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.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

L'Heritage at Royale Chulan - not so good

13th January 2015

Scouting round for a venue for an upcoming IWFS function, Food Chair David hit on L'Heritage located in the Royale Chulan hotel off Jalan Conlay. This is a massive expanse of a hotel with a huge ballroom and opulent marble and big space everywhere. I had been to a function there with our acapella group a couple of years back and enjoyed a decent buffet at the coffee shop there, though there was no indication at the time that there were other restaurants elsewhere in the complex. Notwithstanding, L'Heritage appeared to be of good standing. Seems it was featured in the recent MIGF 2014 offering a decent looking and (according to the menu I received) award winning Western set meal for a fair price. David talked to them and they must have said the magic words "no corkage" so a trial dinner was fixed for Committee to sample.  

Table and ambience of L'Heritage
Parking was straightforward, though getting to the restaurant involved a stop at reception to ask how to get there. Once on the correct first floor, following signage proved a detour - had I ignored the direction signs I would have got to the place in five seconds. As it was I walked through the Malay, Chinese, and some other restaurant, all of which were empty. On reflection, seeing them all empty should have put me on alert that not all was well, but there you go - when you're on a mission to get somewhere you're not always open to these things. It was indeed, as the Kiwi remarked, like the Marie Celeste - empty and desolate and little evidence of life. Though a very pretty Marie Celeste it should be said - the room designated for our meal was most pleasant, reminiscent of a colonial deck with pristine chairs and tables. Table settings, wine service and glasses were excellent - the staff seemed to be good with people, though they did need a bit of wine guidance from David on occasion. Food service was also good - plates were cleared quickly and requests for more bread and water were met quickly and graciously. 

Oysters were a bit not good
The wines brought by the company (nine of us, though I brought an extra bottle of fizz) were superb. Three champagnes, one white, a Burgundy and three top end Bordeaux. I had brought a Connetable Talbot, the 2nd Wine from Chateau Talbot to try and pair with the beef. It was a bit second level in the vinous company so it got parked aside. It would eventually get drunk, though, as would the spare fizz. We are IWFS, these things are necessary.

Ultimately, though, it was all about the food and it was here that things fell quite flat. The Fin de Claire oysters were tiny and shrivelled and chewy and with a suspicion of age about them. The toppings were tastyish and well presented, but there was little to comment about them otherwise. Fail.

Seems the King Crab Royale and Atlantic Scampi were not available, so we got some greyish Crab on Mash potato with a rather large prawn whose homes of origin I did not manage to find out. Whilst the prawn was freshly acceptable and displaying good bite and chew, the crab and mash were a bit meh and snuzz. Individually each was not too bad, though the combo seemed to give an impression of stodgy. Seemed also to be a little over-salt on the potato. Fail.

Crab and Prawn - hmmm...
Drinks-wise, we were enjoying some lovely bubbles - starting with a delightfully light and fruity Thierry Grandin and giving way to a gracious 2004 Dom Perignon and a brawny 2002 Pol Roger Winston Churchill. I was half tempted to stand to attention and sing Rule Britannia while the Churchill got popped but the steely stern eye of the Governor from across the table quashed my eagerness. Winston was lovely and totally overpowered the Dom when supped side by side. Very masculine fizz. I'd had the Churchill at a Ribs dinner in November 2014, but tonight it was colder and the sense of frozen biscuit on the nose and yeasty bubbles in the cheeks was wonderful. Later on, though, the Dom showed a beautiful balance of bubbles and crisp crunchy verve. Lovely finesse in this one. Lady Astor's grace to the Winston Churchill wit. 

Roast Garlic Soup - tasty
Next out was the Roast Garlic soup which was the dish of the night - lovely texture and light crust which soaked up the broth a sweet and flakey treat. Could have supped this one all night, though the resulting Garlic Breath would make me vampire repellant for a year. Lenglui repellent also. Though Lenglui is not a vampire. Leastways not that I know of. Better stop this line of thinking…  the soup gets two thumbs up.

The Chapoutier Les Tanneurs Marsanne-Roussane blend was in the glass and was proving a delightful mouth of marzipan and lychee oriental fruits. Cool and mellow though with a lightness on the roof of the mouth. Tasty wine.

Which would have been belter with the Salmon if the Salmon had been a bit warmer. Poached and cold is not a good thing. And being paired with some Foie Gras was perhaps a bit adventurous and might have worked if the ingredients were totally fresh off the plane. As it was, the seeming slight age on the ingredients gave a somewhat ordinary result. The menu talked of mint, which might have zested the pairing, but I didn't get much mint in the mouth. The FG was wonderful on the bread with some butter, though. Ah, bread and butter and pate with a glass of wine and good friends around a table - the world comes into perfect focus. Bare pass for this dish.

Salmon and Foie Gras
The sorbet was decent enough, though perhaps a shade sugary in texture. 

And then came the start of greatness. A Vosne-Romanee 2004 had been brought and poured. Magnificent glass of wine. Breathing in cherry and perfumed air, roiling around the mouth like a soothing balm and coating the throat with that delicate film of delight that fires the senses into the poetic and exalted heights of the sublime. Darn, this was nice. A Brigit Bardot of a wine, starlet, full of life and body, a little voluptuous but chic and powerful. It was love at first sip. Well, maybe lust with shades of infatuation. O fantasy…

I had picked Beef and three of the Bordeaux had been poured to accompany. With the Vosne still in the glass, this was as close to vinous heaven as I have ever been. 

