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, September 1, 2014

Soleil First Anniversary Dinner - Very Happy One!

5th August 2014

Sheee… seems like all we've been doing of late is going to the Soleil for our food and drink fix. In danger of becoming part of the furniture. Also in danger of being a little more than a mouthpiece for the place. 

Well, nothing is forever, and our experience is that great places must be enjoyed and savoured while they are there. Something soon comes along to upend the magic - either higher prices which lead to lower portions or management getting in the way of chef performing the artistry. Not that we wish this on anyone, is just that this tends to be our experience and happens more often than we like. So it goes. 

It hardly seems a year has gone since we first heard about this new restaurant in the sleepy outskirts of Petaling Jaya. "Must go, must try" was the buzz we got from more than a couple of foodie friends raving about this new place. What sealed the initial deal was learning that Yuhei of Vinum fame was the sommelier and Effandie from Sage was the Maitre 'D. We figured these guys wouldn't be joining some hole in the wall joint and so we went. Five times. Between September and Christmas.  Wine dinners and New Year's Eve were great memories. We've also been there a few times this past year. 

So when we go the email saying Soleil would host a special wine pairing dinner to celebrate their first anniversary, it was a short hop to say yes. The regular friends also got the news and we had a table of five quite quickly. 

Sifu, Lenglui and The Doc
Arriving a tad late on the night, we got greeted by both Yuhei and Effandie. Indeed, that would be the last we would see of Effandie who would be catering to a private party at the upstairs section - presumably the boss was hosting some friends. 

Entering the restaurant and getting seated, it was clear that there was no real sense of occasion on the part of Soleil. This felt a tad disappointing - a first birthday is a real achievement in the restaurant world and having got there with praise and return visits from the culinary elite of KL is no mean feat. On paper, the menu and wines were brilliant, so maybe this was the real occasion and no real need for trumpets and fanfare. Okay - I guess I understand the lack of celebration, but….   perhaps it would have been good for SOMETHING to have happened. As it was, it came across as just another night. Frustrating. Maybe the shine is fading?

There was certainly no fade on the opening Tribaut Champagne Fizz - crisp and crunchy with a crab apple biscuit nose. Lemon sorbet and sherbet in the mouth with creamy bubbles on a honey finish. Always nice when an unknown label surprises on the upside. 

Butter Poached Lobster with Couscous Salad, Tomatoes and Cucumber
First course out was the Butter Poached Lobster, which was simply excellent. Nicely salted which helped lighten the texture toward bouncy perfection. The Couscous was firm while the sorbet gave a citrus chill zing on the tongue. There was also some avocado somewhere which lent a creamy smooth coating to bind the ensemble into a light bright mouthful of delight.

Got some very generous topups of the Champagne which helped to open up the butter on the lobster and the bubbles crisply cleaned the Avocado gunk from the throat. Great cleansing bubbles, though it later got a bit tarty when it had warmed to room temperature. Still very drinkable, though. 

2011 Domaine Henri Darnat Meursault
"Clos du Domaine"
As ever, the bread was stellar. We were given both regular and truffle butter and for some reason the ordinary outshone the truffle. Just a bit too much truffle which seemed to get in the way of the creamy sweet golden churn. 

Next out came the Meursault which was all steel and apples, flint and lime, stonefruit and dragonfruit. Also got loads of oak butter which would offset the gunk of the Butternut Soup - sorry, Bisque - very nicely.

The Meursault was an easy choice for Atlantic Brill given the firm meaty feel of the thing. On its day, Brill is lovely, somewhere between a plaice and a cod in taste and flaky firm texture. The evening's presentation felt a shade fishy though it was well poached and its firm texture gave good body to the soup. It had good bounce on the flesh, perfectly cooked. The hint of curry powder in the soup gave it a slight fiery cumin style spritz which brought out a little pepper spark on the Meursault finish. 

Grilled Antlantic Brill and Langoustine with Zucchini and Butternut Squash Bisque
The Langoustine felt a bit off - that slight over-firmness you can sometimes get if the thing has spent time in the cooler. Or maybe a bit too long in the soup - sorry, Bisque. Having said all this, there was nothing left in the bowl. Even the Texas Ranger ate some and he normally doesn't let a fish flake past his teeth. Had to call for more bread to sup up the soup. Bisque. Whatever.

Roasted Quail with Endive, Dates and Juniper
The Roasted Quail was gamey, meat well smoked and hung like a Scots Guard. We think we coined the new word "quail-ey" - the thing definitely tasted of quail in a way that overpowered everything around it. That unique oily meat that is quail yet a bit overhung. Or maybe hung over. Or William Hung. The Endive gave a nice vegetal spark to nicely counterpoint the sweet date sauce. The resulting ensemble was rich, firm and full of feel and bounce. Very macho. 

2008 Domaine Harmond Geoffroy Gevrey
Chambertin 1er Cru "Les Perrieres"
Being paired with the Gevrey Chambertin made sense - nothing too overpowering that would fight with the food. Yet something with enough character that would stand on its own. The 2008 GV proved perfect with its beautiful nose of soft cherry and rose petal perfume. Clean and lean cut in the mouth, and a fritzy spritzy crack on the tonsils. Good balance, feel and a fine peppery finish on a beautifully textured and structured wine. Very feminine, and a real charmer, the one you would introduce to mother. Or Quail-ey quail. It tamed the gaminess a treat whilst the date sauce nipped the pepper for a sweet fire on the tongue. Very good pairing. 

For some reason, the juniper leaf had not been consumed with the dish. Having learned at a recent sake tasting that you can eat such things with drink, I duly ate the leaf and sipped the GV. It gave off a cute gin kick to illuminate a different dimension to the Pinot. I feel one must always be reasonably adventurous and try the unconventional - if we stick to what has always been tried and done then nothing new is ever learnt. Yes.

Having said this, leaving some GV to try with the beef was a mistake - it killed the wine and gave it an acid and steel tart finish. Bleachhhh....  Lesson learnt. Again.

2007 Chateau Malescot St-Exupery
The 2007 Chateau Malescot St Exupery Margaux had been decanted for something just over an hour, since Sommelier Yuhei felt that not a lot of time was needed for it to open out and any much longer would have seen the fruit evaporate too much. For me, it still needed time in the decanter. In the glass, it was way way not open and still as tight as a Scotsman's pocket. Notwithstanding, a good swirl put paid to much of the lean tightness to reveal a classic Bordeaux - pepper nose followed by a full mouth of cassis, toffee and chocolate and prominent crunchy tannins on the finish. 

I liked but Lenglui didn't quite. The balance was not quite there at first, and it felt a bit toasted with lots of burnt oak. But it grew. The tannins evened out in the decanter and glass though the fruit did fade quite quickly. Not bad. Had better. 

Was a bit of a wait for the beef, but it was worth it. Totally excellent and the absolute business. A hunk of tender meat of brilliantly smooth texture which melted in a firm clean bite. The Jus was also perfect, full of taste without overpowering the meat. Back of the Net Score for the Angus, and yet further evidence that chef is definitely getting meat, both in preparation and selection. The quality on the meat tonight was superb. Clearly the Soleil has got a good supplier somewhere. Can't remember the vegetables, but the Beef seared the memory. Definitely go back for this. 

Pan Seared Black Angus Beef Tenderloin with Glazed Vegetables and Red Wine Sauce
Match-wise, the meat cut the tannins of the Margaux, giving a sweet cherryade note to the wine. But not much else for me. On paper, a good choice given the Cabernet Sauvignon dominance in Margaux, which somehow didn't quite work in the practice. Both food and wine were individually brilliant to good, but the match was only so so. Felt like the wine needed a bit more heft and body to stand up to the beef. Not bad, but not brilliant. So it goes. 

2010 Chateau d'Anna
The 2010 Chateau d'Anna Sauternes was a standard long nose of apricot, with loads of honey and ripe peach. Surprisingly clean on the finish, with no feeling of cack in the throat like many of the dessert wines tend to leave. This one had a lovely balance of sugar, fruit, good crispy acid and honey with a hint of cinnamon. Lovely wine. Not normally a fan of desserts but this was very, very nice. 

I had yet to understand why some restaurants like to pair chocolate with dessert wine. The goo of the cacao and the syrup of the wine normally combine to leave the mouth feeling like sweet mud which only coffee can properly clean. But tonight would bring revelations.

On its own, the dessert was a stunner. A lovely melange of fruits, flowers, and cold textures topped off with crunchy crumble flakes of sugar cake and chocolate. The Chocolate was total wow - pure cacao taste without any milky sweetness - all dark cocoa and firm rich gateaux butter feel. The Banana Sorbet was brilliant with the mango, with the totality of the combo giving a fierce chilled acid gunky coat on the mouth. This was where the Sauternes came in and somehow sweetly and deftly washed away the lot, leaving the mouth in some state of heavenly paralysis. It left me feeling like the man in Coleridge's "Xanadu" who had just dined on honeydew and drunk the milk of paradise. O perfecto. It doesn't get much better.

Valrhona Guanaja Chocolate Cremeux with Caramelised Mango and roasted Banana Sorbet
Yet another score to Soleil. I am feeling maybe we have overdone the place for now, and probably need to try pastures new. But this year with them has been little short of brilliant. The staff, the food, the parties and the memories. Long may they continue and let us all look forward to celebrating the Second Anniversary together!!

Just as a bit of a preachy rant postscript, I feel the need always to be grateful that we are blessed with those faculties which allow us to appreciate and enjoy all this food and wine nonsense. And the werewithal. I try to be thankful for every day and every occasion when we can join with our friends around a table to enjoy good food and wine. Because, God help us, this Good Life could all end tomorrow. Chance and circumstance can change lives in a second, both for good and bad.

I recently got reminded of this when a close friend got a recurrence of something life threatening and shitluck and which I will help him to fight the sucker. Compare this to another acquaintance who recently survived a life threatening liver problem only to remain the same cantankerous nasty piece of work he always has been. Does little but grumble and bitch and make life miserable for those around him. Some people never learn, eh?

Hmmm…   the world feels a bit strange and off whack at the moment - weak economies, belligerence in East Europe and China, the increase in religious bigotry everywhere. The Devil always makes work for idle hands, and there are a lot of those in this overpopulated world of ours at present. Belt up, folks, could be a bumpy ride ahead.

First Course
Butter Poached Lobster with Couscous Salad, Tomatoes and Cucumber
NV Champagne Tribaut Originale

Second Course
Grilled Antlantic Brill and Langoustine with Zucchini and Butternut Squash Bisque
2011 Domaine Henri Darnat Meursault "Clos du Domaine"

Third Course
Roasted Quail with Endive, Dates and Juniper
2008 Domaine Harmond Geoffroy Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru "Les Perrieres"

Main Course
Pan Seared Black Angus Beef Tenderloin with Glazed Vegetables and Red Wine Sauce
2007 Chateau Malescot St-Exupery

Valrhona Guanaja Chocolate Cremeux with Caramelised Mango and roasted Banana Sorbet
2010 Chateau d'Anna

RM300 ++

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