Text José Silva
On the first Blend tasting panel meeting, we were received at Palco restaurant, in a refined and quiet atmosphere, for a meal where we wanted to taste great Portuguese modern wines, matching with a modern kitchen, based in good Portuguese products.
After introducing every one and with the presence of Paulo Costa, the Hotel Director, who joined us, the meal started, revealing a great quality level, with the help of the excellent job of the restaurant´s table personnel, both in the service introducing each dish and the wine service, between glasses, temperatures and amount of wine to be served.
The wines, very well introduced and equal to the menu, made like a dance between them, tasted in pairs, and had a serious dialogue with the food, affording us great moments of pleasure. We started with a sparkling wine from Bairrada, Encontro Special Cuvée 2010, very thin bubble and smooth mousse, dry and toasted aroma, refined in the mouth, excellent acidity, dry, dry wheat, great finish.
We then began a delicious trip through a tasting menu that started with a good looking dry tomato “tapenade”, well connected, with smooth and elegant texture, to spread on the bread and that came to the table in a round dark rock of good result. It was followed by an olive cornet with codfish “barandade”, which came spiked on a vessel full of toasted seeds, in a very well achieved contrast: the crispy paste and the filling of the small cornet very well connected, melting in our mouth, the contrast between codfish and olive running through our palate and leaving good memories.
Rosé Principal Tête de Cuvée 2010 that came next was astonishing, with a refined pale salmon colour, exotic aromas, dry smoke notes, smooth red fruit fragrance and a superb mouth volume, blueberry and raspberry smooth notes, well balanced acidity, some freshness, very long finish.
Still on the menu entries level, the rustic bread “torricado” with smoked mackerel and toasted onion cream surprised us, the bread, very good, toasted, was the base to the exoticism of the smoked mackerel, crowned with the toasted onion and two pieces of salicornia plant on tempura. An explosion of sea and smoke in your mouth.
Again on the menu entries, with growing intensity, the chef presented us with something he called “a different version of stake tartar, and French fried potatoes with Savora mustard”, just like that: a very thin and crispy toast, curved to form a tube, stuffed with the tartar prepared accurately, very tasty, matching in an unusual way with the strong mustard flavour that stuffed two small French fried potatoes.
Afterwards came to the table a white wine from Dão, from “Quinta da Passarella”, Vila Oliveira white 2012, Casa da Passarela. An extraordinary wine, with fruity and wild plants complex aromas, great structure in the mouth, some minerality, very good acidity and a long and smooth finish.
Closing the menu entries cycle, a dish that looked more like a colour palette but that revealed in the mouth great freshness and an interesting connection between different ingredients such as scallop, avocado-pear with spider-crab cannelloni, smoked celery root purée with citric and small river shrimp, those tiny river shrimps with intense aroma and flavour, which made everything match, excellent.
Then we went through two Alvarinho wines from Melgaço, with very different profiles, both very good. First, Curtimenta 2011 by Anselmo Mendes, that was very gentle in the nose, refined, tropical mature fruit and freshness notes, compelling in the mouth, structured and mineral, intense but well balanced acidity, a complex but exuberant wine.
On the fish section, we started with sea bass with “Bulhão Pato” sauce, muscle, razor clam and spherical potato, very much delicate in texture and taste, the sauce very smooth, creamy potato, the sea fish texture very correct, muscle and razor clam intensifying the sea taste, everything with a fine texture.
Second fish dish was a mullet in its one sauce and potato gnocchi, the fish with the right texture, firm, tasty, creamy and silky sauce, tasty potato gnocchi, in a very good and exotic set.
Along with this came another great Alvarinho, Soalheiro Reserva 2011, with oak aromas, toasted, slightly mineral, intense in the mouth, great volume, fresh and with fine acidity, smooth vanilla notes, leaving a great finish.
Third fish dish was half-cure codfish with toasted onion sauce, small caramel onions and onion seeds, codfish cheek and savoy cabbage cannelloni. Very complex in its matching, it revealed incredibly simple in taste and texture, everything matching so well and taking upon our palate, wonderful.
After this M.O.B red 2011 was served, presenting floral and elegant aroma, some freshness, exotic, wonderful acidity, very round tannins, well assembled, elegant and steady, red fruit notes, silky, a wine to keep on discovering. Then we tasted “Quinta da Casa Amarela” Grande Reserva red 2011, tight, refined, intense red fruit aroma, oak and smoke notes, spicy and rustic in the mouth, good volume, mature red fruit, a gastronomic wine.
Going over to the meat dishes, we started with an extraordinary product, “maronesa” veal tail, with potato and truffle cream and foie gras. A variety of textures with good matching between them, the foie gras on top and the creamy potato underneath the meat, delivering a small touch of the truffle, the meat melting in our mouth, intense and delicious flavour.
Then there were presented two great wines from two great regions. The red wine from Dão, Vinha do Contador 2008, is a classic from that region, full of refinement, with sophisticated flower and wild plants aromas, with incredible mouth volume, well structured, good acidity and some freshness, mature red fruit, smoky and a great finish.
The wine Quinta do Crasto – Vinha Maria Teresa red 2011 represents the Douro excellence, very refined in the nose, silky, floral notes of rock-rose and heather. Excellent mouth volume, creamy, sophisticated, superb tannins, well matched, a long wine with an enormous finish. These two wines accompanied all the refinement and delicacy of the deer meat in its tenderloin and the beetroot, the “reineta” apple and chanterrelles, earthy and humus dry tastes, the meat very tasty and smooth, the sauce matching the whole dish, already in a very high culinary level.
Before dessert, we tasted an Amontillado from Jerez, dry and with incredible acidity but contrasting sweet notes. Dessert was so called “lemon and nuts in their textures”. And so it was, a variety of textures of both the nuts and the crispy piece of various toasted leaves, the lemon between a sphere, a cream and a toast. Resounding effect.
For dessert we appreciated Barros old white Port that was refined, intense dry fruit aromas, slight smoked notes, some complexity in the mouth, some freshness and very good acidity balancing the wine. And the Moscatel de Setúbal from Casa Horácio Simões was really good, intense in the nose, citrus notes, caramel, fresh. Compelling in the mouth, smooth, with excellent acidity, a touch of tangerine skin, dry fruit light notes and some spices.
Dinner ended with an offer with a name full of humor, still very well achieved: “the wood seen from downtown Oporto”. Very good.
Our hard work was complete with a very special sparkling wine, Quinta dos Abibes Grande Reserva Brut Nature 2009, full of elegance , very thin bubble and persistent cord. Charming nose, aromas passing through white fruit, some nuts, dry wheat, a lot of freshness and strength. In the mouth it has a steady volume, great acidity and luxuriant aromas, dry, smoked, creamy, silky and long finish.
A great finale!