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, December 12, 2016

IWFS KL President Dinner 2016 at Sage - most excellent!

December 3rd 2016

The President's Dinner – the Society’s black tie gala dinner and the Premiere event of our IWFS Kuala Lumpur Calendar – was once again being held at Sage Restaurant on Saturday, 3rd December. It had been decided to bring it forward this year to avoid a clash with an overseas IWFS event being staged the following weekend. And to have deferred the dinner to the following week would have impinged too much on the Yuletide Holidays. So forward it had to come.

Sage ambiance in natural light
There was also much discussion as to whether to hold the dinner at a new venue. It was ultimately decided to remain with Sage for this year – Committee felt Chef Daniel’s creations remain at the forefront of excellent cuisine in Kuala Lumpur and both the food and wine service continue to be the standard for others to attain. And it is nice to go back there at least once a year and get all dolled up in best bibs and tuckers and frocks. Like going to revisit an old friend. Which was made more attractive by the anonymous donations to the dinner of 6 bottles of Bollinger and a case of 2001 Chateau Pichon-Lalande to be supped with the dinner. This also apparently helped in keeping the dinner price at the same RM550 whilst allowing the Society to maintain the standard of wines expected of an IWFS Dinner and keeping costs sufficiently attractive for the Rakyat to sign up. 

It had also been decided that some musical entertainment would help in establishing an elegant tone for the evening. Which some might take to infer that inelegant tones had been established at previous IWFS beanos which is far from the case. As a result, a string quartet had been engaged to perform during the dinner and sponsored by Mrs President Teh Pitt Lee who was showered with thanks all through the evening.

Table setting in natural light
One downside of bringing the President Dinner forward was that many of the big hitters at the charity wines auction would not be in attendance. Seems they were all together overseas and only returning on the 4th. Equally, it had been voiced that given the present state of the economy then perhaps expecting similar auction proceeds as in previous years might be misplaced. Didn't stop the bottle donations from the members though - got a healthy 40 lots for the night which was most generous. The charities were once again the Special Children's Society of Ampang (SCSA) and Society for the Severely Mentally Handicapped, Selangor and Federal Territory (SSMH). Both of these organisations carry out tremendous work in enabling those less able than most to gain degrees of independence that would otherwise remain beyond wild dreams. Worth to check out their websites to see the work they do - www.scsoa.org.my       www.ssmh.org.my

As a Committee member who got invited to some of their lunches, I had seen first-hand the work that is carried out and the severe disabilities the kids (and their parents) at these places look to cope with. The staff and volunteers are phenomenal people who make a point to assure the members of their grateful appreciation for the support that the IWFS KL affords them.

The Pichon, Smith Haut Lafitte and the Volnay. Yum.
At last year's dinner, the remarkable generosity of our members by way of cash and wine auction bids meant that IWFS Kuala Lumpur raised RM190,000 in one single night. Anecdotally, I hear that the IWFS is the envy of the fund raising community - they marvel at the fact that we can raise so much with comparatively little effort. We had been exhorted by President David in the Dinner Notice to "please dig deep into the pocket and raid the wine fridge or cellar with reckless abandon. The funds raised go to exceedingly worthy destinations. The bar has been raised. Let us seek to excel." 

As I had been landed with being one of the auctioneers and also in charge of organising the seating, I decided to get there early just to check all was on schedule. Thankfully it was - as Maitre' D had earlier promised in email exchanges, the menus had been printed with attendees names and placed according to my layout. Perfect. I was able to scuttle off to the loo to climb into the monkey suit in peace. 

Chef final checking whilst President makes a speech 
Committee Members started arriving in quick succession, each sorting out their own responsibilities. Arranging the auction booze on the tables proved a bit time consuming - there was a need to make sure they were all placed in order so as to avoid an incorrect bottle being knocked down. Other members and squeezes started pitching up, and corks popped on schedule at 7.20pm with all the six donated Bollys getting quaffed within ten minutes. I think they were good - they barely touched the sides of the collective throat. It was then on to the Jacquessons which proved delightful. All attendees so far had proven wonderfully compliant with the dress code of Black Tie and Elegant Dress, though Doctor Willie showed up not wearing the Medallion - we withheld his glass of bubbles until he had rectified the transgression. The fizz went fantastically well with the firm and amazingly textured Ocean Trout canapes. The Duck was equally good, though it paled a bit in the shadow of the Trout. In fairness, Beluga Caviar would have paled - the Trout was that good. 

I find that there is something… affirming and pleasant in seeing everyone decked out and resplendent in their finery. Dare I say the word "class" but it does come close. Looking classy and being a member of a group that gets the privilege to do so and go to these kind of parties is something I feel we should never take for granted. "We are truly privileged," I said to Mizz Kit as we walked from the fizz into the room. She agreed. 

And before anyone points the finger and says "You were there in company other than Lenglui??!??" - yes, no Lenglui on the night. She had been called to a family gathering in Singoland and was missing the fun. The delightful Mizz Kit was my carriage for the night, with her godson doing a bit of part time private driving for a few shekels. No need to worry about staying in reasonable shape for driving for a welcome change. 

The Kiwi and Squeeze. Make that Doctor Squeeze...
We all started to get seated, but not before one slight wrinkle caused by someone who had sought to change the seating by shifting the named menus around without consulting me. I snapped at the suspected individuals concerned that to have attempted to do so was extremely bad form, completely unacceptable and totally unbecoming of the behaviour to be expected of IWFS KL Members. The member concerned sought to blame his/her guest for making the attempted seat change. Hmmm. I stormed off after replacing the menus in their correct places. Pissed me right off - had to go for an extra glass of fizz to ease down. Some people have no respect for these things, eh? Thankfully all this got resolved before anyone had actually sat down - might have been fireworks otherwise. 

President David got up and gave what felt like a somewhat lengthy but ultimately very good welcome speech (well, he is a Rotarian - my experience is they will get up and make a speech at the slightest prompting) and then we were off. I made few to no notes of the dishes or wines, preferring to just sit back and enjoy the whole experience. Though the first course Carpaccio of Buri fish was a knockout. Those of us who saved some of the fizz could sip it with the dollop of Avruga Caviar parked on the plate. Wicked dish. I found the accompanying Remondo clean and lean and in great balance though perhaps a shade puny and lacking sufficient oomph in looking to face down the fish. The Risotto and Foie Gras in Port Wine Sauce was another rich and sinful experience, made all the more so with the chunks of bread and butter on which the Foie Gras got spread and sucked. O my Lord…  The Volnay was an excellent choice, all sweet apples and steel minerality. Lovely wine. 

Carpaccio of Buri Fish
As dinner began, the string quartet had begun playing. During soundcheck, I had thought them a tad loud and wondered if they would drown the room. It proved not - their tunes were loud enough to be heard but not so that they overwhelmed conversation. Thoughtful selection of music too - classics, musicals, operettas - very tasteful and indeed setting an elegant tone. 

The Kiwi and I did our first stint of auctioning and seemed to get a fair response bid-wise before getting back to the table for the Lamb. Two cutlets together which produced a startlingly good mouthful of the most tender juicy meat. The mouth is salivating at the memory of it - succulent, perfect texture, perfectly cooked. It was a no brainer going with the Pichon Lalande which was spot on form. Though the wine of the night was the 2005 Smith Haut Lafitte - full, velvet, power, finish and totally delectable with the lamb. Great pairing. 

The brilliant and tasty Rack of Lamb
The second auction session was a bit more intense, with some of the serious bottles coming under the hammer (or knuckles in my case - I was rapping the lectern with them when the lot got knocked down for effect). It has also become tradition to sing "Happy Birthday" to the winning bidder, this having been initiated by the Dato Gang at previous auctions. It breaks ice and gives the recorders time to accurately note who actually made the bid and get their details. 

The last lot got knocked down and the winners of a silent auction got announced and it was back to the table for dessert and the delightful Kracher which lived up to its name - crunchy fruit and slippery honey brilliantly balanced and sipping like a drop of nectar from Dionysus himself. 

President David and Chef Daniel
President David had also decided to honour Chef K K Chong a.k.a. Daniel with a Certificate for his continuing application to turning out amazing dishes for us punters. Having spent years learning from Chef Takashi Kimura at both the Cilantro and the Sage restaurants, Chef Daniel took the helm of the Sage kitchen when completion of Cilantro renovations necessitated Chef Kimura's return. Over our time and association with Sage, Chef Daniel has shown himself hugely dedicated to both the preparation and presentation of food, and consistently delivers some of the finest Japanese French fusion cuisine in the region. He has said: "Food is like a work of art. The plate is my canvas. The ingredients are my paint. The customers are my critique." Chef did seem a shade overwhelmed by the three cheers he received after his thank you speech. Good for him - he is driven by the search for excellence and the stretch of his creativity to find it. He deserves every accolade available. 

Singing up a storm!
There seemed to be a late flurry of activity as people sought to add donations (prompting President to go to the microphone to announce them) with the result that the total raised was not far off previous years efforts. Which is actually darn well done and a big hearty thank you to everyone who donated. Serious props and kudos to all - the charities will be well pleased. 

And that was it. Most left in search of carriages or Uber whilst the usual diehards cracked open whatever was left - some fizz and dessert as memory serves - and sang up some songs. Sadly all the red had gone though there were swathes of both the Pichon and the SHL left in glasses on the table. I fail to understand how people can not drink such magnificent wines as these and at this time of the night the little wine devil inside takes over and demands that it be consumed. It just feels totally sacrilegious to leave something that the winemaker has poured his or her soul into creating to the ignominious fate of the kitchen sink. Consequently, a couple of the SHLs got poured into a glass which became my one for the road. And a wonderful one it was too. That little wine devil can make shame take a back seat when it comes to booze that is this good. 

This will probably be the last post before Christmas, so all my best wishes and compliments of the Festive Season to everyone and a hope that 2017 will be a happy, healthy and safe one for you and your loved ones. With lots of great food, wine and great times with great friends. Cheers!

Note – wines are added in the food and sauce to enhance the flavour of the dish
Glazed Duck Breast with Daikon, Confit Ocean Trout with Shiokombu
Bollinger Champagne NV
Jacquesson 737 NV Bollinger Brut Reserve Champagne NV
First Course
Carpaccio of Buri Fish with Avruga Caviar and Wasabi Kotsuka
Placet Palacios Remondo 2012
Second Course
Buckwheat Risotto with Hokkaido Scallop, Foie Gras and Port Wine Sauce
Domaine Comte Lafon Santenots-du-Milieu, Volnay 1er Cru 2011
Palate Cleanser
Fresh Mango Granité with Cointreau Cream
Main Course
Fish – Pan Roasted Tai Fish with Tsubugai and Tonburi Beurre Blanc
Lamb - Slow Cooked Almond Crusted Hillside Lamb Rack with Mustard Sauce
Beef – Black Angus Beef Striploin with Spanish Anchovies Butter and Red Wine Sauce
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 2005 
Chateau Pichon-Lalande 2001
Adzuki Nougat Glace with Green Tea Anglaise and Tuile
Kracher Beerenauslese Cuvee 2009
Coffee or Tea

A happy bibber
Jacquesson 737 Champagne
A quote from Stephen Tanzer sums up this superb 91 pointer: “Pale gold. Complex, highly fragrant aromas of pear skin, honeydew and orange pith, with musky floral and mineral qualities gaining strength in the glass. Silky and expansive on the palate, offering intense, well-delineated citrus fruit and tarragon flavors lifted by chalky minerality. At once powerful and lithe, finishing with excellent thrust and lingering notes of orange and smoky minerals." Tanzer is one of numerous tasters giving over 90 pts rating.
Bollinger Champagne NV
The Special Cuvée is the result of the delicate blending between harvest grapes and a majority of reserve wines, part of which have been aged in magnums for 5 to 15 years. The blend is constant, drawing on reserve wines for 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and15% Meunier. The grapes are sourced from over 85% Grands and Premiers crus and cellar aged for more than twice the time required by the appellation. And yes, it has long association with Double Oh Seven. He knows about weight, power and elegance. But he knows never to have the Bolly shaken. Or stirred.
Placet Palacios Remondo 2012
This Viura from one of Spain’s most well-known winemakers is a traditional varietal which excels in the Rioja. The little age which we will enjoy adds some nutty notes to the apple and white peach undertones. The 2012 vintage was superb for the Viura (also known as Macabeo) resulting in a complexity that earned a Wine Spectator score of 90 for this wine.
Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Santenots-du-Milieu, Volnay 1er Cru, Burgundy, 2011
PInotphiles will enjoy the aromatics and rich palate elegance of this young, feminine style of Burgundy; “with an elegant, pure and airy essence of red pinot fruit. There is a highly seductive texture to the soil and mineral-inflected middle weight flavors”. Look out for “the inner mouth perfume and the length which is simply stunning." (Burghound 92-94). From a renowned maker we can expect complexity and length in a classic approach. Stephen Tanzer 92 pts, Parker 93 pts
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 2005
Smith Haut Lafitte's great terroir of deep Gunzian gravel, with old vines sinking several metres into the soil, produced stupendous results in an excellent year. This Graves has structure which is still youthful in its classic blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Robert Parker actually did taste this one and wrote: “The inky/blue/purple-tinged 2005's extraordinary nose reeks of charcoal, incense, scorched earth, abundant blackberry, blueberry, and cherry fruit, toast, and spice. Good acidity, huge but sweet tannin, and fabulous precision as well as definition characterize this full-bodied, super-concentrated effort. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2030+." A trifle young; so some breathing in the glass may open up its possibilities even further.
Parker 95 pts , Wine and Spirits 94 pts, Stephen Tanzer 93.
Chateau Pichon Lalande 2001
The high proportion of Merlot in the blends from Chateau Pichon Lalande is a good reason why this wine, among the great wines of Pauillac, is always so seductive. This vintage has added structure with 36% Petit Verdot. Critics on both sides of the Atlantic rate this ready-to-drink now vintage very highly. Excelling in ripe structure of the finest quality from a highly regarded house, it charms as well as excites with vibrant and deep fruit.The serious tannins and acidity that promised of good aging described in write-ups penned four or five years ago praise a classic. It should offer intense pleasure now, though connoisseurs who answer its request for patience in the glass should be rapturously rewarded. Wine Enthusiast 95 pts, Robert Parker 93 pts, Wine Spectator 93 pts, Stephen Tanzer 92 pts.
Kracher Beerenauslese Cuvee 2009

This prestige sweetie is a renowned Austrian blend which, following some age in our cellar, has gained even greater elegance compared to when it was enjoyed in a previous IWFS pouring. Antonio Gallioni described this 92 pointer as follows: "A rich, deep palette of aromas and flavors emerges from the 2009 Cuvee Beerenauslese. Tropical fruit, peaches, yellow stone fruits and spices flesh out in a wine that is beautifully layered, voluptuous and textured. The blend is 75% Welschriesling and 25% Chardonnay, aged 80% in steel and 20% in cask. Residual sugar is 114 grams per liter. " A sweet, layered and complex finale from a top Austrian specialist grower and maker. Enjoy.


  1. You squeezed it all so well��

    1. Haha! Cheers Doc, all the best to you and Su Kim for Xmas and the New Year! :D :D

  2. Nice report Brian, and apologies again for not fronting as I was in Oz.

    You are damned right on one thing. We are very lucky. To have the privilege of time, the ability to enjoy the things we love, to live in countries where these things are available, and to be able to share the company of our friends and loved ones. Without the fear of shells buzzing overhead, the police rushing in and spoiling things, the uncertainty of not knowing where our next meal is coming from.

    Thank you for your reports throughout the year, which I have enjoyed thoroughly. I look forward to another year of good reading and friendship in 2017.

    Best festive wishes to you, Edna and the gang.

    1. Amen to that. Cheers Julian, also looking forward to reading more of your excellent Eats in 2017 and beyond!