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September 5, 2009

Aji burrataWhat are friends for? Well, they stand by you through thick and thin, they are great company, and when it’s time to push the boat out, you can count on them to do so with great style and panache, at Iggy’s, no less, now amongst the world’s Top 50 restaurants, and deservedly so. Only here can one find top notch service by knowledgeable staff who carry off their smart efficiency with effortless grace, almost re-defining the standards of “smart casual”, matched with impeccable wine service, and food that delights at every instance, yet remaining focused and fuss-free. The best part is, the restaurant has even surpassed itself on this very occasion. We took our usual places at the Chef’s Table amidst cheerful banter within the most relaxed atmosphere possible, and focused on the wonderful wine and food that were about to unfold.

The 1999 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses was, in every way, the perfect aperitif that immediately set the tone for the entire evening. Pale, but it had a intriguing bouquet right from the first pour, with lifted aromas of vanilla and caramel intermixed with soft, floral notes of white flowers. This led to a wine of great body and mouthfeel, almost creamy smooth, with the right level of minerality and soft citrus, intense yet balanced, without any sign of heaviness. Very, very classy. Even the staff at Iggy’s were impressed. With time, it began peeling off its outer layer, revealing deep layers of flavours and stunning complexity, taking on more weight, showing off bit of yeasty note, gaining greater expanse, yet all the while maintaining that wonderful balance, elegance and finesse. This is a great champagne. C’est magnifique!!

Summer Salad with Black Alba TrufflesThis was a perfect start to the evening’s menu, which kicked off with a series of Aji, Summer Salad with black truffles, Sanma, and Cappellini, which were washed down with a 2001 Batard-Montrachet from Domaine Leflaive. An aristocratic light golden in color, not unlike some Carrera marble lit by the morning glow, immediately exuding its class with a rich, intense sheen of chalk and transparent citrus that leapt out of the glass, occasionally allowing you a peek at its hidden riches. I’m reminded of the Berliner Philharmoniker strings. As it hit the right temperature, a deeper note eventually emerged, of cream and cashews, carrying more weight, yet maintaining that transparency down to its depths. It continued to develop and evolve right till the end, showing off sweet notes of longans and lychees, with a bit of a bitter-sweet pomelo finish. Superb.

A trio of outstanding reds took over the limelight, matching the suckling pig, lamb and wagyu beef perfectly. The 1990 Sassicaia, a true Bordeaux blend grown on Tuscan soil, was deep red with some lightening at the rim, exuding a very powerful nose of mint, spice, and liquorice. Notes of ripe, mature dark fuits laced with saccharine, with a trace of oak, were deeply evident on the palate. Very smooth and seamless, tapering to a soft, mellow finish. The initial impression was a wine reminescent of a St Julien, save for that atypical minty note of liquorice. Its true colors emerged with subsequent pours, revealing layers of smoke and blueberry, the mint having disappeared, with power and depth breaking through that very harmonious surface, tasting every bit like a St Julien or Pauillac. Great stuff.

Red #2, served blind, was a Burgundy, opened since 3.00 PM. That much was clear. Dusty but clear red. It proved stunning rght from the initial whiff. The impressions whirled around my mind fast and furious: intense, powerful, sweet, top drawer red fruits, deeply layered, of plums and “san cha”, superb mouthfeel, slick, “oily” (always a sign of greatness in a Burgundy), luxurious, very very long and lingering, minty finish. Unbelievably rich. Great concentration (not to be mistaken for “thickness”, definitely not here), focus and precision. Precision – that was the key word. Every component in place, or to use another metaphor – not a single strand out of place. With time, it developed a saccharine coating, without sacrificing any of that power or elegance. It brought us to our feet. This is a great, great wine. It’s Burgundian nirvana, experienced live. C’est parfait!!

The sacrificial lambComing after that, how can one move on from here? Red #3 proved that it’s possible! Again blinded. Deep red with a slight evolving rim. A very open, deep nose, with a hint of sweetness. One can sense, right away, the sizzling power and intensity beneath. Velvety sexy tannins, caressing the palate seductively. Great grip (!). Wonderful layers of rich fruit, with great concentration, as in Red #2, though with a tad less precision. Great control of power, finesse and elegance. One could tell it was not just an excellent claret. It contained too much breed and aristocracy. In a class of its own. I guessed a ’82 Mouton. Wrong. Something from 1994!! What on earth from that vntage could taste so good? I was reminded of a ’94 L’Evangile, and foolishly declared so (on hindsight, how could it be? [by then, we’d unveiled Red #2]). Actually, I was pretty close, geographically. Another great, great wine that I can never quite afford. Standing ovation, of course.

We closed the evening with a 1989 Dr Burklin-Wolf Beerenauslese. Very dark, tea-colored, but it had an excellent balance of apricot, honey, and nectar, although I felt the acidity was beginning to fade. Still tasting very well, nonetheless. I’m truly grateful to all who provided these riches – a very heartfelt merci beaucoup and danke. Wih Iggy’s rising above the occasion as well (with two additional courses thrown in for good measure), this dinner will be unforgettable.

Great wines deserve impeccable service


Red #2: 2002 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux

Red #3: 1994 Chateau Petrus

A wonderful sight

A fantastic lineup

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