Sunday, September 28, 2008

a day in the Cape & evening at Stellenbosch

Lionel: I spent the day with my good friend and S.A.’s only resident Master of Wine, Cathy Van Zyl. Her husband the editor of the Platter’s South African Wine Guide and her were kind enough to take us out for a drive round the Cape peninsular.

This really should be on everyone’s list of things to do before I die. We stopped at a wonderful restaurant called Harbour House in Kalk”s Bay Harbour. And after a whole morning of driving, we were all parched and the first bottle was a love Chenin Blanc from Raats Estate, it had lovely crisp acidity with hints of green apples and minerals. Yum, Yum. The second bottle was from Klein Constantia, an estate renowned for its sweet wines but we had a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc. Savoury, minerally, dry but with lovely fruit on the front palate. I’ve written an article once about trying S.Africa’s Sauvignon Blancs, as I think they are actually lovely, imagine a cross between a Sancerre and the fruitiness of the N.Z. ones. It was perfect for my Grilled whole Calamari with paprika.We even managed to spot some whales from the restaurant, amazing. 

In the evening, we went to 2 different estates in the Stellenbosch region where tastings were hosted together with dinner. And were they different, it was pretty much like chalk and cheese!

The first was an estate called Stellenrust. This is an estate that only recently started to produced their on wine. They were previously just grape suppliers to the larger wineries and in fact, I believe the main bulk of their grapes are still sold. Lovely property with and amazing view of the sunset and they had nice wines too.  While there, we tasted some good wines including the wines of South Africa’s first black wine maker Carmen. The wines are labelled Amani, which mean “Place of Peace”.

Now, the other estate was Waterford. Now, this is an estate that has put in some serious money, it shows both in the property as well as the wines. We were taken on a short tour of the wine making facilities and then a whirlwind guided tasting of all the featured wines both from the estate and other selected ones by the resident cellar master, Francois Haasbroek.

This is a young man who is obviously extremely passionate about his wines. Looking remarkably like a slim version of The Rock, he epitomizes what South African wines are today, European style, infused with modern technologies, money and new world terrior.

A few wines stood out for us, a white Bordeaux style blend called MagnaCarta, nice use of oak, minerally and savoury on the finish and good acidity on the long finish. And then there was the most expensive wine from South Africa and no it wasn’t from the Stellenbosch region but rather from Swaartland.

The wine, named Columella from Sadie family wines and made by the talented Eben Sadie. Eben Sadie left Spice Route wines in 2000 inspired by the Swaartland, and travelled overseas to get some European inspiration. And he returned to make only 17 barrels of his maiden Columella resulting in an instant hit. And the 2005 vintage getting the highest Wine Spectator rating of 95 for a Cape wine. A blend of Shiraz and Mouvedre, controlled power and freshness with dark ripe fruit, perfumed nutmeg and spice, supple and savoury, yum, yum.

Cathy Van Zyl MW, Francois Haasbroek cellarmaster Waterford Estate and moi!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Way all Wine Bars should be!

Lionel: Greetings from Cape Town! I’m here as a guest of Wines of South Africa for the Cape Wine Show and it’s gorgeous here. This is a picture of Table Mountain early evening!

The show hasn’t started yet but after 2 days, the wines and food I’ve tasted so far has been nothing but great.

I had dinner tonight at a wine bar that I believe all wine bars should strive to be when they grow up. The wine list at Caveau great and fun at the same time, I can’t describe it any better than their website. So please check it out.

I had a lovely glass each of Sterhuis Sauvignon Blanc 07 and a Waterford Cabernet Sauvignon 05. Good pairing with small plates of Karoo Lamb, Grilled beef cubes with béarnaise.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ramadan Bazaar Attack!!

Lionel: Well, there was an overwhelming request for us to pair Malay food with wine and we did just that. Sure, I made the mistake of asking Chris to buy the food from the Ramadhan Bazaar. It must have been like sending a kid into a candy store with the instructions of pick whatever you like!

Ladies and gentlemen, you won't be able to accuse us for not trying hard enough, that's for sure! I mean we had, ayam perchik, ayam panggang, rending ayam, nasi dagang, kari ikan tongkol, kicap masak daging, ikan keli bakar, sotong bakar, sayur masak lemak, murtabak kambing, murtabak ayam, meehoon sup, laksam,burung puyul goring, rendang daging, kerabu kaki ayam..........and we tried them all, believe me.

Wines served included a Grant Burge sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay, Jacob's Creek sparkling rose, Fox Creek Duet Cabernet Merlot and even a Justin Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 99
The Grant Burge was extremely dry but in a good way, expected the higher percentage of Pinot Noir to round it off but the lightness of the body held sway, not a great pairing but acceptable for many of the dishes which were much lighter too.
But the Jacob's Creek on the other hand was just lovely, dry and crisp but the rose had enough going for it that it even worked with the rendang, yummy!

