Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dim Sum with Chateauneuf-du-Pape

One of my wine friends had suggested that Chateaneuf-du-Pape goes well with dim sum. Well, obviously that's a generalization because there are so many different dim sum dishes. Practically any small plate of Cantonese food is dim sum, just like tapa in Spanish.
On Sunday, a group of Rona's Chinese friends joined us at Hong Kong Saigon Harbor Restaurant in Sunnyvale - where I was clearly the only Caucasian in the house - always a good sign! The restaurant is named after a seafood district in Hong Kong, called Saigon, and has no relation to the famous city in Vietnam. "Dim sum" means "drink tea" in Cantonese. However, this time - surprise, surprise! - I decided to drink wine. Two bottles - one white Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and one red, both full bodied, ripe, and fruity.

Authentic Chinese restaurants (i.e. those full of native speakers) rarely see wine. Beer and tea are drinks of choice for the vast majority of guests. Which is goodness to me, since most of the time they don't even have a corkage policy, meaning I don't pay corkage!

Waitresses zooming around with carts carrying loads of yummy looking treats, our table quickly was stacked with foods.

We started off the white wine, and it was an ok match, simple and refreshing, but it really didn't do justice to the 2008 Domaine Grand Veneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc - a wine which had tasted quite rich and complex on its own the day before at the tasting at Vineyard Gate. The strong flavors in dim sum seemed to kill any nuance that existed in the wine. I concluded that almost any white wine would do with this food, no need to spend $40 on a Chateauneuf. The combo, however, seemed neither intriguing nor compelling.

I paired the red wine with the funkier, gamier dishes, but in this case it was the 2007 Clos des Brusquieres Chateauneuf-du-Pape that overpowered them with its robust, jammy flavor. Not an unpleasant combo, but hardly an apogee of food-and-wine bliss.

If the wine was not an exciting match to the food, it certainly did not discourage me from going for the more weird and adventurous looking plates, such as red-braised chicken feet, stewed beef tripe with pork blood cubes and stewed pork skin, and sticky rice with salted duck egg and mushroom wrapped in a bamboo leaf.

In the end, neither wine seemed to be a great match for any of the dishes. In the future, my money will be on Pinot Noir instead. Oh, and that's me on the left devouring my first ever pork blood cube... - and living to tell the tale!


Jeff said...

You always hear about Robert Parker pairing Chinese with CDP. I've always thought it was kind of a strange combination myself. I guess some of the lighter bodied CDPs with a few years bottle age might pair well--they can get fairly spicy, and I would think that would pair well with some stuff. But I'm in agreement that the flavors are over the top from either the wine or the food for a good match.

Iron Chevsky said...

Jeff, agreed, an aged CdP may be more appropriate, but I probably would not take a gem I've been nursing for years in my cellar and spend it on dim sum. It seems there are more enjoyable applications for aged CdP, and for dim sum - Pinot or a much cheaper Gamay work well.

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