By Gene Gonzalez
Many of us probably haven’t heard of Pinot or know where it is located, with the exception of those who dine in the area. Pinot, a fine dining restaurant and speakeasy in Bonifacio Global City, is hidden behind a thick curtain that separates it from its rather sizeable cafe outlet at The Spa Wellness building.
Behind the thick curtain lies a charmingly designed restaurant with cool gray interiors that give off a laid-back feeling, which I find to be the ideal atmosphere to dine in. It turns out that this newly renovated space was the wine shop that I used to frequent called Cav.
Chef Markus Gfeller and his group conceptualized serving small dishes that can be partnered with the variety of wines on offer. I’ve been a great fan of the many restaurants that Markus Gfeller has involved himself with since he started cooking in an Italian restaurant at the Chronicle building, up until he went off on his own and hired the brilliant and young David Pardo de Ayala (now the general manager of Discovery Primea), and they had a successful run of great dining services for several years.
I got an invitation from Jay Labrador to meet with other wine collectors to start the year right by drinking good and well-aged wines. Since some of the staff of Pinot were from the former CAV, we definitely had a great wine tasting session. We paired off the wines with the restaurant’s food like its amuse-bouche. While having a glass of Taittinger 2004 Brut Millesime, I had a small serving of onion soup topped with milk foam a la cappuccino. The tastiness and sweetness of caramelized onion worked well with the creaminess and roundness of the milk foam.
Then came the piped potato with black fish roe and the duck barquillos, enveloped by a thick wrapper filled with tasty and velvety duck confit, which I immensely enjoyed. The fattiness of the confit blended well with the old champagne (the type James Bond would prefer). Its bready, slightly yeasty character had hints of controlled oxidation that was evident in its golden yellow shade. The drink complemented the caramelized qualities of the duck.
Champagne flowed through our starters. I sampled the grilled octopus salad that was arranged beautifully with a fresh and pristine mixture of young arugula, tatsoi, beet leaves, edible flowers, sweet corn sprouts, and tendrils of pea vines. The other starter was a crab meat and lobster salad, with an escabeche of red pepper and dots of aioli. We decided to open bottles of Italian red wine and our food tasted rustic, courtesy of the wine’s acidity that could stand up to the bold flavors.
We also had a bottle of the 2008 Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino, which was still spicy and had lots of red fruit. I was amazed by the potential longevity this wine had. The 1995 Sicilian Duca Di Salaparuta from Don Enrico was also poured. This drink had an onslaught of acidity, it should have been decanted. An hour later, Jay commented how good it had grown on the glass. I tasted characters of the forest fruits and wood spices. Next was a bottle of Tinto Figuero from Ribera del Duero, which is 100 percent tempranillo. The wine is spicy, with a lot of plums and blackberries, as well as the aroma of mint and pine forest.
For the main course, we had the kurobuta pork belly (from the Berkshire pig) that has a wonderful and crisp exterior. The fatty layers just melted in the mouth like a confit, with the rich sauce and mustard gnocchi balancing the richness of the meat.
We were also served beef cheeks, which were tender and well-flavored, as well as the veal rack with morilles served with farfalle. I preferred the latter, though the former dishes tasted beautiful with a glass of 1994 Mouton-Rothschild. The wine was at the peak of its elegance—generous, yet soft and velvety. We were enamored by the wine’s complexity of ripe forest fruits, sweet wood spices, country herbs, and chocolate. In fact, we each had a whole magnum for the rest of the meal.
Since I have a sweet tooth, I also ordered a verrine of dessert. After sampling both well-preserved bottles of the 2007 Vin Santo and 2005 Inniskillin, I should have foregone the dessert so I could have more than one glass of each bottle.