Now, some of you may think that a red wine won't work with this food but it does. Lovely, ripe cherry, apricots and blackberry combination offset a lot of the heat and added another dimension with the sweetness. Lovely!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lafite, The Best "French" restaurant in K.L.?

Lionel:Just recently, on the 27th of August to be exact. I dined at Lafite, Shangri La Hotel’s fine

dining French restaurant. It turned out to be the best French? meal I have had in the city. The

cuisine is classic but not heavy. Modern without being fussy or silly.

With a recent slew of new contenders and refurbished favourites, diners are spoilt for choice when it comes to modern European restaurants serving ambrosial cuisines in sharp, swanky settings

Lafite used to be the yardstick for a fine dining in this town. I remember dining in Lafite for the first time somewhere in the early 90’s; it was a romantic restaurant that guaranteed to impress the ladies. I don't recall the finer details of the evening, only that I was enamored with my date and charmed by Chef Stefan Servin's creative French cuisine. Lafite never failed to impress. But it was getting tired.

That is, until the Shangri-La hotel group decided to transform the Restaurant Lafite into something contemporary and modern.

Recently appointed Chef de Cuisine, Damon Campbell now offers you a different level of cuisine. With his signature dishes such as "Inside Out Pizza" which comes with tomato cotton candy and crispy cheese wrapped around a thinly sliced pizza bread and "Caviar Doughnut" which is a delicious mini doughnut beautifully decorated with Oscietra caviar and liquid garnishes of chives, egg yolk and shallots, it is extremely easy to understand, yet so exciting at the same time. And you wonder why didn't I think of that?

Apart from the earlier mentioned dishes, we also tried Chef Damon's Lobster Parmesan. The lobster comes in thick slices, poached with small tomato stew as a base, and to this is poured in a wonderful parmesan spuma or foam. Now, this is where it gets interesting. This is a parmesan based "miracroix" (basically a stock which instead of using chicken or fish bones, it uses parmesan cheese as the base) it is as wonderful as it is expensive! It had lovely cheesy flavours without overwhelming the natural flavours of the lobster meat. Perfectly paired with an Arthur Barolet Chassagne Montrachet, gorgeous.

While the pan fried foie gras was expertly done, it was the clever use of tangy cherry to cut through the oiliness and combining the savoury liver with the sweetness of the cherry meringue that lifted it beyond the ordinary. Paired with a delightful Paul Anheuser Kahlenberg Riesling Spatlese from Nahe in Germany.

Now, normally one does not look forward to the palate cleansers or intermezzo. But this is a fun one. It is a spherification of tropical fruit flavours trapped in an extremely thin casing and looked like an egg yolk served on a porcelain spoon alongside a yuzu sorbet. You just need to pop the whole sphere in your mouth and wait for the explosion of flavours to happen, and then move on to the sorbet which reminds me of a dry Clare Valley Riesling minus the alcohol. Delicious!

There is also the prerequisite walk in cellar with a collection of wines that was recently accorded the Best of Award of Excellence 2008 by Wine Spectator. The Best of Award of Excellence is only awarded to 802 restaurants worldwide out of over 4500 entries.

For mains, we had the Beef -> Broccoli, a rather bland name for a lovely dish of Wagyu beef tenderloin. This is served with naturally sweet broccoli puree and a side of wonderful smoked potatoes, Portobello mushroom and peppercorn gravy, yum. This was served with a lovely red from South Africa named, Diversity. Chris mentioned that this was a wine made by De Toren Cellars, a boutique winery and estate that has risen to cult status for their wines such as Fusion V although I can’t find any mentioned of the wine on their site.

Last but not least was the dessert, now I must admit I have never had a sweet tooth, though I appreciate a good dessert and Chef Damon's "Twisted" Black Forest Cake is a very good one. Imagine if you can deconstruct a Black Forest cake, all the main parts separated! Scrumptious. Am not sure about the wine selected here, although the Sauternes itself was excellent, pairing it with the black forest was maybe asking a bit too much.

This wonderful thing about this subtle cuisine is that it gives great wine room to shine. The 600+ selection list, offers plenty to choose from, especially in Bordeaux. It's deep in Chateau Lafite of course but also other stars such as Chateau Latour, Chateau LaFleur Petrus, and M. Chapoutiers La Modoree. Classic French is the principal strength, but there are verticals of Australia's Grange and Napa's Chateau Montelena, plus an extensive if slightly quirky range of Australian wines.

And as amazing as it may sound, wine lovers will find great value in Lafite's wine list. While I wished that I had deep pockets as I went through the list, I was pleasantly surprised to find lovely value in a Chateau Dufort Vivens 2003 at RM290 and even a Chateau Ausone 1990 at RM3, 850 is a steal.

