Friday, November 30, 2012

Finally, Serious Ramen in Alabang: Yushoken Ramen

This past Tuesday, the 27th November 2012, through Elbert's kind invitation, Catha & I and some friends were fortunate to have had a sneak peek at the soon-so-fully-open Yushoken Ramen at the Molito Mall, Alabang. In our group, we were eight in all: Sanju & Cutie Gopaldas, Matt & Chinkee Koppe, Cyrene de la Rosa, Alex "El Demonio" Tiu, and Catha & I.

Yushoken partners Elbert Cuenca & Ryan Cruz.

The partners seem to have left no stone unturned, from the typically Japanese highly specialized, compact ramen house menu (in collaboration with and under the guidance of Koji Tashiro, a disciple of revered ramen master Yamagishi Kazuo), to strictly no-shortcut pork leg bone-based broth, among many other details - Elbert showed hindi lang siya pang-steak, pang ramen pa.

The staff busy at work.
Recommendations by Elbert & Ryan.

Aside from the ramen on offer, the menu includes typical ramen house side dishes such as the immediately above depicted Aji Tamago, a halfway-boiled egg marinated in a soy-based sauce. Per Elbert, ramen houses in Japan usually serve these already sliced, but he decided to allow his diners the pleasure of slicing for themselves.

Sanju slices.
Sheer perfection.

The ubiquitous Gyoza is also on offer, but this is, to my mind, clearly a cut above the rest. I do not really eat gyoza, but this one I liked (and had quite a few of). The dough is gracefully thinner than usual and has a nice crispness to it without at all being "makunat". The pork stuffing is surprisingly light-footed and well - but discreetly - seasoned. Very nice indeed.

Miso Ramen
The Miso Ramen is more deeply flavored and complex than the run-of-the-mill locally available, yet, again, the distinctive traits are subtle and, I'd even say thought-provoking. The differences don't hit you like a ton of bricks (as that would be vulgar); rather, they emerge gently, surfacing more with each spoonful of goodness, with each chopstick-aided bite of the al dente noodles - and well they should. In this seemingly simple sounding and looking dish, no less than 7 different kinds of miso are used to achieve the desired balance of flavors.

Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen
The Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen was one of my most favored of the night - the pork bone broth so deeply flavored but without being overwhelmingly or ponderously fatty. Truth to tell, the tasty viscosity is borne of the pork bones' gelatin rather than fat. The pork slab is tender and moist with good searing, lending a subtle smokiness to the luscious broth. All the flavor with less of the guilt. Lovely stuff.

In the meantime, Alex had arrived, naturally bearing bottles of alcohol - this time of Kiuchi Brewery Junmaishu Saké, a solid, reliable, very accessible and all-too-easily drinkable basic saké (55%-60% polished-down rice) - one of several by Kiuchi Brewery distributed by our drinking buddy, Jim Araneta, through his Global Beer Exchange.

Needless to state, with Alex's arrival began the first of countless "iki" (i.e., a Japanese imperative, when used in drinking, roughly meaning "bottoms up") toasts of the night. Elbert, having before witnessed both the speed, sheer volume, and alarming frequency of Alex's and Sanju's combined iki activities, wisely had his staff hide his bottles of Hibiki.

Tan-Tan Men
The Tan-Tan Men's broth's nutty sesame paste flavors are much more graceful and not as overwhelmingly oily or heavy as that of Ukkokei Ramen Ron. I mentioned to Cyrene that I liked this one much better than even 1 Michelin starred Din Tai Fung's in Hong Kong.

With Sanju, Cyrene, and I at the same table, I was a bit concerned about Cutie having to wait for photos to be taken before digging in. She assured me that, having been married to Sanju for well over a decade, she is already quite used to the blogsters' drill.

Hiyashi Chuka
The Hiyashi Chuka is a cold ramen that happens to be Catha's favorite ramen of all. I favor it as well, especially during summer - a bowl of hiyashi having saved my life once in the midst of a gruelingly hot day on the Riviera's Bernhard Langer course many years ago.

We were getting stuffed and had to stretch our legs every so often.
Gyokai Tsukumen
We also sampled two of the tsukumen (i.e., dipping ramen), one of which was the Gyokai Tsukumen. This was another of my favorites of the night, the fish based broth so rich and deeply savory. There were also small, tender chunks of enriching beef within. I'll surely have this, among others, again when I return with my sons. I'm sure they'll love this as well.

