My dad pioneered wine pairing with Chinese cuisine

Photograph from Working on the Run

Photograph from Working on the Run

Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong asked Twitter followers if they've had extraordinary culinary experiences pairing Chinese food with fine wines, and I couldn't resist digging up this article about my dad from the archives.

What Wine Should I Serve With Chinese Food Zachys Gazette, circa 1992, written by Don Zacharia, patriarch of Zachys

When a Chinese customer recently invited me to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Queens, my immediate reaction was, how do I get out of this one! When he described some of the wines he wanted to serve, I had a change of heart. Egg roll with Chateau Petrus! What could be bad?

“Bring some friends, we’ll have a good time,” he said.

On Wednesday night in March I found myself at the Golden Pond Restaurant on Queens Boulevard. My contingency constituted Alan Hirschfield, well-known entertainment executive and Banker, Ron Orr, renowned attorney with Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, and my friend John Levy, the single best eater in the USA.

Dr. Sesin Jong was the dinner organizer and his contingency was his lovely wife, Yei Hwei Lin, Howard Lee, the President of China World Journal, Kenneth Lo, the President of the China Trust Company, Ltd and his beautiful wife Christie, Thomas Chen, the President of the China Trust Bank, and Mr. Joe Smith of the China Trust Bank.

The wines were 1969 Mazis-Chambertin by Gelin, 1961 Latour, 1961 Margaux, 1970 Petrus, 1959 Clos Fourtet, 1975 Latour, 1986 Petrus, 1976 Niersteiner TBA, 1986 Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet and 1970 Palmer, served in no particular order. The wines were terrific and each one lived up to our expectations.

The food as best as I can describe it was lobster salad, a vegetarian dish with snow peas, oysters and clams in black bean sauce, soup with the following ingredients: abalone, prawns, chicken, deer, mussels, scallops, sea cucumber and something that nobody could translate. Dr. Jong kept pointing to his elbow. The meal continued with roast chicken, Chinese filet of beef, crab meat omelet, a huge whole fish that did not seem to have a name in English. They kept referring to eat as Icey fish or snow fish. For dessert, hot peanut soup.

What can I say about the evening? It was fantastic. It was wonderful drinking such legendary wines and laughing at the combination of wine and food. Dr. Jong says, “Great wine can go with anything.” I heartily agree.

At no time during the course of the evening were these words or phrases used. Tannic, density, color, smooth, corked, concentrated, peppery, cedarwood, alcoholic, soft, chewy, opulent accessible, multidimensional.

PS. I passed on the dessert.  - Don Zacharian"

My dad and I had a good laugh as he transcribed the article to me over the phone. Who could imagine that 20 years later Zachys would be auctioning wine at record prices in Asia. In 2011 (thus far), they auctioned US$35,229,288 in fine wine at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. And the year isn't even over yet.

Want to experience the wine auction mahem? Zachys Auctions in Hong KongFriday, November 18, 2011 at 6:00 PM HKT Saturday, January 07, 2012 6:00 AM HKT

Mandarin Oriental 5 Connaught Rd Central, Hong Kong +852 2522 0111