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.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Soleil with UK Foodies - excellent seafood, bloody cold room!

Feb 2nd 2017
Found this whilst drafting a series of food stories for the first seven months of 2017 which will be sequentially appearing soon. Felt like quite a decent write so figured to post it as a separate read. 

Short Version
Jayze, this was cold. The aircon was like an ice machine blaster and we were told there was no way to turn it down. Our original table in the private room was chilly for everyone who came dressed in short sleeve shirts. We got moved nearer to the open mall. It was still fucking cold. Damn near got frostbite, totally chilled to the total bone. The Soleil sun had no heat on this evening. And we did not need aircon in the bedroom to sleep that night. Brrrr. 

We had the chef's table degustation. which was omakase so no advance idea what it would be (but the maitre'd kindly went backstage and typed up the menu for me). Fantastic food. Full of taste and vim. Chef does his fish fantastically well. The little adds of herb and flower and season to immeasurably fresh ingredients made for a memorable evening. Some blips with the lamb and lobster ravioli for me. Wines were Cullen SB/Semillon 2010 which we brought and a 2007 Bordeaux Tour du Pin or something from the Soleil winelist.

Bill came out to about RM400 each when I had memories of Lenglui seeing the thing being under RM300. I didn't see the bill, though I suspect it was upped by the bottled water and coffee and teas ordered which did not appear on the menu - my experience is when this is so then it is not part of the deal and usually get charged for. Not a whinge, just an observation. The Shang used to pull this one, so when we see bottled water then I assume we pay. Also got no corkage on the Cullen as advised by Maitre' D which earned him a tip. Have to check the price of the du Pin. That could've whacked the bill into overdrive.

Overall a most pleasant experience mealwise and one I would heartily recommend to lovers of seafood. Chef really is a star with the fruits du mer. Just got to get them to turn down the fricking aircon. Or off. It really was bastard freezing. Gave me nosebleed. 

Long Version
Bloody cold. Aircon is a jet stream on my skull. Next time must bring a hat and a parka. Was not just the first table - the one we changed to was just as bad (well, it was for me - the others only started to notice later on in the evening). Good thing I wore a long sleeve shirt. Think I brought a jacket too. 

Very simple table setting. Who needs cloths?
The Amuse was a seared tuna in coucous doused with pepper, lemon (perhaps Yuzu cos it was a bit sharper than normal) and pesto. Good salt and blend of textures on this one - citrus and pesto made for a creamy zap with the fish. The menu says mint - I have no note. Went gangubsters with a 2010 Cullen SB/Semillon we got on sale from AsiaEuro that we had decided to crack.

The Amuse Bouche
Don't seem to have notes on the Beef Tongue, but memory says it was very good. It is a bit unusual to find beef tongue on a menu in this part of the world. My childhood memories of it were pretty yuck - my mother would buy it from the Central Market in Cardiff and it came home as a big round slice of greasy salted and odd rich tasting meat. I think I probably couldn't get past the idea of eating a cow tongue no matter how it had been prepared. However, needs must have musted when the belly yelled and in it would go between two bits of bread and butter for onward transmission down the hatch. This evening's offering was a far more delicate and tasty slice of blended fat and meat which went wonderfully well with the chilled green zap of the cold, crisp and amazing Lettuce granita. The tomatoes were wonderfully sweet little bites. The Cullen did pretty good service to this dish too - quite versatile, this wine.

Dish Two was the Irish Oyster and what a brilliantly fresh little chap it was. Straight out of the shell and onto the plate and combining the brined Tomato and avocado foam to give a taste of the seaside but without the gaack you get when swallowing a mouthful of seawater. The duck liver gave salt and fire whilst an undercurrent of leek gave a sweet crunchy bite. This was a superb little charmer, a totally refreshing and salty seabreeze tang and surf swoosh through the cheeks and throat. The remaining goo got slopped up with the Soleil signature bread and butter. Wonderful little dish. 

The Dish Three Grilled Fremantle Octopus was a crunchy little tentacle, with good salt on the sauce and good pepper on the beetroot puree. Got a nice hint of wood presumably from the fire on which the thing had gotten charred which got pleasantly underscored by the Tsatziki. Tasty enough dish, though a dab of olive oil would have done much. What is Botarga? According to Martha Stewart, it is the roe of gray mullet or tuna that has been salted, pressed, and air-dried and is a specialty of southern Italy. Which would explain the salt. 

Grilled Fremantle Octopus
By this time, the Cullen was giving off crispy apple with nicely chewy texture and taste. It was excellent with the Amuse, though perhaps due to the citric seawater hit it became a shade metallic with the Oyster. It would regain its mineral clarity with the Octopus, complementing its woody taste and texture like sunblock on a sweaty chest. The fact that we were still on the first bottle said much for the speed in which the dishes were emerging from the kitchen and getting consumed. 