Kiuchi Brewery Hitachino Nest White Ale
Naturally, this being a Japanese meal, Sanju & I simply had to bring along bottles of our favorite Japanese white ale. We quickly and easily polished off our 12 bottles of these. Happily, this best seller of a Japanese ale shall also soon be available at Yushoken Ramen.

Smile! Say "Iki"!

Needless to state, Catha and I, and several friends also denizens of Metro Manila's southern suburbia, are ecstatic that we finally have a real-deal, serious ramen house in our proverbial backyard. I am certain that this will do great here. Thanks again and congratulations to Elbert and Ryan! Kampai! Iki! Until the next!

The Stockbroker's Belated Birthday Dinner.

The Stockbroker's been spending time in Vancouver, so he was away during his birthday. A couple of weeks ago, he called for a small get-together at The Goose Station, during which he treated us to dinner in belated celebration. Naturally, on the appointed date, Wednesday, the 28th November 2012, we sallied forth, armed with our bottles, prepared for vinous battle.

As usual with our get-togethers with the guys, we started off with some bubblies:

Segura Viudas Heredad Brut Cava - Light-footed, bright, steely, dry, piquant green apple, white grapefruit and citrus, turns lightly creamy in the middle and towards the back. A whisper of green bean there somewhere. Slightly heftier than many other cavas I've had, but not as much as the Freixenet Reserva Real, but with zippy acidity. Good focus. Casually vivacious. More than just acceptable as an apéritif.

1997 Champagne Salon Brut Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil - The general theme here is again apple, but with a softer/softening pear and white peach underbelly, bit of toastiness, nice white minerality. Notable freshness and precision here. Curvy in feel as opposed to the comparatively linear preceding cava, and less dry as well. Very nice, and nicer still to have two such different bubblies at the same table.

The Stockbroker pours for Rene.

The amuse bouche trio was made up of the signature Foie Gras Cone (which I ate before remembering to photograph), Lumpiang Hubad (left), and Kilawin na Tuna Spring Roll (right). With the latter two, I had the cava as its dryness and bright citrus and acidity made for a better pairing.

Next up was the Caviar Parfait: White Asparagus Flan, Crab Jelly, Yuzu-Uni Sauce, Crab Meat, & Avruga.

With this, because of the more substantial white asparagus flan and crab jelly, and the sweetishly fresh crab meat, I turned to the vintage champagne.

Meanwhile, Rene had opened some of the reds to slowly breathe.
Rob was hands-on that night, and checked in on us every so often.

With "An Obsession with Asparagus": Terrine of Shaved and Compressed "Olive Oil" Green Asparagus with Truffle Mushroom Flan, Sunflower Seeds, Asparagus Ice Cream, Spheres and Swirls, & Mocha Froth, we turned to a bottle of 2008 Domaine Huet Le Mont Demi Sec - (ordered off the restaurant's wine list, the Stockbroker's Premium Wine Exchange distributes Domaine Huet's wines  locally) looking through my old notes, I realize that it's been almost a year since I've had this wine (I've had other vintages in the interim). From my last notes:

One thing notable about this particular single vineyard Vouvray Demi Sec (i.e., "off dry"; 100% chenin blanc; Le Mont is Domaine Huet's premier vineyard, producing the comparatively deepest, lushest fruited wine - the other two being Le Haut Lieu and Clos du Bourg), is that it is so food friendly and versatile in its, clean, vibrant/exuberant, membrillo, ripe pineapple, citrus fruit; its thrilling acidity; razor-sharp focus; and, impeccable poise and balance. It does just as well with richer seafood dishes as it does with foie gras...
Now, the wine's aromas seemed more honeyed, with a sweet truffle topnote, and seemed marginally fleshier as well. Still a delicious and eminently drinkable wine. Lovely. Because of its versatility, I continued with it with the next dish of...

Green Eggs & Ham: Salad of Liquid Herbs, Pancetta, Pickled Beetroot Purée, & Mushrooms.

With the Scallop with Pork "Bourguignon": Pan-Seared Scallops, Pork Trotter "Bourguignon", Tzatziki,Watercress Emulsion, & Fennel, we then enjoyed...

