Friday, 18 May 2012

An Afternoon of Food, Champagne and Company

It had been a while since I visited the Marina Mandarin hotel. Although one of my favorite Italian restaurants – the Ristorante Bologna – is located at the hotel, the Marina Mandarin had, for whatever reason, fallen off my radar. That was until a friend of mine invited me there for lunch -- to its Chinese restaurant, Peach Blossoms.

And a fine meal it was indeed, made more interesting by my dining mates, one of whom was Floriane Jacquart, a winemaker from Champagne, France. Floriane brought with him some very interesting wines for the meal.

Brut Mosaique and Rose from Champagne Jacquart were the first two aperitifs served. Made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the Brut Mosaique was a good conversation starter. Relatively light with a hint of orange flower, it was a great white for a hot humid afternoon, with a long-lasting fruity finish.

I have lately developed a soft spot for Rose; I find it a versatile drink especially for our weather. The Rose we had went well with our appetizer, particularly the prawn dumpling. The wasabi prawn however was a disappointment, as its crust didn’t live up to its supposed crispiness.  I was told that Rose is gaining popularity not only with the ladies but also the gentlemen of Europe and America. Seems if you wanna be hip, Rose is the way to go…

When it comes to roast pork belly, I have two ways of eating it: dipped in mustard, whose rich, creamy taste brings out the porky flavor after the initial crunch of the crispy skin. Or, eaten neat with a pairing champagne. This time round, the Chardonnay in Blanc de Blancs 2005 did its job well; its citrus notes cleansing the oily aftertaste of pork and leaving a lingering fragrance.

The stir-fried pork shoulder in Sichuan sauce was a disappointment, its taste reminding me of most of the Sichuan restaurants in Singapore in the 70s. Where was the taste of Sichuan pepper and bean paste? It was just mild, and lacked the punch of the authentic version. The pairing champagne, Brut Vintage 2002, had a top note of fresh butter that proved an ideal companion to the fiery dish. Too bad the dish couldn’t deliver…but the wine managed to hold its own.

It’s hard to find good cod in Singapore these days. Most cod tastes “frozen” and it is even worse when the meat is overdone. This steamed silver cod was passable. Brut de Nominee 1999 was delicate to the nose; where the first sniff reminded me of vanilla ice cream. The taste was complex yet light and lingered longer than I expected.

While cordycep is too expensive for day-to-day dining, its flower is more affordable and gaining popularity in most Chinese restaurants. The spinach was decent but I wished the stock used to cook it could have been richer. The last champagne was Brut Vintage 1996. It was by far my favorite of the day, with its hint of masculine tobacco on the nose, and the delicate taste of coffee on the taste buds.

When the fried rice with seafood was served, the first thing that came to my mind was “Where is the wok hei?” “Wok hei” is the breath of the Chinese wok and a crucial element of fried rice. So, while the rice grains were well cooked, marks were surely lost in my books for this crucial oversight.

The dessert was jelly with plum; which unfortunately, had the air of a half-thought through finale to the otherwise interesting lunch.

Peach Blossoms
Marina Mandarin Singapore
Raffles Boulevard

All champagnes are from Champagne Jacquart