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 30, 2013

IWFS Dinner at The Restaurant at The Club, Saujana.

Mixed feelings. Great place, food good but lacked "wow".

October 24th 2013

On paper, this should have been magnificent. Great reports from people who had dined there and a good selection of tasty wines from the storage. But for some (or maybe a few) reason it didn't all quite click. Good enough, I guess, but lacking any real "wow" factor to transport the night from the good to the memorable. 

Lenglui on the Verandah
Needing to get to the venue quite early since to ferry the bubbles, gewurtz and pinot noir for the dinner, we were greeted by F&B Manager Subra who arranged the chilling of the fizz and Gewurtz while I had a quick swoosh and change in the bathroom and don the medallion and jacket that had been determined were the dress code for the evening. 

Lenglui had found a lovely spot on the verandah of the restaurant. It was a mini manmade lake with lots of brown brick levels over which water cascaded. Proved to be very relaxing and good "chi" while watching the sun go down with a glass of Chilean House White. Most pleasant. Next time, we should have the champagne outside. Had we come earlier to vet the place, perhaps this could have been scouted and arranged.

Sunset over the Pool
Lenglui was itching to try the fizz, but I felt it was necessary to wait until guests arrive. Not the done thing to help oneself. Must serve others first. We didn't have to wait long - Datin Sandra arrived with guests and we got our new friends to pour the bubbles for them. And us. It was worth the wait - the Nederberg NV was nicely dry with good cleansing bubbles, and light to medium in body. Hints of biscuit, lemon nose. As guests arrived they got their glasses and those of us earlier got nice topups from the staff. 

Somewhat delayed getting to the table, due apparently to the kitchen not being quite ready, and we ultimately all got seated at the three long tables. The staff had laid out goblet style glasses into one of which the 2009 Hugel Gewurtz was poured. Not sure if this goblet style was intended, and in retrospect they were reminiscent of glasses I had encountered during a tour of Germany, but some eyes were raised at the absence of the standard stem white glasses. The other glass was a Bordeaux style and clearly for the ultimate red. Which would be a Pinot for which a different glass would normally be set. Hmmm. The upshot is that some of the choices of glasses seemed a bit strange for a restaurant that otherwise clearly ooozed class. Looking at photos of the other tables, there were setm style white glasses there, so maybe it was just our table. No one passed comment on this - perhaps they were just being polite.

The Restaurant Table
The deftly light Gewurtz had the standard lychee and rosepetal nose with light almond notes and turkish delight on the palate and fair acidity to finish. 

We were actually having the Gewurtz with an unexpected Amuse Bouche so much so that it had all but vanished by the time the Salmon Carpaccio had come out. We had not been advised by the staff either in advance nor at the table as to what the food was. Hmmm again. If we'd have known we could have planned for people to take their fizz to the table and quaff it with the AB. But it was a tasty enough amuse and no one seemed to be complaining. It's like being on stage when something goes wrong - only you know the script so act like it is intended and no-one knows different. Happily there seemed enough Gewurtz to go around. 

Given that I had a hand in picking the wines, I had to say something about them. I had the notes on my handphone but couldn't really read off them. Also, I'd hoped the wine supplier of the two Austrian wines we were having would speak about them. So the upshot was I wasn't really prepared and apparently it showed. Fumbling and bumbling. Memo to self - next time, take charge of the event and write the wine notes on little cards to read off.

Amuse Bouche - thought it was the first course!!
The salmon made its appearance and the marinated radish and yuzu promptly blew the mouth off. That fierce salty, lemon acidandsandpaper blitz was a total kaboom that pretty much removed the skin from the tongue and teeth. Like a really fierce lime sorbet. The ensemble was better, with the salmon taming the acidity somewhat. The Gewurtz was a bit too delicate to help with this - a larger bodied Riesling with some compensating sugar fruit might have been better. We had to make do with bread and balsamic to try to neutralise the acid fire. Didn't really help.
Salmon Carpaccio - I think...

Next out was the Muscateller which came across like a very light Riesling but with a steel backbone. Light and very dry, crisp with a bit of a grape acid nose. Steel in the mouth and mineral on the throat and a good gripping finish. It was well matched with the scallop which, along with the sweetcorn veloute, took a slight acidic edge off the wine. 