1968 Comapañia Vinicola del Norte de España (CVNE) Imperial Gran Reserva - the Stockbroker's bottle; an extra special treat for we whom he well knows love aged tintos Riojanos. Sublime bouquet and flavors of cedar, violets, deep ripe strawberry, red cherry, bit of plum, with blackcurrant underneath, and a light hint of balsamico. A light-bodied red, just a bit of bottle-age sweetness to the ethereally silken red fruit essence. There is a suggestion of earthiness to this. What a treat. Wonderful.

File photo since I, again, ate before taking a shot.
Foie Gras Taho: Foie Gras Chawan Mushi and Pedro Ximénez Sherry Reduction and Tapioca, which I ate before remembering to take a photo. Because of the pedro ximénez reduction, I had this sans wine.

The meat course was A3 Grade Wagyu with Haricots Verts, Light Jus, & Smoked Mozzarella Mashed Potatoes - rare for me, as usual. There was, to my nose and palate, a bacon-like aroma and taste to this. I noted how difficult it is (for me, anyway) to get a steak this thin properly rare, but Rob managed it well. It may not look the best, but it sure did taste good, believe me.

Accompanying the wagyu steak was an extra special treat from Rob - a concession to our Filipino palates (we eat rice with pretty much anything) - Foie Gras Fried Rice. The reds for the meat that evening were...

1986 Château La Mission Haut Brion - Aaron's bottle. Maculine, somewhat burly, undeniably solid structure, the vintage's tannins give it a slightly rustic air. Typical dried herbs in the leather, black gravel, and tobacco nuanced deep, dark fruit. Long and strong, confident wine. A fine specimen of a Bdx '86, this has many, many years to go. Probably one of the best '86 Bordeaux rouge's I've had.

1981 Château Lynch Bages - My bottle. I've not had this before, but I've had its more famous brothers (e.g., '82, '85, '89, and '90) more than a few times. Though I've not had many from '81, in my experience, this seems to be an unjustifiably ignored vintage (the Stockbroker, who, most likely, has had materially more experience with '81 Bdx than I, shares the same perception).

This wine (well, bottle, anyway) is in fine form and shows no signs of being tired. Nicely rounded, with good, reasonably deep, precisely concentrated fruit, it is a light-heavyweight - more than halfway between medium and full body. Good Pauillac typicity too. At its reasonable price (thanks to precipitate predictions of certain professional reviewers), it's definitely a repeat buy for me. This is a good Lynch Bages.

It being a working day the next day, Rene's bottle of 2000 Carruades de Lafite was handed a suspended sentence and shall, perforce, be enjoyed at another meal.

Dessert was a "Chocolate Plate" from Sunshine's recent "Dessert for Dinner" menu. It's simple, straightforward name is belied by its rich indulgence. Loved it. Enough said.

Many thanks again to the Stockbroker for such a fine, fine dinner, wines, and even finer company. Belated Happy Birthday anew, buddy. It's great to have you back in Manila. Until the next!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

La Commanderie de Bordeaux Manila (Gala) Château Palmer Dinner.

Saturday night, the 24th November 2012, was La Commanderie de Bordeaux Manila's Château Palmer Gala Dinner at the Peninsula Hotel Manila's Old Manila, the induction of new members being held at the hotel's Salon de Ning.

The new members, led in a toast by Maître Felicia Atienza (5th from left), included French Ambassador, H.E. Gilles Garachon (far left), Freddie Pio de Roda, Richard Joye, and Ricky Delgado  (4th, 7th, and 8th from left, respectively).

Commandeurs Richard, Freddie, Juan Carlos, & Romy.
Standing: Alex Lichaytoo & Cecilio Pedro.
La Commanderie-IWFS Table.
Sheila Ramos et al. at La Commanderie-EO Table with...
...Don & Dorothy Santos.
Karen Davila & Anton San Diego.

Above, Vice Maître Edouard Miailhe introduces the evening's honored guest, Château Palmer's Director for Marketing & Communications Bernard de Laage de Meux.

Bernard gave a brief talk on Château Palmer's history, terroir, & philosophy, with special mention of the Miailhe family's past part-ownership of and involvement in the château.

The Menu
The evening's dishes & wines.
An amiable 2007 Alter Ego de Palmer to start, with...
Venison Carpaccio, Poached Quail Eggs, Juniper Emulsion, Pine Nuts  & Sourdough Crunch.

