Thursday, September 18, 2014

High Street Wine Dinner

I was at the Cape Mentelle Wine Dinner hosted by local food magazine Crave and the winery owner LVMH at Wooloomooloo Prime in Causeway Bay last Thursday evening. 

The restaurant sits on the high floors at the new Midtown Building near Times Square, which advertised to be the new landmark in this busy shopping district. Quite a few new restaurants opened in this building lately, including Penthouse by Harlan G which occupies the top floor (and a new sushi restaurant by the same owner one floor below), and also the casual Italian restaurant bearing Jamie Oliver's name.

We started our evening at the outdoor terrace, looking out to the unobstructed view of the Kowloon skyline while sipping a glass of the refreshing sauvignon blanc, just to cool down from the summer heat. We then moved indoor to our table. Our dinner party took up the space at the far end of the restaurant near the bar area, with the long table stretched next to a floor-to-ceiling window with a view behind.

The menu was a 5-course dinner with matching wines. We began with a trio of bite-size amuse bouche served on a rectangular plate. On the left was a cherry tomato slightly cooked to release the sweet flavor, then stuffed with crab meat and lime mayo. I didn't taste much of the crab meat but the overall texture was decent and tasted refreshing. The rest of the two - a puff pastry with creamed leek and caviar, and tuna fritter ball with wasabi mayo - were alright and of those 2, I liked the tuna fritter better for the surprise factor consideration.

The second course was a cold appetizer dish of lobster and scallop ceviche. The thinly sliced lobster and scallop were mildly cured with citrus juice and on top was sprinkles of shaved summer truffles, young shiso sprouts and slices of marinated Jalapeno pepper hidden somewhere. The meat was tasty and fresh, I liked that kick of jalapeno peppers in the pile and the unique aroma from that of the shiso sprouts. It's an interesting combination.

I think the two meat courses that followed the appetizer were alright - decent but nothing really stood out. The lamb rack was coated with a thin layer of dukkah spices and pan-seared. I found it a bit dry and overcooked, but the part closer to the bone was much better with pinkish, juicy meat. The ratatouille-stuffed piquillo pepper served on the side was also quite nice. Usually I wasn't too fond of lamb but I still finished most of it.

The second main course was a grilled wagyu sirloin. The meat itself was delicious with good portion of fat on top, and the steak was cooked sous-vide and finished on the pan giving it a tasty charred crust. I think the presentation was a bit too cluttered and it's more about style than substance, with potato fondant, beetroot and parsnip trimmed into fat cylindrical shape, and dots of butternut squash puree and cabernet sauvignon reduction. It's colorful and fancy all right, but nothing else in terms of taste.

We finished our meal with a simple cheese platter with fig and date chutney - again, they were okay. Overall I think food-wise while it's not mind-blowing per se, they delivered pretty much what I expected from a restaurant that is in the middle of the pack.

The service was a bit slow tonight and seemed like the kitchen was struggling to cope with our large party. The two meat courses took forever to come and when they did arrive, they were only lukewarm. They probably need to do something with the timing and how to balance between style and efficiency. Other than those minor glitches, the staff were friendly and attentive.

Four wines were served to go with the meal and we were led by for a guided tasting by Cameron Murphy, the Estate Director of Cape Mentelle who flew in from Margaret River to join us.

Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2013
We started with this Bordeaux-bland while settling down at the balcony bar area, enjoying the spectacular view in a cooler evening. The nose showed sweet lychees and lime, and that racy but restrained acidity continues on the palate with a medium finish. A good summer white and to me, much-preferred compared to the other new world, cooler climate Sauvignon Blancs in the market.

Chardonnay 2012
This is done contemporary style without being loaded with oaky nose or buttery texture typical of some chardonnays. The wine showed some barrel-fermented characters but not overbearingly so, and no malolactic fermentation was involved, we were told, so it's much refreshing on the palate. 

Trinders Cabernet Merlot 2012
It was okay, but I wasn't a big fan of this. This is a typical Bordeaux bland - with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, along with tiny bit of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. It's dry, full-bodied with an energetic crimson color. Nose showed cocoa, blackcurrant and a bit of smokiness, and on the palate, it's more red-fruit, like a just-ripe plum with that hint of sweetness. I was a bit put off by the slight bitterness in the aftertaste which probably has to do with the young tannins, and it improved slightly on the glass towards the end given more time to breathe.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
My favorite wine of the night. It's not the overly expressive, big reds that I was more accustomed to from Aussie winemakers. Instead it showed elegance and depth with concentrated red fruits and blackcurrants, and fine, firm tannins giving it a long, pleasing aftertaste.

Thank you Carmen and Crave Magazine for the invitation.

When? September 11 2014
Where? Wooloomooloo Prime, Level 27 & 28, Soundwill Plaza II - Midtown 1 Tang Lung Street Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Grilled 500-day Grain fed Wagyu Sirloin with Potato Fondant, Beetroot, Parsnip, Butternut Squash and Cabernet Sauvignon jus
Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2013
Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2012
Cape Mentelle Trinders Cabernet Merlot 2012
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Crave Magazine Online:
Cape Mentelle:
Wooloomooloo Prime:

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