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.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Voyager Estate at Stoked - good!

March 14, 2018 - This was another email from Yin-How at Stoked alerting the world to a wine dinner that paired the Bertha delights with the latest offerings from Margaret River's Voyager Estate. 

The email actually told of two wine dinners on consecutive days, the other showcasing wines from Barossa Valley's Yalumba winery. We find that wine dinners on the bounce are generally to be avoided, since the system usually takes a day to recover and is not really up to scratch in time to appreciate and enjoy the second. We opted for the Voyager in memory of a delightful bottle or three enjoyed at lunch on one of the IWFS Ipoh trips - lush, velvet, potent and powerful beast it was. Totally memorable. 

Voyager Estate Export Director Fiona Findlay and the Lenglui
I had shared the email with my Wine Sifu, knowing he enjoys the good meat with the good wine. He was not able to join, but shared that he had visited the Voyager Estate winery and had had a well jolly time of things there. He gets around, does Wine Sifu. 

Yin-How's email noted that the wines of Margaret River have "been rightly regarded as one of the true pretenders to crafting authentic convincing Bordeaux style wines. While there is undoubtedly more dense core of fruit in wines from this region, the underlying mineral and leafy nuances are still present. Voyager Estate is one of the foremost established quality producers from Margaret River and personally, the Cabernet Merlot 2001 remains for me one of the best new world Bordeaux blends I have ever tasted, complex, cigar box notes mixed with pure cassis fruit and soft grainy tannins. We will taste the spicy, plummy refined Shiraz as well as their flagship Cabernet Merlot."

Cured Mackerel. Watermelon, Pesto
Which I think was the one we had had in Ipoh. Belter of a wine, and as Yin-How says, one of those that somehow sticks in the memory. Wines that would be served on the night were
Girt by Sea Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Girt by Sea Chardonnay 2016
Girt by Sea Cabernet Merlot 
Estate Shiraz 2013
Estate Cabernet Merlot 2012

Iberico, Asparagus, Parmesan
All wines would be specially discounted on the night as well. How to resist?

We arrived slightly late (as usual) at the Stoked. Everyone was sat with their aperitif wine, a charming Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend which we quaffed voraciously and cheered our table guests, one of whom would turn out to be Voyager Estate Export Director Fiona Findlay who would be our guide for the wines on the night. Hugely warm and full of stories, Fiona was a delightful companion for the evening. 

Lenglui later remarked that of late we seemed to be getting parked with the wine reps at the wine dinners we attended. I had not noticed it, but on reflection it proved true - we got sat with the people who were either making the wine or bringing it in. Possibly is because of this blog and the thinking being that I can get more detail and content for writing up the dinner. Never considered that I might garner a reputation for keeping this diary. There you go. 

Now nearly a month gone, I can't remember too much about the first few courses. I recall them having good tastes and matching the wines nicely, but the individual tastes and combos - gone. The beef was a standout - could really taste the age on it and the rich cheek busting jus, er, busted the cheeks and tongue nicely. Dessert was also a standout, with yoghurt and blueberry getting supercharged by the lime to lend a creamy citrus end to the evening. The Mackerel was a fishy basil bite somewhat both sparked and diluted by the fiery herbs and raspy watermelon, which equally diluted the light acidity in the mid bodied Chardonnay. And the Iberico felt a bit sad compared to the vervy servings Chef has produced on previous visits. Seem to recall a soft crust on the meat which did not quite do it for me. Can't remember the Girt by Sea Red, though there was none left in the glass. 

Dry Aged 60 day Sirloin
The wines were pretty much on point, and Ms Fiona talked well and not overlong about them. I recall enjoying the Semillon/SB as a very good and friendly ice breaker - a convivial wine perfect as aperitif. The Chardonnay had perhaps a shade too much power for balance, though perhaps needs a bit of time in bottle. Can't remember the Girt Cab/Merlot. One of those where taking notes seemed uncultured, especially sat next to the Export Director. The fact that we did not buy any of the whites is suggestive that they were not quite to our taste or value proposition. I tend to be very Scotsman in spending on the booze; Lenglui not so. 

