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Private dining at Au Petit Salut

June 26, 2009

I found myself back again at Au Petit Salut last evening, 24 June 2009, but this time upstairs at their private dining lounge, on the occasion of a colleague’s success (I shan’t elaborate). We had liaised ahead with the chef Karl (who had also handled the private dining affair at Monk’s Hill back in 2006 when I celebrated my promotion), who had prepared a special menu. The private dining lounge was spacious, and immediately exuded a very welcome feel with its sophisticated use of understated colors and furnishing. Karl @ Au Petit Salut

While Karl kept himself busy with a continuous flow of various amuse-bouches, we began with a 2000 Dom Perignon that started the evening off perfectly, the nose already very open, with just the right mix of citrus, minerality, zest and body. Certainly not the sort of heavyweight champagne exemplified by Krug; this had a touch of delicacy that did not intrude into the subsequent whites.

The superb double entree of Hokkaido scallops carpaccio and angel hair pasta (with mud crab and scampi tail) served as the perfect foil for the pair of New World chardonnays that followed: 2005 Talbott Diamond Estate Monterey County (Kieron) and 2002 Giaconda. Both were light-golden in color, with the latter being heavier in tone. However, in terms of flavours and complexity, the Talbott appeared to have the edge, displaying lifted aromas of peach, caramel, and notes of freshly roasted cashews. Amazingly complex, yet showing off its nuances in the most elegant and subtle manner. Fantastic purity, superb balance, not a hint of oak anywhere, ending on an understated note of lychee that lingered almost indefinitely. The Giaconda was similar in some respects – excellent body, creamy, soft, pure, with sophisticated handling of wood, ending on a strong lychee note, but overall, less exuberant than the Talbott. I couldn’t help but noticed a whiff of “yeast” at the beginning, which blew off. Both gained greater complexity and weight in the glass, although the Talbott nose faded slightly over time. One would be hard-pressed to identify these as New World chardonnays in a blind tasting. Absolutely superb, but the Talbott definitely held the edge. I’d venture to say it’s even better than Kistler. Period.

The lineup @ Au Petit SalutFor the main course of Black Angus ribeye, we paired the 1993 & 1995 Tertre Roteboeuf (the latter courtesy of PS). The wines from this St-Emilion estate, attaining almost cult status, may seem rustic in their youth, but this pair had developed beautifully with time. 1993 may have been a wet year, but the hallmark of a great chateau is its ability to make good wines even in weak vintages, as this 1993 can attest to: bright red, aromas of mature red and dark fruits, good body, soft, just lacking the richness and intensity one would find in an excellent vintage, as exemplified by the 1995, which was darker, throwing off a bouquet that was immediately biger and layered with luxuriant dark fruits, chocolate and coffee. Full-bodied, mouth-filling, wonderful depth, ending with fine sophisticated tannins and a savoury finish. I was glad to have the opportunity to taste these two.

We ended the evening with the 1996 Leoville Poyferre (Kieron) to go with the delectable selection of cheese. You cannot mistake the powerful, penetrating nose – laden with graphite, tobacco, cigar, and so-called notes of lead pencil shavings in great abundance – as anything apart from classic St Julien. You would not even have mistaken it for a Pauillac. Absolutely intense and huge, ending on a savoury note. Clearly has plenty of legs left. I’d leave it – as a matter of fact, any 1996 – alone for another 10 years, at least.  Superb.

This had been a superb evening of wining and dining, and I’m infinitely grateful to the host for his kind generosity. The only letdown was the coffee, which led to some dyspepsia overnight, but that was, nonetheless, worth the evening’s experience!

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