The first thing one notices upon entering Asiatique is the long, curvaceous glass bar, impressively stocked with a variety of spirits and liqueurs. A long line of champagne flutes stood waiting to be filled with sparkling wine for the attendees to the Fall Bubbles Brunch – the fourth one the restaurant has hosted in the past year and a half.
My wife and I were a little early for our reservation, so after being seated we decided to start with a mimosa for her and a Bloody Mary for myself. The mimosa is a fairly simple cocktail – sparkling wine and orange juice – and thus difficult to mess up, but this specimen was outstanding. The distinction was clear: fresh squeezed orange juice. The contrast between carton orange juice and fresh-squeezed is easy to see; the former is a little thicker, while the latter is paler in color, sweeter, and just tastes more fresh. It makes a world of difference.
My Bloody Mary was also greatly satisfying. In the world of mixed drinks, there is one single exception to the no-pre-made-mixes rule: Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix. The only thing better is if you juice fresh tomatoes yourself. My drink came deliciously spicy, garnished with a feta-stuffed olive, a wedge of lime, and celery.
Our first sparkling wine was served shortly after: La Marca Prosecco. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine, whose grapes come from the region of the same name. The wine hit the palate with a bright, crisp flavor; although on the dryer side, some exploration revealed a slightly sweet, citrusy side.
The Prosecco came paired with roasted butternut squash and yellow curry soup, in which sat three small chunks of roasted duck breast. The soup was warm and sweet, but with a bit of a spicy bite provided by the curry. The duck practically melted in the mouth, as well-prepared duck should.
The key to unlocking the full potential of food and wine pairings is to take a bite of the food, followed immediately by a sip of wine without first cleansing the palate. This changes the character of the wine, and if it is a good pairing it should enhance the flavors and notes. The next step is to take another bite of food, as the lingering wine on the palate will in turn affect the food. In this particular instance, the sweetness of the soup helped to pleasantly emphasize the bubblyness of the Prosecco, while the spice brought out the citrus flavors. In turn, the wine called attention to the roasty flavor of the duck.
The next wine was the Jean-Louis Blanc de Blancs. As I’ve pointed out before , the American public has a habit of referring to any sparkling wine as “Champagne,” usually falsely. This, however, is the real deal. “Blanc de Blancs” translates to “white of whites,” and is a term used for Champagnes made from Chardonnay grapes.
The mouthfeel of the Jean-Louis was a little more intense than the Prosecco; also a little dryer, although some citrus notes could still be detected. This came paired with a citrus and crawfish salad: small chunks of citrus-and-pepper-marinated crawfish sitting on a bed of greens, garnished by a bean medley and dressed with coconut vinaigrette. The earthy organic taste of the greens calmed some of the intensity of the wine, while the citrus in the crawfish complemented the same in the wine, almost giving it a slightly sweeter quality.
To drink with the main course, we were served the Veuve Du Vernay Brut Rosé, which comes from the Loire region of France. It had a more floral quality, with a hint of muskiness. This was paired with a chorizo-stuffed quail, which sat atop a bed of yellow corn risotto, all of which was garnished with clover greens and an apple cider and caraway reduction. This was a serious dish: a smorgasbord of competing flavors and textures which could easily go wrong in lesser hands. Luckily, the chefs of Asiatique are skilled at their craft, and the resulting effect was beautiful.
Quail has a gamey flavor (think dark meat on poultry) which was almost overpowered by the spiciness of the chorizo – but not quite, as the sweet, creamy risotto calmed the spice and added a soothing texture to the whole thing. All of this was further complemented by the sweet sauce. This whole combination helped the rosé to sparkle, both literally and figuratively. It brought out the floral flavors of the wine, giving it an almost perfume-like quality.
For the final course, we were served Beni Di Batasiolo Bosc DLa Rei Moscato, a sweet dessert wine from the village of Serralunga d’Alba in Italy. This wine contained just a touch of carbonation; on the palate it revealed notes of apple and pineapple, and had a very slightly syrupy mouthfeel. This was paired with five-spice pumpkin panocotta, served with small slices of gingerbread and a mandarin orange reduction.
Panocotta is one of my favorite desserts. It is fairly simple in its basic form – milk, cream, and sugar combined with gelatin and then cooled until it sets. It is similar in texture and flavor to custard, although the gelatin makes it a bit firmer.
My wife and I agreed that this was our favorite pairing. The ginger and spices really enhanced the citrus flavor of the wine, while the wine in turn emphasized the ginger. It was an example of perfect synergy, as the two elements played off each other beautifully.
Pleasantly full, the bill for two meals, a mimosa, a Bloody Mary, and a coffee came to a mere $83.00, which is a real steal considering the quality and quantity of food and drink consumed. Asiatique plans to continue hosting Bubbles Brunches, with the next one to be probably held around Valentine’s Day. I cannot give a higher recommendation for this event. In the meantime, Asiatique serves brunch every Sunday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, in addition to being open for dinner nightly.
Asiatique is located at 1767 Bardstown Road.
Photos: Erin and Allan Day