Once in a while a group of my friends gather to have a wine dinner; where everyone brings a bottle or bottles they want everyone to taste. It can be a wine we never had before or a wine that we had and liked before. We chose to go to The China House Chinese restaurant at The Oriental Hotel.
The Oriental Hotel is the most famous hotel in Thailand and one of the best in Asia. The China House is in an old colonial style house. After the renovations, the 'new' China House looks stunning. We rarely come to the China House because it is a bit far from where we live; so we finally had good reason to do so.
The first dish we had was caviar. I know, its not Chinese. A friend brought this for all of us to taste. It was brought from Iran and it was about 8 ounces. We could not resist trying it. As usual, the service at the Oriental was amazing. They took the caviar and put it into a bowl of ice. They brought freshly made blinis and complements of minced boiled eggs, minced onion, chives and lemon. I do not like adding all those extra stuff on the caviar, it ruins the taste. Maybe a bit of lemon is all I add. The caviar was not pasturised; so it had a unique texture and taste.
We first had a bottle of champagne; Francoise Bedel, 'Entre Ciel et Terre', Brut. A nice champagne with delicate and small bubbles. As usual, its always nice to start the evening with a glass of good champagne.
The first dish was deep fried string beans with sesame seeds and chili. Nicely deep fried to a golden brown, a nice thin coating to give the beans a good crunch and the bean had a very nice taste. A very nice starter and it went well with the champagne.
The next starter was a vegetarian spring roll. Instead of having rice paper as a wrapping, the chef used cucumber. A refreshing dish, but actually had no taste to it. Lots of crunch from cucumber, carrots, lettuce and sprouts. The ginger and soy sauce on top of the spring roll was the only touch of flavour.
The next dish was glazed chicken with glazed peanuts for extra flavour and texture. A very nice dish. The glaze was subtle and not overly sweet. The meat was tender and juicy.
The next bottle opened was a 2002 Juve y Camps Cava Reserva de la Familia. I am a big fan of Cava, especially after taking drinking so much of it in Spain. So, I was disappointed that the Juve was a bit strange tasting. I could not really say why or what was disturbing, but it was not a good addition to this dinner.
The next dish was Peking Duck. One of the deadliest dishes on earth for the heart and cholesterol. But, it happens to be one of my favourite dishes as well. I cannot resist a couple pancakes stuffed with the peking duck. It is always fun to watch the 'duck expert' artfully carve the duck skin off the duck.
The 'duck expert' preparing the pancakes after carving the duck skin.
The pancake was also stuffed with a slice of cucumber and green onion and a dash of hoisin sauce. The combination of the tastes and textues are amazing.
The next dish was sauteed beef filets. Absolutely delicious. This had to the be star dish of the night. It was so good that we ordered another one. The beef was so tender. We were not sure how 'chinesie' this dish was, but we gave them the benefit of the doubt. It could have been fusion. But, we did not dwell on it too and enjoyed it fully.
The next dish was chinese spinache with out garlic. We have a friend who is allergic to garlic. Chinese spinache always has a nice flavour with a hint of bitterness. This was a good dish because the chef did not over cook the spinache and it was not overly oily as well.
The next wine was Brancaia Ilatraia (forgot the vintage). Nice aromas of blackberries, raspberries and hints of tar, was followed through to a full-bodied palate with good tannins and a long finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot. But it was way too oaky for our taste. Over whelming the drinking experience.
The next dish was a fish lightly steamed with light soy sauce, ginger and green onion. We have friends who are very sensitive to the way a fish is cooked. It better be a bit raw in the center of the fish near the bones. Many restaurants still over cook the fish and boy does that irritate my foodie friends. Luckily for the China House, they did not disappoint. The fish was cooked nicely and the sauce was light and full of flavour.
The next dish was noodles with seafood. An ok dish; but, I thought it was lacking something. Spiciness was missing as well. A bit bland for my taste. I had to ask for chili oil to add some uummph to the dish.
The last dish was the duck meat de-boned, chopped into small bite sizes and stirred fried. The duck meat was layed on top of a lettuce leaf. A very nice dish. The flavour from the duck was lovely. The lettuce added freshness and extra texture.
The next wine was L'Esprit de Font Caude 2002. 70? Syrah/ 30% Mourvedre; long maceration and 34 months in barrique. Seductive, herby, liquoricey nose with some sweet fruit and a bit of spicness and earthy complexity. Slight tannic, in a rich a savoury style. Quite a big wine with a touch of alcohol on the finish. This is quite a serious wine.
For dessert, a lovely bowl of fresh seasonal fruit. The presentation of a large bowl full of ice and fresh fruit laying on top of it was lovely. Fresh fruit is always a nice way to end a wonderful meal.
I really like what the Oriental did for the renovations to the China House. It's a retro/ Shanghai in the 2o's feel and decor. Modern, moody and dark. Colour theme throught out is Red, Black and Gold with a dash of White. Great lighting, so everyone looks good. The volume of the bar/ lounge area is amazing and the private dinning booths and dinning rooms are intimate well thought out. The service at the Oriental is always perfect.
Please click here for directions to the China House @ The Oriental Hotel