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Jay Labrador

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Kaiseki dinner and blind tasting

by Jay Labrador » Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:01 pm

I thought I was through with all the holiday parties by the first week of December (they seem to be getting earlier every year) but I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from Jojo for a sudden Japanese wine dinner at Yurakuen in Manila Diamond Hotel.

I’ve enjoyed dining at Yurakuen several times but the last time was over a year ago for an Ordre Mondial dinner. I’ve always been happy with the food there and I find the restaurant quite stunning, with a large artificial silver tree dominating the round space looking out onto a Japanese garden.

Apparently, this dinner was the idea of Cecile Ang who runs the hotel. So about 14 of us winos were treated to an exquisite kaiseki dinner, the price of admission being an interesting bottle of wine. Jojo immediately took charge of wine “service” as soon as he arrived; handing out paper bags to cover the bottles and announcing that it would be blind tasting for most of the wines. This, of course, ruled out any idea of matching wine with the food so we pretty much drank whatever was available in front of us regardless of the course being served. As mine was the only Champagne, it was the only bottle not served blind.

No ceremony was involved and so while waiting for the food to be served we plunged into the guessing game. First wine was from Richard. Being Swiss, he drew a Swiss flag on his paper bag. There were a few grumbles about him having brought a Swiss wine but a taste soon dispelled that notion. A rich and slightly honeyed white. I guessed Burgundy but it turned out to be a California Esprit de Beaucastel 2006 made with Rhone varieties of marsanne, rousanne and viognier. Of course, in hindsight it’s quite obvious I should have at least guessed Rhone.

Jojo’s red was next. Young. Old World. Bordeaux. A ’96? At least I got the region right, as did most of us, but we were way off on the year. Chateau Sociando-Mallet 1982. Remarkable wine. Still rich and tannic but very dry showing leather and tobacco notes.

David volunteered the next wine. Soft and sweet. Lightish. Most said Italy Brunello. I felt it was too light and soft for that so I went for California. Those who guessed Italy were right but it was the Super Tuscan Sassicaia 1999.

Gani’s red followed. Soft and spicy. Bordeaux. Seems Right Bank because of the softness. I got Bordeaux right but it was the Left Bank Calon Segur 1996 from St. Estephe.

Now it was Sandra’s turn. Huge, sweet, dark, oaky wine. Definitely Australia. Some said Napa. I took a chance and named the wine. I called out Mollydooker and said either Velvet Glove or Carnival of Love. I finally nailed one! It was the Mollydooker Carnival of Love 2009.

We went back to a white with Mark’s wine. Pale. Riesling from Alsace or, because of a faint hint of lychee possibly Gewurztraminer. Mark gave us a hint saying the wine was made specifically for Japanese food. The hint was enough for me to name the wine again. Domaine Mittnacht Gyotaku from Alsace. I forgot to take note of the vintage. So two in a row for me.

Reds again starting with Greg’s bottle. Acidic and leafy. Bordeaux. For some reason I didn’t take note of what I or others guessed on this.

Laraine’s contribution was next up. Dark, rich, jammy. New World? Wrong. I don’t think anyone even came close on this one. This was Psi 2009 from Ribera del Duero, 100% tempranillo and the 3rd wine the cult Spanish winery Pingus.

Jack’s turn came next. Very dark. Minty. Napa? Possibly Dunn? Some discussion with Jojo confirmed that it was certainly possible. Wrong. It was a Reschke Coonawarra Cabernet 2004 from Australia.

Unfortunately, after Jack’s wine, my handwriting deteriorated to the point that I can no longer make out my notes so my apologies to Cecile and Aldo. I do remember guessing Aldo’s wine to be from Alsace (Leon Beyer Gewurztraminer judging by the pictures) and Cecile’s wine to be a California Chardonnay (Brewer-Clifton?) but that’s as far as I can recall. Bad form, I know, especially since Cecile was our host, but the rather rowdy guessing made it difficult to get everything down on paper, especially after a couple of glasses. Good thing we were in a private room and not the main dining room.

