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.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pontet Canet and Noble House Food - Yum!

Display for the Pontet-Canet

That dull ache at the back of the neck and across the temples. sure signs of a good full and satisfying night. 

This is the morning after feeling following the previous evening's pairing of Noble House Cantonese cuisine with various vintages from the cellars of Chateau Pontet Canet. Organised by Ivy Lim from Vinum, the paring would showcase the vintages of 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2010 and offer a taste ot the Tesseron cognac to see if the assembled liked it enough to want to buy.

Most times, this muzziness gets in the way of being productive. Not strangely so with the writing, though one does still need a coffee kickstart to get the brian in focus and the words flowing. Hard life, eh? I should complain. Be nice to get some income from all this nonsense though. Any suggestions anyone?

Armed and ready...
There was a fairly full turnout of just under fifty for the dinner. Seems the numbers had been increased to accommodate the demand for the dinner. Indeed, at RM380 for all the food and the wines being poured, it was a very good deal. And starting with the Bruno Paillard champagne being generously poured into our flutes set a most delightful easy tone for the night. Nice biscuit on the nose, clean and firm, somewhat acidic fruit - sharply bracing but pleasantly so. Everyone got warmly greeted by Melanie Tesseron from Pontet Canet who seemed to half recognise faces from her previous visit to KL last year. I didn't - felt and looked a totally different crowd possibly due to a different organising wine distributor. Professionally warm and smooth - as said in a previous posting, Mme Tesseron is a superb ambassador for the Chateau and the wine. See my previous post for Chateau Pontet-Canet at Prime Restaurant.

On the table were goodie bags with a glass bung and drip pourer and a cute thank you note from organiser Ivy. Nice touches. They do make the effort to show we as punters are appreciated. That's how you keep a customer. 

We were seated in a private room that was large enough to take all forty diners with good space for pre dinner mingling and relaxing. Set with traditional round tables, the ambience was easy, light and with lots of space to breathe between seats and tables. Little earth tone touches on the walls and visual displays contrasted the generally light coloured tablecloths.

Lenglui, Lengjai and Melanie Tesseron of Chateau Pontet-Canet
Kicking off the evening with a Powerpoint and a friendly chat, Melanie shared the history of the vineyard and its accolades through the years. Highlight was us learning that the horses they use to till the land and carry the produce like to eat the grapes. As a result they literally put the cart before the horse so that they get picked before Dobbin can get his teeth into them. Presumably it also works the same way a carrot would before a donkey. Someone wondered whether the horses like to drink the wine as well, but that was sotto voce. 

Pan Fried Foie Gras with Teriyaki Sauce and Stuffed Scallop. And handphone.
The food followed fast. First course of pairing a scallop with seared Foie Gras and Teriyaki sauce felt a shade over the top, with neither really helping the other in terms of taste. Separately, though, they were stunning, the scallop especially - firm yet light, great bounce on the chew with the freshest of tingles on the tongue and teeth. And coated with a light crisp batter lent a delightful (I think) peanut oil crunch to the experience. Stellar. I think sometimes a restaurant will add loads of Foie Gras to a menu to give the impression of grandeur and getting bang for the buck. Often, it doesn't really add anything - they would certainly have been better as two separate dishes. 

The Bruno clared the gunky sauce very nicely which tamed his acidity to a more easygoing level and let a bit of stewed apple come through.

Lenglui, Vinum's Ivy Lim and friend YC
Somehow the wines got crossed and the first course got paired with the 2008. Whether a happy accident or a deliberate choice, it proved a better match. Soup can rarely pair with anything and had the bold and fruit driven 2003 come out with it, they would have done each other no favours. As it was, the lighter, tighter, lean and clean 2008 made for as good a bedfellow as one could reasonably hope for. Good berries, cassis and chocolate with some green pepper. Nice chewy tannins with good acidity, though the fruit felt a bit thin in balance terms. Drinking nicely now, it didn't feel as there was much left in it. It felt a bit ordinary, though it would eventually prove to give more sleekness and complexity further down the bottle. 

