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, February 16, 2015

Chinoz on the Park - well tasty!

Elsewhere on this blog there's a report on the L'Heritage, the initial choice of the IWFS for its February beano, and how it didn't pass the Food Sub Committee's standard. The Governor quickly roped in Wee Jeh of Chinoz to put together a dinner for the members with which the Wine Sub Comm did a quick pairing. Notice went out and 39 members and guests responded positively. For this one I would be without Lenglui who had abandoned me for a ship and is happily cruising along the Asian Pacific Rim as I write.  

Chinoz has been a KL standard for over two decades. Starting off in Bangsar offering food of substance and refined presentation, they have been in their present location at KLCC for a good number of years. The restaurant enjoys one of the prime locations on the Ground Level of the Twin Towers. It has recently been renovated and now exudes a chic ambience of glass with greys and browns. There is a terrace outside where patrons have the perfect view of the KLCC Park and the Dancing Fountains. Chinoz on the Park offers Mediterranean style cuisine along with seafood from their Raw Bar and is open pretty much all throughout the day. Lenglui and I have eaten there many times in the past, usually en route to a concert at the MPO. Their pizzas were magnificent, but they stopped doing them at the KLCC. Sad day that was. We still go but now we alternate with Ben's upstairs - magnificent salads and steak sandwich. Quite generous with the wines, too.

Notwithstanding, the Chinoz on the Park continues to be one of the default destinations for IWFS when we get stuck for somewhere to host a function. Owner and fellow IWFS member Teng Wee Jeh always comes through with a menu and a venue and IWFS just brings the booze.... well actually, Wee Jeh brought the booze on this occasion; he operates a wine storage facility where we cellar our wines. I went there the day before to box and pack them and his boys sent them to the restaurant. Top man.

Duck Liver Terrine Canapes
I got there well early, opting to drive straight from the office rather than go home and face a possible massive jam trying to get to KLCC later in the evening. Popped in to the Chinoz just to see that all was shipshape (which it was) only to find I had been beaten there by the Doc. He evidently had the same idea as me - beat the traffic. I went for a wander around the KLCC to my usual haunts - bookstore, Macstore, Best Denki, Rock Corner, Marks and Sparks - before heading back to join the other early birds who were already quaffing the very tasty Vettori Valdobbiadene Prosecco. This was a recommendation from DocWine who had shared a few with new friend Wai Lun of Bottles and Bottles. Lovely wine, clean tasting, not overly high in acidity but enough to be fresh as the smell of cut grass on a mild spring breeze, and magnificent bubbles that swirled in a whirlpool of delight straight up the middle of the glass. Went very nicely with the duck terrine and croquette canapes being circulated by Chinoz staff.

Got fizz? GOT!! Dato Jeremy Diamond with Mr and Mrs George Lee
They had parked us at the back end of the restaurant, a lovely space which can be cordoned off from the entrance area where beer and sandwiches seemed to be popular. We had five tables with eight seats apiece in medium lighting. Having a separate area does help lend a sense of occasion to proceedings. We got seated and the Doc introduced me to talk about the wines. Not at my most comfortable doing this - hard enough trying to find words to describe wine but to do it with an audience is quite scary. Also not as fast talking on my feet as I used to be. Just tried to explain the decisions behind the wine choices and the degree of educated guesswork that goes into it. Point is, we don't often get the chance to taste the wines in advance because if it belongs to the IWFS then we have to account for it which means one less bottle for members to drink. In this, though, we do have a large databank of committee experience to rely on. For example, Bordeaux and Burgundy for mains choices where Continental style beef, lamb and fish are being served, decent fizz to start with, so it's often only the whites for the entree and soup that need some decisions. We also try to clear the wines in the cellar that are in their drinking window, otherwise they can fall flat on the night. I also invited the members to give their views on whether the matches were good, sat down and everyone said nice things. Very kind, the IWFS members.

The Amuse Bouche was a chunk of tuna wrapped in cucumber with what tasted like wasabi mayo dotted with pearls of caviar. Very pretty on the plate, it all proved a full lilting mouthful of smooth texture with the wasabi mayo smoothing the tuna and the little hit of salt from the pearl lending a pop on the tongue. Went very nicely with the Prosecco with the food giving it a hit of pear for some reason. 

