Friday, 30 April 2010

Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent 2007

Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais, $148, cork

I’m never tempted by Beaujolais Nouveau (well OK once in Japan, but that was only because it was a Hello Kitty wine), but Cru Beaujolais on the other hand is a whole different story. Moulin-a-vent means “windmill” in French and this hilly area in the north-east of Beaujolais is known for its relatively long lived wines, as well as its windmill. Available in Hong Kong from Wine Hot, it is of course 100% Gamay.

Quite light it’s a vibrant cherry red and there’s cola, red fruits and pepper aplenty on the nose. This tastes fresh and ‘red’; really it’s a mardi gras of red fruit; first along dance the wild strawberries, then come the jolly little raspberries and finally it’s a wave of cheeky cranberries. Alongside this fruit fiesta there’s a lovely lick of spice and a grind of white pepper. While there’s plenty of upfront fruit this is a wine that's certainly no pushover; medium to full bodied it’s got fine tannins and good persistence. I drunk it over a few nights and on the third evening it had softened, but was still holding up beautifully. While it may not be the most sophisticated, Chateau Moulin-a-Vent 2007 so, so drinkable.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Alfie's By Kee

G/F, Prince's Building, 10 Chater Rd, Central
Visited 26th April 2010
Hoisted above the cool suits of the Alfred Dunhill's Prince Building store this joint venture with the oh so grand Kee Club can't help but ooze style. While I've enjoyed my past visits to the member's only Kee Club I tend to think the whole place has been heavily dusted with a the pretentiousness brush, Alfie's on the other hand seems to be just your typical down-to-Earth Western restaurant in Central. The place looks in many ways more like a slick bar than a restaurant. I'm not normally too fussed about a joint's decor, but I really liked the look of this place; black leather sofas, black tiles, black and white prints along with a couple of things that weren't black.

The menu doesn't have a huge selection and what's there is very much traditional English fare; think sausage and mash, pie, roast chicken, steak, smoked haddock, trifle, Eton mess and crumble. We shared a sausage roll starter and then I went for the poached Scottish Salmon. The sausage roll was pretty standard; minced pork wrapped in flaky pastry. Though not overly exciting it tasted good and I thought the only negative was the accompanying homemade tomato sauce that was strangely acidic. My salmon came with lentils and a watercress salad and the whole think was a hit. The moist salmon was perfectly cooked and peppery salad leaves and tender lentils offered a perfect accompaniment. I also really enjoyed a little sample of Joey's roast chicken with mushrooms and spinach. However my friend's shepherd's pie was pretty uninspiring and no better than what's avaliable in most Hong Kong pubs. I appreciated being offered iced water, but also enjoyed a glass of Louis Latour Bourgogne Chardonnay.

The food at Alfie's is touted as "modern British fare" and while it's very British I can't really see how it's modern British (well maybe apart from the fact that it's good), but labels tend to be irrelevant and this tasted superb. Both Joey and my mains were well cooked, delicious meals; the fact that we enjoyed them in a stylish setting surrounded by attentive staff only helped to heighten the experience. While particularly a bargain the prices seem pretty fair for this style of place in Central; the chicken was $185, my salmon $225 and the starter $90. I'll admit that I went into Alfie's By Kee with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, however I walked out converted.

Visit restaurant website.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Topie & Dinah 'Live Seafood Restaurant'

Caw-Oy, Olango Island, Lapu-Lapu City, Philippines
Visited 25th April
A brief tip to Philippines for the Cebu Rugby 10s left a big bunch of hungover blokes looking for something to divert the pain come Sunday morning. There really wasn't much for it but to hire a boat and go for a cruise. Our first stop was the fish feeding area off the side of Olango Island that I've visited before; this time unfortunately there weren't many fish so the whole snorkelling thing was a bit of a letdown. Suddenly it was lunch time and we were shunted across to a Topie & Dinah 'Live Seafood Restaurant' further around the island. This place claims to be 'floating', though in reality it sits on stilts just off the Island. The restaurant itself is really basic; just a concrete floor and roof. We sprawled out, ordered some San Migs and started to think about food.

