Friday, November 28, 2008

Sage Restaurant Part ll

Lionel: Well, I said I'll be back and true enough we went back to Sage for dinner again. Now, this was a special occasion in that we were celebrating my sister's 50th birthday. As such, we brought some pretty special wines to enjoy dinner with. Starting with a simple but wonderful Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut champagne. Slightly fruit forward but with a love dry, clean finish. We served this with the lightly smoked Saba(Mackerel) fish with Karashi mustard. 

Holy Mackerel! This dish made the champagne ever more slightly sweeter by bringing more fruit flavours to the front palate, lovely.

The Karashi mustard is slightly creamy with nice hint of tanginess.
As the first champagne finished, we proceeded to serve another champagne and this time it was from the great house of Moet. The Dom Perignon 96 was a spectacular year, full of finesse and power. We had this together with pate en croute of chapon and foie gras(pictured above). Trust me, this dish taste much, much better than it looks. The Dom handled it beautifully and we actually served more of it together with the panache of Japanese Fish with Pistou.
The main course of grilled Wagyu with fine beans and yuzukoshu was served with my last bottle of the Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou 1996. A classic red Bordeaux from St Estephe with lovely minerals, cedar, pencil shavings and earthiness.This wine had been decanted earlier on and showed very little signs of aging.
We finished the savoury portions of this wondeful meal with a fantastic fedellini pasta with Hokkaido scallop.

Now, if you had read my last blog with regards to Sage, you would recall that I had some grouses about the service which I felt did not meet the standards that the kitchen was producing. Well, I'm please to say that there seem to be a slight improvement in this respect but unfortunately it still wasn't up to par in my view. 

I'm not sure if it is due to a staff shortage, or training but on more than one occasion throughout dinner, plates were not promptly cleared. Wine service was also again a dissapointment as we had to get up and reached for our wine to serve ourselves or remained completely void of wine for the entire course. 

It seems, that the service staff is just going through the processes without really understanding why they need to do it with regards to wine service, there seems to be a genuine lack of passion and pride in the service which is so obviously evident when you watch the kitchen staff in action!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Japanese food and wine

Lionel: Our regular wine group met up this month in a Japanese restaurant out in the "burbs"! Subang Jaya to be exact. Now this wasn't the first time we have had Japanese food for our monthly dinners and Japanese food with wine is actually a given as it is light, clean and pure in its flavours and pretty uncomplicated on the palate.

Generally white wine is ideal and reds would definitely be of the lighter variety with the exception of certain meat dishes. But most importantly would be wines with good acidity as this works well with food the ensymes from the predominatly sea food cuisine.

We started with a Sashimi platter(raw fish) which had from the lighter more delicate fish right tru the Toro( Belly of the Yellow fin Tuna) which has an uncanny resemblance with a excellently marbled meat. This was served together with a version of shrimp toast. We paired this with a Sake but it would have been excellent with a Riesling as well.

Grilled chicken breast served with pickled Yuzu was paired with an Anura Sauv Blanc from South Africa, this is a lovely wine that is made in a very Sancerre style but with much riper grapes, lovely, not as perfumy as the N.Z. Sauv Blancs but defintely more minerally and savoury, excellent with food.
We also had a pretty rare white wine, a St Aubin from Roux Pere & Fils. This is a Chardonnay of course from Burgundy, minerally and a bit austere but wonderful mouthfeel.
Of course we had a German Riesling as well, I always am of the opinion that this is possibly the best type of wine to handle shellfish. In this case, we had a Riesling Kabinett from St Urbans-Hof, Mosel. A wine thats fruity on the front palate, slightly spritzi but finishing med dry.
We were all stumped when we tasted this wine blind, no one guess it. A very nice Verdelho from Sirromet, Australia.
A localized version of a Japanese roll complete with Chilli Padi inside worked really well with the Riesling Kabinett.
The pic right at the top of this post is a rare dish, a braised Angler Fish Liver, lovely textured and slightly similar to foie gras but firmer mouthfeel, we paired this with a great value Corton Charlamagne Grand Cru from a negotiant in Burgundy named Louis Max. Buttery, toast and nutty and mineral flavours abound in this lovely Chardonnay.

