Named after its place of origins, cognac is made of a blend of fruit spirit that the French call eau de vie, or water of life. While that definition rings true for the drink in its home country, the same cannot be said among modern Jakartans, where the booze’s charm has yet to take hold and even earned a reputation as démodé. In came Hennessy along with Chef Renatta Moeloek and GIOI to shift the course.
Thus, on a two-day event at the end of October, Chef Renatta and the kitchen of GIOI Senopati delighted guests with a four-course plus snack set meal that pairs an array of Asian fusion dishes with Hennessy’s V.S.O.P (Very Superior Old Pale) and their luxurious Hennessy X.O (Extra Old) bottle, showcasing the versatility of the drink on the dining table.
Through the pairing experience, Chef Renatta ventures to prove that despite the preconception that the French cognac would only fit dishes of its home country, the complexity of Asian spices and that of the profile flavours of cognac indeed pair well together. As such, the menu—which can be enjoyed a la carte by GIOI Senopati’s walk-in guests throughout the month of November—leans towards the familiar instead of the unusual, “to show people that cognac can be accessible and enjoyable with the kind of food that is close to us,” told the chef.
With Hennessy having an ‘easy-to-like’ taste profile, one that has placed the cognac distiller among the major players in the game, meal pairing fits right into its lane. Smooth with just the right amount of complexity, the cognac elevates the dining experience instead of subduing or overtaking it.
The Grilled Jimbaran Tiger Prawns is a case in point, a dish that evokes memories of enjoying seafaring delicacies on the coastal village that marks its name. Pairing it is the fruity Hennessy V.S.O.P cognac, served neat or on the rocks, depending on your preference, it boosts the prawn’s buttery sweetness while smoothening its spicy sauce.
That doesn’t mean they shied away from adding a little flair to the familiar flavours, however. To wit, a Chef Renatta original: the Glazed Duck Breast with Wedang Uwuh Jam, which boasts a sweet, spiced sauce that flows together well with the smooth delicacy of Hennessy’s X.O cognac.
As witnessed, each food and drink pairing plays a deliberate role. The two mentioned enhance the complexity of flavours of the food and drink. Meanwhile, the fatty Pork Belly Bao and the fresh jasmine-infused Hennessy V.S.O.P eau de vie cocktail combination is designed to clash in harmony. As for dessert, the Sticky Black Rice Pudding pairing with the Hennessy X.O is an obvious one, for the aged cognac’s flavour profiles match those of the sweet treat like a pair of gloves.
For Chef Renatta, the task to reintroduce cognac to the urbanites hits home. “Cognac is my favourite drink. It’s complex, yet humble. You don’t have to think too much to enjoy it,” said the Le Cordon Bleu alumnus, who gleefully recalled the time she went to Cognac and sampled a fresh batch of the brown spirit—which brought her to shed a tear. She believes that with time, the people of Jakarta will come to enjoy it too. “It’s got a sweet aroma and a fruity taste; it suits the local palate,” she vouched.
As for testing that theory out, what better way to do it than to enjoy it with a plate or two of comforting delights? Perhaps what has once become an outdated novelty can once more take the spotlight as classics often do.
Meal pairings are also available at GIOI Menteng until 19 December. Not intended for those under the legal alcohol drinking age. Please drink responsibly.