Monday, August 29, 2005

Tasting the inventive cuisine of Daniel Humm

We live 45 minutes away from San Francisco and do not go to the city very often. So we were very excited by our Saturday night reservation at Campton Place where young Swiss chef Daniel Humm is now well-known for his innovative style of refined, contemporary French cuisine.

It was early in the evening and the dining room was quiet. A beige and brown color scheme gave the room a refined and subdued look with the main point of interest being a hand-blown glass sculpture at the ceiling, resembling a giant orchid.

We took the tasting menu, a bite-sized 13 course menu highly recommended by our friend Nelson, along with the wine pairing. Humm's philosophy is "not trying to invent new flavor combinations, but instead take traditional combinations and present them in different ways" and, overall, the tasting menu had a lot of wonderful dishes. I personally enjoyed the airy texture of the sauces, the light but flavorful broths and fumets and some of the chef's surprising culinary associations. But we found the wine pairing to be much more inconsistent and regretted at the end not having selected our own wines instead.


Sorbet of Cherry Tomatoes with Pickled Cucumbers and Marinated Anchovy

After some amuse-bouche, we started the tasting menu with a Sorbet of Cherry Tomatoes with Pickled Cucumbers and Marinated Anchovy. it was beautifully presented and had fresh and delicious gazpacho-like flavors. No wine was served with it and we were glad to have taken a glass of Champagne at the beginning of the dinner.

Following up, the Fantasy of Eggs, an half-cooked egg layered with sea urchin and caviar and topped with sea urchin foam, offered a striking combination of flavors and textures. It was accompanied by a Champagne Brut Veuve Clicquot, an traditional Champagne-caviar match.

The Consommé of Hawaiian Prawns infused with Saffron, Green Apple, and Ginger was very light and again rich in flavors, but the wine served, a 2003 Jean-Luc Colombo Viognier La Violette, was too warm and seemed flat.

I found one of the best wine pairings to be the Aiguillette of John Dory "Sous-Vide" with Saffron Fumet and Tomatoes, and the 2001 Savennières Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillon. The light fumet was full of complex flavors that worked very well with the Savennières, a dry and mineral wine, full of character.

Another successful pairing was the Wild Alaskan Halibut "Mi-Cuit" with Chorizo and Bouillabaisse Sauce and the 2003 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru La Maltroie Michel Colin-Deleger et Fils. Here, the dish was bursting with Mediterranean flavors and the full-bodied Chassagne-Montrachet was delicious.


Trio of Tartare, Kona Kompachi, Bluefin Tuna, Hirame

Some interesting and surprising pairings were the Trio of Tartare, Kona Kompachi, Bluefin Tuna, Hirame and the Sake Wakatake Onikoroshi Junmai Daiginjo Shizuoka-Prefecture, as well as the Melody of Summer (Goat cheese with olive oil sauce) and the Manzanilla Papirusa Emilio Lustau.

I regretted having taken the wine pairing when our only meat-based dish was served. A Braised Snake River Farms Short Rib with seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Garden Peas and Chanterelles was paired with a 2001 Rioja Finca Allende. The dish was fantastic with rich and intense flavors coming from a cooked-to-perfection rib, the foie gras and the chanterelles. But unfortunately, the wine did not stand up to the dish. It did not have enough body and had too much acidity. At this point, I was really longing for a good Médoc.


Artisan Foie Gras en Torchon with Aged Maple Syrup

The best wine of the evening was, I believe, the 1986 Château Raymond-Lafon. It was served with an Artisan Foie Gras en Torchon with Aged Maple Syrup. The wine was luscious and refined with a lingering finish, and it was a treat with the buttery and nutty flavors of the foie gras.

The dinner ended with a series of desserts that were mixed successes, and also too many sweet wines. I found the best dessert to be the Valrhona Chocolate Pastilla with Orange Guajillo Confit and Chicory Mix, accompanied by an excellent 1999 Királyudvar Cuvée Ilona Tokaj.

The one I did not like at all was the candy flavored Jasmine Orange Cappuccino with Pixie Sticks, served with a not too inspiring 2004 Paolo Saracco Moscato d'Asti.

At the end of the dinner, we asked for the sommelier and tried to offer our feedback but I am not sure he cared too much about our comments.

One of the rules of thumb for food and wine pairing is matching the quality of food with the quality of wine. The food was, most of the time, very inspiring but the wines being served were of unequal quality. We also had too many sparkling wines (4) and sweet wines (4) for our taste.

Should we come back? Maybe. But no wine pairing this time!

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1 comment:

AzianBrewer said...

Right on...Onikoroshi is one of the best around!!!