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.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pretty awful food - Shangri La Hotel IWFS APZ

The stage is set...
June 28th 2013

I have had a number of less than pleasant experiences of late at the hands of the Shangri La (see elsewhere in this blog) but this one felt like a real overcharging for very mediocre and low quality food. The occasion in question was the IWFS APZ Welcome Dinner at the Selangor Room in the Shangri La Hotel. It should have been a showcase of one of Malaysia's best food and service experiences for the foodies of the world. But it failed. Boy oh boy, how it failed...

IWFS APZ Chair Yvonne Wallis flanked by IWFS KL Secretary Dato Jeremy Diamond (left) and IWFS KL President Dr Rajan
In brief, the canapes were forgettable, the jumbo prawns were far from jumbo and equally far from fresh, the salad was fair but the mains were quite bad. To expand, the prawns were painfully small and could in no way have been fresh. Tough and dry, they were difficult to get out of the shell and tasted awful. Their texture had that recently unfrozen feel about them. The Orange salad clearly had a Japanese influence and in fairness was not bad. Fruity crisp with fennel, endives and lettuce. Okra tempura was cute, salmon had a good firmness to it and paired nicely with the oranges and citrus mayonaisse. Wasabi would have been bolder, but there you go. 

IWFS APZ Festival Organiser Dato' Jeremy Diamond
The chowder was creamily acceptable, though I had to pass (personal history with peppers) but the lamb was massively overcooked to the extent that all the people on my table who had ordered it found that they could not eat it. My taste of the lamb found it supermarket standard quality and with that nasty lamby smell and taste. It was overcooked to the point of tough and indeed pretty indigestible. Hmmm.  I ended up needing to share my beef with them so that they at least had something to eat. Not that the beef was spectacular - far from it; ordinary, firm and chewy, soaked in jus and lacking anything resembling the Angus that presumably it should have been. Finally, the Clafoutis was stodgy and dry and reminiscent of a bad school dinner pudding. I had to eat it since I had eaten relatively little else during the meal. I think I finished off someone's sorbet and now stale bread in an effort to soak up the wine. 

IWFS Chair Yvonne Wallis 
This and other experiences would suggest that the kitchen cannot maintain quality when there are too many functions on at the same time - we were fighting with about 500 oil and gas people in the main ballroom. Yes, one expects a degree of lower standard when trying to feed the five hundred plus. But not to the extent that the food is inedible, as some of our table felt about the lamb. 

Added to this, the staff that the Shang had allocated us felt hugely under trained with little to no knowledge of either wine or its distribution. We are used to having students serve us at the Shang but usually the old hands help the new ones. I think all the old hands had been commandeered for the other dinner, leaving the newbies to fend for themselves or get helped out by us. One wine bypassed us completely. There was probably an F&B manager overseeing everything, but I guess he or she was probably being pestered by the organiser of the other dinner to have too much time to do anything. Did not appear to be anywhere in evidence.

Making friends
I find it a stunning lapse of judgement that a hotel of the Shang's standing could have served a dinner like this to a society with such clearly refined culinary expectations and standing as is the International Wine and Food Society. Everyone applauded the wines but I don't recall any of the overseas guests complimenting or commenting on the food. Presumably too polite to criticize the hosts. Except for one KL Expatriate veteran who decided to bend my ear for ten minutes on how bad he found the food and that it was the worst he had ever tasted and how could anyone justify the RM700 he had stumped up for the privilege. He had possibly turned to the wine for solace. Other attendees have grumbled similar comments at subsequent get togethers. Difficult to disagree. Overall, the food was pretty awful and just somehow very sad.

Lenglui with Stephanie
Sad because the Shang used to be the standard by which all other hotel ballroom functions would be judged. Based on this and other recent experiences, it has fallen far from this position. Whilst there may be reasons for this, there can be little in the way of excuse. I have many memories of wonderful times at the Shang stretching back over twenty years. Sad thing is that I seem to have little real desire to see whether it can regain its position. This felt like a massive overcharge for the standard of food and service received and, coupled with recent negative experiences documented elsewhere, a sense of injury at somehow feeling my patronage was being taken for granted. Result: any goodwill I might have had for the place has been pretty much dissipated by this night's experience. Enough is enough. The other hotels in the city can offer far better Ballroom food for half this kind of money and be more warm and efficient in their quality of preparation, presentation and service (compare the recent note in this blog on The Westin). Having said this, the service we got at Arthur's for a pre-dinner glass of wine was friendly and efficient, as was the delivery of a tasty pizza from the Lemon Garden earlier in the day to our reception station.

I really hope I don't have to go back to the Ballroom soon - you know what it's like, one of your friends decides to hold a function there and because of the friendship you cannot avoid attending. Maybe I can just give face for the starter and ask if someone can bring me a pizza.

The Wines for the Evening
Wine notes
NV Bollinger Rose Brut - maybe a note of oxidation on opening. Blood orange in colour with a Sour plum nose, excellent bead, acidity a bit high but overall a very classy glass of bubbles.

2010 Puligny Montrachet Jacques Carillon - light, creamy, peach nose, grannysmith apple with granite minerality.  Good acidity, medium finish. Good, not great.

2011 Ch Vieux Telegraphe CdP Blanc La Crau - belter. Rich, pepper spice, full rounded mouth feel with walnut and and honey. New friends on the table who say they would never had tried a white CdP were pleasantly surprised. We could have drunk it all night. I think some people did.

2007 Vosne Romanee Domaine d'Eugenie - light, fruit driven, fresh clean bouquet. Balance could have been better, tasting of sour fruit and a bit harsh on the finish.

2006 Ch Malescot St Exupery - smooth and better balanced, cherry and blackcurrant nose with menthol and breezes. Not spectacular, but not bad at all.

2007 Ch Coutet - nice. Good balance of acidity and honey with apricots, apricots, and apricots on the nose, mouth and finish with a hint of burnt caramel gula melaka spice feel.

The Prawns. So sad.
Opening Black Tie dinner – 28th June Shangri La Hotel

NV Bollinger Rose Brut

Fried beef Tataki in Asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise
Vegetable Spring Roll with green tomato jam
Prawn Satay with spiced pistachio chutney
Bell Peppers Chowder. Give me the wind they do...

Seared Jumbo Prawns with lemon butter sauce

2010 Puligny Montrachet Jacques Carillon


Confit Poached Atlantic Salmon with
Fennel and Orange Salad, Citrus Mayonnaise and Okra Tempura

Beef Short Ribs and Medallion. Ho hum
2011 Ch Vieux Telegraphe CdP Blanc La Crau

Red and Yellow Bell Pepper Chowder
Olive and Pistachio Crouton
Slow Cooked Beef Short Ribs and Australian Beef Medallion
Creamy Potatoes and Mushrooms
Roasted Lamb Loin glazed with Herb and Walnut Crust
Potato Gratin and Green Asparagus Bundle
Cherry Clafoutis. Stodgy but edible

2007 Vosne Romanee Domaine d'Eugenie 
2006 Ch Malescot St Exupery

Clafoutis with Marinated Cherries
Vanilla Ice Cream
2007 Ch Coutet

Coffee and Tea  

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