But we did buy six of the Estate Cabernet Merlot, though in fairness the Shiraz showed better on the night. There was good fruit and solid power and just enough boldness to stand up to the full and firm aged meat and rich coffee tinted jus. To which the Maitake mushroom gave good earth and chewy bite. All smack and whack in the mouth from both food and wine. The Boys Club would love this one. Can't remember the Kelp paste.

The Cab/Merlot was softer and could not quite face down the beef. But we are not huge fans of the big and the bold (sounds like a TV series…) and the Cab/Merlot is a lovely wine that will match the home grilled steak. As said, we bought six which are now stored in the bathroom awaiting space in the wine fridge. I had planned to take a couple to a dinner with my  Wine Sifu the following week at the Butcher's Table (click here to read my report>>) - in the end I decided against; we ran into each other at a wine dinner in DC Restaurant with DC Vajra wines (report hopefully upcoming) where he said he would bring his big Voyager Estate Tom Price 2004 to try with the Butcher's Rib Eye - I felt the Cab/Merlot was a bit lightweight and would get sucker punched. Which proved right - see the above link. 

Blueberries Compote, Lime,
Yoghurt Ice Cream
Stoked Restaurant
T : +60320948262     M : +6012 2802948     
F : +603 20948264
E : yhwong@vintry.com.my                   

Voyager Estate Wine Dinner 

Marinated Pear, Lavender Honeycomb, Cured Lardo Potato and Roe Crispy Leaves and Sofrito 
Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon 2016

Cured Mackerel, Watermelon, Pesto 
Voyager Estate 'Girt By Sea' Chardonnay, 2016 

Iberico Intercostal, Asparagus, Parmesan Veloute 
Voyager Estate 'Girt By Sea' Cabernet - Merlot, 2012 

Dry-Aged 60days Sirloin, Grilled Maitake with Kelp Paste 
Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot 2012 
Voyager Estate Shiraz, 2013

Blueberries Compote, Lime Zest and Oil, Yoghurt Ice Cream

Bailey’s Bon Bon Coffee & Tea

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Voyager Estate Tom Price wine at The Butcher's Table - stunning!

March 22, 2018 - My Wine Sifu had been expressing a need to feed his inner carnivore and bust one of his magnificent wines for the occasion. One of the Boys had said that the Rib Eye at the Butcher's Table was top rate so I figured it would be worth the booking to try. We had to juggle dates due to the BT advising that renovations were being scheduled across our March dates, but eventually a collectively convenient one was determined and the countdown began. Pre-order was the usual crispy knuckle to which we added the rib eye medium rare, and we would add other BT delights once we arrived (for my earlier report on the Butcher's Table click here>>).

I had earlier shared info with Sifu on the Voyager Wine Estate dinner at Stoked (which he was not able to attend) and he shared back that he had bought a bottle of the Voyager's Tom Price on a visit to the winery in Margaret River in Western Australia. It seemed like serendipity - the fates were indicating it was time for it to be tasted. Yes. No argument here.

The Kiwi's beautiful Domaine Du Pegau - silky and sweet
For a change, we arrived bang on 7.30 and both Sifu and long term squeeze Lucy were seated and ready for the off. I had brought a Wirra Wirra Lost Watch Riesling secured from a previous wine dinner along with a 2011 Domaine Du Pegau CdP given me on my last birthday by the Kiwi a.k.a. Doc Wine to compare with the Tom. Normally I like to share wines given me with the people who did the giving. But I had nothing else on short notice in the wine fridge that seemed appropriate. Sorry Doc - will open something appropriate at our next get together. 

We cracked the Riesling to whet the throat and figured foodwise to start with the steak and then move to the knuckle and have some salad to go with everything. Also to start, we ordered some of the legendary Siew Yoke to whet the appetite and let the salt skin give some counter to the tickling acidity of the Riesling. 

