Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bond no.9 Chinatown

Being an expat, no matter how tenaciously adjusted, leads to many unlooked for moments of sentimental ambush. Would I have the same child like expectations of the Bond no.9 series if was about London rather than New York? No, it would be more a curiousity. I had already been wowed by Little Italy's juicy gelati bursts that had rendered poor old Sicily (once loved) a stale flat mess. So I was very happy to receive a small decant of Chinatown from generous swapper.

The decant itself smelled candified in a good way but the initial topnote blast had something very bad in it. I know honey was not the intended impression but when you really loathe a note in scent any faint homage to it leaps out and cloys at you. This disappeared quite rapidly though and was replaced by the lightly incensical cardamon. No star anise which is certainly a dominant scent of the chinese groceries of my childhood. The spice notes are powdery, not in the classical perfume sense but in the literal sense of huge kilo bags of finely powdered spices piled up on shelves in the back of the store. It's a dry overload of fine particles more than any particular scent and were it cranked up just a bit more you would probably want to rub your nose. I remembered tasting that dry powder on my lips after wandering those shelves for a while. I imagine if you worked in such a store you'd be wiping it off your skin at the end of day. These middle notes recede into a very yummy drydown of brightly coloured happy florals. The sweetness which has been likened to caramel is more to my mind that of White Rabbit candy. The powdery spices and perfumed flavourings of a chinese grocery are still there but now you are wandering the aisles sucking on White Rabbit goodness. The condensed milk sweetness is a creamy pleasure that softens and blends what was an assault on the senses.

It's a rapid and choppy journey to the drydown and the end result is beautiful and unusual. My father adored taking us to a three story chinese grocery in Chinatown when we were children. My sister and I would wander the aisles whispering over the enormous bags of varied dried fungi, sniffing everything and always finishing up peering into the watery buckets of beche-le-mar in the fridge section. "Would you eat it for a hundred dollars?" We would buy beautiful miniatures for our doll houses, unusual candies that took our fancy (Haw flakes anyone?) and, when I got older, always a new kind of tea. Bond no.9 is a very changeable landscape and reminiscent of all the surprises a chinese grocery held for two little wasp girls.

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