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, November 6, 2013

Lovely dinner at Chez Rose

Brief note on a private dinner we had with The Geezer at the Chez Rose November 4th 2013.

The restaurant seems to have opened mid 2009 and is on the same premises that was once Klimt's. Taken over by the people that operate Jake's Charbroil Steaks, with Chez Rose they are looking to offer Continental European style fare. They've kept some of the Austrian style dishes for which Klimt's was legend but have added more meat and seafood to the menu. Chez Rose also naturally does a great steak, which we'd had previously at a dinner there with Wagyu beef and seafood for about twenty (which got a bit unmanageable after a while but was still very good fun). This time there would be ten of us on a long table with a specially designed menu. The Geezer has become good friends with Chez Rose and they let him know when the good food is coming in. It's always who you know, isn't it?

Brilliant oyster and salmon sashimi - totally fresh and dreamy and needing no more than a squeeze of  lemon and a fork. Dollop of wasabi on the salmon was a good blitz of radish in the nose but the fish really was exceptional. Sweet and firm, fresh out of the water. Felt like a grizzly bear in the rapids who'd just caught one going upstream. 

Stanley SB was a new one and a pleasantly crisp accompaniment. Good sharp lemon for the oyster and nice zingy acidity for the salmon. Good matches.

Brocolli soup had a dollop of cream swirled into it for a hot mouthwarming whack. The cream naturally sweetened the brocolli puree nicely to give great texture and taste.

For some reason a New Zealand grown Albarino came to the table. Didn't know they were growing it there, it came over like an unsweetened Riesling, all fruit and finish, though somewhat more full in body than the Spanish styles. Maybe one to watch.

The grilled Salmon Arrabiata was perfectly done, with fresh tomato and grilled cheese poured on top to make for sweet wholesome and hearty mouthful of food with good salt and bite. Not sure that pairing a Petit Sirah was the best choice, but it drank well enough. Not as brambly as its cousin, it still had enough bite and grip to engage. The tomato sweetened the acidity nicely enough though the mid weight fruit didn't really do the salmon any favours. Tough dish to match in fairness - salmon texture with tomato cheese needs something acidic for the fish and sweet for the tomato. The remains of the Albarino worked quite nicely. Next time should maybe try a Rose. Fits the name of the Restaurant as well!

The lamb quality was excellent and grilled to perfection. The first came out with a dollop of herb butter over the top. A comment at the time was that this felt a bit too much - the butter got in the way of the juices of the meat. The hostess quickly got the kitchen to prepare a butterless version to compare and saw the point - less can sometimes be more. 

The Oliverhill Jimmy was a reasonably big and bold standard Shiraz, though somewhat more balanced and not as aggressive as many in the market. Good forward fruit, even tannins and full finish, this is a good people friendly wine. A shade too powerful for my taste with the lamb, though the remnants of the Petit Sirah paired well. 

More wine came out - a honey mead as memory serves to pair with dessert (of which I have no memory). Interesting mouthful - dessert wine sweet but the lighter texture of a white burgundy. Would be champion with apple pie and ice cream.

In all, a very good night of food, wine and friends. The ambience is cleanly open continental with good aircon and a friendly vibe. A little bit Edelweiss - tall and bright, clear and white with marble tables and tiled floor. More party than intimate. Go there with a group and you'll have a good time. There's also a verandah for those who prefer alfresco dining. 

Chez Rose is on the same block as the equally legendary Hock Lee Supermarket. Well worth the detour and the RM1 parking fee (after 8pm) which the automatic car park charges, but you get to park in front of the Restaurant and sometimes they leave the gate open after 11pm so you might get a free. 

Chez Rose Continental Restaurant
6-5 Jalan Batai
Damansara heights
50490 KL
Tel 03 20921978

Medley of premium seafood:
Freshly shucked pacific oysters
Smoked marinated baby octopus
Air-flown chilled salmon trout sashimi

2012 Stanley Estate Sauvignon Blanc

Brocolli soup in espresso cuppa


Grilled Salmon “Arrabiata” topped with spicy tomato & mushroom sauce,
gratinated with mozzarella cheese

Oliverhill Petite Sirah


Grilled premium rack of lamb topped with mint bernaise

Oliverhill Jimmy Section Shiraz

Pannacotta with cherry coulis

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Top end Chinese Cuisine at Marco Polo Restaurant

Marco Polo Restaurant August 24th 2013

Lenglui organised this dinner for our Tai Chi group because the Marco was giving excellent discount on their Suckling Pig. Also the Marco has good karaoke systems and the group surely loves to sing. Not always well or in tune, but they do love to sing.

