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.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Top end Chinese Cuisine at Marco Polo Restaurant

Marco Polo Restaurant August 24th 2013

Lenglui organised this dinner for our Tai Chi group because the Marco was giving excellent discount on their Suckling Pig. Also the Marco has good karaoke systems and the group surely loves to sing. Not always well or in tune, but they do love to sing.

The Sifu had heard about dinners where each dish is accompanied by a different wine and had never experienced this. So it was that I took it upon myself to have a stab at pairing and satisfy the curiosity. Nothing elaborate, just to introduce the idea that different varietals have different tastes and that these varietals can pair better or worse with food. I knew that the group would not spring for higher priced wine so I went for the cheapest I could find. The Hardy's range suited the bill nicely, having the full range of varietels. I also figured that utilising a single Winemaker would help in avoiding confusion - keep to the varietals rather than explain labels and regions.  

We got there at Seven to give the booze a final chill and found three expectants there already. The Geezer had just come from a tasting and had brought some decent stuff which he was clearly ready to open and skull back. We managed to restrain and opened our Hardy's Sauvignon Blanc 2012 to pacify. Pleasantly and sweetly crisp with a good mouth feel and a throat sparkle that sated nicely. He decanted his Mondot 2008 in advance and promised to drink it later so as to not impair the wine pairing. Later turned out to be twenty minutes. I scored a glass later in the night - full bodied Bordeaux, bit tannic with medium fruit and good alcohol, though something in it didn't quite jive - felt like a green pepper somewhere that left a tang where there should have been silk. Maybe a bit of age will help. The Geezer clearly liked it. But then, he does have a tendency to like everything.

Others arrived and got greeted with the same SB. Very nice aperitif wine. Two bottles around twently people was not quite enough so the stragglers got Hardy's Chard 2012. Less light in body with good apples and peach and honey. Not too complex but enough zing to interest and enjoy. It was geared to go with the Deluxe Four Season Combination which was lovely - croquettes and scallop and sausage and an amazing pig cheek that set off the Chard brilliantly.

The Double Boiled Chicken Soup with Fish Lips was well received by all, with a broth to savour and fish lips that melted. Didn't really pair with the wine but then soup never does, does it?

The Hardy's 2011 Shiraz was a disappointment - fruit a bit lacking with the alcohol a bit forward in the mouth and the finish - though no one really complained about it. The tannins set off the pig skin collagen and crisp skin well enough and the pepper gave a nice kick. A bit too much leather and pencil in the mouth and a bit thin in body. A better Shiraz will be ordered next time.

The Shiraz also got paired with the Sea Cucumber and vegetable to try and combat the thick gooey sauce it normally comes in. Here, the alcohol did help in cutting the gunk, but the wine was clearly not of enough standard to compete. Those who had some Chardonnay left benefitted from their discipline - it went better.

Sauteed Water Cress and Garlic was to be paired with Chinese tea, but by this time everyone was fighting for the Karaoke. I gave some tips on how to taste wine but people seemed more interested in drinking the stuff than understanding the nuances of Sight, Swirl, Smell, Sip and Swallow. So it goes. My experience in the entertainment industry says to never get in the way of someone having a good time. 

Due to a late increase in budget, a duck was able to be ordered and very tasty it was too. The Duck at the Marco is legend and tonight didn't disappoint. Lenglui had brought a good few friends to enjoy the promotion over the past few weeks so maybe this was their way of showing appreciation. Indeed, many friends on the night had said it had been the first time they had been there in many, many years. I think the Marco is back on the map of a growing number of people. The standard of both food and service is excellent. 

Last out was the Noodles and Sliced Garoupa. I had brought some 2008 Toro Piedro 168 Cabernet that I figured needed drinking. A tannic beast a few years back, I figured five years in bottle should have tamed it. Got it from old friend Robert Tan from QL Wines as a thank you for entertaining at one of his wine dinners and it was the last of the case. I also remembered that the Geezer liked his meaty wines and figured he'd enjoy it. He did, as did I. Good full fruit and lovely balance with firm tannins and full body, it made for a silky mouth and finish and a great way to chug the end of the night. It also helped soothe the largely off key vocals of the assembled karaoke afficionadoes. You really can't be sober at karaoke sessions and it is difficult to explain the pain that off key singing invokes when your own pitch is generally perfect. The Cab helped numb the senses enough to see through the singing and reflect that getting friends together around food, wine and song is more important than any strange noises made by the pitch impaired. Finally…  booze does have a use.

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