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, April 7, 2014

A New Zealand Affair at Enfin - woooo!!!

Banner Event!
UPDATE May 2016 - Enfin is now at Menara Hap Seng on Jalan P Ramlee in Kuala Lumpur. Far better location for what James is offering. Have yet to visit, hopefully soon. 

This was a wine dinner organized by good friend Candy Mah of Cave and Cellar.  It was held at a restaurant new to us - the Enfin Brasserie at the Oasis in Ara Damansara. We were to have a selection from the Giesen range of wines, some of which Enfin was featuring as their house wine and wine for the season. Cave and Cellar always organise a good wine dinner and the wines had got our resident Kiwi very excited - the reviews he emailed on the Giesen range were glowing. We had also got YC and neighbours Nenad and Ania to sign up. In the end, we had a table of ten all sat together. Good night in prospect. 

Couldn't find much info on the place on the web. Chef James in the Enfin Facebook page says the restaurant is the latest addition to the Min Food Group restaurant family. The food is completely and quintessentially French though the chefs all hail from Asia.

Interior of Enfin
It took almost two hours to get there. We had left pretty much on the dot at 5pm from the office, anticipating bad traffic on a Friday night. But it was a nightmare. They are building extensions to the LRT, looking to squeeze about eight lanes across three slip roads into two. Desperate. We parked up and found the restaurant, though we had to walk through a burger kind of place and up some stairs to get there. Though a bit early, we were greeted with a warm welcome from Candy and a cold glass of the Giesen Pinot Gris. Ahhhhhhhhhh…. The Pinot Gris was nicely sweet, though better when colder. 

The notes spoke of an "Aromatic and elegant wine with spicy floral notes and aromas of poached pear, almond, dry spice with vanilla pod. The palate is intense with tropical stone fruit flavours and a hint of warm brioche. Texturally the wine is supple with luscious fruit sweetness yet also powerful with some alcohol warmth along with a ripe structure which ensures a finish with persistent flavour." We found it florally fragrant with spice notes, crisply sweet and chilled. It made for a pleasant aperitif, though needed to remain cold to prevent the sugar getting a bit cloying. It would also end up as the nightcap and matching wine for the dessert. 

Chef James Won with Candy Mah of Cave & Cellar
Talking with the very affable Chef James Won, it transpires he is a Krug Chef and if I heard right he sets the menus for the Krug Restaurants around South East Asia. There are six Krug Rooms across the globe and the Enfin is apparently the first Krug Restaurant in South East Asia. There is also a Krug Garden above the Enfin which can cater for fourteen guests to allow for a more herbaceous alfresco experience with the King of Champagnes. Chef is a fan of nature's flavours. 

Enfin Staff. And Lenglui
Chef James proved a wonderful Master of Ceremonies for the night. Hugely passionate about pairing and matching, he led us through a range of experiences where food and glasses altered the experience of the wines. His time with giants such as Ducasse and Bocuse have clearly inspired him in his mission of educating palates. There was a small comment that perhaps he was guiding us a bit too much in what we should be experiencing, but that felt a shade mean. 

Our Amuse Bouche was a Macaroon Sandwich with Salmon Roe, Chives and Ikura which proved a blitzer combo of sugar, salt, pepper and fish savoury on the tongue as a result of the Ikura. The Macaroon included some dehydrated Orange Peel. Absolutely wonderful Macaroon - light, crunch, whisper, evaporate. It was a crackerjack with the Pinot Gris, the sweetness undercutting the savoury and sugar Macaroon a treat. Good start. showed off the flint and spritz of the Brothers and gave a smoother character to express. 

The 2011 Giesen "The Brothers" Sauvignon Blanc that quickly followed had a lovely crisp balance about it with a hint of oak somewhere, and clearly requiring some shellfish to set it off. Nicely biting and bracing, it seemed to get less acidic as it got warmer, so perhaps an indication to drink it quickly. The notes talked about "purity, focus, elegance and concentration… cut grass and dried herb blending with grapefruit, guava and flinty river stone." Equally, the palate "has a juicy texture and lovely pure acidity. This wraps around concentrated flavours of elderflower, lemon zest and crushed herbs. The finish is minerally, refined and persistent." The 2013 got RP 86 and the 2010 got RP 90. 

