Sunday, 16 August 2015

Mint by Dai and Dal

Two events on Friday got my Wellington on a Plate experience off to a great start. I was thrilled to win tickets to the sold out pop up restaurant event Mint by Dai and Dal at Pataka in Porirua.

Now is probably not the time to say that I've never watched My Kitchen Rules, Masterchef or any other cooking show. I did know Dai and Dal from the Wellington Wine and Food Festival earlier this year and really enjoyed their Tom Khem and coconut rice balls. I also don't know much about Laotian cuisine but am a huge fan of food from Laos' neighbours, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

A three course Laotian meal with a modern twist and wine matching made for a blissful night out. The name Mint was inspired by the use of fresh herbs in Lao cooking, representing fresh, new flavours and is also a kiwi-ism for something that is good. Dai was the front of house host for the evening while Dal oversaw all the cooking.

We arrived to find two huge, long tables impeccably set for around 60 guests and glasses of Palliser Estate Methode Traditionelle waiting - another yes for the wine list. The table decorations were beautiful, with little bottles and vases of flowers and fresh mint leaves all along the centre.

Table for 60
Each table setting had three wine glasses, a water glass and a 1 litre bottle of antipodes sparkling water. Unfortunately I forgot to bring home my beautifully printed menu so my description of each course is how I remembered it and not necessarily exactly what we ate.

Table setting
Our first course got off to a great start as I'm a huge fan of dumplings. We had three steamed duck, shitake mushroom and bamboo dumplings with parsnip crisps in a spicy broth. The matching wine was a rich, dark red pinot noir from Urlar Estate in Gladstone.

Steamed duck, shitake mushroom and bamboo dumplings in a spicy broth
The main course was beautifully cooked Tom Khem marinaded pork belly with the crispy coconut rice balls I remembered. It was so delicious I could easily have had another serving if there were leftovers. The wine match was a dry Urlar Estate sauvignon blanc.

Tom Khem pork belly with crispy coconut rice balls.
Growing up, I'd never tasted sago but knew it from my father's childhood meal nightmares (along with tapioca and rice pudding). I was curious to try the sago with coconut cream, lychee and mango pieces but can report that I am definitely my father's daughter; sago is not for me. Looking around me, though, there were empty dessert plates and happy smiles as several people commented how it reminded them of their own childhood. Each to their own! The wine match was a dry, oily Urlar Estate Reisling.

Sago with coconut and lychee sauce, mangoes and a meringue slab
An extra bonus came in the form of being able to take away my unopened bottle of antipodes sparkling water ("Take it home," Dai told us. "It's really expensive.") and goodie bags containing their famous Tom Khem marinade and accompanying instructions on how to make your own pork belly at home. Yum! This marinade will be stocked at Moore Wilson's late next month.

Goodie bag!
A huge thank you to the Capital Day section of the Dominion Post (@CapDayDom) for our complimentary tickets. This is one of the best prizes I have been lucky enough to win. Apparently a restaurant is not on the cards yet for Dai and Dal, but we'd certainly love to see it happen and be there to support them.

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