Amuse Bouche
The Torbreck came out looking all golden and honeyed in the glass. A blend of Rousanne, Marsanne and Viogner grapes, the nose felt a bit nondescript but the mouth was all explosive crisp apricots which turned to lush persimmon as it warmed in the glass. Kept its crispness throughout as well - belter of a wine.

I have little to no note on the Smoked Haddock, though I seem to remember feeling my egg was over-poached and half yolked. It did look pretty, though. The egg was magnificent with the fresh bread and brilliant butter - all salt, goo, crust and carbo and tasting like a French breakfast in some Beaune farmhouse. Totally timeless and totally sublime. Please remind me - why am I writing about fine food when some of my favourite tastes come from the simplest ingredients?

Warm Salad of Smoked Haddock
Seemed to be eating a lot of the bread and butter to ease the growls in the belly. Usually this is not a good sign since it signals the food is a bit needing in volume. Maybe things will change with the soup...

I had praised up the Te Koko during my introduction, saying that tonight was the night after numerous attempts to swill the thing. It was indeed very nice - rich mouth, nose of apricot and butterscotch, steel crisp prunes on the downslope with a hint of attack and grip on the tonsil - but not great. The balance was somewhat off, with a tinge of oxide cack in the mouth and tart tang on the finish. Bit like a tangerine going soft. Past the prime for me, though still a great wine.

Veloute of Oyster with Unagi and Croquettes
The Veloute of Oyster with all its attendant tastes (unagi, lemon oil, avruga) felt a bit bland for some reason. The single oyster had wonderfully fresh texture but after its swim in the Veloute seemed to have become somewhat devoid of taste. It was also a bit...  oyster-ey for me. Having that slight gamey aged feel about it, like when fish becomes fishy or lamb becomes lamb-ey. Perhaps this was the Veloute effect, bringing that fundamental quintessential oyster taste to the fore. Don't know.

The unagi had been royally grilled to a crisp and was looking like a slice of crispy bacon, which seemed also to have left it somewhat devoid of taste. The croquette showed potential, but mine could have used a better balance of fish over the potato and a good whack of lemon pepper in the mix. I think I understand the thinking behind the arrangement and presentation of the ingredients - is just that the final combo came across as a bit snuzz and not really memorable for me. Maybe the kitchen was playing it a bit safe?

The Te Koko did not really match the Veloute, but then on reflection what to pair with soup? My thinking was that the complexity of the wine would balance the complexity of the food. It didn't for me. Actually, those that had some Torbreck remaining in the glass were rewarded since its rich blend of chewy grapes paired way better than the more complex Kiwi Warrior.  There you go - know for next time. Don't pair your best wines with soup. Simple wine with complex soup. Yes.

I had requested lamb which came out somewhat tubular and cylindrical - quite phallic in its own way, though whether this was intentional on the part of the chef remains unknown. Made it a bit firm on the cutting, but the meat was excellent. Lovely bite and chew on some wonderfully fresh meat. The jus set the lamb off nicely. Never had Freekeh before - Wikipedia says it is a cereal made from green wheat that has been sundried and roasted. Arabian in origin, the name derives from "farik" which translates into "rubbed" and is high in fibre. Tastewise, it put me in mind of Couscous though much firmer and crunchier in texture, like slightly undercooked lentils oozing goodness. The Morel offered a pleasing textural contrast here, and the combo with the jus was delightful - rubber bite on the Morel matching the crunch of the Freekeh and bound together in lamb jus goo. Yum.

Smoked Lamb Fillet with Freekah, Morel and Herb
Table friends said the Beef was very good - no reports on the fish.

Winewise, both the Monthelie and Cotes du Lunelles showed nicely. The medium weight Monthelie was peaking, with warm spice notes on the nose and a steel clean fruit wallop across the inside of the cheeks and finishing quite long. The Lunelles proved to be the star, with its full mouth and great balance across the elements. Sweet coffee and gunmetal in the mouth with a velvet fire finish. Though with a tiny hint of age poking through - methinks may need to quaff the remaining bottles quite soon. 

Wagyu Sirloin
The Sarawak Pineapple Tart Dessert had been specially prepared by Sandra, Wee Jeh's wife, and looked like a Van Gogh sunflower nailed to an ice cream moon being melted by a fruit tart sun. Lovely colours here, all rich browns, yellows and caramels. With an eye on my diabetes, I had a quick taste - firm and full caramel and toffee tastes in the mouth and hugely filling. The Black Pepper Ice Cream felt like a nod to San Sebastian and Mugaritz, and worked. A massively bold and powerful dessert. Some on our table questioned the weight of the dish in its following on from the foregoing texturally more lighter weight offerings. This dessert did indeed feel a bit a bit large on the palate given the sequence and delicate combinations of the earlier dishes - perhaps something lighter in taste and texture would have fit better. But as I recall they all scarfed it down bigtime. 