I thought to start with the CdP which in retrospect was…  not wrong, but it would better have paired with the knuckle. As it was, the rib eye came to the table and…  yeah, should have opened the Tom and poured both. Didn't think - bit tired, I guess…

For me the steak did not stun. It was tasty enough but seemed to lack sufficient balance across the fat, sear and meat. It was also a shade cool. Notwithstanding, the Pegau CdP was magnificent, all blush and bloom and blowsy, like a cancan dancer in full flight. Perfect balance across fruit and tannin, and full powerful mouth of dark sweet honeydew plums and damsons leading to a rich full and long finish. Ticked all the boxes, this one. Beautiful drop of wine. 

In contrast, the Pork Knuckle was magnificent, all taste and meat and crisp crunchy salt skin and making for a perfect mouthful of meat, fat and salt crunch. It was superb with the last of the CdP and for me was an excellent match.

The Tom had remained unopened at this time. There was some debate as to whether to open it, given the lateness of the night and the fullness of the belly. But open it we did. And boy, what a wine… that rich chocolate mouth you get with the top end grapes, silky sleek in the mouth and a finish that lasted a week. Simply one of the better Cabernets I have tasted across my twenty two year wine career (call 1996 as the start). Ranks well up there with the Mitolo Serpico and the Joseph Phelps Cabernets - would happily buy this wine and lock it away. 

The Rib Eye - pretty good, but wasn't fully stunned...
This is not a wine one gets to taste every week. It came in a spanky box with a fold out info leaflet which I'll repeat verbatim:

The Fruit
Being able to grow fruit for a Tom Price wine is a wonderful challenge for a viticulturist. I have the exciting and enjoyable responsibility of singling our pockets of the vineyard for special nurturing as Tom Price blocks. Though not every vintage ensures a Tom Price wine, seasons like 2004 make all the years of effort worthwhile. 

The early season was blessed with good rainfall which allowed for excellent soil moisture and budburst was even with a bright green leaf colour superior to anything seen before on your vineyards. When the rains fell away in early October the vines were were well set up for uniform flowering. The weather conditions in the ripening phase were outstanding, with a classic warm and dry "indian summer' lasting well into April. Our vineyard techniques didn't skip a beat and the result was fruit harvested in optimum condition with perfectly balanced flavours and ripe, super-fine tannins.

26 year old original Estate vines have provided the fruit for this wine. The fruit was handpicked and hand-sorted before being crafted by the winemaking team over a number of years into the wine that it is today. Meanwhile, my team and I are waiting patiently for another 2004

The 2004 Tom Price - stellar...
Steve James, Viticulturist

The Wine
At Voyager Estate we have always maintained that great wines are made in great vineyards. In reality, however, when considering how rare wines such as 
Tom Price are made, it is a combination of several factors that all come together at once, a very exceptional event indeed. It takes phenomenal vintage conditions, excellent vineyard management and careful winemaking to make a wine we deem worthy enough to be considered a Tom Price wine. On these rare occasions, when all the factors do align, we simply give the fruit the lead and act as the caretaker, thus allowing the wine to evolve from its natural origins.the

The fruit components for this wine were divided into two batches that were fermented n open and upright fermenters with regular pump overs or plunging for soft extraction. Fermentation was conducted with small amounts of the 796 Bordeaux yeast strain at temperatures around 30 degrees. Ferments lasted as long as 21 days, after which one component was pressed, while the other was left on skins for further texture and tannin modification. The two wines were inoculated for malolactic fermentation and then transferred to barrel for 24 months. Two years later, the wine that emerged for bottling was a true reflection of the fruit that started it all.

The 2004 Tom Price Cabernet Sauvignon has been a delight to craft. It will age beautifully and reward those who join it on this journey.

