Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
PRETTY BLING, SO SO FOOD AND WINE
DAMIANI DINNER THIRD FLOOR JW MARRIOTT DECEMBER 4TH 2012
The Lenglui got invited to a dinner reception, ostensibly at Third Floor restaurant, and I was getting dragged along as the accessory du choice. Damiani is apparently a king of bling manufacture, though not a name that had been known prior to this dinner. Lenglui is on a number of bling merchant lists and evidently they deemed her a prospect for viewing with a view to investing in the sparkly rocks. Ho hum. Though the prospect of a dinner at Third Floor after many years of it being off the radar was quite intriguing. Long a restaurant of note and standard, it would be an opportune occasion to reassess the chef and his fare.
That was the thinking until information came through that chef Ken Hoh had left some time ago. The email was abuzz as to who had taken over and it had fallen to this intrepid rookie of the KL foodie universe to find out. Initial research was inconclusive - no entries after June 2012 and none to suggest that the chef had left or that the restaurant had closed. Hmmm... bit odd. All would no doubt be revealed in the fullness of time, and hopefully the fullness of a tummy full of good food and wine.
Rushing from an IWFS meeting and following a swift change into shirt and tie and a swoosh of deodorant in the WC, a glass of sweetly thin but fizzy Torralta Prosecco greeted my arrival. Crisp when cold, it thinned out with the warmth of the lighting and lost any edge it originally possessed. Thin and sweet was the description that equally applied to the white. Probably a chardonnay, it lacked body and fruit with a slightly oily finish and no real depth. Ladies wines - not made to cause offense to nose or palate.
Lenglui was already there, waltzing around the displays totally at home and in her element. Though it should be said that the bling was indeed very pretty, with some magnificent pieces on show and most of it around five years wages for most of the population. The Puan Sris and the Datins gliding about and admiring each others rocks and stones and dress inhabit a totally different world, and one that will probably survive global warming or annihilation by asteroids. Or haemorrhoids.
It was quickly discovered that Third Floor had indeed ceased to be, and the venue had been hired by the Damiani people to give a party to their favoured customers. The name appeared to be used as a matter of convenience, thought it was still in evidence in the lift that took people there. A chef had apparently been imported for the night, by name of Wan, though he or she did not come out from the safety of the kitchen to reveal their smiling face. Perhaps it was too far buried in the bowels of the hotel and too busy looking after the other outlets.
The Amuse bouche came out looking like a first course in size. Char grilled Organic Baby Romaine lettuce dressed with anchovies lemon aioli and roasted garlic tiger prawn with egg mollet. Yes. The prawn tasted like it had been recently frozen and didn't come across as totally fresh - though the ensemble was pleasantly simple. Didn't get much of the anchovy or the garlic thought the balsamic and egg slightly improved the white on the palate.
The second course of Peking Duck Consomme with Chestnut Wonton had that rich Chinese Herb broth taste and smell that you get in the Chinese medicine shops on Petaling Street and old Chinatown. Total health and ginseng root. Tasted very good too, though there is not much memory of any duck in the soup. The wonton was a nice textured crunch that mixed well with the broth. There was an elemental feel about the chestnut wonton, a sense of forest and earth in the taste. Quite stirring. The notes read of fire, home and country. Oddly good. The white wine failed miserably with the broth. The fizz fared slightly better.
Lime sorbet was a bit thin on lime, though not sufficiently so to render the palate cleanser of utility.
The main course of medium rare Roasted Medallion of Beef with Truffle mash and natural jus was a way bit underdone, almost to the extent of the cow still showing signs of life. It also came out cold. The bit that was sufficiently cooked had that good bounce on the teeth that lets you know you have a chunk of quality meat in the mouth. If you don't have to work a bit, it's not as enjoyable. Overall, though, the beef came over as quite sad. There was good texture on the mash, though it could maybe have used a little seasoning for taste. Though one can never call for salt and pepper in these places. Cartoon images from childhood of chefs brandishing meat cleavers and chasing foodies around the table calling for blood may have some rooting in fact. The red was a Benchmark Cabernet 2011, an old friend from the supermarket. Bright and lively, a bit tannic and young, though sterling enough for the assembled ladies and their gentlemanly accessories.
Dessert was a somewhat stodgy Valrhona Chocolate Celee, Mouseline Genoise with ice cream and crunchies, which presumably all means something. It looked like a chocolate log and had that bland quality about it which suggested "hotel prepared" so as to cause no offense to any patrons tasting. Which made sense since we were in the Marriott Hotel. Notwithstanding, a pleasant enough way to end the evening with coffee. Again with that distinct hotel taste about it. Slightly bland and toasty with a thin quality.
As so often seems to happen, the bread and balsamic olive oil was the star of the night. Warm and crisp with soft insides, one could have eaten the stuff all night. Some lovely company on the long table, with a Sultana sat at one end and us Raisins at the other end of the pecking order.
Reflecting on all of this the day after, it came over as a sad requiem for the glory that the Third Floor used to be. We have had totally memorable evenings of food and wine there in the past. Whilst this one was no less spectacular or unforgettable in decor and ambience, the food did little except remind what used to be. It would be difficult to reopen the Third Floor given the incredible number of restaurants that have sprung up over the last two years and those that are also in the pipeline. The game has changed and the competition is fierce, and prices seem to be stratospheric in the trendier style places. Third Floor might have a future as a food function room for high calibre people, though the food preparation needs a boost for it to really qualify as being of fine dining quality. Hotel chefs do what they can with the teams they have, but stretched is stretched and quality will always suffer. Thanks for the Third Floor memories, default fine dining remains Sage and Cilantro.