Last night was the last Chaîne dinner before the summer break, and was held at the relatively new Hong Kong Jockey Club here in Beijing. The HKJC is a closed club that only members can usually visit, and it's the kind of place where you cannot spend any cash, since all charges just go straight to your membership account. It's a striking building from the outside, done up in old imperial style with architecture that seems right out of the nearby Forbidden City. Inside it's all modern and plush, with beautiful woods, thick golden carpets and interesting decorations all over.
We brought our friend Hui along this time, and managed to sit at a table that was hosted by a friend of ours from Germany; in addition to the three of us, he had his wife and three friends, one of whom brought his girlfriend who was visiting him in Shanghai (where he's based) from her base in London (though she's from Guadeloupe). She and I sat next to each other and had a wonderful conversation throughout the meal; it's too bad she lives in London, since it would have been fun to get together with them a bit more outside of the confines of a Chaîne event.
The meal was one of the best that we have had at one of these events, with outstanding wines and stellar service. Usually the service at these functions can seem a bit over-rehearsed and not very fluid, but here the staff, all of whom were dressed like they were about to out and do some dressage, really seemed to know what they were doing and were extremely unobtrusive as they whisked dishes on and off our table. Whatever they charge for memberships (and it must be a lot) seems to be worth it.
The menu was also a big winner. Before we left for the dinner, J2 asked me to tell him what we'd be having, and his reaction was one of resignation rather than excitement, since nothing really grabbed him out of the entire list. But when he was actually eating it, even he proclaimed that it was an outstanding dinner, with no duds at all (other than the sherbet, which was a bit weak). Here's what we had:
Club house marinated fresh salmon with poached pigeon egg and balsamic vinegar
Crispy pork belly with marinated jelly fish salad
Cold prawn and mango salsa
Pan-fried goose liver with Port Taylor’s Special Ruby
Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Bourgeois, Loire Valley, France, 2007
Grilled sole fillet filled with Japanese scallop and asparagus
served with Shanghai crab meat sauce
Sauvignon Blanc, Kim Crawford (Stelvin Seal), Marlborough, New Zealand, 2008
Fresh lychee and mint leaves sherbet
Pan seared braised Wagyu beef cheek with garden vegetables
in red wine sauce served with home-made purple rice noodles
Gigondas, E. Guigal, Cote du Rhone, France, 2005
Earl grey tea chocolate mousse with ginger ice cream in raspberry sauce
Sweetened coconut pudding with osmanthus
Karcher Beerenauslese, Austria 2006
Beijing Jockey Club Clubhouse Coffee and Tea
I'm glad that I changed my Alpha training appointment from Sunday to Saturday this weekend, so that I don't have to go to the gym early this morning after such an evening; of course, I'll probably end up having to do some additional cardio to work off the meal, but at least I can do that at home, after I've had my coffee...