Furthermore, the restaurant has a corkage policy which is great because it allows wine lovers like me the option of bringing a special bottle for that special occasion. On top of that they will even waive the corkage per bottle for every bottle purchased from their wine list. Now that is what I call a wine friendly policy! Unlike a particular well known steak house in the city that doesn't allow any wine brought in when their list doesn't have half the length and breathe of Lafite's.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Meetings in Singapore

Chris Low: Was away 2 days ago for business trip and manage to catch up with my makan friends of Singapore! This is my first visit to Jade Palace at Forum Shopping Centre; it's has a aquarium at the entrance of the restaurant that i spotted some live bamboo clams....

We had 3 bottles of wine lined up hence we try to order the dish accordingly as what we always do.First we had a beautiful 2004 Puligny Montrachet from Drouhin that we ask the chef steam a live turbot with light soya sauce; steam live bamboo clams with glass noodles and garlic.

For Ch. Lafron Rochet 2000 and Ch. Giscours 2000; we ordered Black Pig "char-siew" and Chinese Roast duck leg. We finish with humble braised musturd leaf with chinese ham and fried "mee-bok" with crab meat.

Doris, Conee & Marie. Nice to catch up again and hopefully we will arrange another makan session when Samantha is in town?

Angus Steak House@KL Pavilion

Chris Low: Finally have a chance to taste the steaks of Angus Steak house at Pavilion K.L.

At least a dozen of my friends had worship this classic Japanese Style Steakhouse while i was posted to Singapore. We are having a 4 courses set lunch-THE FRIDAY LUNCH organize by Pernod Richard Malaysia. Pan Fried Prawn with Bouillabaisse Sauce-It's an interesting use of sauce for this dish and the Prawn is perfectly prepared. We paired this dish with Wyndham Estate Bin 777 Semillon that have just nice acidity to bring out the flavours of the prawns.

We also have a small portion of Mushroom Soup while waiting for the main dish.

Char grilled Black Angus Tenderloin-The juice of the beef is perfectly sealed. A job well done from the charbrolier! But my humble opinion is beware when order your doness as they are serve on a hotplate that will overcook your beef. I like the watercress that is serve as side with the tenderloin as i love peppery herbs or vegetable with my steaks. Grilled US Black Cod-This juicy fillet of cod is good and actually lift up the Wyndham Estate Show Reserve Chardonnay.
Black Angus Rib Eye with Apple Shoyu Sauce-I actually prefer the rib eye to the tenderloin as if has more texture and flavours . Both cuts of steak went well with Wyndham Estate Show Reserve Cabernet Merlot.

We end with Panna Cotta for dessert and all sets with wine for

MYR95nett. ( choice of either one main course)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Down the memory lane In Pudu-Part II

"Yau-Cham Grass carp"
"wantan noddles with char-siew& fish paste"

"Kwai-Fa Shark Fin"
"Steam Chicken"
"Pei-Pa Roast Duck"
"Prawn in Yam Fritter"

" Stuffed Fish Maw with Fish paste"

Chris Low: As promise to Lionel, we went back to "Sek Yeun" in Pudu last Friday to feast on some of the best traditional Cantonese cuisine in the oldest Chinese restaurant in town. (This time I prepared my camera way before hand)

Ordered almost the same dishes as 2 weeks ago when I was there with Uncle Lee, but the highlight today I must say is still the Pei-Pa roast duck and 2 other new dishes mentioned below.

We brought along a bottle of the Montana Pinot Noir, which was versatile enough with the food that we ordered but happily married the duck :) And I must agree with Lionel that this is perhaps one of the best value Pinot Noir we can get off the shelves today.

Many Chinese restaurants prepare "Kwai-Fa shark fins"-a not so humble sauteed omelette with spring onion, carrots & generous portions of shark fins, topped with fresh Chinese parsley. You wrapped it with crisp lettuce & a drop of black vinegar before you pop it in to your mouth.

But this is the best I ever eaten in years! We wash it down with Jacob's Creek Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay, yum!

After about 6 dishes, we were craving for Carbohydrates. So the friendly lady order taker suggested yet another surprise for us. I must say most of us in Malaysia have eaten wantan noodles or to be precise what I am  trying to say here is "Gone-Low mee" And many of us have our own story to tell when it comes to their best "Gone-Low mee" stall. But try this version from Sek-Yuen which is so succulent,  It comes with chunky pieces of "Char-Siew" and homemade fish paste. And if we weren’t rushing for an 2pm appointment, Lionel & myself would have ordered a second portion.

I must invite those who is looking for simple but good quality Chinese/Cantonese cooking to visit to this jewel in Pudu. Furthermore, the cooks who are working on the chopping board and the wood fire metal woks are already 60+years old if not older.


