Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Evening with Natural Wines

Nothing stopped us from assembling at our friend J and C's Interval Coffee Bar near LKF for a special natural wine dinner they organized despite the slight disruption of traffic in the city. The place has recently introduced the new bistro-style all-day menu and they hosted a one night event with a few of their courses paired with a few bottles from Radikon winery in Italy, considered one of the pioneers in the natural wine movement. So we went on the evening before the actual event for a preview and test run of sort.

The menu at the restaurant has now expanded with more options and more elaborate dishes - a few dishes in the original menu remained, like the udon cabonara with lap cheong (Chinese cured sausages), and there were a lot more new dishes, some drawn on local ingredients or cooking techniques. This evening we started with a couple finger snacks. First was the crispy uni sushi with sumptuous spread of sea urchins on a mini rice crisp (known as wo ba in Chinese), and on top, cream cheese which has been frozen and shaved, which added to the creamy texture to the rich umami flavor. Next was a piece of Chinese bao (man tao), deep-fried and served with prosciutto, thin slices of apple crisp and carrot powder, with the hint of sweetness matched well with the savory prosciutto.

Next two dishes were tasty despite served without meat. Thin threads of seasonal red and green vegetables (carrots and celtuce) were served like angel hair, with a generous splash to roselle vinaigrette dressing. The acidity from the dressing and the colorful garnishes of edible flowers and herbs greatly brightened up the dish. The Brussels sprout salad was served slightly warm, with Brussels sprouts roasted and charred, then tossed with shredded cabbage and apples. Just as colorful as the previous dish but with a smoky flavor.

After an off-menu snack of pickled baby squids, we had two main courses. The large piece of salmon fillet was perfectly done - roasted and finished with a quick sear on the pan skin down and pancetta emulsion sauce. The next course was the roast chicken thigh with sauteed local vegetables and bamboo shoots with barley risotto on the side. Both straight forward execution with rustic style cooking and interesting combination of ingredients. We finished with a slice of cheesecake done Basque style, milder in flavor but with a burnt top, served with macerated strawberries on the side.

Radikon winery located in Friulli in Northeastern Italy was known for its "orange wine", using white grapes going through skin maceration which gave the juice a tint of orange color due to prolonged skin contact. We started with Slatnik poured from a magnum which is a Chardonnay blend and went through long aging in large cask, has good mineral and gripping citrus on the palate.

A pair of single varietal ones from the same vintage were then poured side by side - first was Jakot, a play on the term "Tokaj" which has now been monopolized by Hungary winemakers using the Friulano grapes which were formerly known as Tokaj Friulano.  Second was Ribolla using another indigenous grape varietal called Ribolla Gialla. Both done similar with skin maceration in oak barrel and went through extra long aging, with Jakot being the one in lighter straw color but more intensity, and Ribolla deeper, nearer to orange but more gentle. We also got to try one of its reds, a mature merlot - low in tannin but rich in red fruits and some star anise and exotic spices; a bit wild on acidity but still very enjoyable, as a natural wine. A couple new friends at the table also shared with us 2 interesting bottles which we tasted blind, so we did wind up with a few more bottles than usual. But in this time of turmoil in our city, more (good) wines is perhaps what many of us needed to get through the week.

(Dinner was by invitation)

When? November 14 2019
Where? Interval Coffee Bar, 33 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Grilled Farm Chicken with Barley Risotto
2017 Radikon Slatnik Venezia Giulia IGT (en Magnum)
2014 Radikon Jakot Venezia Giulia IGT
2014 Radikon Ribolla Venezia Giulia IGT
2005 Radikin Merlot Venezia Giulia IGT
2015 Domaine L'Anglore Sels d'Argent Vin de France Blanc, Rhone
1989 Maison Gouillaud AOC Arbois Pupillin Rouge, Jura
Web: www.facebook.com/intervalcoffeebar/

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