By TAN BEE HONG
SHOULD one serve shiraz with spicy curry? Will a chardonnay go better with the heady aromas of garlic and basil? We recently found out at a recent Wolf Blass Masterclass and dinner at Ember Modern Bistro in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL.
Sam Stephens, wine ambassador for Treasury Wine Estates, said Asian food and wine go together better than most would expect.
“One thing I like to say about wine is that it’s personal taste. What you prefer, what I prefer may differ ... like music, art ... what you see and appreciate can change from person to person and there is no right or wrong with that,” he said.
Set on tables in the front section of the year-old restaurant were glasses filled with Wolf Blass Gold Label wines: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
We would test them with four sauces offered with the same ingredient, duck meatballs. We would sip the different wines with the sauces and then decide what worked and what didn’t.
First was a garlicky, nutty basil pesto sauce from Chef Lam Ming Kin (from Longtail, Taiwan), followed by a sweetish oyster/soya sauce-based chu hou sauce from Chef He Hong Pin (Da San Yuan, Taiwan).
When we sampled two spicier sauces: masala sauce from Chef Manjunath Mural (The Song of India, Singapore), and chu chee curry sauce from Chef Thitid Tassanakajohn (Le Du, Bangkok).
After the Masterclass, we sat down to dinner prepared by Ember’s Chef Gary Anwar. The first course was corn chips smeared with smoked yoghurt and caviar, shiso and a sliver of sengkuang stuffed with avocado mash and romaine lettuce with pistachio and lemon.
This was followed by slices of raw hamachi dipped in ponzu and served with pickled apple and ulam raja. The pickled apple gave the dish a zesty lift and the ulam raja, surprisingly, did not overpower the delicate fish.
This went well with the rich elegant palate and melon aromas of the 2017 Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay.
Steamed senangin on mushrooms came with braised radish, Chinese mustard and an amazing smoked fish sauce which, according to Gary, was made with fish bones that had been smoked over a period of two months.
But I was not enamoured by the sour taste of the mushrooms pickled with asam keeping. With this, we had 2016 Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz, which I felt was a little too rich and intense for the fish.
Fortunately, the aromas of plum and berries of the 2017 Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon proved amicable with the dry aged duck with black and white sesame seeds, laced with tare (thick, sweet soya sauce), ginger and crunchy pucuk paku stirfried with garlic cloves.
Next was striploin with potato puree, sansho butter and sautéed four-angled beans. The beef was sliced to show a gorgeous pink centre, and everyone ooh-ed over how tender it was.
This was paired with a 2016 Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz, which Sam said was richer than the Gold Label Shiraz, with a greater intensity of aromas.
Finally, dessert was elderflower ice on bunga kantan cream, topped with longan. A sprinkle of finely sliced bunga kantan completed the ensemble.
Tan Bee Hong is a food critic-cum-blogger at fatphoenix.my. She can be contacted at email@example.com.