19 August 2014

Weekend in Abu Dhabi

From the big city, Dubai, I went to the capital, Abu Dhabi, to visit my dear friend O.
A weekend of great fun with good food and wine was on the schedule.

Tired after spending the afternoon at the Yas Waterworld, we went to O's place for a couple of lagers and a few games of backgammon. Soon we opened up a bottle of 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from Seresin in Marlborough, New Zealand.
This wine is not over-perfumed and over-aromatic like a lot of New Zealand's sauvignon blanc tend to be. The, almost, artificial nose that I normally associate with this wine style can often be a bit too much.
The nose in this bottle showed a generous aroma of lemon confit, tinned white asparagus and melissa.
The super crisp acidity in this wine surely woke up our drowsy heads after the beers and the hot sun at the water park.

The hunger slowly sneaked up on us so we took a taxi to the hotel Fairmont Bab Al Bahr to visit Marco Pierre White Steakhouse and Grill.
This iconic chef is now known for opening numerous restaurants, using his famous name and for that get a big share of the profit without having anything to do with the operations or the food.
Normally not a recipe for a great restaurant but I have to say that the food in MPW was way beyond expectations. 
The restaurant serves classic British dishes with a twist and I must say the starters showed just that. Cooked to perfection and nicely presented. The steaks, which I believe, are what the restaurant is famous for, was presented in a more rustic way. I love steaks with simple condiments but it gave the overall experience missing the red line as the starters were so elaborated

After an 'amuse-bouche' of smoked duck breast with apple and candied walnuts we started off with a classic British combo; a pint of guiness and oysters, Kelly oysters to be more precise. These, native Irish oysters, were meaty and tasty and served with mignonette, lemon and tabasco. Classic!
The saltiness and umami flavors from the oysters combined with the sharp acidity from the vinegar toned down the bitterness in the stout and made the beer feel softer. Maybe that's the reason why so many like this combination?

2010 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru from Bonneau du Martray was now, after 20 minutes in the decanter, ready for our glasses. It was now perfectly tempered which helped the aromas to pop out. Deep yellow stone fruit aroma mixed with a touch of green capsicum followed by a medium fat structure with notes of hazelnut and butter and a slightly salty mineral note that tickled the tounge. Great wine and more or less perfect with all of the upcoming starters.

'Prawn cocktail' made from lightly poached Obsiblue prawns with Bloody Mary sorbet was a perfect, fresh start.

Next we got served black cod 'fish and chips' with minted pea purée, sauce gribiche, crispy quinoa and pickled onions. Once again a tasty dish.

Perfectly matching the wine we now had breaded scallop with smoked haddock and cauliflower purée, morels, bacon and poached quail egg.
The smokey, brandade-like purée, the morels and the bacon, all seemed to have been prepared just to match our wine. Match in heaven, so, so good!

With an hour plus in the carafe, next wine had started to sing beautifully. 
2008 The Line from Sine Qua Non in Ventura, California. Luxurious and complex, this grenache was showing an intense and rich herb character similar to the finest wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape together with crème de cassis, plum liqueur, tinned black olives and licorice.
Impressive wine but unfortunately not the easiest to get hold off. A few bottles of his syrah-based wines has passed my nose (and mouth) earlier but it was the first time I tried the Grenache from this iconic producer.

Together with this lovely bottle we ate Master Kobe 9+ steak with a few condiments; potato Dauphinoise, garlic sautéed mushrooms, crispy Parmesan and herb onion rings and triple cooked fries with truffle mayonnaise. 
The steak was good but maybe not as tender and tasteful as expected. Also the 'truffle'aroma in the mayo was purely from truffle oil which, I think, is only ok in small quantities as it easily gives the smell of gas rather than the aromatic fungus it is supposed to mimic.

After a cheese platter and two glasses of crisp albariño me and O were done.
Back to his apartment we ended the night as we started, with beers and backgammon.

