There was something of a party atmosphere at Casa Pascal Restaurant last weekend because the restaurant had arranged a special Gala Dinner coupled with a concert by the visiting Kwangju Opera Company from Korea. Casa Pascal Restaurant of course is renowned for its superb international cuisine and extensive wine list, its well-trained and courteous waiting staff and its pleasant and convivial atmosphere. Needless to say, it was a full house. The setting looked inviting too, for each of the reserved tables had been beautifully prepared in advance with elegant napery and floral decorations. The attention to detail was impressive and in the centre of the restaurant stood the equally impressive black Yamaha grand piano.
Most of the guests had sensibly arrived quite early and had the opportunity to sit outside in the pleasant reception area with a glass or two of wine. I chose a tempting cold Soave which comes from the town of the same name in the province of Verona. Produced by the old-established Italian company of Bolla, the wine has a soft floral bouquet with clean pear and lemon flavors and a dash of almond on the finish. It’s bone dry, of course which what a classic Soave should be. I tried the Prosecco too, that famous Italian sparkler from the north of Venice which was a pleasingly dry refreshing wine. These are both house wines and excellent value.
Once everyone had shuffled into the restaurant the outline of the evening events was explained by Casa Pascal’s Kim Schnyder. It was clear that a great deal of thought had been put into the combination of the food and the music. Very sensibly, the two were kept apart, so that there was no need to eat and listen at the same time. After the attractive amuse bouche, the first course was a musical-sounding Trio of Tartar, which turned out to be attractively-presented portions of beef, salmon and tuna. It was a followed by a pretty and cleverly contrived Douette of Cream Soup which (I was reliably informed) was based on smooth and creamy lobster bisque. Our group of diners collectively decided to try a glass each of another house wine – the Villa Martina Pinot Grigio. It’s crisp, clean and fruity with attractive aromas of pineapple and white flowers. Vinified and aged in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks to bring out the natural aromas and forward fruit, the wine that has an intensity rarely found in a Pinot Grigio. I tried several other house wines which seemed good value, notably the Chilean Antares Chardonnay and the Antares Shiraz, both of which exhibited the qualities expected of them.
The singers from the Kwangju Opera Company provided a splendid programme of varied and delightful music. Some of the diners were clearly amazed at the sheer volume of sound that the singers could produce but many were also impressed with their vocal tone quality and stage presence. The programme was the same as that performed the previous day at St. Nikolaus Church and one of the musical highlights was the duet Sunrise, Sunset from the musical Fiddler on the Roof which Jinhee Kim (soprano) and Eunjung Shin (mezzo-soprano) sung impeccably with a splendid sense of togetherness. Sooyeon Park (soprano) gave a splendidly unbridled performance of the Italian Street Song from the operetta Naughty Marietta, by the Irish-born American composer Victor Herbert. Throughout their half-hour recital the piano accompaniments were provided by Jihyun Park. She is reliable and confident accompanist who played with real drive, technical assurance and rhythmic vitality.
The main course was a choice between either Grilled Salmon in Basil Cream Sauce with Tomato Confit and Black Rice, or Beef Wellington with Potato and Leek Gratin. Most people it seemed opted for the beef. Our group eventually decided on a bottle of Jean d’Alibert Pinot Noir from the South of France. This wine has won several international awards yet remains reasonably priced. It’s a typical Pinot Noir: light-bodied with red cherry on the palate and a hint of mushrooms on the aroma. Incidentally, Casa Pascal has a tantalizing range of wines on offer, including some fine champagne and some classic wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy.
The diners were later treated to a short piano and cello recital by two exceptional Korean musicians, Yeon-kyo Kim (piano) and Yuscha Kim (cello). Pianist Yeon-kyo Kim is the winner of various International awards and has performed throughout Europe. The cellist Yuscha Kim studies at the Hanns Eisler Music Hochschule in Berlin and has given concerto performances worldwide. She is a most competent player with a lovely singing tone quality. The pair played three quite challenging pieces which appeared to be partly improvised.
But then it was time for the final course which was a choice between the appropriately named and attractive-looking Opera Cake with Passaya Sherbet, Almond Crisps and Brandy Cream or a selection of beautifully-presented Italian cheeses each at the peak of perfection. The singers eventually returned for the Finale which consisted of a rousing performance of a Korean Folk song, an arrangement for voices, cello and piano of The Lord’s Prayer set by the American composer Albert Hay Malotte and a similar arrangement of Amazing Grace. As the singers trooped out of the restaurant, some of us diners agreed that it had indeed been an Amazing Evening: lovely music, superb food, fine wine and good company.