There weren't menus, just a few of tubes of fish to choose from so a couple of blokes took responsibility and ordered up a decent mix of fishy goodies. First came some char-grilled tiger prawns; these guys were big, tasty and flavoursome. Next up were some big grilled clams with garlic and fried calamari. The squid was ruined by the thick, ugly batter that consumed it; however the clams were better, though a tad dry. 'Lapu-Lapu' is how the Filipinos refer to Grouper and it's considered a bit of a national delicacy. The fish we were presented with was tiny, though tasty and well prepared in an almost Chinese style with ginger, garlic and soy. Last was a whole tuna, just big enough for our table of hungry rugby players. The fish was simply grilled on coals. It was cooked too quickly which meant that different parts were cooked to different degrees, but if you found the right part it was delicious. Cold bottles of San Mig were the order of the day, though I think I saw someone sensibly sipping on water. OK so the food wasn't Earth shattering, but our lunch at Topie & Dinah 'Live Seafood Restaurant' certainly scores points as an experience. The tab came to a fair PHP550 (HK$100) each. My biggest concern however was the environmental consequences of my lunch. The restaurant was located atop coral in or near a marine sanctuary; coral which we were forced to walk across. The grouper was clearly well under-sized and many types of tuna are endangered. Oh the toilet also flushed straight into the water. OK so If I'm such a raving hippie why did I bother writing the restaurant up at all? Well despite my reservations I still think the lunch deserves recognition as part of a great weekend. I was in Cebu for under forty hours yet managed a rugby tournament, dinner, partying, a dawn ANZAC Day Service, boat trip, seafood lunch and a bit of pool time; it just shows you what you can do in a weekend!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Domaine de Saint Romble Sancerre 2007

Sury-en-Vaux, Sancerre, Loire, $158, cork

I try not to buy wine from Park n Shop too often, but occasionally get tempted when something interesting is on special. I had had a Sancerre for ages so when I saw this reduced to $98 I thought I’d give it a go. I can't find anything much about this on the web. The bottle names the producer as Domaine Paul Vatton with an address in Maimbray, a village in the commune of Sury-en-Vaux. It is, of course, made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

Darker than I expected, Domain de Saint Romble Sancerre 2007 is a lovely golden yellow. OK, OK; so I was looking for cat piss and got a bit of a whiff at the start, but it soon drifted off and I ended up smelling tart gooseberry and grapefruit. The nose on this was pretty interesting with additional aromas of star fruit and coriander. On the palate this was totally dominated by acidity, making it a wine you feel rather than taste. Though there is a big lick of lime on the finish, I would have liked to have seen a bit more flavour on the mid palate. I enjoyed Domain de Saint Romble Sancerre 2007, but in many ways it is a bit of a one trick pony and that trick ladies and gentlemen is the bite, bite, cut, cut acid show.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Esporao Trincadeira 2003

Alentejano, MOP196, terrible cork

Trincadeira? It's one of those exotic 'other' Portuguese grapes and from what I can gather it's widely planted in the hot southern regions of Alentejano and Algarve. Produced by Herdade do Esporao, this is part of the 'Moncastas' range of single varietal wines from which I previously sampled their Aragonês. This saw six months in new American oak and was sealed with the crappiest cork I've seen in a long time. I still smile when I notice it was imported by Goodtime Distributors.
It took a bit of time for the nose to open up, but when it did I got aromas of plum, cassis and mocha, along with chalk and leather. It tastes of green plums and boysenberry stirred with a bit of mint. Medium bodied with good grippy tannin it's a wine that benefits from being served with food. It's still fresh and very much alive, though my only complaint is it's a little hollow on the mid-palate. Esporao Trincadeira 2003 is a pleasant drop that's drinking well.

Visit winery website.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Butagumi Tonkatsu

7/F The Goldmark, 502 Hennessy Rd, Causeway Bay
Visited 17th April 2010

Causeway Bay on a Friday night; what was I thinking? Why was I here? I didn't want to go to Sogo or Uniglo or any-other-bloody-shopping-O. I wanted to breathe, then eat, then leave. We split from the crowds and headed up onto the 7th floor of the Goldmark Tower; a rather shabby building across Hennessy Rd from Sogo. Inside it's your typical Japanese style decor, though we were lucky enough to be seated in a kind of cool hanging booth (I of course got told of for swinging it too much). My first true tonkatsu experience was last year in Kyoto where my brother and I happened to be seated next to a couple of stunning girls who showed us the ropes; it's perhaps not that strange but ever since I've been a fan of this dish.

