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, December 28, 2016

Chapoutier Wines at Topshelf - fantastic night!

More desktop clearing. Also trying to boost the number of posts before year end. Didn't take the camera to this one, as I was not really expecting a knockout dinner, so I only got some crappy handphone shots. Lenglui took more and better, but lost the handphone on a trip to France. Forgot to ICloud them too. Bugger. Bloody French.

5th September 2016
Topshelf, Taman Tun Dr Ismail

We have had very good dinners at Topshelf and this was one where all the stars and the wine and food and traffic gods aligned (well mostly - apart from a somewhat manic and panicking Waze and a bit of heavy traffic getting there). Excellent food, very good wines, delightful company and home before 11pm feeling well sated both gastronomically and bibulously. One of the times when the food was more memorable than the wines. Darn outstanding in fact - every dish I can recall even now. The Quail especially - magnificent with the Foie Gras and Port Wine sauce. Wines not so, but good gear nonetheless. I think they were all maybe a bit young and (for me) a bit on the thin side - Rhones need some whack and as memory serves these expressions were a bit lacking. Definitely go back for the food, though. 

We had been to Topshelf on a previous wine dinner with Villa Maria wines (click here for the report) and enjoyed the food over the wines. But the place seemed to have got forgotten in the madness of the various food groups we seem to belong to and the need to take an occasional evening off the sauce. The foodie groups all seem to prefer new places and traditional Chinese cuisines and madness expeditions into the urban wilds in search of the perfect tongue and belly titillation. Also, the Topshelf borders on the "quite a trek to get there through bad traffic" so that it rarely enters the consciousness as somewhere to head to. Shame, really - though a few recent trips have put this part of TTDI back on our map so we shall see.

Lenglui and I arrived a shade late due to ignoring the berating we were getting from the Waze to turn back home and start our trip again. Visiting Chapoutier wine chappie Michael Travostino was just finishing up his opening spiel as we slunk in and found out seats next to the Governor and other assorted IWFS diehards who all looked somewhat stunned for some reason. Perhaps all were in need of more wine, given the low levels I could see in the glasses on the table. I understand. 

It looked like quite a full house of about fifty plus, all already sipping on the aperitif and charmingly pleasant first wine, the Belleruche Blanc. A blend of White Grenache and Clairette and Bourboulenc (never heard of these) this was being billed as "pale yellow and limpid.. citrus aromas and exotic fruits… fresh.. well balanced, lots of fatness and length." Didn't find it all that fat, actually quite fresh and blowsy, cheeky in the cheeks and a good quaffer. And clearly so, the way the table seemed to be sucking it down - lots of refills coming through with the whites. 

The speech ended quite quickly with little in the way of rumblings from the tables. My experience is that when people feel "enough of the speech already", they will start whispered conversations which gradually rise in number and volume and normally give a perfect cue for the speech to stop. Well, most of the time - some occasional thick faced visitors who have their spiel perfected and enjoy the sound of their own voice (Ed -does that include you, dear boy?) will plug on to the very bitter and stultifying end. People normally will listen politely for a while, but if the content is too turgid or the voice a dull monotone that makes you want to bang your head on the table then they will make their preference known and shut the fellow up. Yes. Our friend tonight sensibly kept things short. 

The menu said there were to be three Amuse Bouche, each with a different wine to pair. First out was the Ceviche with Herbs and Pea Espuma. This was a shot of fish in pea mush which seemed to gain a choppy black pepper hit from the wine. In contrast, the fish brought out apricot and peach notes and a somewhat richer mouthfeel. The Ceviche was nicely done and the presentation with a wafer cone of creamy something to dip into the pea mush. This was a well crafted piece of food elements that combined great pea sweet cream with a carbo wafer and vinegared raw fish - the mouth was indeed nicely amused.

Tomato and Octopus Salad. Tentacular...
The Tomato and Octopus Salad was also very good, with the salad proving most refreshing given the lime vinaigrette hit. The avocado was well ripe and slimy which made for a cracking contrast with the firm chewy bite of the day fresh Octopus chunks. 

The Quail. Magnificent.
It was being paired with the Les Meysonniers White, 2014, a total Marsanne with no other grapes in the bottle. The notes talked about "pale yellow…quince, peony and roasted almond nose… palate supple and fresh with good length."  The wine's texture was somewhat more oily and industrial with a firmness in the weight and mouthfeel. Didn't get much in the way of fruit, but seemed to get a cute pop of chili oil when sipped with the Octopus. 

