Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Fruit

Update from the Garden Star fruit are smart fruit. When cut they may very well look like stars, but when they're bobbing away on the tree they look a lot like leaves. Last year my star fruit tree had thousands of delicate pink flowers, but no fruit; this year it's awash with dangling yellow fruit. I can't wait to harvest this crop.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Penfolds 'Bin 2' Shiraz Mourvedre 2006

South Australia, RM50 (HK$115), cork seal

Penfolds is perhaps Australia's most iconic winery and their bin range offers premium wines from a variety of different styles and vineyards. Bin 2 comes from a several South Australian regions including the Barossa, Clare, McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek. I guess this sees old rather than new oak, but the Penfolds website is strangely out of date on details; the last vintage listed is 2003. I purchased this bored while wandering the average surrounds of Kula Lumpier International Airport's Low Cost Carrier Terminal. I'm struggling to see the point in mentioning the colour of wine. Is it worth it? So, anyway, Penfolds 'Bin 2' Shiraz Mourvedre 2006 is a dark purple colour (and?). The nose isn't massive, actually it's pretty reserved with just a hint of chocolate and cassis. Medium bodied it tastes of red fruits and a sprinkling of dried herbs. There are some grainy tannins and a touch of fresh acidity, but despite all this it doesn't quite cut it. Short and simple, it seems underdone and uninspiring. Maybe it's just been over shadowed but the seductive Amavi Cellars Syrah 2003 we drunk before it, but this does nothing for me. Penfolds 'Bin 2' Shiraz Mourvedre 2006 just doesn't offer much excitement.

Visit winery website.

Amavi Cellars Syrah 2003

Walla Walla Valley, Washington State, cork

I'm scared of buying wines from the US. The fake, syrupy sweetness of the cheaper offerings and a perception of gross over-pricing amongst the better quality bottles means I normally steer clear. From what I can gather Amavi Cellars are a sister winery/second label of Pepperbridge Winery. I can't remember how much this cost, but I think it was about $200. Things got a little dangerous when I opened this; the glass on the lip splinted, the cork crumbled and it was a bit touch and go whether we were going to be drinking glass shards and cork crumbs.
Amavi Cellars Syrah 2003 is pretty dark in colour with a red-tinge - actually it's a similar shade to the hair of the blokes who drive minibuses between Yuen Long and Mong Kok. This smells absolutely spectacular; it's one lush hit of big flavours including plums, white pepper and coffee. This really is screaming out classic cool climate Syrah. On the palate there's a mash of red fruits with plenty of blueberries and plums, but what wins this for me is the smooth, smooth texture. Fine tannins, warm but controlled alcohol and a long palate all complete the seductive silkiness of this to make it a beautiful package. Amavi Cellars Syrah 2003 comes highly recommended; it's the best wine I've had from the US.

Visit winery website.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Chateau Pey La Tour Bordeaux 2005

Bordeaux, ¥150, cork seal

Strange deals are to be had at the duty-free shop at the Zhuhai Ferry Terminal, this bottle of Bordeaux Superieur was one such purchase. The Chateau has been owned by the large firm Dourthe since 1990. It's a blend of 82% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.

Chateau Pey La Tour 2005 is dark and intense with a red tinge. It smells of dusty dark fruits, bay leaf and chalk. The palate is all about intense forest fruit flavours with blackberries, blueberries and plums. This wine is beautifully textured; it's dusty and dry with big tannins. Full bodied and powerful this surprised me with its weight and intensity. Chateau Pey La Tour Bordeaux 2005 is a solid wine, it's not overly complex, but gets points for texture, richness and simple satisfaction.

Visit winery website.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant

100 Kin Yip St, Yuen Long
Visited 17th September 2009

This tiny Vietnamese joint has become a bit of a favourite for a meal after Thursday night tennis. Yuen Long has a fair selection of Japanese, Indian and Thai joints, but Vietnamese restaurants are harder to find; does anyone know of another in Yuen Long? Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant is situated opposite Bill Kee Noodles on Kin Yip St. It's small and basic, with only seven or eight tables and walls adorned with faded prints of Hanoi's tourist sites.

A readable menu goes a long way and I'm happy to report that that at Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant there's well translated English sitting proudly alongside the Chinese. Our group ordered a feast that included fresh rice paper rolls stuffed with prawn and chicken, cold vermicelli noodles with lemon grass pork, a beef brisket curry and two serves of the house 'special' pho. The homemade rice paper rolls were packed with fresh flavours and came with lovely homemade fish sauce. Laced with shredded carrot, lettuce, cucumber and coriander the tasty vermicelli noodles were again all about freshness. Served bubbling and sizzling from the oven, the curry was laden with tender beer and plenty of tendon that gave it a thick, fatty richness. It came with a stack of garlic bread. The serves of pho were massive and packed with different cuts of beef including fillet, tendon, tripe and beef balls, that came floating in a good beef based soup.
Though we ordered way too much I was really impressed with the food at Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant. The quality was good and the obvious freshness of the dishes a noticeable contrast to typical Cantonese cuisine. Our bill was a reasonable $90 a head, but with big bowls of pho for only $48 you could get away with paying less. The friendly bloke running the show was welcoming and more than happy to make recommendations. They're not licensed to sell alcohol but let us BYO. Offering authentic Vietnamese food at good prices, Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant is a great option for something different in Yuen Long.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Scrimaglio 'Grani di Sole' Moscato D'Asti 2007

