Hi Townsville, I’m home!

10.05am, Saturday 21st May 2011, Palmer Street internet cafe, Townsville, Tropical North Queensland, Australia
It’s a breezy tropical morning up here. I’m sitting in shorts and a T-shirt and I’ve definitely left the Melbourne cold snap behind. What a big day yesterday! I’ll get to all of that, but first I need to do some serious catching up on some of the magic things that we did back in Melbourne. So let’s just wind back the last four jobs ‘down south’

The Shanghai Dynasty is the plush Chinese dining room in every sense of the word upstairs in the arcade joining Bourke and Little Bourke streets, just below Russell Street. Picture this – lots of royal blue, gold and burgundy colours, deep carpets, polished marble in all shades, and John Chan and his elegant waiting staff that seem to just ‘whoosh’ around gracefully without their feet even touching the floor. Yes – I was impressed – and that was even before the food arrived. We have a lovely man in Melbourne who is part of the Chinese opera scene, and William organised this, our first ever attempt to really pair up our Rare & Fine wines with a truly Chinese degustation dinner. Very ambitious, but why not. To cut a very long, aromatic and fabulously flavourful story of the evening short … it worked! I am going to run down the dishes for you in full because I should. Also, I was sitting next to a lovely young bloke who took photos of all the food on his phone that made mine look amateur, so hopefully those will come through pretty soon and Tony will match them up with the descriptions below.

2008 Virgilius Viognier + “Sauteed fluffy creamy egg white omlette with crab meat” – Says it all, and the wine just slid through the crab without touching the sides!

Crab omelette paired beautifully with the Virgilius Viognier

2008 FDW [7c] Adelaide Hills Chardonnay + “Crisp Battered Salt & Pepper King George Whiting” – Now ‘crisp battered’ goes nowhere near the paper-thin tempura snap coating on some of the lushest whiting bite-size fish snacks I have ever tasted! The Chardonnay was just like a second layer coating – it fit in with the flavours and textures so well.

Whiting with a paper-thin tempura snap coating

2006 Signature Cabernet Shiraz + “Pan Fried King Prawn & Mandarin Sauce” – The prawn was still in the shell, and you took the tender bouncy meat out, and through the mandarin syrup. Now I know it’s not supposed to work with red wine, but it went gangbusters with the red black blue berries and cherry ripe of the Signature. Why? Possibly because there are no agressive tannins in the palate AT ALL.

2004 The Reserve Cabernet Shiraz + “Wok Fried Spicy Black Pepper Lamb Rack” – Bingo! This was the winner dish of an outstanding menu. The lamb loin cutlets were sliced thin thin thin, and they were part braised before being tossed tableside in the black pepper sauce. They literally fell apart into the cassis-charged ‘Reserve’ Cabernet Shiraz – super smooth through the palate and double upping with pepper in the sauce and the wine aromatics. I liked!

2006 Octavius Old Vine Shiraz + “Wok Fried Waygu Steak Tossed with Mustard Sauce” – Lovely. The deep dark fruit and choc shiraz loves soft tender beef, and the twangy mustard was a classic touch – like the old roast beef and mustard/horseradish combinations.

2009 FSW8B Botrytis Viognier + “Deep fried ice cream & fresh strawberry” – This was the big ‘ooh and aaah’ finish. Served seriously frosty, it was honey then honey and apricot with crispy biscuit exterior and creamy vanilla interior! Yum. And here’s the thing. The ice cream didn’t melt away. I had to ask what secret method do they use to make such a memorable dish? They freeze the ice cream balls, apply the biscuit coating, freeze that too, then flash deep fry the whole thing – which gives the ice cream a long creamy life on the plate! What a five-star finish to an exceptional evening.

Thank you William. You have set the bar high, and I am delighted to hear that all concerned are keen for it to be an annual event!

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