separate them in time and use the sour plum as a sorbet to go before the meat? 
Brownie, Fruit Tart and Plum Sake 

The Estate is surprisingly still full when warm. Good nose and body after 40 mins in the glass. The Reserva is fine, though less of a lively character than the Estate.

Our usual crew got quite boisterous and started helping ourselves to the wine when the waiters seemed to have disapppeared. We eventually kept the botle on the table. Actually quite rude to do so in retrospect, but there seemed enough bottles to go round. It was also difficult to pass up quaffing the good stuff. I took one and started pouring on the other tables - hey we're thirsty here!
The company with Winemaker Axel of De Martino

In sum, not a bad restaurant, though a shade dimly lit for my taste. Also the car parking and uphill trek to the restaurant is not too enjoyable. Very good fine dining with some superb food on the night but don't think I'll be back anytime soon. The car parking situation and uphill trek to the restaurant was not too good on Lenglui's knees. Wines were fine, though not yet ready to buy. Got a lot in the cellar and the fridge which need to go. The Merlot might be a possible for the IWFS, but the cellar is probably well enough stocked with reds for the time being. 

Tuna Ball with Ponzu
Foie Gras Mousse and Beef Carpaccio on Cheese Cracker with Balsamic Reduction

De Martino Estate Chardonnay 2011 - From the Maipo Valley. Beatuiful pale gold in colour with shades of green, aroma of pineapple and grapefruit. A fresh wine, fruity with good body and balance, complex in mid palate, nice elegant long finish.

First Course
Salmon Confit with mixed Salad and Balsamic Dressing

De Martino Legado Reserva Chardonnay 2011 - Limari Valley. Greenish yellow with some bubbles, intense notes with smoked tropical fruits such as passion fruit, pineapple and minerals like graphite. On the palate is fruity and slightly creamy with a hint of salinity.

Second Course
Wood-fired Roasted Duck with Red Cabbage Puree,
Grilled Asparagus and Orange Salt

De Martino 347 Reserva Carmenere 2011 - Maipo Valley. Bright purple in cloour, strong nose of black fruits like blackberry and cherry with hints of spice and mint and graphite. Powerful and dense, fine and silky tannins contribute to a remarkable finish.

Main Course
Braised Beef Cheek, Grilled Mushroom and Garlic Mashed Potato

De Martino Legado Reserva Merlot 2011 - Maipo Valley. Purplish red. Fruity nose with blackberry, strawberry, plum, chocolate bitters, lavender and dried rose petals. The palate is fruity with medium acidity and a strong hint of intense clove and black pepper notes. 

De Martino Las Aguilas Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - Maipo Valley. Nose of toasted oak, caramel and dried  leather. On the palate a pleasant wine with hints of lavender that enhances the complexity of the nose.

Dessert Platter
Brownie, Fruit Tart and Plum Sake

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