Dish Four was the Pan Seared Scallop with Tagliatele in Cod Roe Butter and was top class. The Scallop was almost still snapping in its freshness, the Tagliatelle gave enough support for texture whilst the bisquey butter sauce was all salt cream cheeks and crisp fire and zip on the tongue. Belter of a dish, though perhaps a hint of capsicum in the sauce. Next time I will call for more bread and butter to soak up the jus - instant heaven. 

Pan Seared Scallop
It was at this time I started noticing the presentations on the plates. The thought and care going into them was clear. Different plate shapes and colours and sizes, arrangement of the elements, all coming out at the same time - commendable. Kitchen and table were working well together and the staff seemed more at ease with our six rather than the fifteen they had to cope with on a previous occasion with the IWFS in January. Made for a nicely relaxed evening. 

Next up was the Lobster Ravioli with Lobster Consomme, which initially felt a bit snuzz compared to the previous dishes presented.  For me, all crustaceans seem to taste better when less is done to them, and the mincing of the lobster seemed to take out all the juiciness we normally associate with it. Which was what seemed to have happened here - the meat had become strands of fibre which had lost their real ethos. Couple this with the dollop being covered with a thin skein of pasta and it was in grave danger of missing the point. It was like the Chinese big Sui Gau dumplings but without fire in the filling. However, it started to grow in the mouth and eventually was to linger for quite a while. The delicacy of the thing in combo with the very tasty and not overpowering bisque made for a long finish - not something I normally associate with food. It was…  fine. This was a fine dining dish. Had there been tablecloths on the tables, it would have been total fine dining. There you go. Have to see if they have any good value table runners at the IKEA to bring for the next time. 

Lobster Ravioli. Took some time to understand this one...
Dish Six was Grilled Scottish Salmon with Charred Vegetable and Sea Urchin Butter. Lovely sear on the salty salmon skin and there felt a hint of blue cheese in the butter which kind of initially shocked the senses but made for a brilliant combo. Some garlic shreds made for nice bite and crunch. My note says "Bit strange, but nice strange." 

The nicely strange Salmon
We had picked a 2007 Tour du Pin Bordeaux from the very fairly priced restaurant wine list in an effort to ask nicely for waiving the corkage on the Cullen (which worked). This was a velvet smooth mouth, cassis and deep plum feel and with good body through to a medium finish. It was bought ahead of the incoming lamb and had to be sipped with the fish given the inability of the Cullen to stretch for five people across six dishes. No biblical miracles happening with the wine tonight. The lamb would turn out to be a bit disappointing, but more from a textural standpoint rather than any intrinsic fault in the dish - it felt like a mouth shock coming as it did after some magnificent seafood and notwithstanding the delightfully sweet and sour calamansi sorbet. The Duck Leg popiah was a bit strange as well - rather than the delightfully thin things the Chinese Restaurants offer, this one was more like a tortilla stuffed with shredded roast duck. Probably would have gone better with a bottle of beer rather than the fine Bordeaux we were chugging. 

Lamb. Why?
Could have actually done without the lamb dish and gone straight to dessert. Which would turn out to be an amazing little bit of theatre with all the kitchen patisserie staff coming out to create the thing on a board, each adding their little bits of jelee or maccaron or other tidbit to the thing. Total art on the board which we would then mush up into our little tasty bites and crunches. I refrained, preferring to finish the booze before this total sugar overdose. I think I enjoyed the theatre more than the result, but I recognise that these cream and meringue and fruit and wafer style desserts are not my preference. Tasty enough, but total sugar and fruit sauces and syrupy sweets and citrus sours and stuff. Everyone else loved it. 

Planet of Soleil. Would soon become Jackson Pollock of Soleil
So can chalk up another success to the Soleil though at RM400 a pop some might feel a shade hard done by. Well, and maybe, but in comparison to what other establishments seem to be wanting to charge recently Soleil leans toward the middle. Add the facts of incredibly fresh produce, playful and tongue delighting preparations, charming presentation and very good service, then a better sense of worth and value kick in. It was most enjoyable. The smaller grouping perhaps had an influence - the Old Soleil always scored with its intimacy and personal attention. Just have to find a way to control the aircon. Way too cold. Will bring an electric fire next time. Or demand to sit in the kitchen. Cheers!

Amuse Bouche - Grilled Tuna  with Couscous and Basil Mint Sauce
1st Dish
Beef Tongue Maccarello with homemade Pickles, Heirloom tomatoes and Lettuce Granita
2nd Dish
Irish Oyster and Duck Liver Snow, Brined Tomato Jelly, Avocado Foam, Cucumber Broth
3rd dish
Grilled Fremantle Octopus, Beetroot Tsatziki, Herbs Salad and Botarga
4th Dish
Pan Seared Scallop, Tagliatele, Cod Roe Butter
5th Dish
Lobster Ravioli with Lobster Consomme
6th Dish
Grilled Scottish Salmon Charred Vegetable and Sea Urchin Butter
Sorbet - Calamansi and Apple
7th Dish
Roasted Lamb Rump, Charred Vegetables and Fried Duck Leg Popiah
8th Dish
Dessert - Planet of Soleil
Petits Fours

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