Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Grand Affair - Perrier-Jouët Lunch at Inagiku

For a second year, I was invited to the Perrier-Jouët luncheon hosted by its Cellar Master Hervé Deschamps. Last year I had a blast at g.e. of the luxe manor, and this time the lunch was at Central's Inagiku Restaurant right next to the Four Seasons. It's been quite a while since I last visited the restaurant and I was also curious to see how the matching of champagne and Japanese food would turn out. I arrived at the cocktail reception right on time at The Box upstairs with the Perrier-Jouët non-vintage Grand Brut before heading down to the private room at Inagiku, for food and of course, more champagne. The room was tastefully decorated with champagne bottles and beautifully arranged bouquets of the iconic white peonies, and I am always amazed at them putting all these efforts of decoration and arrangement just for the occasion.

The lunch menu followed a simplified version of a traditional Japanese kaiseki meal, starting with the appetizer of sesame tofu stuffed in tomatoes and served with white asparagus and caviar. It has intertwining refreshing and rich flavors but all worked harmoniously - which matches well with the Blanc de blancs showing similar characters. I especially love the combination of white asparagus and caviar which was absolutely sensational.

We moved on to a cold udon noodles infused with plum juice which gave the noodles a pinkish color, and served chilled with an onsen egg yolk. I love the creamy texture of the egg yolk which was less runny than the usual onsen tamago, but this is what I like. Along the similar taste, we were then served the sashimi of tai snapper, marinated in konbu kelp and with sake and plum sauce. It's milder but certainly went better with the champagne - the Cuvée Belle Époque from 2004 vintage - than the normal soy sauce for the sashimi.

The simmered dish of lily root bean curd with simmered sakura shrimp was another dish I loved a lot - both for the soft texture and for the taste from that of tofu stuffed with shrimp paste and lily root served with steamed Japanese pumpkin and carrot. The restaurant featured a separate section for teppanyaki dishes and today we also had the Japanese Wagyu steak cooked on the teppanyaki grill. Of course, conventional wisdom calls for red wines to go with the steak, but I reckon for a wagyu steak rich in marbled fat, a big, rich, creamy white wine - or in this case a champagne - works equally well, if not better. That's especially true with the rosé champagne that we had (Cuvée Belle Époque Rosé 2004), with predominantly chardonnay providing the weight with a hint of pinot noir bringing in the complexity.

We finished our meal with the set of kama-steamed rice with sakura shrimp, with the traditional pickled vegetables. I always appreciated a perfectly cooked rice like the one I had this time, and the dried sakura shrimp was crispy and tasty. The desserts were simple but nonetheless earned our praises - the yuzu sorbet was mixed with a dash of rosé champagne on a martini glass, which was creamy and zesty and sweet, and on a separate plate there's a small cup of yuzu jelly and slices of honeydew melon, both were delicious.

My favorite of the afternoon was the Cuvée Belle Époque Blanc de Blancs from the 2002 vintage - with the hard-to-resist citrus, vanilla, floral aroma in front of the subtle, not-too-yeasty brioche note and fine bubbles rising inside the flute designed specifically for the champagne house. A prime example of what a pure and elegant champagne should taste like.

I really love the matching of champagne with floral aroma and good acidity to go with the clean flavors of Japanese cuisine. It's almost as if they raised each other up. And the versatility of Perrier Jouët's champagnes was what struck me and the reason why I like it so much - whether it's for cocktail reception, gala party, or as an after-dinner drink with your BFFs, or to be enjoyed during a meal, casual or formal - I feel like it works in every occasion that calls for a lovely glass of bubbles. It's always cheerful, approachable, not intimidating yet giving you the sense of this being something absolutely special and unforgettable. I can't find a good word to really describe its style - elegance with finesse? a subdued flamboyance? The scene I have in mind was Audrey Hepburn walking down the 5th Avenue wearing a little black dress with a croissant in her hand - hope you know what I meant.

At home we keep a collection of empty bottles of wines that were special in our heart - whether they are for a memorable occasion, or for a truly marvelous taste, or for an unforgettable price.  And one of those keepsakes is the beautiful bottle of Perrier-Jouët Cuvée Belle Époque 1996. Perhaps it's time to add to that collection with more of those green, flower bottles - the problem is which not when.

Thank you Perrier-Jouët for the invitation and it's been a pleasure. 

More pictures on my Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157633510233810/

When? May 16 2013
Where? Inagiku, ifc Mall, Central, Hong Kong
Menu highlights? Fresh tomato stuffed with sesame tofu served with white asparagus and caviar
Perrier-Jouët Cuvée Belle Époque Blanc de blancs 2002
Perrier-Jouët Cuvée Belle Époque Blanc 2004
Perrier-Jouët Cuvée Belle Époque Rosé 2002
(Perrier-Jouet) www.perrier-jouet.com/
(Inagiku Hong Kong) www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/dining/restaurants/inagiku_at_ifc/

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