Cliff Royle, Senior Winemaker

So - it is a Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.2 alcohol harvested across27 March to 2 April, had two years in 50% new and 50% old French oak, bottled on 30May. It is a deep brick red, with an abundance of dark, juicy ripe fruit on the nose (think mulberry, blackberry and cassis) which combine with dark chocolate and soft, integrated French oak. Chocolate and sweet on the palate, where dark fruits dominate this juicy wine. Soft finish with velvet tannins that belie an underlying power that should allow cellaring for up to 20 years. A classic wine made in an old-world Bordeaux style. Again, all this came from the blurb. And it says pretty much how it tasted. Sweet, lush, fruit. Stellar stuff. 

Butcher's Table Counter - Mr Ho is centre
It's going to be tough to try and outdo the Baron and his wine on this showing. Only regret is not having opened it first - it would have been stellar with steak (though as said the beef on this occasion was a bit below expectation). I was going to bring one of the wines we had bought at the Voyager Estate dinner; glad I didn't - they were nowhere near the calibre of Tom. Margaret River was never quite on the bucket list of wine regions to visit. It is now. Anyone got any 2004 Tom Price they need to unload?

Butchers Table
26 Jalan SS2/103
47300 Petaling Jaya
Selangor DE Malaysia
Tel:  +6 03 7728 2843
email: mybutcherstable@gmail.com
Facebook: The Butcher's Table

Opening Hours
Tuesday to Sunday
11.30am to 3pm, 6pm to 11pm

Wine and Dine with Chef Olivier at Lafite - excellent food!

January and February 2018 - This was a promotion extending across January, February and March and being done to (presumably) introduce new Chef Olivier to a wider Malaysian audience. Though I do recall my mate and fellow foodie Julian raving over him from about nine months previously and urging me to go and buy him lunch there. Didn't quite seem to happen - think I was travelling across August to October and the months seem to flit past like dust ghosts in the wind.  It was only on the suggestion of an overseas visitor (and long term fan of Lafite) that we got around to going. This became the last Friday in January 2018 outing and we all had a fair time of it (though we had brought our own wines for the nonce). We shared the experience with other friends who urged for a repeat with them - how to say no to a fun sounding get together? And so it was on - Hans booked the table and the date was set. 

The blurb said:
"Experience an evening of pure indulgence with a 3-course French cuisine with wine tasting, canapes and a bottle of wine and more on every last Friday of the month." January was Australian wines, February was Amrerican wines and March was Chilean wines. 

Goat Cheese Tortellini
It was going out at RM320 per person. Perhaps not cheap, but it did include a half bottle of, okay, supermarket wine which eased the decision somewhat. Buy a bottle from the wine list with the GST and plus is easily RM200, so the deal gets a little less of a whack. And it is the Lafite - arguably still the best in town for what it does (or at least what it used to…  regular readers will know of my crusade against the Shang and the slipping of the mantle as compared to my memories of it over nearly thirty years - do a search for Shangri La in the search box for more). 

The wine tasting at the bar at the entrance featured some American hopefuls as brought to Malaysian shores by one of the heavyweight distributors. I seem to recall fierce alcohol on the Riesling and fierce mind creasing Oak on the Chard (you know that feeling in the forehead when you eat very cold ice cream? I get the same on the temples with massive oak. Weird…) The Pinot was more approachable whilst the Cab was far from - at least for another five years and then, maybe. Fair prices - we didn't buy (NB the four tasting wines were Wente Riverbank Riesling, Sterling Vintner's Collection Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Louis Martini Napa Valley Cab. no indication of the vintages).

Atlantic Sea Bass
The wines on offer at the table (one bottle for every two diners) were Chardonnay and Merlot from the Chateau St Jean winery in Sonoma, California. I had half a memory of visiting this winery in 2005 on a visit with Lenglui and the other half of the memory got remembered on finding some digital photos of us at the place (we were in our wine drinking infancy at the time and writing about travel was not anywhere in the imagination). Again, no indication on the vintages, but presume fairly young. Someone (either the Shang or the wine distributor - I suspect the latter) had printed very spanky wine notes on photo quality paper for both the tasting wines and the table wines. Having spent some years dealing with printing agencies, I know these are not cheap. So for me it was a thoughtful touch to have such quality information sheets available. 