The Sifu had heard about dinners where each dish is accompanied by a different wine and had never experienced this. So it was that I took it upon myself to have a stab at pairing and satisfy the curiosity. Nothing elaborate, just to introduce the idea that different varietals have different tastes and that these varietals can pair better or worse with food. I knew that the group would not spring for higher priced wine so I went for the cheapest I could find. The Hardy's range suited the bill nicely, having the full range of varietels. I also figured that utilising a single Winemaker would help in avoiding confusion - keep to the varietals rather than explain labels and regions.  

We got there at Seven to give the booze a final chill and found three expectants there already. The Geezer had just come from a tasting and had brought some decent stuff which he was clearly ready to open and skull back. We managed to restrain and opened our Hardy's Sauvignon Blanc 2012 to pacify. Pleasantly and sweetly crisp with a good mouth feel and a throat sparkle that sated nicely. He decanted his Mondot 2008 in advance and promised to drink it later so as to not impair the wine pairing. Later turned out to be twenty minutes. I scored a glass later in the night - full bodied Bordeaux, bit tannic with medium fruit and good alcohol, though something in it didn't quite jive - felt like a green pepper somewhere that left a tang where there should have been silk. Maybe a bit of age will help. The Geezer clearly liked it. But then, he does have a tendency to like everything.

Others arrived and got greeted with the same SB. Very nice aperitif wine. Two bottles around twently people was not quite enough so the stragglers got Hardy's Chard 2012. Less light in body with good apples and peach and honey. Not too complex but enough zing to interest and enjoy. It was geared to go with the Deluxe Four Season Combination which was lovely - croquettes and scallop and sausage and an amazing pig cheek that set off the Chard brilliantly.

The Double Boiled Chicken Soup with Fish Lips was well received by all, with a broth to savour and fish lips that melted. Didn't really pair with the wine but then soup never does, does it?

The Hardy's 2011 Shiraz was a disappointment - fruit a bit lacking with the alcohol a bit forward in the mouth and the finish - though no one really complained about it. The tannins set off the pig skin collagen and crisp skin well enough and the pepper gave a nice kick. A bit too much leather and pencil in the mouth and a bit thin in body. A better Shiraz will be ordered next time.

The Shiraz also got paired with the Sea Cucumber and vegetable to try and combat the thick gooey sauce it normally comes in. Here, the alcohol did help in cutting the gunk, but the wine was clearly not of enough standard to compete. Those who had some Chardonnay left benefitted from their discipline - it went better.

Sauteed Water Cress and Garlic was to be paired with Chinese tea, but by this time everyone was fighting for the Karaoke. I gave some tips on how to taste wine but people seemed more interested in drinking the stuff than understanding the nuances of Sight, Swirl, Smell, Sip and Swallow. So it goes. My experience in the entertainment industry says to never get in the way of someone having a good time. 

Due to a late increase in budget, a duck was able to be ordered and very tasty it was too. The Duck at the Marco is legend and tonight didn't disappoint. Lenglui had brought a good few friends to enjoy the promotion over the past few weeks so maybe this was their way of showing appreciation. Indeed, many friends on the night had said it had been the first time they had been there in many, many years. I think the Marco is back on the map of a growing number of people. The standard of both food and service is excellent. 

Last out was the Noodles and Sliced Garoupa. I had brought some 2008 Toro Piedro 168 Cabernet that I figured needed drinking. A tannic beast a few years back, I figured five years in bottle should have tamed it. Got it from old friend Robert Tan from QL Wines as a thank you for entertaining at one of his wine dinners and it was the last of the case. I also remembered that the Geezer liked his meaty wines and figured he'd enjoy it. He did, as did I. Good full fruit and lovely balance with firm tannins and full body, it made for a silky mouth and finish and a great way to chug the end of the night. It also helped soothe the largely off key vocals of the assembled karaoke afficionadoes. You really can't be sober at karaoke sessions and it is difficult to explain the pain that off key singing invokes when your own pitch is generally perfect. The Cab helped numb the senses enough to see through the singing and reflect that getting friends together around food, wine and song is more important than any strange noises made by the pitch impaired. Finally…  booze does have a use.

Another memorable night at Prime

Kuala Lumpur October 28, 2013

Got a late email from the Doc notifying about the wine dinner.  Billed as "Appreciate the Timeless Taste of MITOLO" it would pair Mitolo wines with the Chef's best. Also got the same email from El Presidente but also saying that IWFS members would get 20% discount. So tough to say no when these people are being so boozer friendly.