The next evening we went to the recently opened Zuma Abu Dhabi. As it is a sister restaurant to my work place it feels hard to give the restaurant an impartial and fair judgement so I will just quickly mention the dishes and go more into details with the drinks. And that's how we started the evening, with two fresh cocktails crafted by the bar manager Mehmet.
We got served Hemingway Daiquiri and a cocktail made of gin, chartreuse, bitters and smoked rosemary.

Well seated we ordered a bottle of sake. Takasago Ginga Shizuku 'divine droplets' Junmai Daiginjo from Hokkaido.
This was a fairly rich sake without the typical melon and candy-shop aromas I often find in a Daiginjo. This was a more masculine style with notes of banana, mineral and salt. Still not overpowering in the mouth and it played well with our starters. This sake is made inside an igloo where they let the moromi gently drip from hanging bags instead of being pressed.

Sashimi platter; O'toro (fatty tuna belly), chu toro (semi-fatty tuna), yellowtail, sweet shrimp and Japanese red snapper together with fresh wasabi.

Tuna tataki with ponzu, pickled onion and garlic chips.

Tomato and eggplant salad

Seabass with yuzu, truffle dressing and ikura.
We also had yellowtail with ponzu and chili relish (no picture)

Wagyu beef tataki with truffle ponzu

Langoustine tempura with chili and yuzu mayonnaise

Salmon and tuna tartare with caviar and rice crackers.

Grilled taraba crab with shiso butter.

Next up was a rare bottle of pinot noir.
2004 Clos-Vougeot Grand Cru from René Engel.
This, highly rated producer, is no longer existing and this was the last vintage from the domaine. 
Light in color and very sensual and perfumed in the nose. I got a smoky, dirty berry note mixed with root vegetables and an aroma that reminded me of parmesan cheese, grated over a bowl of pasta bolognese. Extremely complex and refined with a silky, long finish. If you have the luck to find any of these rare bottles, buy!

Nigiri-zushi; unagi (barbecued eel), octopus and o'toro aburi-style.

Wagyu rib-eye with...

…japanese sweetcorn.

A bottle of crisp and honey-like Kirin Ichiban cleansed our palate before the desserts.

A big plate of sweet dishes ended our meal.

As we started, we ended in the bar. This time with two nice after dinner cocktails; espresso martini and a rum-based negroni.
A perfect end of a great weekend in Abu Dhabi.


08 August 2014

Home Alone 4

My wife was in New York so what better than spoiling myself with the most obvious of New York dish …a burger.
My goal was to make the perfect burger (if there is a such thing?).
I hand cut wagyu beef for the patty which I just seasoned with salt and pepper.
The bun was made with a buttery and rich, brioche-like dough, that I topped with Japanese sesame seeds.

I like tomato on my burger but to intensify it I made a home made, chunky ketchup. I used the inside jelly and seeds from more than 2 kg's of ripe tomatoes that I simmered until one and a half tablespoons of thick tomato concentrate was left. This paste was later mixed with sweet cocktail tomatoes that I dried in low temperature in the owen with garlic and thyme for a good 8-10 hours. The end result was super intense tomato flavor with a razor sharp acidity.

Apart from the 'tomato ketchup', all I added to the burger was a slice of cheddar cheese and crispy smoked bacon.

On the side; triple cooked fries with truffle mayonnaise that I made from Australian winter truffle. Probably the best truffle you can get this time of the year.

In the glass:
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Coup de Foudre. From Napa Valley, California, comes this massive cabernet sauvignon based red that is mixed with a dash of cabernet franc and petit verdot.
Rich, almost zinfandel-esque nose in the beginning, packed with sweet, jammy fruit; black berry coulis, black currants, vanilla and milk chocolate. With a bit of air, a more elegant tone started to show but it still was a very big wine and you could feel the 14.8% alcohol.
The tannins was pretty pronounced without being bitter and the length was very long. It would benefit from, at least, five more years in the cellar to soften the rough edges.