The menu at Butagumi Tonkatsu was obviously focused on breaded pork chops or tonkatsu, but they also had a selection of sushi and sashimi as well as a few different deep fried options. We went with a standard pork loin tonkatsu and a mixed set for which we selected scallops, wagyu beef and rolled chicken with cheese and asparagus. Both dishes came accompanied by surprisingly tasty miso soup, fresh shredded cabbage, rice and the 'crush-the-sesame-seeds-yourself sauce. The mixed plate came with four decent chunks of deliciously tender beef, two awesome fat and succulent scallops and a pair of rolled, stuffed chicken pieces. The chunky pork loin was delicious and I was impressed with how moist and juicy it was: actually all the ingredients were top-notch: the pork, scallops and beef were outstanding. For deep fried food it wasn't too oily either.
Tonkatsu is honestly pretty simple stuff, but it's tasty and when prepared to the standard of Butagumi Tonkatsu offers a satisfying and delicious meal. Our dining experience was pleasant; the staff were friendly and efficient and the restaurant itself was a tranquil oasis compared to the consumer chaos outside. Considering the quality I thought the prices were very fair; $128 for the pork loin and $155 for the mixed goodies. While you can certainly get cheaper Japanese food in Causeway Bay, Butagumi Tonkatsu gets my vote for quality.

Visit winery website.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Only In Japan!

Coffee Flavoured Toothpaste
We've heard the rumours of the vending machines filled with used knickers, but Japan is home so, so much more in the crazy department. This 'L'espresso' coffee flavoured toothpaste was a gift from a friend; brought back from her honeymoon in Japan. It's flavour number 28 in the Breathe Palate range which suggests that there's a lot more craziness going on in the home of the weird and wonderful.

Visit product website.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Souvlaki King

311 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, Melbourne
Visited 9th April 2010

I've been back in Australia, but unfortunately an ‘incident’ at a party led to a broken camera and thus a lack of photos and blog posts. My trip home to Melbourne was fun and on the final evening after a counter meal and bucket of booze it was decided it was time for a 'dirty kebab' before bed. A short stagger from the Napier Hotel led us to Brunswick St and the shinning lights of the Souvlaki King.

The focus at Souvlaki King is of course the hypnotic skewers stacked with fillets of chicken and lamb slowly spinning on spits. I ordered a mixed kebab with both lamb and chicken off the spit with all the extras thrown in. They also do a selection of the usual fried and fatty takeaway junk and I munched a couple of potato cakes to satisfy the serious cravings I’ve been having for these Aussie 'delicacies'. The kebab was wrapped in excellent chewy, fresh pita and packed with tomato, lettuce and onion. I’m not sure why I ordered both meats (alcohol?) but on (sober) reflection surely it’s better to stick with one flavour? Anyway the juicy slithers of meat were tasty, however I would liked to have seen a few more and speaking of “more” the kebab definitely needed more garlic sauce.

In England kebabs are made from a disgusting meat loaf that resembles dog food and are responsible for a high proportion of alcohol related illness. In Australia it’s a different story with a history of Greek and Turkish immigration there's quality and authenticity amongst our late night takeaway. When I walked into the Souvlaki King I needed food, and despite being stitched with the sauce I enjoyed my kebab and thought it pretty fair value at $9. Too be honest I’ve always been a fan of the competition across the road; Lamb on Brunswick, and while the Souvlaki King probably doesn't deserve the title of ‘King’ it's still a good stop for ‘a dirty kebab’ when you get chucked out of the pub.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Marinda Park Merlot 2001

Balnarring, Mornington Peninsula, cork seal

I'm back in Australia and dug this out of the cellar. I've no idea how I acquired it, though I do remember visiting the winery years ago. Known for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and expensive sea views, the Mornington Peninsula isn't regularly recognised for its Merlot and Marinda Park is one of the few who produce it as a single varietal. Sorry about the photo; it's totally distorted by my mum's bright green kitchen; the same kitchen that has been warping my mind for nearly thirty-five years.

Showing a touch of bottle age it is a beautiful crimson red colour. It smells delicate, floral and feminine (another way of saying subtle?); and has lovely spicy notes - think star anise, cinnamon and a lick of sweet fruit. It's soft, spicy and tastes of red fruits and spice, or to be more precise plums and fruit cake. Medium bodied; it's balanced and still maintaining a touch of freshness. Beautifully integrated and drinking well, Marinda Park Merlot 2001 doesn't smash you over the head; initially I thought it was a touch uninspiring, but in the end was one over by its stylish drinkability and lovely softness.

Visit winery website.