By the delicate glow of candles, we’re digging into small bowls of chilled fish topped with green, slightly salty stalks and a scoop of white creaminess. It’s cool and complex and just a little confusing—the kind of dish Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist at Mandarin Oriental is known for. And it’s … um … smoked salmon?
Wine director Will Costello nods encouragingly as we guess at the flavors and textures we’ve just ingested in the near-dark dining room. “Okay, you’re wrong,” he says, smiling at our jabs. Then he tells us everything that we’ve just eaten—sea bass and haddock carpaccio with radish, sea beans and potato horseradish ice cream—and it all makes perfect sense.
The first in a series of quarterly Taste of the Senses dinners at Twist (the next is May 11 with Penfolds Winery), tonight is about exploring food and paired wines from Peter Michael Winery without preconceptions. Each of six courses is served “blind” —the restaurant dark, the ingredients unannounced. We nibble and taste and sip and sniff, straining to pick out the flavors and varietals before Costello returns to hear our diagnoses. Mostly, we’re wrong, but he doesn’t seem to mind, and food almost tastes better when dinner becomes a flavor scavenger hunt, with chef de cuisine Ryuki Kawasaki creating riddles for us to solve. Arugula? Yes. Crab? No. Sous vide pork? Actually, it’s chicken.
By the time we get to the cheese course—Parmesan with spinach salad, a salted shortbread cookie and red pepper purée, served with Peter Michael L’Esprit des Pavots red blend—our palettes are humming and we’ve fully embraced the spirit of discovery. “Shortbread!” I say triumphantly, when Costello begins his quiz. And finally, he says yes.
Twist Mandarin Oriental, 888-881-9367.