The wines were… not wonderful, but far from undrinkable. Pleasant in body and taste, they made for drinkable companions to the food (there were eight of us so four bottles got swigged). The CSJ are usually on the wrong side of value for what they are in the supermarkets which is why we rarely buy. But as said these were pleasant enough and we opted to stay with them rather than break open some lovelies I had brought just in case. The Company was wonderful, with lot of stories and jokes and conversation about the world and its future (or lack of it). 

Hazelnut Joy
Chef can clearly cook very well. As said, this was our second time in his company and he was able to create some tittilating taste bombs for the table. Indeed, in talking with us after the dinner he shared that he had spent time in one of my all time favourite places - the Chevre D'Or in Eze on the Cote D'Azur (got a blog post here>>). The Goat Cheese Tortellini was initally a bit on the stodgy side but this got quickly lost in the squirmingly creamy lush and delightul Butternut Puree. I think there was a hit of chili oil in the thing to give some vim and vigor to the foamy puree. The fish was nicely seared and the accompaniments made for interesting herbal and vegetal combinations. Dessert was brilliant -  like total hazelnut puree getting wafered by chocolate layers and being whipped by sweet acidic raspberry. Well wicked. For small groups like this, there is clear control over the kitchen and its output. Visually cute and marrying some cute taste combinations, would happily go back for more. And we are - April 9 sees an IWFS Wine Dinner with wines by Joseph Drouhin and sponsored by friends from AsiaEuro. See how Chef and the team deal with the full house of 52 that we will bring. Watch this space. 
Driveway to Chateau St Jean, Sonoma Valley, California USA

Wine and Dine with Chef Olivier Pistre and his team at Lafite

Goat Cheese Tortellini
Butternut Puree / Pecorino Romano / Black Truffle Emulsion

Atlantic Sea Bass
Sicilian Gamberoni / "Ratte du Touquet" Confit Potato / Slow Cooked Fennerl / Parsnip Puree / Aioli Emulsion / Thyme Brioche Crumble / Bouillabaisse Jus

Hazelnut Joy and Raspberry Sorbet
Layers of Milk Chocolate / Hazelnut in 5 different ways

NB found the menu for the January outing - notes say the walnut and grape with the egg were "genius". Also recall the Millefeuille as being hugely good. Beef was a bit bold and powerful as I recall - the jus and age and cohiba char were muy macho and felt a bit like chewing and sucking on a cigar. Which can be an acquired taste. 

Chateau St Jean winery, Sonoma Valley, California USA
63 degree Egg Parfait
Sorrel Cream / Wild Mushroom / Walnut / Pecorino Romano / Grapes / Crispy tuile "Brioche"

Slow Cooked 120 Days Aged Beef Fillet
Wood Grilled & Cohiba Smoked / Wagyu Beef Tenderloin / "Ratte de Touquet" Potato Puree / Granny Smith & Chestnut Ragout / Beef Jus

French Millefeuille Edition 2017
Caramelised Cruspy Puff Pastry / Blanc Manger / Vanilla Ice Cream / Vanilla Creme Anglaise / Vanilla Reduction

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Seventy Six Shirax Cabernet

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

IWFS Nyonya Cuisine with Chef Debbie Teoh - fantastic!

Spring Roll canapes - excellent with the Cava!
March 21st 2018 - Many of the IWFS members are great fans of Nyonya style cuisine. But there is always a problem with trying to organise Nyonya dinners in that those restaurants that specialise in this style are generally small in size and not really able to take the numbers that the IWFS requires for an event. Same with glassware - one should not serve fine wine in a small goblet style glass, and the IWFS has now taken to hiring glasses for events where there may be a question mark over the glasses. Though bringing glasses does not solve the problem of trying to quickly organise and train the staff in storing and pouring what wines and when - attempts to do so have proven perennially unsuccessful. And both chef and kitchen generally cannot do 40 plus covers at the same time and get them hot to the tables. None of this is intended as criticism - just an observation of the way that these things generally pan out. Small places cannot cater to large numbers of people with above average expectations such as harboured by the IWFS. 