Martin’s was the last wine and somehow I managed to scribble some coherent notes on this. New World. Blueberry jam. Torbreck Woodcutter 2009.

Laraine also pulled out another bottle. Soft and syrupy. A Portuguese wine, Chryseia 2006 from the Symighton Group of Port fame. Some were hankering for more wine even after all of that so I obliged with a Sherry Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada by Bodegas Hidalgo.

Image
DSCF3338 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

A word on the food. The whole dinner was quite traditional showing the various techniques of Japanese cooking and served sequentially in many small portions.

Image
DSCF3321 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

The aperitif was sweet plum wine with sweet-salty soy beans.

Image
DSCF3322 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

The appetizer was very interesting although the description might not be too appetizing to some. Salted and fermented entrails of sea cucumber, squid cone pine with scallop and egg yolk in one dish and marinated octopus in wasabi with yam and salmon egg topped with dried seaweed in another dish. The flavors of these dishes were quite strong and salty and the texture can be challenging but as an appetizer portion, it works quite well.

Image
DSCF3323 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

The sashimi course was young yellow tail tuna, salmon and tuna. Good but perhaps not the best sashimi around.

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DSCF3324 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Nimono or a stewed dish was next. A shrimp and asparagus roll, kelp with yam, pumpkin and carrot flower. This was very good. Nimono doesn't get a lot of press but the earthy, sweet and salty flavors here made for a sophisticated dish.

Image
DSCF3325 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Next was a grilled dish of premium Japanese beef to be grilled by the diner on an iron cylinder. This was accompanied by gindara teriyaki. We didn't ask if the beef was wagyu or what grade etc. but I can say it was beautiful beef. Very tender and flavorful. Three dipping sauces were also supplied for the beef. I was lucky enough that our table got an extra helping of this dish!

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DSCF3326 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Grilling the beef on the iron "lump."

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DSCF3327 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

A steamed dish was next. Chawanmushi with uni (sea urchin).

Image
DSCF3328 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

A fried dish was presented next. Fried grouper and stingray fin. I've never had stingray Japanese style before so this was a first. This was probably the least interesting dish. I thought maybe a tempura would have better shown the expertise of the chef with this technique.

Image
DSCF3329 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Sunomono or a dish in vinegar came next. Japanese oyster with marinated sweet shrimp, pickled radish and orchids. The shrimp here was extremely fresh and sweet, like it had been just pulled out of the sea moments before serving.

Image
DSCF3333 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

For the Japanese, a meal isn't a meal unless it has rice and so we have the obligatory rice dish. Instead of the usual bowl of rice with pickles, we were served congee with pickles. Excellent flavor in the congee. Not bland at all.

Image
DSCF3334 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Lastly, dessert. As Diamond Hotel runs an excellent pastry shop with branches at Rockwell and Bonifacio High Street (Cake Club), this was definitely something to look forward to.

Image
DSCF3336 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Many thanks to Cecile for putting this together and to Jojo for the blind tasting. I believe the group has agreed to do another one in January also at Yurakuen. Looking forward to it!
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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aka Doris

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Re: Kaiseki dinner and blind tasting

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:24 pm

Great write-up and wonderful photos.

"Mollydooker" Jay :mrgreen:...... You will not live that down!
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Jay Labrador

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J-Lab's in da house!

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Re: Kaiseki dinner and blind tasting

by Jay Labrador » Mon Dec 17, 2012 9:28 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:Great write-up and wonderful photos.

"Mollydooker" Jay :mrgreen:...... You will not live that down!


Thanks, Bob. Glad you enjoyed. On the Mollydooker, yeah, maybe I shouldn't boast about that!
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Brian Gilp

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Re: Kaiseki dinner and blind tasting

by Brian Gilp » Mon Dec 17, 2012 9:59 pm

Gani’s red followed. Soft and spicy. Bordeaux. Seems Right Bank because of the softness. I got Bordeaux right but it was the Left Bank Calon Segur 1996 from St. Estephe.


Really? Second note I have seen recently indicating that the Calon may be maturing faster than anticipated. Considering I have a few of these, guess I should try one soon. Thanks.

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