Monday, October 3, 2022

Familiar Guest Chef Appearance

Seeing Chef Alex Fargas at his guest chef gig at our clubhouse reminded me of the time when i was the "guest chef" at his restaurant La Paloma in one Sunday a few years ago. They have been running this series for a while, bringing in guest chefs for a period of time with special items available either in a la carte menu or themed dinner, and they proved to be hugely popular. 

With the tables booked up within minutes, I guess we were lucky to secure one on this one-evening-only event when Chef Alex hosted the wine dinner with the Spanish winery La Rioja Alta. Not my first time joining a "virtual wine tasting" with the winemaker/sommelier conducting a guided tasting session over Zoom, but I am still getting used to it. At least the wines were real and we all learned something about the history of the winery and their wine lineup. 

Then there came the 5-course dinner menu with wine pairings. We began with the nice 60-month Jamon Ballota and then toasts served in traditional tapas style with tomatoes and garlic served on the side so guests can rub them on the bread to eat with a gentle drizzle of olive oil. Then it's our first appetizer of carabinero carpaccio with Spanish caviar. The thinly sliced red prawn was covered with the rich tomalley sauce and a generous quenelle of caviar. Love the freshness of the ingredients and the intensity of the sauce and caviar combined. 

Tomato and Anchovies made simple yet delicious dish and here chef decided to mix it up with a few different varieties of tomatoes for the refreshing flavor. Perfect for hot summer nights. And we finished with not one but two main courses. The Rubia Gallega beef tenderloin was the one I anticipated most with the prized beef known for its rich meaty flavor, but this time I had to tip my hat to the pork dish instead, with the slices Iberico Pork from "Secreto" cut (usually from shoulder hidden from the fatty neck - hence the name) with nice marbling fat and done tender, served with broccolini and a brush of romesco sauce. The beef was actually a close second, served with wine sauce reduced with meat jus and crispy potatoes on the side. My only complaint was it's a little too lean. 

Usually for wine dinner like this the dessert is more like an after-thought, but I actually thought their dessert of warm apple tart with peanut butter ice-cream was very enjoyable. And back to the wine pairings, Chef Alex did make some thoughts on the menu with the first couple of dishes working well with the albarino then with a few Riojas served in reverse chronological order. Of course, the 2011 vintage of the Gran Reserva 904 was the winner in terms of overall quality - lovely red fruits all over, with some prunes, balsamic and nice tannins. But one couldn't beat the value of their entry-level 2018 Vina Alberdi Reserva - super aromatic, fruity with some oak. Good to have it young for the bright notes. 

It was a fun night with cozy atmosphere, plenty of wines to go around and nice food, and come to think of it, maybe it's time that I nudge Chef Alex to let me do the guest chef thing again some time.

When? September 22 2022
Where? Gascoigne Room at United Service Recreation Club, 1 Gascoigne Road, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Red Prawn Tartare with Spanish Caviar
2021 Lagar de Cervera Albarino, Rías Baixas, Spain
2018 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva, Rioja, Spain
2015 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardana Reserva, Rioja, Spain
2014 La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain
2011 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904, Rioja, Spain
(Chef Alex Fargas/La Paloma)

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