I was brought to the attention of a supper social at the The National Cafe of a Laksa Riesling pairing supper. Most curious and without hesitation I agreed to attend the event, and a friend of mine handled all the bookings. Finally on the day of the event, I actually finally found the time to read further details of the supper: the meal was going to be created by Anna Hansen of The Modern Pantry with wines chosen by Zeren Wilson of Bitten & Written. What a nice surprise!
A Laksa and Riesling social supper – I forgot the social bit… so on arrival at The National Cafe, I was shown into a separate room to start the evening with an aperitif and “chat” amongst the fellow diners. Curiosity got to me as I headed to the table displaying the wine for the evening and a pleasing display of chilling bottles of sparkling Riesling appropriately displayed in a bucket a la champagne – I have not actually tried sparkling Riesling before so was very happy when Zeren introduced himself and begun serving the sparkling Riesling which is not as sharp as champagne and not as sweet as Prosecco: Zum Krug Riesling Sekt Brut 2011, Josef Laufer (Hattenheim/Rheingau). The evening started very well!
In a conversation with Zeren I was most interested that the German Riesling that he chose for the night were from the Rheingau valley and the Mosel. The latter area I have very little experience of, whereas the former my experience has been from visiting Austria in general. Conversation lead to the pairing of these wines with food, and I was glad that the not so sweet Riesling were to be featured – there seems to be a general assumption that sweet powerful Rieslings go well with Asian food, so this evening’s pairing would be far more interesting with the less sweet varieties.
The menu was devised by Anna Hansen of The Modern Pantry, her first major creation after the recent birth of her child had a very creative combination of tastes as you can see from the menu below. I was particularly curious to how the Ajowan, turmeric & krupuk crusted prawn with nam jim dipping sauce would turn out.
and some information on the wine for the evening which as you can see is definitely not something you would find in a bargain bucket shop!
I chose the Riesling Trocken 2012m Peter-Jakob Kuehn (Oestrich-Winkel/Rheingau) Organic with my meal, it just sat better, and more full to my palette than the Riesling Rocken 2011, Walter (Briedel/Mosel) which had a lovely aroma and initial taste, but for me, did not finish well, nor the Quarzit Schiefer Riesling Trocken 2012, Franzen (Bremm/Mosel). This of course chosen before the meal was served so I knew they could well change with food. Luckily the rest of my party chose differently so we could compare notes again when we tasted the wine with the meal.
I tried to keep an open mind with the meal, so very hard not to associate the descriptions with what I know and therefore what I would expect.
For the starters, the prawns were definitely the most unusual for me… krupuk crusted they definitely tasted of! A very interesting flavour and it worked well with the nam jim sauce though in this case it was not made so spicy. The prawn I tasted I would say could have had more “bounce” to it. I found the beef rendang mince in lettuce the hardest to appreciate, as I am too used to the Chinese dish that I presume this idea came from, originally made with minced pigeon in lettuce leaf, nowadays more commonly with minced chicken. And the last of the starters, the tart, this was very good though I wished I had tasted this before the rendang as I found the flavours a little lost after having tried the beef rendang before. As for the pairing with the wines, my choice held its ground which I was certain of, though the Riesling from Walter surprised me by coming out much more, so that is definitely one to drink with food.
As to the mains, what a melange of flavours! As you can see from the images below, there was a lot going on on the plate. Again I found this quite difficult to differentiate knowing the traditional dishes so well. I’m afraid I failed miserably. I’m not sure if the publicity of the supper should have concentrated on the laksa bit as really this I found was the least “important” in contribution to the flavours.
Not just the flavour, but also the texture of the food is important to me. The coconut & mustard seed flat bread was of course the most obvious when the plate was placed before me, and with the laksa sauce, reminded me of roti cenai/prata with curry sauce, a dish normally eaten at breakfast.
The harusame noodles with the laska sauce was very ambitious as I think if you didn’t eat it immediately, the noodles would be soften too much by the sauce. The crab gyoza and the smoked brown crab were both delicious and both very strong in their texture and flavours! All these different flavours on my plate, my choice of wine still held it’s own.
I think for this South-East Asian, I’d still prefer to have these flavours separated a bit more as I found there were too many flavours being mixed together, perhaps a whole series of starters?
Anna came out to greet us toward the end of our evening, I really applaud her for her very ambitious menu and I look forward to trying more of her creations and of course of discovering more of German Rieslings. I will add the Sparking Riesling to at least one of the forth coming festive season meals and keep an eye out for Zeren’s tweets!