The blurb from organiser Albert Wines said the Mitolo grapes are sourced from McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley, and that the wines are apparently "praised by some of the world's toughest critics." Okay. Given the 20% discount for Prime food and the wine, the gig was definitely worth a punt.

Lenglui had originally declned but changed the mind when she saw the traffic snarl that would have lay ahead of her to get where she was scheduled to be. It was bad - at least an hour for it to clear. That's KL sometimes - the traffic can snarl for little to no apparent reason. Often a breakdown or a bump in the absence of heavy rain. Like this, better to hole up for an hour somewhere and let it pass.

Doc and friend Sunny were there though we shifted tables to accommodate El Presidente in a group of five. Maitre d' Elan was on hand to make sure all glasses were filled and everyone was comfortable. Difficult not to be comfortable at the Prime with their huge enveloping chairs. Really is a warm, comfortable restaurant. Lovely ambience, maybe a bit corporate but great lighting and lots of cheery browns. The modern touch is the kitchen staff all dressed in black. Gives an efficient sheen to the place. 

Palate Teaser
First on the table was a light amuse bouche style starter that was supposed to pair with something that looked cocktail like in a whiskey tumbler and which was way too sweet. Soda water with something called Aperol. Okay I guess, though not sure what it was supposed to do. In contrast, the Palate Teaser was dleightful. All the litttle bites were brilliantly tasty. Of particular note was the tomato and strawberry Gazpacho, a spoonful of sourish sweetness that had zing and verve and cheekily tickled the, er, cheeks.

The scallop was freshly firm and crunchy, and topped nicely with the Celeriac Espuma and truffle to taste. Paired with the Jester Vermentino 2012, a light Pinot Grigio style wine that nicely stayed out of the way of the food. Quite refreshing, not much in the way of fruit, but most pleasant.

Seared Sea Scallop
Next up was the Chicken Galantine with Foie Gras and Duck Confit. This looked similar to a Roulade of rolled chicken breast sandwiching a wedge of FG and DC. The chicken had that good firm succulent tenderness in the mouth, though the volume of meat meant that we couldn't really taste the Foie Gras - there was just too little of it to do anything to the meat. The strip of Duck Confit fared slightly better and lent the ensemble a salt crunch zap that got nicely sweetened by the fig chutney which, with the pickled shimeji mushroom, made for a full on sweet rubbery bite. 

Chicken Galantine with Foie Gras and Duck Confit
The matching Jester Shiraz 2011 was pleasant and balanced, with full sweet berry, medium body, quite supple and an overall easy drinker but with teeth and a slightly metallic edge. It drinks more like a slightly mean Merlot with some pepper in the aftertaste. With the food it paired well enough, with the food dousing the edge on the wine, though not really enough to elevate the pairing beyond "nice enough". Neither brought out any extra qualities in the other. 

The lamb was very sweet with great taste and texture and WAY better without the avocado which basically messed up the lamb! Didn't seem to add anything other than a neutraliser of the juices in the meat. But it did softens the texture which perhaps was the aim. Okay, but the avocado left a fruit oil sheen in the mouth which tinted everything that went in with it. Carnivores who prefer the juice of the meat would leave it to the side. Carnivore. 

Slow Cooked Sous Vide Seared Lamb Loin
In contrast, the dried Olive Tapendade was genius. it gave a textured taste of the olive to the lamb without that oily throat coat that often accompanies meat basted with olive oil. The biscuit wafer veil lent a crunch texture to bed the whole thing and fill the mouth with total pleasure.

The GAM is a sleek, supple, well made Shiraz of class and breeding. A very easy drinker. Full and firm, though it got a bit thin when drank next to the Samitar which came out quite quickly. This is a powerful beast with a kick like a filly that's just had a jab with a vet's dart. Brambles, bit of spritz on the tongue. Rich, full, layers, chocolate, berries, zapzap pinches on the tongue tip. Great balance across the tannins and high-ish alcohol with the big fierce fruit. Good grip going down. Quite masculine - vinous version of macho Aussie outbacker playing footie in the vineyard.

The beef is lovely. Great sear, clean meat, leanlean beef. The eggplant puree is cute, taking off the purine in the beef. These chefs really know their food molecules, and some of us are generally happy they don't deconstruct them too much. Sometimes Momma Nature puts molecules together in a certain way for a reason, and messing with this can get, er, messy. Not here, not with this. Nothing but grilled juicy meat that does so many wonderful things on the tongue. 

