This article was written by Alex Bernardo, the Wine Yoda.
Last night's eve of the full moon was the Mooncake Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional celebration of the harvest moon in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, and among the Chinese in Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. 2009 is looking to be a vintage-of-the-century type year in the wine regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, California, and Piemonte, and so this year's harvest moon is truly auspicious.
As expected all the best Chinese restos in the Bay Area were booked solid last night and we had no reservations. But luck smiled on us as my friends and I found a table at the Crouching Tiger Restaurant in the old downtown of Redwood City. Nothing could have been more heartwarming on a chilly, blustery night than the spicy Sichuan and Hunan dishes of eastern China that the resto specializes in.
We started with a plate of Sichuan Cold Noodles ($6.45) dressed in chili oil and Sichuan peppercorn, and also ordered companion plates of cold Spicy Beef Tendon ($6.95) and warm Spicy Pork Dumplings ($6.95). Together these fiery starters were numbing and irresistible to the palate! Relief came in the cool and refreshing Domaine François Jobard 2001 Bourgogne Blanc that I brought. A genius pairing: white Burgundy and Sichuan food.
By this juncture we could have ended the meal, as we were quickly getting full, and paid the resto a little over $20 plus tax and service for four people! But we forged on, determined to explore other dishes and to discover how a couple of 2000 red Bordeaux tasting-left-overs that I also brought would pair with the food.
The tasty Hunan Preserved Pork ($8.95), stir-fried slices of ham and cabbage, together with a half-order of house-special Tea Smoked Duck ($9.50) paired gloriously with the garagiste 2000 Château de Valandraud ($248.00 at Vineyard Gate). I found the velvety, dark ripe fruit and oaky flavors of the modern-style St.-Emilion complementing the sweet, smoky, mildly spicy duck and pork dishes.
But one of the clearest reasons for returning to Crouching Tiger is the Xingjiang Lamb ($10.50). Another fiery dish that's fragrant with cumin. What a perfect pairing with the powerful and elegant 2000 Margaux from Château Palmer ($195.00 at Vineyard Gate).
I savored the long, graceful finish of the Palmer while gazing at the old painting on the wall of Shaolin monks practicing wushu, then I understood. These unexpected and clever wine pairings are what "crouching tiger, hidden dragon" is all about.