I arrived and was greeted by Harley, the General Manager, and Chef Dan Tucker, AKA @chefCDT. I decided to eat dinner at my favorite spot - the bar. Here's how it went down....
First Course and Fist Wine Pairing
The first wine is the Hacienda Lopez de Haro Crianza 2005 paired with a plate of appetizer tastings. I started with the wine and it did not taste right, I took a second sip and it just did not taste right to me. Finally, not knowing exactly what the wine should taste like, I asked Chef Dan to describe the wine to me so I could take notes. I think my exact words were, "I am not too sure this wine is right for me, can you describe it to me?" Dan took ONE sip and realized that the wine had turned. He spit the wine back into the glass and ordered the bartender to TOSS the bottle and open a new bottle. The moment I took a sip from the second bottle, I realized the difference. I am SO GLAD I said something, otherwise, I would simply think the wine tasted badly - which was not the case.
The glass of GOOD Hacienda was mild bodied, slightly spicy and went quite well with the appetizers. The appetizers consisted of 1 Short Rib Bao, 2 Duck Croquettes and 3 Kobe Beef Gyozas.
- The Short Rib Bao was great because the bread was only slightly sweet with pickled jalapeno & pickled onions. Delicious.
- The Duck Croquettes were really hearty, lightly breaded with lots of duck meat. Served on an orange serano chili sauce.
- The Gyoza (potstickers para tu Americanos) was filled with Kobe Beef, collard greens, shitake mushrooms and a garlic sesame sauce. They were served on a Kaboocha puree. Kaboocha is Japanese pumpkin, I had to ask.
Second Course With Second Pairing
The wine for the second course Zinio Reserva, 2001. According to the menu, it should be 2005 but Chef Dan informed me that 2001 & 2005 were both exceptional years for Rioja. This wine was more bold than the first, it was bigger and it worked well with the Malbec butter sauce of the skirt steak.
There was a bit of confusion with the second course, for some reason, there were two options. It did not matter to me because I was able to try BOTH the main courses due to the confusion. You, on the other hand, will have to choose from one of the following:
- The Short Rib, Korean style (similar to Kalbi), thinly sliced pieces of rib meat with a bit of a smokey flavor - an Asian BBQ sauce. Chef Dan explained to me that "Short Ribs" are from the side of the cow where the ribs do not connect, something I had not previously known.
- The Skirt Steak was prepared to perfection. Served with a Malbec butter sauce, it was delicious and truly worked well with the larger flavors of the wine. The steak is served with Miunza (similar to arugla) and picked shallots.
If you were to ask me, I preferred the skirt steak. Though I liked both dishes, in my opinion, not only did the skirt steak work better with the wine pairing but it also seemed like a bigger bang for the buck!
Serving Sizes for the Rioja Restaurant Week Menu...
- Each wine pour is a 3 oz pour
- For the appetizers, you receive 1 Short Rib Bao (mini sandwich), 2 Duck Croquettes and 3 Gyozas
- 5 oz of meat - whether you choose the skirt steak or the short rib
Disclaimer: SushiSamba rio is a client.