Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Few Good Rieslings

It’s been years since we last ate at One Harbour Road, the Chinese restaurant at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong by the Wanchai harborfront. I guess for us it’s a typical case of “out of sight, out of mind” place: while there’s nothing particularly bad about our previous experiences, it just never came up as a place we wanted to go back to.

Anyway, we were there recently for the Egon Muller wine dinner organized by their Hong Kong distributor, when Mr Muller, their fourth generation owner, was in town for the Vinexpo, one of the world’s biggest exhibition for wines and spirits, held in Hong Kong this year. The dinner was held on the mezzanine level of the restaurant, one level above their regular dining area. I loved this cozy space a bit away from the crowd but not as "restrained" as a normal private dining room.

Dinner was a set 6-course menu and began after the usual introduction by the host and a few words by Mr Muller himself, introducing the wines being poured tonight, some from their current vintage, while some were older and a bit more unusual. I thought all the dishes were pretty decent and the team did put some thoughts in trying to match the food with the wines served. We started with a trio of appetizers, deep-fried eggplant with garlic, pepper and salt, dried oyster and mushroom “chop suey” in lettuce cup, and an osmantuus honey-glazed deep-fried shiitake mushroom. I did think the sweet and crispy shiitake particularly worked well with the wine served (Scharzhof Riesling 2014), balancing its distinct acidity and a hint of citrus-y taste.

Second course was an interesting dish, with chunks of lobster braised in a rich superior broth, and served with Chinese yam and quinoa. On the side was a slice of pan-fried turnip cake with cabbage, carrot and celery. Other than the fact that the combination seemed to be a bit random, they were all tasty. Not often did I find quinoa being used in a Chinese dish but in this case, the quinoa did provide some interesting texture and mixed well with the soup and the bits of tasty lobster. The pairing wine was an interesting one, a dry Riesling coming from Chateau Bela from Slovakia, a winery part-owned by Egon Muller. It’s surprisingly dry with good minerality, floral aroma and some unripe stone fruit on the palate, with honey towards the end.

I liked the contrast in the next 2 courses matched with the same wines with different vintages 20 years apart. First was garoupa fillet poached in hot chili wine sauce. I was hoping it would be spicy like those authentic Sichuan dish but this one was much restrained with just a hint of tingle from the Sichuan peppers. Nonetheless I thought the dish was pretty good – the fish fillet was delicate and tasty, and the hot chilli wine sauce has a strong hint of Chinese herbal flavor – almost like a “Bak kut teh” in that sense. Then the second course was on the sweet side and classical Cantonese, with a boneless slice of chicken with crispy skin on top and stuffed with shrimp mousse in between, served with sweet plum sauce. It’s a crafty dish to make but I thought they did a great job recreating this old-school Cantonese dish with slight modifications. The chicken was smooth and rich, and the shrimp mousse has just the right bouncy texture and retained much of the distinct crustacean flavour.

We were first served the 2014 Scharzhofberger Kabinett, the current vintage of Egon Muller’s entry-level Riesling (for the fish), followed by the 1994 vintage he brought over especially for the dinner (to pair with the chicken). The 2014 was dry with light golden color, fresh, stone-fruit, or even some pineapples on the nose, mineral on the palate with strong acidity. I thought it’s still a bit restrained and definitely need more time. The 1994 one exhibited a slightly richer, golden straw color, with an entirely different aroma and taste profile – much riper on the nose, like dried apricot, creamy on the palate and a long complex finish. If I need to name one wine perfect for savory Chinese dishes, that would be the type I have in mind.

We then moved on to the sweeter wines as the dinner is drawing to end with the kurobuta pork served with steamed brown rice in a hot stone bowl, and then a platter of Cantonese desserts. I did love both wines, first the 2013 Spatlese then 2014 Auslese, especially the Auslese actually, with slight botrytis flavor with an attractive floral nose and honey and nectarine flavor balanced by the good acidity. The finish was extraordinary, just went on and on, and makes one yearning for more. Thought it went well with all three desserts served, but probably best with the mini egg-tart. That made me wonder what their TBA would taste like...

It’s an enjoyable night and I thought everything was just well all around, not just a few good Rieslings by one of the top winemakers which we had the opportunity to try. I will keep reminding myself let’s come back some other time either for dim-sum, or for more fine Chinese dishes at this restaurant – and now I know exactly what wines worked best for them.

When? May 21 2016
Where? One Harbour Road, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Crispy Sesame Chicken filled with Shrimp Mousse 江南百花芝麻雞
Egon Mullter Scharzhof Riesling 2014
Chateau Bela Sturovo Riesling 2011
Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Kabinett 2014
Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Kabinett 1994
Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Spatlese 2013
Egon Muller Schaezhofberger Auslese 2014
(Egon Muller)
(One Harbour Road)

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