Port Lovers

Lionel: Had an interesting tasting session not too long ago with one of the Oenologist from the Symington group which owns Graham's, Warre's and Smith Woodhouse Ports. These are of course some of the biggest and best port houses in Portugal and therefore the world as no country produces port as well as Portugal.

Now most people think of port as a dessert wine but technically its a fortified wine, this means that its a wine that has been added grape spirit before fermentation has been complete, thereby increasing the alcohol content and residue sugar, resulting in a strong and sweet wine that can virtually outlive you and me!

Although what was laid out before us was the usual suspects of sweets, such as kaya puffs, creme brulee and egg tarts. Chris very swiftly decided that we needed that take some action and purchased a small serving of roast pork(siew yoke). This proofed a hit with all three wines we tasted that day and the oenologist had to agree.

There are many categories for ports, we tasted a 10 year old tawny which I would happily have as an apperitif and I believe would do very well with some savoury snacks and dishes.The ruby port is also quite well known and can easily handle some more robust dishes such as roast meats. The Late bottled vintage probably would work better with stronger foods and definitely strong cheeses.
Oenologist, Jorge Nunes stating his point. I must say, its good to see these old established companies looking seriously at these market and not being afraid to experiment different cuisines with their classic wines.

Apart from the vintage ports that will come with a normal cork closure, most of the other ports have a reusable cork closure. These wines can be opened and reclosed with the same closure and remain good for quite a few weeks in the fridge, great idea if you want to enjoy your wines slowly!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Hardy Boys

Lionel: I was invited recently to a wonderful lunch featuring some of Hardys new premium wines. Lunch was in a restaurant named One Noodle but we definitely had more than noodles. The wines showcased included the new and unreleased(hence the unfinished label below) HRB range of wines. Now HRB means Heritage Reserve Bin and it wants to show off the multi regional blends that Hardys prides itself on. Yes in this day and age where we talk about single vineyards and single estate wines, Australia actually build its wine reputation based on its ability to have multi regional blends.

The HRB Chardonnay showed just the right amount of oak, with very nice tropical fruit flavours. It reminds me of a mix fruit juice with alcohol, very refreshing!
Some of the dishes served with the wines, although I have to admit that a little bit more effort in pairing the wines would have been better.

The other wines served that afternoon included the Oomoo range, these is a very popular range and the word Oomoo is aboriginal for beautiful!
The next day, Chris and I attended a masterclass tasting with Bill Hardy. Now, Bill is a fifth generation winemaker and now the international brand ambassador for Hardys. he also represents Australia in the world wine making body having learned his winemaking skills in Bordeaux under the famed Emille Peynaud. His views are quite unique and actually quite a shy man inspite of his great achivements.
We tasted a vertical of both Hardys Flagship wines, Eileen Hardy Shiraz and Thomas Hardy Cabernet. Amazing wines and very interesting to see the difference as the years go by. Although, most people associate Hardys with the basic entry level range, the fact that the winery is still producing wines of these uniqueness and quality inspite being corprotize since the merger with Constelattion wines is a testament to the Hardy family!

A happy Chris with Mr. Bill Hardy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fassssst Food and red, red wine!!!

Lionel: Okay, okay, we finally did it. Fast food burgers, chicken nuggets and pizzas paired with wine???? And why did we do it? No it wasn't our "Sideways" moment, but due to popular request from our poll.

Hahaha...I know it took some time but I was just trying to avoid it. No, I am not a food snob as you can tell from all our wonderings, I just want good food.

The Pizzas were actually quite good and though we didn't manage a Whopper from BK, The Wendys 1/4 pounder was definitely the winner here in comparison with the bigMCD.

So what was the verdict? We tried some sparkling red, a very nice Malbec Cabernet blend from Argentina, and Ridge Zinfandel. They all worked with the burgers and the nuggets to a certain extent. Nuggets probably needed a sparkling white.