The scallop that followed was a big zap of pepper texture which was tamed by the SB but it also amplified its acidity and again brought out its minerality. The accompanying tomato was brilliant, one of the freshest I have tasted for a long time. It was sweet, crisp, had crunch and zap and blended wonderfully with the carbo couscous. Great dish which showed off the flint and spritz of the Brothers and gave it a somewhat smoother character in expression. 

Hokkaido Scallop with Amazing Tomato
The 2010 Giesen "The August 1888" Sauvignon Blanc has a rich, opulent nose with a brilliantly complex mouth of apricot, smoke, cinnamon and persimmon. The notes suggest "ripe stone-fruit is to the fore with peach and nectarine leading the way. Aromas of herbs, lemongrass and nettles give the nose a lift and combine with dry spice, vanilla bean and a creamy complexity. Time on lees and fruit concentration are big influences on the palate with a luscious, creamy fruit and flavours of mandarin  and ripe gooseberry. The palate is well structured with a touch of phenolics and drying acidity ensuring a powerful assertive wine."  2013 got RP 90 and 2011 got RP92+

On its own, the salmon was lovely. It had been perfectly cooked to 70% with nice oily fat coming through and wonderfully set off by the crispy caramelized and honey crust of the Skin Brulee. Chef talked about the Omega Oil in Salmon giving a hint of shellfish in the mouth. It gave the wine a lean feel which let the food hit the roof of the mouth like a sandy salty sea-storm. The Bouillabaisse broth was equally brilliant but our requests for bread to sop it up were refused by chef, saying it would be too much food and would spoil his upcoming delights. Okay. The customer is always right except when the chef says he or she is wrong. Works for me.

Wild Norwegian Salmon
The Giesen Estate Pinot Noir seemed to have an odd balance of acid over fruit, but would prove very versatile with the duck and other food. The Estate Pinot notes say "Dense, plum red in colour. The nose has vibrant red fruit aromas with a spicy earthy complexity. Intense fruit, supple texture and fine grained tannin produce an elegant palate with a touch of sweet oak." It was quite a simple and well made Pinot, not too overpowering in any of the departments, a good pairing wine. But not much more at this point.

With the dish on the table, Chef said we should try the sauce first then sip, then the sauce and potato and sip, and then the duck and sip, and then all three together and sip. Very enlightening - potato and sauce brought out a sarsaparilla note on the wine whilst the pairing with the velvet duck made the throat sing a song of spice and wonder. Firm and full meat, the duck and Pinot were stellar. And a lot of it too - it was a big-ass chunk of duck on the plate. Someone said it should have been named Porterhouse Duck. Agreed.

Pan Seared Duck Breast
The 2011 Giesen "The Brothers" Pinot Noir was supposed to be the big brother and the business for the night. The notes say "Alluring aromas of blackberry, plum, five spice and clove with notes of brambly forest floor and warm freshly turned earth. The palate is firm with well structured tight tannin yet (is) supple with fleshy fruit and a touch of oak spice. A wine that will reward cellaring." Got 88pt from RP. 

My palate was clearly giving out, since my notes say the PN was lovely on its own with superb balance, good complexity and with a lot going on in the wine. Coming on like a sweet cherry at first, it then hits you with a whack of strawberry ice lollipop. Not the most revealing or instructive of notes. Too much SB and PG at the start of the night. I bought a bottle so when it gets cracked will update the note here. 

Lamb Lollipops
The lamb was not over-seasoned, and neither were the veggies. It was roasted like my mother used to roast it and slightly cooled so that the fat got solid. There seemed to be a lot of fat in the meat, though the ensemble with the Fennel and Bourguignon sauce was very tasty. Some also said it felt a bit rare, though mine was well cooked. A fair match with the wine, though the wine's complexity threatened to overpower the food on occasion. Not sure if I heard right but my notes say the lamb was cooked in Duck Fat, which would be new. It cut the Pinot and let the pepper and fruit come through.

Handmade Macaroon and Chocolate Truffle
Dessert was another Macaroon which was beautifully sweet and crunchy excellent with wonderful sweet citrus lemon. For me it didn't really go with the Pinot Gris, which had its own high sweetness and essentially became a sugar bomb when paired together. 