The Double Boiled Soup was that odd combination of salt and sugar and oil that somehow comes together in a full bodied satisfying blend. The beef had been wrapped around bunches of enoki mushroom and half mushroom and cilantro which made for a nice fresh bite. Came across as a kind of fusion Sukiyaki in Chinse broth. Interesting. And international.

Double Boiled Superior Soup with Beef and Enoki Mushroom in Japanese Paper Work
Some Bruno had miraculously escaped earlier oblivion and actually made for a pleasant match with the soup, bringing out more fruit in the fizz. 

The 2003 was big and full on. Massive fruit on the nose and mouth, big body and firm tannins, all very nicely balanced. One felt that this one had a lot longer to go. The story was that 2003 was a big sun summer so the fruit got a bit baked on the vine and concentrated the flavours. I got a slight stalky note somewhere, a hint of bitter pepper. But it was only on one taste - the rest was quaffed and sipped with the reverence one should normally accord such delightful wine. 

The Pigeon was very tasty. It had that air of game about it - that whiff and taste of age and oily wildness that pinches the cheeks and somehow makes you want to hawk and spit and swallow at the same time. This one had a dry crisp skin, with a smoky taste that suggested it had been charred over oak chips. It was also very salty, suggesting a dab of soy sauce or MSG had been rubbed into it. Darn tasty, and the 2003 went gangbusters with it, exploding the mouth with its fruit and tannin and melting the pigeon into lean cuisine. Some started with the knife and fork but ended up using fingers. Small birds need the human touch. 

Roasted Pigeon. And handphone.
The 2000 had a somewhat tight nose at first blush, though the swirl revealed lots of nasal layers and the promise of complexity. Immediate spice and tobacco and full earth.

The Lamb Cutlet was nicely warmed and peppered with excellent fat and basted with a smooth hoisin sauce, giving it a barbecued and slight charred feel as a result of being grilled. It was most tasty and excellent, borderline outstanding. Got fire, got heat, got pepper, got sweet, got juicy meat and texture - eat this and die. Ho Seck as the Chinese might say, though Dam Siok would also fit the bill.

Grilled Lamb Cutlet with Garden Green Salad
The 2000 did very well, though its sleek complexity lost the battle with the Hoisin sauce. It needed bigger fruit to stand up to it. In this, the 2003 was the better match on the day. It faced down the sauce with its bold mouth and flavours and both lamb and 2003 CPC each brought out layers of taste and suppleness in the other. Total back of the net. The 2000 felt a shade old. Not to say that there is no life left there, not at all. Just a little out of its depth given the relative youthfulness of the other wines and the power of the sauces in the food. A sipping wine rather than the food chuggers than the 2003 and to a lesser extent the 2008. 

Pan Fried Australian Beef Steak served with Garlic Fried Rice topped with Foie Gras
The Beef Steak had a sweet smoky taste to it, as though it had been basted with the same sauce. Texture wise, it was excellent, just that….  the sweet sauce rendered it to taste pretty much the same as the previous dish. Perhaps the sauce from the lamb had got stuck on the tongue and it was this that was getting in the way. Kind of like the tongue had been sugared out and everything was tasting sweet. Well, and maybe no - Noble House does ilke its sweet sauce. There really felt like a generous dab of it on the steak, which was a pity. Contraryt to perception, we westerners do like an occasional bit of variety between our dishes. 

We had a VERY good time! 
The Fried Garlic Rice with Foie Gras was revelatory. The sweet oily fat of the FG paired wonderfully with the dryish starchy rice and mellowed across the mouth in a sumptuous gunky chew and textured swallow. Nice blending of textures. So good. Perhaps a bit too much rice on the night, though I understand it is often considered good manners in a Chinese situation to not eat the rice - to do so can be seen as a signal that the preceding dishes were insufficient to satisfy. Certainly felt a bit bloated at the end of it all.