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Selamat Datang!
So when Nyonya Chef Debbie Teoh got introduced to the IWFS by Doc Wine and Doc Words almost five years to the day and cooked up a storm, it was like many prayers had been answered - authentic Nyonya cuisine prepared and served in a classic restaurant setting (The Park Royal Grill) with well tasty wines in good glassware. Click here to read my report on that one>>

Where's that extra glass of Cava you promised, eh?
The IWFS did a second gig with Chef Debbie at the Grand Seasons Hotel about three years back (which I could not attend) at which there were some apparent service shortcomings. So it was with a little trepidation that a third round with Chef Debbie at the Grand Seasons was organised for the March event. Would it be a repeat? Not a lot of confidence was being shown except by President David who assured that the staff were a lot better now than previous - seems he does lunch there quite often with the Rotary. 

Yeah, where is it? We decked out special for it, we did... 
The notice informing all members of the event began with President wishing all of the members "Gong Xi Fatt Choy" and with a hope that the new Year of the Dog would be healthy, harmonious and prosperous for everyone, and not have the members barking up wrong trees or at each other. The notice then advised that the IWFS KL would once again invite Celebrity Chef Debbie Teoh to take over the Grand Seasons Hotel kitchen to prepare her traditional Nyonya cuisine delights for the delectation of the Rakyat, with wines being selected to pair by the Wine Doctor Stephen Hall. It also noted that Debbie previously did for the IWFS KL at the Park Royal in March 2013 and at the Grand Seasons itself in March 2015. Must be something about March that brings out the Nyonya itch. Suggested dress code was smart casual, though anyone getting dressed in traditional Baba Nyonya or classic Chinese/Malay styles was promised an extra glass of the Cava being served. 

Dr Su Kim making mischief!!
This would also be one of our Doc Wine's last matchings. He was recently been appointed Dean at the University to which he is attached, with the result that he had to reluctantly resign his position on Committee given his increased responsibilities. Fair enough - something has to give when the pile on the desk gets higher. Though I don't think it will impede him drinking and writing about his wine too much.  He is a professional. 


Celebrity Chef Debbie Teoh is a Peranakan celebrity chef with almost two decades of experience in the food industry. Chef Debbie's background is a blend of both the Northern and the Southern Peranakan - her Nyonya mother from Penang and her Baba father from Malacca.

Chef Debbie is the author of numerous cookbooks including: ‘Debbie Teoh’s Favourite Recipes’, ‘Under Wraps’ and 'Asian Tidbits' (Marshall Cavendish),  ‘Penang Food Guide & Cookbook’ and ‘Nyonya Flavours’ (Star Publications) and 'Authentic Nyonya Taste' and '100 Canned Recipes' (Nanyang Press). 

Ju Hu Jar with Chicken, Mushroom
and Sambal
Highly regarded as a genuine exponent of this unique cuisine, Chef Debbie is a Nyonya Food Consultant for Tourism Malaysia, a restaurant consultant, and a regular contributor to various Food Magazines. She has represented the Peranakan Heritage at the Slow Food Conference & Terra Madre Show in Turin, Italy, and was recently onstage with Celebrity Chefs Nicholas Tse (Hong Kong) and Chef David Rocco (Canada) at the media launch of "Celebrity Chef Wars East vs West" premiering in March 2018.

Chef Debbie also develops and tests recipes for companies, conducts cooking classes, and cooks for private functions such as ours. Chef is clearly a very busy lady! And massively talented in the kitchen. And (without wishing in any way to come across as chauvinistic) hugely cute to boot. Contact is 


Famed for its distinctiveness and multiculturalism, Nyonya cuisine is marked by its use of fresh ingredients, labour-intensive preparation, communalism in preparation and emphasis on genteelness and perfection. In the past, recipes were never written down, but were passed on in the kitchen. Nyonyas were trained by their mothers to excel in culinary skills if they wanted to become good homemakers. Today, the real quality still thrives in the domestic kitchen. 