Sarawak Pineapple Tart with Black Pepper Ice Cream
In sum, yet another pleasant dinner in the charming ambience that is Chinoz on the Park. Some lovely wines, quite well matched with the food, though the Te Koko disappointed. The Prosecco surprised on the upside, most people enjoyed the Torbreck and the Bordeaux and the Monthelie was most pleasant. Other feedback suggested people thought both the food and the wines were excellent (both individually and in pairing terms) though sequentially perhaps the dessert was a bit on the heavy side for ending the meal. As said, Wee Jeh always comes through for the IWFS at short notice and always delivers. Great service, engaging food and very nice wines in the company of gourmands - doesn't get much better. Cheers!!

Chef Mohd Hisham bin Abu Bakar with Chinoz Floor Manager and IWFS KL President Dr Rajan

The Menu

Vettori Valdobbiadene Brut NV

Torbreck Roussane Viogner Marsanne 2011

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Te Koko, Marlborough, New Zealand 2008


Bouchard Pere et Fils Monthelie, Cotes De Beaune 2005
Clos Les Lunelles Cotes De Castillon 2005

with Black Pepper Ice Cream


Chinoz on the Park owner Teng Wee Jeh with IWFS Member Andrew Diamond
The Wines

Vettori Valdobbiadene Brut NV
Skilled winemaking with Glera grapes make Vettori stand out among this renowned producer of Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Brut. 

Crisp and savoury on the palate, with a chalky note underlining sensations of peach and grapefruit with a ripe apple core which finishes traditional dry with refreshing acidity. An exemplar of freshness in a dry balanced style with mid palate citrus a fine mousse and a lingering finish. 

Torbreck Woodcutter’s Roussane Viogner Marsanne 2011
Roussanne (60%) provides structure and finesse as well as helps tie the three varieties together. The Viognier (29%) offers a pure, floral lift and finishes the wine with refinement and elegance and Marsanne (11%) gives the wine some palate texture and richness.

The 2011 Woodcutters RVM yields subtle floral notes over a core of fresh pears and white peaches. Dry, light to medium-bodied an elegantly fruited of honeyed peach in the mouth, it finishes with gentle medium to long persistence.  (Wine Advocate: 88/100)

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Te Koko 2008
Te Koko o Kupe (The Oyster Dredge of Kupe) is named after a mythical Maori super hero warrior and it is the original name of the sweeping Cloudy Bay area on the Marlborough coast line.

The 2008 Te Koko is "an intriguing and unique expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Aromas of lemon thyme, mandarin blossom and stonefruit combine with ginger spice, toasted nuts and savoury tones - underlined by exotic tropical notes most typical of this aromatic varietal. The many-layered palate is creamy and textured, balanced by a clean, mineral acidity. A wine of persistent flavour and intensity." 

Bouchard Pere et Fils Monthelie, Cotes De Beaune 2005
The parcel is tended by a vine-grower who works the vineyard with the cycle of nature up to the harvest to enable the terroir to fully express its nuances across the vintages. 

Garnet colour with purple shades. Intense bouquet marked by black fruit flavours (blueberry, blackberry), sweet spices and mocha. Aromatic and willowy to the palate, the wine expresses a delicate softness with a refined structure.

Clos Les Lunelles Cotes De Castillon 2005
Clos Lunelles remains one of the top Bordeaux wines of the Cotes de Castillon appellation. 

The wine's violet color is so superbly deep and dense that it is almost opaque, an eloquent sign of the maturity that is typical of the 2005 vintage. A ripe fruitiness of blackberries and black cherry jam is balanced by the mentholated and lively, fresh notes of a mature harvest. In the mouth, vibrant tannins give the wine a sound and tight structure, and the mid-palate shows great texture which is made for aging. A mouth-watering finish is long and generous, prolonging the wine's flavor. Tannins and acidity contribute significantly to its impressive structure. This is a superb wine which requires time: about five to eight years will bring out a more complex range of aromas.

The Wine Advocate - "This is the greatest Cotes de Castillon I have ever tasted." (RP 94 WS 92)

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