Again, the big fruit of the 2003 on the table worked well with the steak, though the 2010 was total magnificence. Full in the mouth with a frisk of pepper  and beautifully balance, it gave off spice and umami when paired with the sweet steak. The 2010 is a big sucker of a wine and clearly in need of good food to showcase it. Total, total belter. Though at SGD360 a bottle it's a bit of a whack to the wallet. Much as my head tells me to buy, my Scotsman heart winces at the thought of parting with that kind of cash for a bottle of wine. Can get a lot of outstanding Chilean and American for that kind of wedge. 

Chinese Pancake and Tesseron Cognac
The 2008 was still on the table and some was still getting poured and gratefully received. It got better down the bottle, maybe needing a bit of air to bring it out. None of the wine had been decanted, and whilst I am not a fan of either in some situations a wine can benefit from being poured. The 2000 might also have benefited, though perhaps there were not enough decanters to cater for the forty plus in attendance. Nicely elegant, this 2008. Reminiscent of a 1997 Rauzan-Segla I had years ago when I was just getting into wine - understated power, good sleek and a bit lively. 

We were winding down and the brandies made it to the table with the Chinese Pancake dessert. All of the glasses had paper labels on their stems indicating what wine was contained and the cognac glasses were no different. Very nice touches. It takes time and care to do this which are not always in large supply at wine dinners. And there didn't feel any stinge on the wine pourings. Vinum is to be commended in this. The 76 felt sweeter whilst the 53 was more fierce and fiery. Cognac is not a strength in the palate and is not something that gets drunk regularly enough to claim connoisseur. But it was a pleasant end to a most enjoyable and pleasant evening. Chef came out and got introduced and Melanie ended up getting photographed and signing empty bottles for the guests to have as a souvenir of an excellent night. Everyone was clearly happy with the evening, the wines and the food. 

Can I have your autograph please? 
In retrospect, the mains were quite Western in content and presentation, though the preparation was in Cantonese style. Indeed, the fork and knife on the table next to the chopsticks gave the lie to the idea that this was in any way true Chinese cuisine. But it was very tasty. As noted elsewhere in this blog, my Chinese food guru refuses to eat at the Noble House, saying it is too "gwailo" and sweet for his taste. Fair, but the lamb was beautiful and the steak was good. Just a bit of a shame that they tasted the same.  The vintages showed the infinite variety of style that Bordeaux is capable of producing. The 2000 was showing nicely with great elegance and balance, the 2003 has tremendous power across all levels and clearly has a long time yet in the bottle, the 2008 was somewhat lean and austere whilst the 2010 had a depth and complexity that is probably worth the price being charged for it. Vinum were also giving 10% off their Bordeaux selection in Singapore, and special prices on the Pontet Canet for the night. Still thinking about this - the 2010 has a large price tag, double that of the 2003 and 2008 though Ivy just sent me a text saying that the 2003, 2006 and 2008 have all gone. Belter though it is, it's a bit beyond the comfortable range - can buy a lot of decent and reasonable claret for the price of a single bottle. But then that's me - skinflint when it comes to spending. We'll see - still got a few days to consider. The 2010 is very nice….

Pan Fried Foie Gras with Teriyaki Sauce and Stuffed Scallop
Bruno Paillard Brut Premiere Cuvee NV

Double Boiled Superior Soup with Beef and Enoki Mushroom in Japanese Paper Work
Ch Pontet-Canet 2003

Roasted Pigeon
Ch Pontet-Canet 2008

Grilled Lamb Cutlet with Garden Green Salad
Ch Pontet-Canet 2000

Pan Fried Australian Beef Steak served with Garlic Fried Rice topped with Foie Gras
Ch Pontet-Canet 2010

Chinese Pancake
Tesseron Cognac Lot No 76 X.O. Tradition
Tesseron Cognac Lot No 53 X.O. Perfection

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