I definitely will be booking a table very soon and pop a few more of those shark fin omelettes with my dad when I get back from Singapore next week.

Now you have to excuse me while I braise some dark soya sauce pork trotters in the kitchen.


From Penang to the Rhone Valley

Lionel: Now the geographical location of the Malacca Straits where Nyonya food originated and the Rhone Valley in Southern France is as far as you can imagine. But through the wonders of modern transportation and hence international trade that I find myself pairing an amazing wine by the name of Domaine La Soumade Rasteau Cote du Rhone Village with the lovely cuisine of Peony Garden in Kota Damansara. My friend Robyn invited us for dinner last night and what a find this little gem of a restaurant is! Now, this is Penang Nyonya. Not the more common Malacca Nyonya that is more commonly found in Kuala Lumpur. For the uninitiated, there is a difference.

Now Robyn is allergic to alcolhol so there wasn’t a huge debate on the matching ability of a classic Rhone wine with all its vanilla, blackcurrant and pepper on the nose, medium to full bodied for this particular vintage(1999) with a distinct hint of spiciness on the palate. Lovely long lingering finish with enough strength to handle all the different flavours from the Chun Piah, Lobak, Tau Yu Bak, Kiam Chai aik, nasi kerabu and even the perut ikan! Great stuff!



There is a nice story about this little winery that could and has confounded the conventions and produce great wine even if its is technically a humble Cote du Rhone Village.


The Southern Rhone valley is one of the most beautiful places on earth, with picturesque villages dotting craggy hillsides and vines for as far as the eye can see. Rasteau is located just to the west of the “Dentelles de Montmirail”, a craggy, “lacy” hill that is surrounded by Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and Beaumes-de-Venise(all the more famous names hence higher pricing). The vines of the area can be over 100 years old in the better parcels.

The Romero family has owned vines in the region for over 200 years. During the early 1900’s, the region became primarily a vegetable and wheat growing zone, but many families still kept their best parcels, and this was the case with the Romero’s. With the passing of Andre Romero to the helm of the property, the estate quickly became the winery to watch in the village, and is now considered one of the most quality-driven estates of the Southern Rhone.

 The village of Rasteau is home to some of the oldest vines of Grenache in the whole of the Rhone Valley. Many parcels are over 80 years old, with some just over 100. As many of the vines are over 90 years old, the property of Domaine La Soumade doesn’t have to do a lot of coaxing of the wines to release the amazing power of these old vines. Even though the village is just minutes from Gigondas and Vacqueyras, it is still considered a Cotes du Rhone Villages. However, as a result of the work of Andre Romero and other quality-driven vignerons, Rasteau is said to be very close to receiving the full AOC.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Bordeaux o' Bordeaux

2001 Chateau Latour, Pauillac The Pauillac region produced some of the most filled-in, satisfying Bordeaux reds of 2001, but this rich, elegant wine seems to have come from an even better vintage.

2000 Chateau d’Armailhac, Pauillac One of the most widely available wines from Pauillac, this luscious red, full of succulent fruit, is also a real bargain.

2004 Chateau Montrose, St Estephe This property can be mentioned in the same breath as the greatest Bordeaux châteaus—but charges a fraction of their prices. This dense, fleshy red is a star of the vintage.
2004 Clos du Marquis, St Julien A gorgeous "second wine" made from the vines of the fabled Château Leoville Las Cases, this mouth-filling red captures all the famous estate's elegance with an extra bit of cassis-plum fruitiness

Lionel:Located in a corner of southwestern France, there lies an area where the very notion of wine snobbery was invented, this place is named Bordeaux. But snob appeal aside, the wines of Bordeaux are some of the greatest I have ever tasted in the world; they're also the perfect gift for the hard-to-please wine lover. But even more important than that in our case, is its ability to pair so well with so many Chinese dishes. Most people would prefer to drink red wine irrespective of the food and as long as you are not pairing it with extremely spicy food, Bordeaux has the depth and elegance at the same time to work with a myriad number of Chinese dishes.

To understand Bordeaux( if that is at all com[pletely possible) one must understand first and foremost it’s geography. Bordeaux is divided into two sub-regions: the Médoc, Graves and Sauternes (the Left Bank), and, across the Gironde river, Pomerol and St-Émilion (the Right Bank). Left Bank reds are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, while Right Bank reds are mostly Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc.
There are 12,000 producers in Bordeaux—most called Château(castle in French)whether they have an actual château or not, though many sell less-than-great wines. While the best wines from the monumental 2005 vintage won't be really drinkable until next year at the very least. We have been drinking wines from the excellent 2000, solid 2001, 2003 and 2004 vintages at prices much lower than the 2005s. But even then none of them are really cheap, prices have been going up and it doesn’t seem to be coming down anytime soon, but Bordeaux is still Bordeaux. So allow us to share with you some recent bottles which we believe are well worth the money