Chef James explaining one of the food and wine pairings
Service of the wines was generally brisk and generous. The food mostly came out at the same time so no one was left waiting for others to get served. Both the wines and the restaurant were very good, and no one could really complain at the value for money or the quality thereof. We were all pretty merry as evidenced by a sing song at the end of the night and a raucous drive home with neighbours Nenad and Ania and their visiting friend Rene.  As a result, it all came across as a well organized and hugely successful event. Both the wines and the restaurant were very good. Candy had marked the Giesen on special for the night and I shared a mixed case of the evening's offerings with friend YC. 

Dr Su Kim, Dr Stephen and Chef James
I think everyone enjoyed the food and the wines and the entertaining palate education offered by Chef James. I think I understand the point someone made of "maybe a bit too much education" but having been a lecturer I also understand mixed abilities and levels of experience in a classroom - some know far more than others and it is always safe to begin with the lowest common denominator. And with a table of IWFS foodies to deal with, Chef James did very well. I learnt a lot and much more compared to many other wine dinners attended. Will definitely consider attending any future events with Chef James (indeed, will be attending an upcoming Lanson Champagne dinner, again organized by Cave and Cellar and already sold out). The only real downside is the nightmare traffic needed to be battled to get to the Enfin. Ah, the things we endure for love…

A New Zealand Affair with Giesen Wines at Brasserie Enfin
Organized by Cave and Cellar
24th March 2014

Amuse Bouche
Chefs Complimentary

Entree One
Hokkaido Scallop, Cauliflower Couscous with Elderflower Gelee on Tomato Fondant and Bacon Grit
2011 Giesen "The Brothers" Sauvignon Blanc

Wild Norwegian Salmon with Spiced Crispy Skin Brulee with Shellfish Bouillabaise
2010 Giesen "The August" Sauvignon Blanc

Main One
Pan Seared Duck Breast with Chocolate and Chili Glaze and Fondant Potato in Fumet of Black Truffle
2010 Giesen Estate Pinot Noir

Main Two
Lamp Lollipops, Roasted Fennel and Mushroom with Bourguignon Sauce
2011 Giesen "The Brothers" Pinot Noir

Handmade Macaroon and Chocolate Truffle
2010 Giesen Estate Pinot Gris

The Kitchen Crew take a bow

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Artisan Wines at Soleil - hmmm...

Hmmm….   feels difficult to grade this one. On paper, it looked amazing - the menu, the wines, the venue. And foodwise there were excellent standout dishes. It just didn't quite feel… value. Not to say that it wasn't value, given the wines and the food; I just didn't…  quite….  FEEL the value. Whenever I eat more bread during dinner or make a sandwich at home for supper, then the belly clearly feels there was not enough whack in the evening's food. And being sober enough to actually make the sandwich and remembering to drink water suggests the wine pourings were perhaps a bit thin. But as elsewhere said, there is always a context. Perhaps it was coming off the back of a hugely generous wine dinner hosted by Cave and Cellar at the Enfin a few days previously. Perhaps I'm getting greedy. Certainly not losing any weight - putting it on if anything… 

Upstairs at the Soleil
Arriving at the Soleil and getting greeted by both Yuhei and Effandie and climbing the stairs we got met by Dave Chan of Artisan Cellars and a glass of his very pleasant champagne. Artisan Cellars are Singapore based and have just opened an office here in KL. Their focus is on wines that naturally have an artisanal quality about them and seek to bring them to wider market. In my readings, there seems occasionally to be a sense of the cult about some of the wine makers in this particular genre. But it was an opportunity to try some wines of the style and so get direct experience on the tongue rather than the views of others.

The NV Chartogne Taillet Sainte Anne Brut champagne itself had good character and taste, not too sweet and with medium body. A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, the notes talk about "mineral driven…bright and floral, with a supple refined texture and a subtle richness and depth on the attack… the finish is lively, dry and precise." We got not much in the way of fruit but did get good clean bubbles which for some reason I was able to smell the biscuit in them. The staff were not too enthusiastic in refilling, probably feeling the need to retain some for the Oysters. Well, and okay, but there seemed to be quite a few empty glasses being toted in the pre dinner mingling which felt not quite right.