Our table above; the Old Manila staff took great efforts in dressing the place up like Château Palmer.

Catha, Ambassador Gilles Garachon, & Barbara Aboitiz.
Smoked Magret, Forest Berry Compote, Foie Gras Sauce, Celeriac Mousse...
...with a more substantial 2005 Alter Ego de Palmer.
Bernard then discussed each vintage in detail.

2003 Château Palmer - The most open of those served, warm, richly ripe, concentrated - typical of the vintage, yet with a notable soft earthiness, and markedly better over-all balance than most all other 2003 Bordeaux that I've had. I also paired this with the magret de canard, and the wine did very nicely; its warm earthiness running with that of the duck and celeriac mousse, its deep red fruit playing nicely with the forest berry compote.

2001 Château Palmer - Named by many as the one that showed best that evening, with quietly serious, commanding, yet suave palate presence, remarkable structure, pensive depths, and striking balance. It seems like the 2001 has it all. I've followed this since around 2006 or 2007, and was impressed from the start. This, to my mind, should continue to improve and will last for many, many years.

1999 Château Palmer - Fruitier and feminine compared to the 2001 and 1995, with brighter acidity and more pronounced violets on the nose. This is no lightweight, though, as it is possessed of proper heft and structure together (see: my last notes on the 1999) with its comparatively more amiable, charming character. I'd say this will plateau much sooner than the 2001.

1995 Château Palmer - As when I had it last on the 14th March 2012:

The 1995 Palmer, in contrast (referring to the 1995 Gazin), was already nicely open, with notable typicity in nose and on palate. Nice ripeness in its more-than-halfway-to-full body, deep, dark, well layered fruit (cassis, dark plum, cherries, bit of raspberry) infused with notes of slight licorice, truffle, cedar, violets and underlying warm asphalt. Warm, familiar and comforting. Very nice and will surely improve in years to come.
Last night, the '95 was good, a bit rustic compared to the 2001, but still seemed to have to "come together" for me - such that I can't yet, even at this point, get a good handle on it.

As discussed with Bernard and Richard later in the evening, though there are some 1995s that seem to be delivering the vintage's hype (e.g., such as the 1995s of Châteaux Pichon Lalande, Grand Puy Lacoste, and, with hours of decanting for aeration, La Mission Haut Brion), most seem to be either still be deciding what to be when they grow up or so closed and ungiving that I wonder if they will ever come around (the 1995 Ducru Beaucaillou immediately comes to mind in the latter case, and, to a certain extent, the 1995 Mouton Rothschild).

I mean, I know well that top growths need time to show their proverbial stuff, but, at 17 years from harvest, I do not think it is entirely unreasonable to expect to see even a glimpse of light at this stage.

The meat course was Slow-Cooked Angus Beef Tenderloin, Chèvre Gnudi (i.e., ricotta dumplings), Glazed Beetroot, Sautéed Snow Peas, & Truffle-Scented Wild Mushroom Sauce.

My seatmates Gaille Marquet & Sevrine Miailhe.

The cheese course was La Trappe d'Echourgnac with Hazelnut-Grape Salad. La Trappe d'Echourgnac is a walnut-reminiscent, pasteurized, cow's milk cheese made by Cistercian Trappist nuns in Echourgnac (approximately 70kms north-east of Bordeaux), in France's Dordogne Department of the Aquitaine region. I understand that only approximately 30% of this cheese makes it out of the Dordogne area, so Edouard really exerted special efforts (or caused others to exert such efforts, more likely) to get this to Manila.

The Heussaffs chat with Romy.
Dessert of Raspberry Mousse on Pistachio Dacquoise.

All the bottles of the 1983 Château Palmer were generously provided by Edouard's father, William-Alain Miailhe de Burgh. Quite light on the palate with lots of bottle-age sweetness to the red berry essence, vaguely walnut-skin like nuance, cedar, violets. Discreet sherry-reminiscent notes in a clipped finish. Drink up, Commandeurs. Bibamus, moriendum est. Deus nos omnes benedicat.

Alain & Edouard Miailhe with the Heussaffs.
Applause for the Old Manila staff.
Bordeaux, toujours Bordeaux!
Until the next!