Otak-Otak with bread - ho chiak hor...
The cuisine of the Peranakan community is a true fusion cuisine, marrying Chinese, South-East Asian and European elements.  The heritage goes back 700 years when Chinese traders travelled and sojourned in Malacca where they married the local women and lived a localised way of life. 

Itek Tim soup - Brandy was added. Yes.
Nyonya cuisine is delicious and unique, with an incredible repertoire of seafood and meat dishes, salads, sambals, curries, appetisers, soups, sweets, broths, and desserts. Many of the ingredients used such as ginger flower, lemon grass, kaffir lime, pandan, galangal, bird’s eye chilly and wild pepper leaves are grown in the garden. It is at once spicy, sour, sweet, zesty and piquant, and often requiring huge amounts of time to prepare and create.  

Fish curry, prawn salad and the Ayam Keluak Buah - awesomely good!!
The promise of an extra glass for members turning out in Baba Nyonya dress was clearly attractive - pretty much everyone of the fifty one attendees were decked out in Batik or starched shirt, and Kebaya, and all with outstretched hands demanding their fizz. We heard a huge amount of noise as we entered - the conversation was flowing as fast as the Cava and everyone seemed clearly in the mood for a fun night. 

Penang jelly with Calamansi - superb!!
Which it would indeed turn out to be. The horror stories of the previous time here quickly evaporated as glasses kept getting refilled and everyone complimenting each other's costumes and frocks. Service of both food and wine through the night would prove efficient and friendly and generous, with all wines being served in their sequence and in glasses that IWFS had hired for the night. The food was indeed cheek pique-ingly exquisite and filling, though one criticism was that some of the Otak-Otak was a bit underdone. Mine was fine. Star for me was the Ayam Buah Keluak. This is curried chicken in sauce with the added taste of the black nut (actually a seed) Buah Keluak, which is indigenous to South-East Asia and can also be found across the Pacific Islands. The preparation first requires a hole to be dug into the nut to extract the black oily paste content. This is then seasoned and spooned back into the nut before joining the chicken in the curry. The taste is one of smoke, earth and musk though pretty much beyond description but is one that will stay with you - I still recall the first taste in the Park Royal six years previously. Some label it the truffle of the East. And with good reason - it can be hugely addictive. I quickly scarfed those on the plate and souvenired those left over by friends and neighbours. You don't get it often because it is so labour intensive in its preparation. Couple this with Chef Debbie's deft touch in the spice department and one becomes a total hog. Mixed with a dab of white rice - phwooooarghhhhhhh... finestkind. 

Our table of pilgrims
And the dessert managed to break through the usual nonchalance with which I normally greet them. The Calamansi juice and jelly were a huge revelation - the combo of sour lime and gunge and crushed ice was a taste of Ambrosia and Honeydew. Like a citrus palate cleanser but with a wonderfully sweet cheek tickle and throat rasp. Absolute brahma. Om. 

The Four Horsemen of Bacchus
The wines managed to go hugely well with the food, and all credit to excellent choices made by The Wine Doc. The starter Cava was an old friend and still tasting like fireworks; the Tralcetto was better than I remember; this showing saw a decent mouth of apricot with a hit of oil and low acidity to give a nice chewy texture yet still tame the mild spice burn on the sambal belachan and Ju Hu (juju?) Char. The Wine Doc is an advocate for letting some white wines age and had been raving about the aged Semillon we would be having for the few weeks prior to the dinner.  This one was lovely - mellow, sweetish, but still potent in fruit and powerful in finish. very silky and a brilliant partner to Chef Debbie's Otak-Otak.