We were also advised to try the Champagne in a white wine glass instead of the flute. Recent new vinous nous suggests that flutes do not show off all of a sparkling wine's expressions and these can be better appreciated in a traditional glass. The white wine glass did change the wine's character, though the bubbles evaporated more quickly. We'll see. Time was, sparkling was thought only servable in the Marie Antoinette cups, still beloved of wedding fountains. Think I'll stick to flutes.

Fine de Claire Oysters - ooo la la...
The lovely and freshly baked bread rolls came out and so did our Fine de Claire Oysters. Fine de Claire Oysters come from Marennes-OlĂ©ron in Southwest France. The name derives from the refining process these oysters undergo before being sent to market. For one or two months, they are placed in the Marennes-Oleron salt marsh ponds known as "claires" which presumably "clear" the oyster and give it its delicate less fleshy texture and slight hazelnut taste. It was less firm in texture than those we normally get at the hotel buffet, and somewhat smaller. The trouble with oysters is that they slip right down before one has the real chance to feel any texture. Having said that, these were indeed lovely, and giving a nice salty zing to the fizz. 

Steamed Dutch Mussels
The Dutch Mussels that quickly followed were brilliant - amazingly fresh and steamed in white wine with some raw chopped Serai (lemongrass) added for taste and crunch to the broth which really set the thing off. Perhaps a shade more pepper bite in the broth would have added a slight zing for taste, but that's just me. Pairing with the light 2010 Domaine De L'Ecu "Orthogneiss" Muscadet made sense, nothing too complicated to get in the way of the food. Apparently available in restaurants such as Noma, Bernardin and Astrance, the notes spoke of "one of the best bottles in the region. The marine spirit is immediately suggested by an intense minerality." For us it gave meadow fresh apples and acacia on the nose and a light lemony tinge on the tongue. Light and easy, with enough body to maintain interest. Must have missed the minerality. Not sure if it would match Malaysian or Chinese cuisine, but it was excellent with the shellfish. 

Grilled Turbot
The delightful grilled Turbot felt like it had a drizzle of oil and butter which helped to boost the Saffron sauce and give an overall rich texture to the dish. This helped it pair very well with the oily and voluptuous 2011 Vin De Pays "Romaneaux Destezet" Blanc from Herve Souhaut. A blend of 90% Roussanne and 10% Viogner, the notes talk of "a glorious, floral wine that has freshness and elegance as attributes and avoids the unctuous flabbiness and excessive oakiness that wines from this area can suffer from. It is wonderful and generous but also precise and true." Elsewhere, Wine Anorak says "..they are utterly beautiful, elegant creations, made from old vines with very little sulphur dioxide added." We found it nicely balanced with chewy apricots and spice tropical fruits, it retained just enough acidity for the fish to cut through and produce a velvet opulence swishing around in the mouth. Fabulous dish and a great match. 
Two Lenglui
The 2010 Marsannay Cuvee Marie Ragonneau from Charles Audoin had better balance, though a bit farmyard on the nose. The Burghound notes talk of "…aromatically similar to the Bourgogne but a lot more complexity to the ripe and distinctly earth-suffused nose. There is good detail and punch to the attractively layered favours that are phenolically mature tannins on the balanced and solidly persistent finish. This is a lovely wine that should reward well short term cellaring."  Nice light cherry, balanced with chewy tannins, spicily sweet. Classically Burgundian - light and easy and drinkable. Though the table felt it would not really be a keeper. Maybe with about two years left in the bottle. But it showed well tonight and drank well with the tenderloin.

In contrast, the 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin Vielle Vignes from Olivier Bernstein showed a big, bold nose of herbs. People were getting tarragon, rocket and dandelion. The Burghound notes say "A notably ripe nose of dark berries, earth and underbrush leads to rich, round and quite suave middle weight flavours that possess a lovely sense of underlying tension of the delicious, well balanced and persistent finish. A quality villages that should be approachable young if desired." Certainly very young in the mouth with fair fruit with sharp bitter tannins and shades of stalk on the finish. Quite a demanding wine, and not one to be drunk alone. For me, it didn't buzz any bells. The Gevrey somehow "felt" artisanal, with perhaps too much character and not enough refinement that I could detect. I also did not feel there to be enough fruit or acidity for it to be a keeper. It did get better down the bottle and showed off its fruit, spice and pepper cherry character. It was just… not really enjoyable to drink. Lacked a degree of finesse that I somehow have got used to. Maybe it worked with the Pigeon. Didn't do much for the Beef.

