Little Saigon

We ended up a little short on white wine due to the corked bottle of Vatan 2007 Sancerre Clos de Neore. However, the brilliant Zind Humbrecht 1990 Clos St. Urbain Tokay Pinot Griscould have passed for a four- or five-year-old wine. I bought some of this cuvée when it was first released, but had not had any for a number of years. The wine has gotten increasingly drier with age, but the color remains a greenish/light gold. With stunning fruit and freshness, great acidity and a full-bodied mouthfeel, this 1990 has another 20 to 25 years of life ahead of it. Cuilleron’s delicious 2010 Condrieu Les Chaillets (from a fine vintage for this appellation) exhibits lots of minerality along with white peach and honeysuckle notes.

The red wines included a disappointing effort from Italy, the 2006 Occhipinti, which had enough acidity to strip the enamel off one’s teeth. While there were some pleasant cherry aromas, this wine was marginal in quality. The 1998 Quinault from St.-Emilion seemed to be tiring, as did the pretty 1998 Pignan Châteauneuf du Pape. The latter wine, made in a much lighter style than most Châteauneuf du Papes, offered lots of fruit. The other wines all performed stunningly well. It’s too late to buy any, but the 2003 Soumade Rasteau Fleur de Confiance from André Romero is a sumptuous, sexy old vine Grenache. This opulent black cherry, raspberry and chocolaty fruit bomb is stunningly rich and alluring. Almost grand cru Burgundy-like in character because of its minerality and floral notes, Clos du Caillou’s 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz (named after the terroir from which it emerges) is beautifully full, elegant and feminine. In complete contrast is the 1998 Domaine de la Mordorée Châteauneuf du Pape Reine des Bois. Hitting full maturity, it is wonderfully meaty with notes of roasted herbs, licorice, kirsch and darker black fruits. Another big, rich, dense, still youthful effort is the only Spanish wine we had, the 1999 Numanthia Toro. This impressive red is drinking beautifully at present.

The red wine of the day, the 1990 Pégaü Cuvée Réservée Châteauneuf du Pape, offered a combination of complexity, maturity, sumptuous fruit and body. Decanted at the table, this stunning Châteauneuf revealed subtle barnyard-like notes intermixed with copious quantities of kirsch, lavender, black currants and cedar. This full-throttle, fully mature 1990 is unlikely to get much better, so enjoy it over the next 5-6 years. Another fully mature offering that was one of the stars of the vintage is the 1978 La Tour Haut Brion (a vineyard that is now part of La Mission Haut Brion). Bordeaux does not often work that well with this type of food, but this 1978 shows why older vintages can be such great buys. Another young, juicy, fleshy, fat Bordeaux (although not the best match-up with this food) is the 2009 Gloria St.-Julien.

The sumptuous 2002 Martinelli Zinfandel Giuseppe & Louisa was a full-throttle, still youthful and exuberant wine with considerable power and rather amazing fruit density. The 2008 Vineyard 7 & 8 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa turned out to be the best wine I have yet tasted from this producer.

With respect to the food, Little Saigon is the finest Vietnamese restaurant in this region and they consistently do a superb job. We started with their terrific Bobilla, which was followed by several courses that are about as good as it can get. They do an incredible job of sauteeing shrimp in a combination of Vietnamese spices and herbs with lots of garlic and high quality, colossal-sized shrimp. We then had their popcorn calamari, which is the best deep-fried calamari I have ever tasted. The calamari is served with an assortment of sauces, including a hot chili sauce, a subtle soy, and a blended soy/herb mixture. The roasted meats and meat balls with lettuce wraps were delicious. The course that blew everyone away was their magnificent duck, which is a variation on classic French roasted duck with orange sauce. In this offering, the duck is deep-fried and the thicker orange sauce is served on the side with flowery peppers. This was a great combination that worked beautifully with the Rhône wines.

I highly recommend Little Saigon. The prices are a steal, although the ambiance is non-existent and the restaurant is located in a somewhat shabby, tiny strip mall on Wilson Blvd. in Falls Church, Virginia.

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