The duck roll was lovely - a soft, sweet and chewthroat sucking screamer, covering both the tonsils and back of the throat with a tingle and a kiss. Lovely textures, with a medium bite on the roll, strangely reminiscent of the texture of luncheon meat. The Foie Gras Creme came over like a coffee ice cream, and somewhere between a dessert and sorbet. Lot of complex tastes and textures going on here, lots of little explosions of salt, sour and crunch. The Foie Gras took off the tannic edge of the Muscateller, and the sweetness cut the FG oily texture, but the wine lacked sufficient body to do it justice - not really a match to remember. 
Grilled Hokkaido Scallop

Next out was the scallop which, for me, didn't quite feel totally fresh and somewhat lacking tastewise compared to scallop we'd recently eaten elsewhere. It was firm and fresh enough, I guess, but seemed to lack that sweet crunch you can get from totally fresh off the Hokkaido boat scallop which was what Zipangu scallop the previous week felt like. That one was darling. A lot of sweet came from the Sweetcorn Veloute (imagine Jolly Green Giant creamed corn but crunchier), though perhaps too much and bordering on the overpowering. I might have used a hint of pepper to tame the corn. 

Getting paired with the Blaufrankisch seemed somewhat contary at first, but it seemed to work. The Blaufrankisch is very smooth with lots of cherry and pepper. Crisp, rich and drakly fruity with firm character, a whack in the mouth and a silky finish. Cross a Pinot with a CdP and you get this. Great body and taste together in the same bottle. Belter. It neutralised the sweetcorn and the silky texture cut the scallop into meltable proportions. Those who had some of the white left would have found more traditional matches. The Gewurtz went better with the scallop for me than the Muscateller, more for texture than anything. The lack of sweetness on the scallop was helped by the sweet fruit in the wine but that was more luck than judgement.

A wine too far - we were saving the Marimar Pinot for the grand finale with the lamb, but there was clearly too much red on the table already. People were calling for the whites with the food, and there seemed enough white to supply our table. Downside came in the amount of red that would be left on the table at the end.

Smoked Rack of Lamb and Confit Lamb Shoulder
The lamb was two dishes - rack and shoulder, each of which offered different textures and dimensions to the meat. Texturally, the rack was succulent whilst the shoulder was a contrasting dry. Good to taste, though having the two styles felt a little bit overkill and leaning toward the undecided. We totally appreciate that chef clearly embraced the opportunity to showcase his skill for us IWFS foodies for which we are grateful - just a question as to whether it was maybe a bit too much to take in at one time. Unbelievable - telling a chef not to give us his food. 

Notwithstanding, the lamb rack was stupendous - sweet, salt, succulent and juicy and hitting all the bases. Total standard and total belter. It needed nothing more, being perfect on its own. Eat this and die.

The lamb shoulder in contrast came dry texture, so the wafer pastry and crispy mash potato softened the texture enough to taste. Kind of a hickory smoke feel to the shoulder with a hint of sweet game. 

The Marimar Pinot worked quite well with the lamb, taking a sweet edge off the meat. Very vegetal and funky on the nose and mouth, with many layers in the mouth. I saw a lot of red wine left in the glasses as I was leaving, so perhaps the funky nose and vegetal mouth put people off. Which was a shame because once you got past the nose it was a tasty, chewy wine with a finish like clean silky sandpaper on the palate. My notes say it is "a perfect blend of nothing that zips through. Om." Not sure what that means. Sounds like I was in touch with the universe and this was what it was saying to me. Always seems to make sense when you're drunk but screwed if it can be deciphered the morning after. What was clear the following morning and well into lunchtime was the taste of the wine still in the mouth. Fierce beast of a wine - not as delicate as Burgundy, full of character. This wine would spit in your face then offer to wash you down.
Ultimate Chocolate Brownie

As usual, very few notes on the dessert, other than the Brownie felt a bit firm for taste, though the ice cream matched it well.

Lenglui and friend Julie Lim
Staff were very attentive and service was generally excellent. Some complained of delays in some of the food coming out, though personally I did not notice. Totally absorbed by the company and explaining wine to our newbie friends. 

Overall, the food was good enough, I guess, but apart from the rack of lamb lacking any real "wow" factor. Though perhaps that is the European style - understate the preparation of the food and let it speak for itself. Lovely ambience and decor, lovely setting and a beautiful room. Would hope to come back at some time to try the T-Bone. Staff were very attentive and service was generally excellent. Some members complained of delays in some of the food coming out, though personally I did not notice. Totally absorbed by the company and explaining wine to our newbie friends. From my side, it just felt a bit underplanned. Guess we were all thinking that there was nothing to really plan, but there always is. 

