Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Burgundian Delight - Yung Kee x Montille Dinner

We were on a rare weeknight out to join a dinner at Yung Kee hosted by the British wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd with Burgundy winemaker Etienne de Montille. Yung Kee, the legendary Cantonese restaurant famous for its roast goose among many other classic dishes, has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, so I was quite interested to see whether those negative publicity has any impact to the overall quality of food.

The dinner was held in a private room on the VIP Floor, one level above their regular 3-story restaurant. I had never eaten in this more intimate and quieter section so that's yet another reason we were curious to come. Of course, the main attraction was still the wines being presented, which came from the two estates Etienne owned and actively managed - the Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet he worked and later acquired, and Domaine de Montille that he inherited from the family.

We started with the unforgettable century eggs with pickled ginger as amuse bouche - many swore this is one of the best in town. Century eggs - with its alkali flavor - always posed a tricky problem in terms of wine matching, but the simple and tangy white (the 2008 St Aubin Premier Cru En Remilly from Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet) seems to work quite well to a balancing effect. This little dish has always been my all-time favorite at Yung Kee and it still is.

The three appetizer dishes were served sequentially and in small portion - I liked both the steamed bean curd sheet with shrimp roes and the deep-fried prawn with mini crab roes (aka 禮雲子 in Chinese). I love the texture of the first dish - bean curd sheet was rolled, filled with shrimp roes, tied and then deep-fried, and presented in thin slices. And the second dish was well-cooked too with distinct umami flavors from both the prawn itself and the crab roes. Well I had a little reservation about the third one - the classic deep-fried crab claw coated with mashed shrimps. There's nothing wrong with the ingredients - in fact I think they were sumptuous with generous portion, but my only complaint was I prefer a more golden color of the deep-fried batter giving it a richer taste.

The dinner was followed by two more seafood dishes - I think the spotted grouper was cooked perfectly, even though I found the meat a little bit soft and mushy. But overall I think it's quite delicious. The sauteed scallops with broccoli may look like a simple home-style dish but I enjoyed this very much as well.

We went with the two Meursaults from Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet for our seafood dishes - the 2008 village and the 2009 from the Premier Cru climat of Poruzots. At first I pretty much preferred the 2008 one with a welcoming citrus note, some minerals and overall more balanced, then the 2009 (even it's from a Premier Cru vineyard), which I think it's still a bit too young to drink. But given some time the 2009 did open up a bit more for a rounded, complex flavor with that acidic sharpness gradually dissipated.

We were then served a couple meat dishes to go with some red wines. I was looking forward to the gold coin chicken but turned out it's a disappointment somewhat. I was looking for something rich, juicy and a good greasy flavor from that of the chicken liver and the pork fat, but what we had was too dry and too lean to my liking. This was certainly a far cry from the one we used to love at the good old Manor Restaurant (we were still in mourning over the restaurant's sudden closure late last year)

Another dish - the smoked pork belly with pine nut - fared quite a bit better - at least there's more fat to show forth and I love that smoky taste - my guess would be the pork was smoked with pretty strong Chinese tea before serving. They even gave the dish a very poetic name - calling this the heavenly misty pork (雲霧肉).

Conventionally for Cantonese dinner, roasted food was served first as the first course, but this time, the signature roast goose was served at the end just before dessert, possibly to accommodate the wine order. Yung Kee's Roast Goose need no introduction - well, the one we had, while I think it's rich and flavorful, somehow I got the part near the breast area that was quite tough to chew on. Also I personally preferred the skin to be roasted crisp - here it's not. To me this was quite average, especially compared with other dishes we had this evening.

The rice - cooked wrapped in lotus leaf - was another simple dish but gorgeously done. Rice was cooked and fried just right - not too dry, not too oily. There aren't too many ingredients inside but it's full of flavor, even with a hint of lotus leaf aroma.

For wines, we started with a simpler Monthelie Rouge from the Chateau de Puligny Montrachet property, before moving on to two additional ones from Domaine de Montille. The first one certainly represented an awesome value for a well-crafted Burgundy and was very easy to drink - light-bodied with restrained fruitiness (mainly red berries and hawthorns) and medium finish. Of course, most of us at the table were more excited about the two Domaine de Montille wines. While I think the 2006 Beaune Greves has the balance and finesse and actually very approachable now already, I personally prefer the older Volnay - the Premier Cru Mitans from 1997 vintage - this evening. I think it matured beautifully with rounded tannins, ripe red fruit dominated palate with a hint of earthiness and a long, pleasant finish.

This is an evening with great wines and decent food, and we enjoyed the company sitting next to one of the top winemakers of this new generation. I went home feeling jolly and tipsy, and right on time for a power nap before getting up early for the World Cup semi-final game.

I have put the rest of the photos on my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157645602427034/

When? July 9 2014
Where? Yung Kee, 32 Wellington Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Steamed Bean Curd Sheet with Shrimp Roes (蝦子蒸扎蹄), Smoked Pork Belly with Pine Nuts (松子雲霧肉)
Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet St Aubin Premier Cru, En Remilly 2008
Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Meursault 2008
Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Meursault Premier Cru, Poruzots 2008
Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Monthelie Rouge 2008
Domaine de Montille Beaune Premier Cru, Les Greves 2006
Domaine de Montille Volnay Premier Cru, Mitans 1997

Web: www.yungkee.com.hk

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