BYO nights and restaurants are one of the great not-so-secrets of the New York wine trade. It’s not about avoiding restaurant mark-ups. (We’re in the business so we all understand why a bottle on a wine list costs more than it does in a shop and assuming the list is well thought out and the mark-up doesn’t fall into the evil range, we’re happy to pay up.) BYO is really a way to tap into our own private stashes and share with friends…. Without the hassle of cooking dinner or washing the silverware.
Many of these BYO joints are Chinese restaurants. There tend to be different tribes haunting different places – Grand Sichuan, Peking Duck House and Fuleen Seafood are three that come up often. If you have an eagle eye for your Instagram feed, you’ll be able to spot who’s drinking where even if they’re not “checked in.”
Shitty glassware and an ice bucket that’s literally a bucket (and yes, I feel this is an acceptable, old school use of ‘literally’) are part of the experience. If you’re feeling fancy, you can bring your own stemware, so if you happen to be at one of these places and notice a table in the corner where the bottles outnumber the guests more than two to one and their glassware is way way nicer than yours… chances are good you’ve stumbled upon a hoard of New York wine industry folks having a night out.
Our Sunday man David recently went to Fuleen Seafood (my personal favorite of the Chinese BYOs) for a dinner. After much discussion, I sent him off with a bottle I thought would go particularly well with the restaurant’s salty/savory seafood specialties. Did I pick well? Read below to find out. (Hint: of course I picked well… it’s my job!!)
Distinguished and Surprisingly Versatile
Fans of wines made from the Savagnin grape love their notes of walnut, salt and orange rind. The Overnoy-Crinquand Savagnin 2010 from the town of Pupillon in France's Jura region has sure possession of these notes. But a recent dinner at Fuleen on 11 Division St. in Chinatown showcased the stunning range of this -- wine, which spends several years aging in old oak barrels before release.
Fuleen - a Chinatown haunt for more than a few local wine geeks - has a generous BYOB policy, an extensive menu, and tasty, affordable food. At $4 each, the fried quail are a steal, particularly in service to the Overnoy-Crinquand. Its notes of toasted brioche complement the quail and the wine's unexpected acidity cleanses the palate between morsels.
But it's with the main courses that the Savagnin shines. Against a dish of shrimp, garlic, peanuts and red and green peppers the wine reveals a slight smokiness and then some honey to smooth the garlic. A plate of eggplant, chicken and salted fish elicits melon and then a little black tea from this wine, and a side of chive stems calls forth a hint of milk chocolate - not kidding, it's in there. The wine's body is never thrown out of balance but oscillates from leaner to more opulent depending on the dish with which it's paired.
There are next-day leftovers of both meals - Fuleen portions are enormous - and wine, which when sampled with an Italian hard cheese reverts to the more expected flavors of walnut and fine honey. A pairing of Savagnin and Comte, the Jura's answer to Gruyere, is justifiably classic, but dinner at Fuleen shows just how much the Overnoy-Crinquand Savagnin 2010 has to offer.