I quite liked the beef, though I might have liked it better if it had not been smothered in Bisto like gravy. It gave it that Heinz Oxtail soup feel, all meat stock and beefy oomph which is fine for stew but gets in the way of the steak. There was a slight herbal note which intrigued, though for me sauce should enhance rather than potentially hide. Can't remember the veg, though someone said the carrots were nice. Passable, though not in the league of Prime or Lafite.

The Black Angus with vegetables
And the three Bordeaux…  we had a 2008 Pontet-Canet, a 2003 Leoville Barton and a 1985 Domaine de Chevalier. Each showed definite Bordeaux character and quality, and varied only in finesse and silkiness in the finish, which one would expect given the softening tannins across the years. The Pontet-Canet was in good bloom, with the tannins coming into good season in the wine. The Leoville was tasty, with characteristic big fruit and mellowing tannins. The Chevalier was a charmer, all fine and glissando steely silk finish. Lovely, lovely wines all. But it was the Vosne that kept coming back and setting them all in context. Definitely a touch of greatness here. I have been darn lucky with some of the darlings I have tasted and this was a definite add to the list. Semi charmed kind of life? You have no idea…

The cheese was awful - looked and felt like supermarket offerings cut into slices and tasting of rubber. Complete fail. 

The final dessert was snuzz. Pretty ordinary ice cream and chocolate sponge of standard hotel quality. Not much to write about in glowing praise terms. Bare pass.

The Champagne and Marsanne
Both the 2009 Connetable Talbot and Vincent NV Cremant got cracked to end the night. The Talbot was most pleasant in a fruity way - Kiwi enjoyed it and said to give it three years to come into better balance. I have a couple left in the wine fridge, so three years it is. The Cremant was a most pleasant and boozy way to end the night - creamy crisp bubbles with a firm finish to cleanse the throat. Darn sight better than a sorbet. 

The Reds and my spare Cremant
So…  in sum, lovely venue, excellent service, a Brahma of a night for wine but pretty grim food. I think the problem with this place is two fold. First, there is clearly not enough business to maintain a top level foreign chef. These guys are like thoroughbred horses and footballers, they need to perform and cook and when they don't get the chance then their form and fire will start to fade and they'll be looking to new pastures. You have to let them run if you want them to stay; if you can't let them run because there's no one to run for, they'll die of boredom. I was later told that the Executive Chef was not in the kitchen for the evening and that it had been the number two in control. Hmmm….    

Second, it is a hotel restaurant and as a consequence blandness is often necessarily built into food preparation so as to not offend patrons. Couple this with the absence of the chef at a test dinner for a gourmet group and some of the food not appearing because it could not be sourced...  res ipsa loquitur. Would no way have won an award from me on this performance. 

The meal was not unfair in value terms and as said the service from the staff was excellent. At present, though, it is not a destination restaurant and it is unlikely to become one because presumably very few know it exists and one gets the feeling that no one really cares too much about raising the profile. It is a standard destination for official government functions and owned by the company that runs the Armed Forces pension fund so business revenue is fairly guaranteed. Give it a decent chef, though, and it might stand a chance. The setting is delightful. As it stands, though, there doesn't seem enough buzz about any of the food venues in the place, and the final whack of a RM24 car park bill underlined for me that a return in the near future is far from likely. Though in fairness I did get lucky with the car park - it wouldn't take my money and on trying to pay at reception the nice lady validated for me. Would be a great venue for visiting Michelin chefs, though. Now THAT might be an idea…

Full Menu RM 180+ per pax 

3 huîtres de Français de Clair de style different 
americaine, polonaise et rheetaise
3 Different Styles Fin De Clair French Oysters
American, Polonaise, Rhetaise

Crabe royal a l ‘ivoire, scampi de l ‘ atlantique et
beurre de truffe
King Crab a l` ivoire, Atlantik Scampi and Truffle Butter

Ail jeune grille  
Roasted Young Garlic

Foie gras traditionnel ‘au torchon’ served avec
Un saumon poche dans un consommé de menthes du Viêt Nam 
Traditional Foie Gras ‘au Torchon’ served with
Slow Poached Salmon in Vietnamese Mints Consume

Baies sauvages au sirop de cerise
Wild Berries with Cherry Syrup

On Going / Sur le Depart
Steak Black Angus au four, strudel aux pommes
et a la nappage aux morilles
Simply Baked Black Angus Steak, Lamb Apple Strudel
Morel and Demi Glaze

Le cabillaud et thon fumé croustillante avec un beurre blanc au citron et gingembre, 
accompagné par du chou, noix de pin, Parmesan et pommes bouillies au beurre
Crispy Fresh Cod and Smoked Tuna with Lemon – Ginger Sauce, 
accompanied by Cabbage, Pine Nuts and Boiled Buttered Potatoes   

Plateau de fromage française assortise
Assorted French Cheese 

Gâteau Opéra avec ragoût des baies
Opera cake with berry stew

Coffee /Tea


Champagne Thierry Grandin NV
2002 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill
2004 Dom Perignon
2009 M Chapoutier Les Tanneurs Saint-Peray Marsanne
2004 Vosne-Romanee Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot
2008 Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac
2003 Chateau Leoville Barton
1985 Domaine De Chevalier Graves
Vincent Cremant de Bourgogne NV
2009 Connetable Talbot

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