I feel the event suffered from not having a designated person in charge to talk to the restaurant to fine check the details (ie store the wines, check the glasses, menu sequence). We also didn't have a food tasting for this one - it got put together as a response to the original venue for the October event getting ditched quite late in the day following what were felt to be excessive corkage fees. Needs better organisation next time, certainly on my part - no one really took charge of the dinner and for me it showed. Live and learn, eh?
IWFS members and friends

‘The MIGF Menu at The Restaurant @ The Club Saujana Resort’

Nederburg Sparkling Cuvee Brut NV

Salmon Carpaccio, Horseradish Panna Cotta, Marinated Radish & Yuzu Sorbet 

Gewurztraminer Hugel 2009

Foiegras Crème
Foiegras, Duck Roll & Granny Smith Apple

Weingut Tement STK Gelber Muskateller 2009

Grilled Kokkaido Scallop, Sweetcorn Veloute & Young Sweet Corn

Weingut Tement STK Gelber Muskateller 2009

Pan Fried Seabass, Bouillabaise Sauce, Garloc Moussline & Ratatouille Vegetables


Smoked Rack of Lamb & Confit Lamb Shoulder
Eggpalnt, Potato Fondant, Baked Potato Strudel

Weninger Blaufrankisch Hochacker 2009
Marimar Estate ‘Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia’  Pinot Noir 2006

Ultimate Chocolate Brownie, Iced Milk Mousse, Nougat Ice Cream & Berries

Mr Lim and Toru Kurokawa

Wine Notes

Nederburg Sparkling Cuvee Brut NV
A blend of Chenin Blanc, Cape Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc from the Paarl region in South Africa, this is brilliantly clear with a lasting sparkle. Delicate fruit on the nose, crisp and fresh on the palate with a lingering aftertaste.

Gewurztraminer HUGEL 2009
The great speciality of the Alsace AOC where the aromatic expressiveness of the varietal attains such great heights. Originally from northern Italy, it is spicy and suave, dry but intensely aromatic.
2009 was a fabulous vintage in Alsace with record levels of ripeness, and cool nights giving its full varietal expression. Deep pale green, straw yellow colour, clear, bright and nicely unctuous in aspect. The bouquet is very aromatic, perfumed and fruity, but above all spicy, dominated by saffron, cardamom, nutmeg, fresh almond, with lots of dense, oriental rose, frangipane, jasmine and fresh China tea. It is seductive and flattering yet totally dry, with a subtle astringency.

Weingut Tement STK Gelber Muskateller 2009
From the Südsteiermark region of Stiermark, south of Vienna. Weingut Tement focuses on white varietals made in the STK (Steirische Klassik) or stryian style that allows their typical characters to shine through. Light gold in color, this fresh and fruity wine has a strong flowery bouquet, with peach and lemon hints. Flavors are crisp, acidity is firm, and together they evoke a feeling of sunlight and summer. A very well balanced wine, pairing well with salads, light cheese sauces and fried dishes.

Weniger Blaufränkisch Hochäcker 2009
From 42 year old vines grown by Austrian red wine pioneer, Franz Weninger in the Hochäcker site in the Horitschon/Mittelburgenland DAC. The Blaufränkisch grapes first undergo native yeast fermentation in steel tanks. They are pressed after 14 days of mash-state, followed by biological malolactic fermentation in a large oak barrels and aged 16 months in big oak barrel and bottled March 2011.
The Blaufränkisch (aka “Lemberger”) varietal is indigenous to Austria and is the predominant grape varietal in Central Burgenland. Aged in large, used oak casks, the single vineyard Blaufränkisch Hochäcker is full-bodied, elegant and complex, well-balanced with cherry and red current aromas, spice, lingering fruit and ripe tannins on a long finish. Ideal food wine, perfect with a wide range of meats, game, poultry and cheeses.

Marimar Estate "Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2006
“The color is a beautiful garnet, classic Russian River - as is the fruit, loaded with black cherry flavors. There's mocha in the nose and perfectly balanced hints of elegant oak, which contributes a rich texture. The mouthfeel is round and engaging, classic Pinot Noir, with a note of lively spice at the end. The finish is long and the wine shows great aging potential. Alcohol 14.1% bv. (From Winemaker’s notes)
"This vineyard, in the cool Green Valley part of Napa, continues to produce outstanding, ageworthy Pinot Noirs of distinction. The 2006 is a large, powerful wine, distinctly Californian, packed with cherry, cranberry, cola and spice flavors that are immature in their fresh jamminess. But with a dramatic tannin-acid structure, and a just-right touch of new French oak, it will improve in the cellar. Best after 2010." (Wine Enthusiast 93/100)

Lengjai, new friend and IWFS KL President Dr Rajan

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