Beef Tenderloin
Service of the tenderloin was quite erratic with several coming out quite late. One can normally give some leeway, but with only 27 diners it needs pointing out. My tenderloin felt a bit overdone on the edges but got better into the meat. Lovely texture and taste with the char adding enough for crunch. The potato was equally excellent. 

Neighbour Richard had sent his back, having previously asked for rare and getting medium. When it came, I snagged a taste. Wow. So this is how it would taste to the lions. Lean and raw, chewy. Now I understand the appeal of rare, though the meat needs to be top quality. It could also have been perhaps a 100g more of it on the plate which would have tipped the balance more to the better side of replete. 

Chocolate Fondant - magnifique...
The Chocolate Fondant Dessert was wonderful. Dark chocolate nibs with a coconut bite and butter taste. Rich chocolate goo in a souffle chocolate crusty crunch sponge and milky smooth ice cream. Darling, total and absolute darling.  

In sum, the food was very good, the champagne okay, the muscadet light, the Roussanne firm and bold, the Marsannay a classic easy burgundy and the Gevrey a bit TOO artisan. Soleil is legend for its fish and tonight was up to its usual stellar standard. I think I have said elsewhere that the meat dishes do not match the fish standard, though they are getting better. Not sure if portions are shrinking. No one else has said so it's probably just me. Feeling was that the wines were a bit the wrong side of price friendly for what they were. I'm all for biodynamic and organic wines and will pay some premium for them. But the premium here felt a bit too heavy compared to what is available in the market. And from this experience, the artisanal may well be an acquired taste. Nonetheless, a productive educational experience and good exposure to a wine style we don't often get. They mostly paired extremely well with the European style food at Soleil but might have a hard time with other cuisines in this part of the world. 

The Wines
2 Fine de Claire Oysters
NV Chartogne Taillet Sainte Anne Brut

Steamed Dutch Mussels with White Wine and Lemongrass
2010 Domaine de L'Ecu Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie "Orthogneiss"

Grilled Atlantic Turbot with sauteed Green Asparagus and Saffron Emulsion
2011 Herve Souhaut Vin De Pays "Romaneaux Destezet" Blanc

Roasted Pigeon with Sauteed Baby Spinach, Natural Jus and Sweet Corn Croquette
Pan Seared Black Angus Beef Tenderloin with Sauteed Baby Spinach, Red wine Sauce and Roasted Kipfler Potatoes
2010 Charles Audoin Marsannay Cuvee Marie Ragonneau
2011 Olivier Bernstein Gevrey-Chambertin Vielle Vignes

Valrhona Araguani Chocolate Fondant with Turmeric Ice Cream

April 3, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

Outstanding Pork at Kamimura in KL!!

Wow. Must record a brilliant meal at the Kamimura Japanese Restaurant the other night. Located on Level Two of The Weld Shopping Centre on Jalan Raja Chulan the food was totally stellar and stunning. It was also totally pork. Starting off with Pork Salad, comprising thinly sliced neck mixed in with onion and yam, we were next served with some amazing Tonkatsu kebab style on a stick (meat and onion, both tonkatsu-ed separately) followed by a braised pork belly piece on its own and ending with thin belly slices Shabu Shabu style dipped quickly in a steamboat with boiling veggies. All of it was wonderfully fantastic. The Doc was in heaven, saying he would be back very soon. We also have been raving about it to friends and they are all hugely excited and want to go. Was half tempted not to write about it, because once the secret is out then we don't get a look in any more. But it is sooooo  good. The braised pork in particular - total melt in the mouth and the most exquisite combo of meat and fat. Woooooooooooooooo…..

Drinks wise, there was Bollinger to start, with a Chassagne Montrachet to follow, then a Chateauneuf du Pape and ended with single malt whiskey over ice. The wines went most nicely with the food.

No photos cos forgot to bring the camera. Next time…  and be assured, there will be. Outstanding.

Kamimura Japanese Restaurant
Lot 12-14 Level Two Menara Weld Shopping Centre
76 Jalan Raja Chulan 50200 Kuala LUmpur
Tel 03 2166 8928
Fax: 03 2166 8932
Mon to Fri noon to 2.30pm, 6.30pm to 10.30pm
Saturday 6.30pm to 10.30pm
Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays