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.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Natural Wines at Roost: Yum food, yuck wine...

Gin One at the Mercat
March 14th 2019 - Went for a Natural Wine event at Roost in Bangsar last night. Roost is one of the pioneer farm to plate and as natural as can get it eateries in Kuala Lumpur. We were last there a couple of years back for a friend's birthday and had not opportunity nor reason to return. So when friend Kit whatsapped the flyer to us we figured to give it a go. 

I have to say that as yet I can't quite get into the natural wines. The biodynamics, yes but the natural and organics, no. Somehow the biodynamic wines leave all the artisan and natural in the shade; I have had some stellar naturals but in the main they all seem to have that slight vinegar tinge about them, a sharp acetic zap in the mouth that I don't quite find friendly as compared to the usual plonk. Presumably it can be acquired, and respect to all winemakers who resist the path to easier viticulture. I just can't quite get the taste for them at this time…

Natural and organic have been de rigeur for years and getting out of the way and letting nature do what nature does seems a fair strategy. But nature needs sometimes to be nurtured and channelled to prevent odd tastes getting into the juice and denigrating from the wonder that can result with a little bit of creative viticulture. And I do somewhat rebel at what can occasionally become an automatic monklike reverence for the Natural winemakers as they pursue their saintly mission to produce wines as close to the earth as naturally possible. They are artisans and we should revere them for their dedication and commitment. Well and maybe, but if the stuff they produce leaves a sour taste in the mouth…

Gin Two at the Mercat
Lenglui and I deliberately got there a shade early to line the mouth with one each of The Mercat's excellent Gin mixes. They occasionally showcase new gins for us punters to try and the ones on show tonight were delightful - a traditional style from the Oregon pre prohibition era and a floral Spanish fruit bomb which was total gangbusters with some added strawberry - one of the best and freshest tastes I have had for a while, reminiscent of those ice cream filled fruit lollies we would get as kids from the store. Not cheap though - RM65 for a double - but close the eye to this one. So, so good. 

We made our way to Roost, meeting two fellow guests on the way, climbed the stairs and found our table. The room is a minimalist echo chamber with hard walls, floors and tables and very little in the way of sound absorption making meaningful conversation pretty difficult for the marginally deaf like myself. Felt more like a school canteen with the kitchen on one end alongside which our table was parked. 

Goat Cheese and Fig Salad. Okay...
The wines had been brought in by Straits Wine, and though I have had regular contact with the firm over the years, none of the people pouring the wines looked at all familiar. So it goes. I did get recognised by old friend Victor who was still bringing in his Spanish Passion delights for the Malaysian palate and plate. Always good to see an old face. 

Foodwise, the bread and wagyu butter with a sprinkling of fried shallots was stellar. Melt in the mouth creamy salty fat and shallot crunch on fresh wholewheat bread is a little taste of heaven. The Raventos Blanc de Blancs fizz was a good yeasty match with very fine bead that did not quite rinse the mouth but went down pleasantly nonetheless. There was something almost a bit prep school and wholesome about the fizz, kind of like a liquid Richard Quest from CNN, all zap and zest and jolly but a little acerbic underneath it all. Different from the usual bubbles,  a nice bit of bite on the mouth and finish.

The ceviche was a shade firm though full of taste though the condiments seemed to lack something in the fire they were presumably supposed to lend - coriander felt a bit limp and needing a boost of verve. The soft shell prawn in the bun was excellent - batter, crunchy prawn and mouth friendly chinese steamed bun combined with the kimchi to produce a taste and texture that was at once full and filling yet sparked with crispy bites to crunch through to the fire that lay at the base of the submarine bun. Kind of KFC Crispy Prawn Hot Dog. Wonderful. 

The excellent Chicken Liver Pate
It was being matched with a Chard that was just the wrong side of artisan for me - it had that sharp acetic quality that I seem to find in many of the natural wines I come across in these food and wine adventures. The batter did take the edge off the Chard, but a buttery Chablis would have sent the thing ballistic.

The superb Chicken Liver pate was being matched with a Pedro Ximinez Spanish dry sherry style that seemed a bit confused - it was at once sweetly unctuous whilst at the same time dry and almond nut chewy. Good, but somehow artisanal in feel and not quite sure who or what it was looking to be. The sweet aspect lent the pate a base on which to sit but I couldn't quite fathom the match between them. Perhaps I just didn't like this style of wine, though I do enjoy a good oloroso with the best of them. 

The Goats Cheese and Salad and Mushroom Padano came out almost together and were being paired with some red. At this point, things seemed to be getting somewhat over wholesome. The Padano had that husky oatbran feel about it whilst the wine was very barnyard and somewhat frizzante, as if some yeast had been left in the bottle and had kicked up some bubbles. And again, that slight acetic mouthfeel that, frankly, on this occasion made me want to spit. You have to like that wholesome veggie style of cuisine, and whilst I occasionally do the attempted match with these wines just did not work for me. And while the artisan wineries do look to romance with the best of them, piss and vinegar is still piss and vinegar.

Ceviche of Grouper
Lenglui had been passing her wines and food to me for clearance and hoovering most of the night. At the taste of the red, though, we decided that enough was enough. Equally, I was feeling a bit woozy and my head was starting to spin. So I claimed legitimate JetLag, made my excuses, paid our bill and left. 

Overall, Roost offers enjoyable food that would have sung with higher caliber wines. Not sure if they charge corkage, but given that some of these wines were on their winelist then perhaps better to bring and pay. Or stay at the Mercat with the Gin cocktails and their excellent porky bites. I was not overawed by the canteen ambience, though the passion in the place is evident and to be celebrated. For me. the lesson has been learned. No more natural wines for the Gwailo. Or the Lenglui. As the fridge magnet says, Life is Too Short to Drink Grim Wine. Amen.

Ciabatta Bread and Wagyu Butter
Ceviche of Grouper, Miso, Chili and Coriander
Steamed Bun with Soft Shell Prawn and Kimchi
Chicken Liver Pate on Charred Bread
Goats Cheese, Pecan, Figs, Vinaigrette, Salad, Chicken Innards
Mushroom "Barleyotto" Padano
Capunti, Scallops, Estragon
Croquettes of Confit Duck and Foie Gras
Wagyu Rump Tartare, Chips, Caviar and Herbs
Local Chees (Opal, Tomme, Sarawak)


Not a clue other than the Raventos Blanc de Blancs NV - left before could take a photo. 

The Crispy Prawn Bun - wonderfully satisfying
69.1 Jalan Telawi 3
Bangsar Baru
Kuala Lumpur
tel: +603 22011710
website: www.roostkl.com

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