The Ladies in their best Baju - ho leng!
And the Kanonkop to finish with the mains was a darling - full lush fruit, cassis and dark forest berries, vim and fire and toast in the mouth and velvet on the finish. Total gangbusters with the smoke and earth of the Buah. This was sadly the last in the cellar. One pilgrim asked the Wine Doc where to get some - Wine Doc wished him luck. 

President David, Chef Debbie and the Grand Seasons staff take a bow
But the real star of the night was Dr Lee Su Kim, author of the highly acclaimed "Manek Mischiefs" short story collection on Nyonya life, who started the fun with a "performance reading" of one of her stories. It was the perfect way to set the tone for the evening, and our own Doc Words turned in an excellent performance of the three wives in the story. Couple of microphone issues but cordless handhelds can do that to anyone. Serious multiple personalities here from the Doc, and cute quick costume changes as well. Bravo! 

In all, a hugely fun evening where everything pleasantly surprised on the upside - service, food, ambience - and the Manek Mischief tale was delightful. Would happily return to a Chef Debbie event here on this showing. There is a deftness of touch to Chef Debbie's preparations that raise it far higher than many Nyonya outlets I have visited - they all seek to whack the sambal on everything to the point of overload which I find...  too much heat. The Cuisine of this night was light fire and light spice that tickled and tantalised rather than beat you round the head with a sambal stick. Seems also that the Indian Cuisine of the Grand Seasons is pretty good - Lenglui and I have resolved to try it some time. With a bottle of something light, spicy and white. Naturally. Cheers!

A sweet finish - Nyonya Kuih
Mula Suka Hati (amuse bouche!)
Nyonya Canapes

Ju hu char with chicken fillet, dried cuttlefish, Chinese mushroom 
served with sambal belachan on the side

Itek Tim with salted preserved vege, Chinese mushroom and brandy 

Otak-otak with kurau fish, prawn and squid
Served with baguette

Perut ikan 
Kerabu sayur paku 
Ayam buah keluak

Served with steamed white rice

Penang 'or gio' jelly with kalamansi zest and kalamansi syrup

The wines
Vallformosa Cava Classic Brut N.V 
Made from the traditional Cava grape varieties of Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada by a family-owned winery. The winery was established in 1865 at Vilobí del Penedès, southwest of Barcelona in the heart of the Cava D.O. appellation. While yeasty and citric on the nose, this Cava delivers long white-stone fruit notes. A great aperitif.

Tralcetto Il Bianco Di Ciccio, Cantin Zaccagni  2014     
This northern Italian blend of 80 percent Trebbiano and 20 percent Chardonnay has a pleasant intriguing bouquet which leads into an harmonious citric style. From a family owned enterprise which has expanded rapidly over the last two decades.

Pertaringa Bonfire Block Sémillon  2010 
Lemony sémillon may be well known as a noble grape, the basis of great sweet wines, but when less opulent it can be made as an Australian dry wine with great aging potential. The very experienced Geoff Hardy crafts this excellent McLaren Vale vintage. When tasting in 2017, James Halliday rated it as a 91 pointer, noting that an addition of some French oak makes for added weight in this wine which is in its mature drinking window. The wine will be out of its close-down 3-6 years sullenness and offer us a rare chance to enjoy mature sémillon cellared by the Society. 

Kanonkop Paul Sauer, Stellenbosch 2007
A Bordeaux blend as the South Africans would say, and in 2007 the blend was 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot. The late owner Paul Sauer and his successors set fine Bordeaux as the benchmark, while Platters Wine Guide (the guide for Springbok wines) rates this vintage as 4.5 out of 5. Given the age of this vintage, we may need to give it some breathing space in the glass if we can be patient. Complex and brooding wine which is ready to enjoy now. Gold Medal Winner, International Wine and Spirit Competition, Stephen Tanzer 92 points, Wine Enthusiast 91 points.

Thank you to Dr Stephen J Hall for the wine notes. Most of the Photos are by kind courtesy of David Teh from the IWFSKL Facebook page. And some photos are from me.