Nizza Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy, $148, cork

A good mate spent a frustrating 4 hours trying to connect a new wireless router for me Saturday afternoon. He didn't throw it off the balcony or use the language I would of, but by the end of it he certainly needed a drink. He loves the sweet stuff and after barbecue, beer and bubbles out comes the Moscato. Purchased from a local Yuen long wine shop, the bottle is sporting the charms of a rather fetching label and a responsible 5.5% alcohol.

There was a fair bit of frizzante action when opened, but it all settled down rather quickly. The nose on this is big and seductive; I'm so caught up in smells of honey and flowers and almost drift off to the Greek Isles. However I'm soon slapped back to reality by the emergence of deliciously intense stone fruit aromas; I'm getting one intense whiff of peaches. Having a sip and the palate is also all about the peaches. I don't want to sell this wine short; it doesn't taste like a simple can of SPC peaches in syrup it's more of a kind-of homemade baked peach dessert with canalised sugar, toffee and a hint of lemon zest. It's an amazingly complex and lush wine, but more importantly it is simply delicious. It's a lot less sweet than I expected; the sugar is well in check making it refreshingly pleasant to drink. Big, bold and delicious Scrimaglio 'Grani di Sole' Moscato D'Asti 2007 comes highly recommended; it's the perfect juice for a frustrated IT expert.

Visit winery website.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Red Penny Thai

148 Kam Sheung Rd, Kam Tin, Yuen Long
Visited 3rd September 2009
Hand up who's been to Kam Tin? Well Red Penny Thai isn't in Kam Tin, but kind of way out the back of Kam Tin somewhere and if you're riding your bike it feels like the middle of nowhere. Yet on entering this big, outside restaurant it’s a surprisingly classy setup. Lots of white, Thai style statues and big water feature give place more than a hint of being in Thailand rather than the back blocks of the New Territories. The location suggests that it’s probably a restaurant that’s more aimed at those thyat drive rather than rely on public transport or pedal power.

The menu has all the usual Thai favourites as well as a few Vietnamese dishes. We were with a big group, but strangely everyone ordered their own dishes and I ended up sharing with a friend. We ordered Chang Mai style ox-tail, water spinach with belacan, rice and garlic bread. I thought the ox-tail was pretty good - the meat was tender, though the sweetish sauce was perhaps a little too runny. The big serve of water spinach was disappointing; it was over-powered by the fishy shrimp paste and was way too salty. Oh yeah the garlic bread; what is it with garlic bread and Thai restaurants in Hong Kong? It's not a traditional Thai dish, yet seems to be the most popular dish on every Thai menu. Anyway are garlic bread was OK, though not quite crisp enough for my tastes. To drink it was a couple of bottles of Singha; served in a beautifully chilled glass.

Res Penny Thai has a lot going for it, especially the outdoor dinning area. I was generally impressed with the service; they managed to correctly deliver six different orders and the correct bills to the same table. My only complaint was that it was a little difficult to get a new beer. The food wasn’t overly cheap, but was fair value at $264 for the two of us; the oxtail was $98, the water spinach $58 and the beers $28 a pop. But to be honest I’m not the biggest fan of Red Penny Thai. The food is OK, but rather unexciting and I feel there are plenty of better Thai places around.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Grand Dragon 1998

Yantai, Shandong, China, ¥75, synthetic cork

Day two of teaching and it's definitely time for a bottle of wine. Red wine from China no less; terrible retro packing, embossed bottle and stupid synthetic cork, but for me the most worrying thing is the vintage - 1998; surely a ¥75 wine isn't made to cellar for 11 years? The Yantai Weilong Grape Wine Co who makes this have a surprisingly good English website, though maybe they've changed their range as there was nothing to be found about this wine. My friend who helped me translate the label claims that it's apparently made from the 'snap dragon grape'?!?

Grand Dragon 1998 is light red in colour just fading to orange. Initially this just smells of typical over aged Chinese red wine - tar, burnt toffee and rubber, but underneath the stink there's a sniff of fruit or perhaps a sniff of hope. There're hints of red berries, vanilla, strawberry and cream; it actually smells a bit like the strawberry-cream flavoured Chupa Chup. Yes it does taste a lot like burnt treacle and tar, but there are still some good red fruit flavours beneath it. There's cherry, strawberry and raspberry, but most remarkable an obviously creamy texture. Medium bodied, it certainly should have been drunk years ago, yet the burnt acid flavours are balanced by memories of fresh fruit and the remarkably creaminess. A strange bottle of wine; obviously past its best, yet in a sadistic way it was almost enjoyable. I'm not recommending this to anyone, but I'd be curious to try a newer vintage and to be fair we did finish the bottle.

Visit winery website.