Never been a great fan of the quail I have eaten in my time, but I have to say that the one tonight was stunning. Great seasoning with a mushroom like stuffing, full of bird taste and without that gamey oily feel that quail seems to continually exhibit. Imagine the lightest, freshest spring chicken you have ever eaten and triple the intensity of the taste - that was this bird. The Foie Gras was smooth and clean and lean and tasted fantastically fresh and wonderful. Chef definitely has talent to put these together. Wicked sinful debts to be paid at sometime in the future. But not tonight.

It was being paired with the 2014 "La Bernardine" which I found a bit light but which brought out brilliantly earthy notes from the mushrooms. The table expected more power and fruit in the CdP and I had to agree. It needed far more whack and came across as more CdR than CdP. Texture wise it would have gone gangbusters with the duck. Sadly there was not enough pourings to put this theory to the test. Only the most restrained and disciplined of drinkers would have been able to reserve a little given the apparent thimblefuls we seemed to be receiving. Though I think someone blagged some more of the earlier wines. The Boozer's Mantra - Take whatever comes.

I was having the lamb though I seem to remember whacking Lenglui's duck with deep joy and abandon. Beautiful taste and texture on that bird. 

The Duck. It was the total Quack
Back to the Lamb and the Gnocchi was a knockout. Sublime texture on the cheesy potato gratin, coming across like a Camembert. The lamb medallions were nicely done and the jus was stunning - fire, taste and power and which took the meat and creamy Gnocchi into overdrive. Great, great satisfying combo but with taste and whack and finesse. No notes on the 2013 Cote Rotie. 

Also no notes on the dessert (as usual) or on the Muscat. I seem to remember feeling quite sober at the end of it all, though not to say that there wasn't enough wine - just perhaps not enough of the better stuff? But foodwise it was a brilliant night. Have to take the gang there one night and bring our wines. The downside of Topshelf is that it IS a bit isolated, located along a dark back road in Taman Tun which anecdotally puts some in fear of Mat Rempits on bikes rolling up and stripping the assets of the assembled before disappearing into the backstreets. In this, stories of Motor Bike robbery of restaurants and petrol stations do occasionally surface on Facebook or Whatsapp and I now carry an old phone and a fake wallet to some of the more isolated places just in case. Over-reacting? Perhaps. But better safe than sorry. And I figure one can always run into the kitchen to grab a pot of hot soup to douse the bastards or crack them across the skull or the knees with a wok or kuali. Go Mat Rempit on your bike after one of those, asshole…

PS I seem to recall somewhere along the evening The Governor holding court about how Brexit was a good thing ("Britain being ruled by these bloody Europeans - can't have it!") and the ongoing ruin of the Malaysia left by the British in the 1950s. Well, and maybe - I still think it is a mistake to leave the EU, and far better to seek reform from within than without. But the Brits have never been good Europeans and probably never will be. Different patterns of thinking that don't seem to jive with the Continentals. There you go. Got to love The Governor though - he is the old generation of Brits who still know how to command compliance with the well chosen epithet or the meaningful silent stare. Total projection of gravitas and don't playplay with me, sunshine. Maybe we should set HIM on the Mat Rempits...

Topshelf Restaurant
61, Lorong Rahim Kajai 13, 
Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 
60000 Kuala Lumpur

Phone: +60 3-7727 7277

Menu and Wines

Amuse Bouche
Ceviche with Herbs and Pea Espuma
Cotes du Rhone "Belleruche" Blanc 2015

Tomato and Octopus Salad
Marinated Roma, Avocado, Grilled Octopus
Micro Herbs and Lime Vinaigrette
Crozes Hermitage "Les Meysonniers" Blanc 2014

Stuffed Quail with Foie Gras
Mushrooms, Truffle with Port Wine Glaze
Chateauneuf du Pape "La Bernardine" 2014

Confit de Canard
Slow Cooked Duck Leg, Potato Puree and Caramelised Onion
Cote Rotie "Les Becasses" 2013


Grilled Lamb Loin
Roasted Lamb Loin, Pesto, Garlic Cream, Saffron Gnocchi and Lamb Jus
Cote Rotie "Les Becasses" 2013

Chocolate and Coffee Cremeux
70% Noir Dark Chocolate Cream
Olive Oil and Maldon Sea Salt
Muscat Beaumes de Venise 2014

Dinner accompanied by San Pellegrino Mineral Waters

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