We finally cracked open a bottle of Chateau Lalande Gravet 2005 from St Emilion, great vintage from a very nice estate and you know what? It went so well with them all!!!!

So, now you know why Miles had the Cheval Blanc 61 with burgers in Sideways, a good or great wine will always prevail!!!!!!

Note* You are not allowed to BYOB to any fast food outlets, I checked. Even the 24hr ones!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It should all come together!

Lionel: We finally made the journey to the new Sage restaurant. For the Cilantro fans, this is part 2 for Chef Kimura. No I don't think Cilantro is reopening, in spite of the official statement by the owners that Micasa Apts where Cilantro was situated would be reopen after renovations, that would not be the case.

Anyway, back to the restaurant. Just like Cilantro, they have a wine friendly corkage charge of only RM50 per bottle or you could choose a small but well selected list of wines. We started with a bottle of Drappier vintage 96 which went beautifully with the amuse bouche and crayfish but as we tend to drink a little fast, we decided to order a bottle of white to hold us till the meat dishes.

We settled on a lovely bottle of Ata Rangi Sauv Blanc 04, hoping that the age had given the wine some nice bottle age, cutting back its perfumed fruit. And voila! we were rewarded with a lovely, lovely minerally, slightly savoury bottle og Sancerre. It even worked well with the Foie Gras. The next wine is a unique limited production garagiste operation from St Emilion. Ch La . Gomerie is treated like a favourite child by its proprietror, the Becot family who owns Ch Beau-Sejour Becot. Jean Phillipe Fort, Michel Rolland's top assistant , is consultant for this 100% Merlot based wine produced from a small vineyard, with old vines and maximum quantity of 1000 cases a year. Highly rated by Robert Parker and with very high prices to boot.

Try it if you can find it!

Well, I know many people including many food blogs have raved about this restaurant. And we sat at the chef's table and it was great but yet there was something missing!

And I think I know what it is, the service didn't match the level of service from the kitchen! What I mean is that the level of service, attention to detail and effort from the kitchen was second to none and the service from the floor staff didn't match up. It was incomplete, it was missing a huge chunk of charm, warmth, attention, efficiency and most of all understanding of what they were doing that failed us.

Yes, I will be coming back to Sage again and I really, really hope it works better next time.

The beginning!  an Amuse Bouche of cured salmon with fresh cream.
The Salad of Pan fried Crayfish with topinambour and truffle jus being served.
Lovely Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc 2004.
Seared Foie Gras with Anago and caramelized scallion
Perfectly pan fried sea bass with crispy skin and sea urchin sauce.
Chateau La Gomerie 1999, a St Emilion grand cru
Chargrilled Wagyu with sauteed mushrooms and Yuzukoshou
Tauleto Sangoveise 2000 bu Umberto Cesari
Fedellini Pasta with Zuwaigani and Scallop

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rose, Rose I love you!

Lionel: I've always enjoyed drinking rosés. Their light, uncomplicated and when their nice and dry, they are a great match for a wide range of foods. Drunk chilled, its wonderful Sunday afternoon sip under the yum, yum tree.

I also think that its the perfect wine for those large communal servings of dishes at a family lunch or dinner such as we commonly do in Malaysia. The dash of tannin in the wine offers just enough to handle some meat dishes and the acidity handles the rest.

It was with this in mind that I brought this bottle with us last week to Sin Kee in Brickfields for our office lunch with an ex-colleague. Sin Kee is an institution in Brickfields, it started in a shack in front of a Shell depot located where the Sentral apartments are today. With its 5 tables, hanging bananas for you to pick as dessert and bus stop 2 feet away from the front of the shop, it was obvious that you patronised the shop for its food and not the ambience.

Today, they have relocated across the road to a ground floor of an office building complete with air condition. And whilst the ambience has improved, the food has stayed just as good!

This Shiraz rosé is a best seller in the U.K. market but unfortunately not in Malaysia. It is slowly being phased out of the market, but if your quick you can still find some in most supermarkets/hypermarkets. Its wonderfully dry, nicely balanced with enough fruit and flavour to handle the variety of dishes you see here.