The Serpico. Absolutely one of the best single Cabs I have tasted. They dry some of the grapes amarone style and then crush. The smoothness is amazing - like a best blend of whiskies, only way smoother. Got supple, sleek, great fruit and balance and a mellowing sunset heat as it goes down. Be a devil to match with food though - it tastes too good on its own. Having it paired with the dessert seemed a bit strange at first, but tasting it made sense. Eat the dessert then drink the wine. An after dinner Cabernet - silky, chewy tannins, most pleasant coffee notes with chocolate. A thoroughbred stallion rather than some of the tannic monsters out there. Oh, so very, very nice. Belter belter belter. Drink this all night thank you very much. Must buy.

The dessert was lighter than it looked. Great light texture, bit of a chocolate sorbet taste with lots of sweet fruit. Zippy but smooth. Far better with the coffee than the wine. 

A most excellent evening of great food matched with some really lovely quality wines. And the traditional takeaway of Prime's brilliant cookies is always a nice aftertaste to take home and enjoy the morning after. Always happy to go back to the Prime - it consistently makes for memorable evenings. 

The Mitolo Wines for the evening

Marinated Chicken with Tapenade and Cold Ratatouille on Piota bread
Cold Smoked Salmon and Crab Roll on Russian Blini's, Creme Fraiche
Strawberry and Vine Ripe Tomato Gazpacho with Yoghurt and Olive Oil
Greek Feta Olive, Preseved Roma Tomato and Bell Pepper Drizzle with Virgin Olive Oil

Aperitif: Aperol Soda Ice

Celericac Espuma, Seared Sea Scallop, Crispy Filo Pastry, Black Shaved Truffle

Chicken Galantine with Foie Gras and Duck Confit, Fig Chutney
Caramel and Sea Salt Walnut Crumble, Pickled Shimeji

Slow Cooked Sous Vide Seared Lamb Loin with Sweet Amoled Paprika
Avocado Puree and Dried Olive Tapenade
Hazelnut Veil

Provencal Crust BBQ Charcoal Grilled Black Angus Tenderloin
Eggplant Puree with Orange Zest and Pimento Polenta Cake
Creamy Shaved Asparagus Tzatziki Salad
Porcini Sauce

Deconstructed Black Forest
Cherry Gel, Dark Chocolate Cremeux, Cocoa Nibs, Cherry Tuile, Vanilla Bavaroise, Moist Chocoklate Cake, Amarena Sornbet and Cherry Foam

Illy Coffee or Selections of Dilmah Tea
Prime Cookies

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

IWFS Dinner at The Restaurant at The Club, Saujana.

Mixed feelings. Great place, food good but lacked "wow".

October 24th 2013

On paper, this should have been magnificent. Great reports from people who had dined there and a good selection of tasty wines from the storage. But for some (or maybe a few) reason it didn't all quite click. Good enough, I guess, but lacking any real "wow" factor to transport the night from the good to the memorable. 

Lenglui on the Verandah
Needing to get to the venue quite early since to ferry the bubbles, gewurtz and pinot noir for the dinner, we were greeted by F&B Manager Subra who arranged the chilling of the fizz and Gewurtz while I had a quick swoosh and change in the bathroom and don the medallion and jacket that had been determined were the dress code for the evening. 

Lenglui had found a lovely spot on the verandah of the restaurant. It was a mini manmade lake with lots of brown brick levels over which water cascaded. Proved to be very relaxing and good "chi" while watching the sun go down with a glass of Chilean House White. Most pleasant. Next time, we should have the champagne outside. Had we come earlier to vet the place, perhaps this could have been scouted and arranged.

Sunset over the Pool
Lenglui was itching to try the fizz, but I felt it was necessary to wait until guests arrive. Not the done thing to help oneself. Must serve others first. We didn't have to wait long - Datin Sandra arrived with guests and we got our new friends to pour the bubbles for them. And us. It was worth the wait - the Nederberg NV was nicely dry with good cleansing bubbles, and light to medium in body. Hints of biscuit, lemon nose. As guests arrived they got their glasses and those of us earlier got nice topups from the staff. 

Somewhat delayed getting to the table, due apparently to the kitchen not being quite ready, and we ultimately all got seated at the three long tables. The staff had laid out goblet style glasses into one of which the 2009 Hugel Gewurtz was poured. Not sure if this goblet style was intended, and in retrospect they were reminiscent of glasses I had encountered during a tour of Germany, but some eyes were raised at the absence of the standard stem white glasses. The other glass was a Bordeaux style and clearly for the ultimate red. Which would be a Pinot for which a different glass would normally be set. Hmmm. The upshot is that some of the choices of glasses seemed a bit strange for a restaurant that otherwise clearly ooozed class. Looking at photos of the other tables, there were setm style white glasses there, so maybe it was just our table. No one passed comment on this - perhaps they were just being polite.

The Restaurant Table
The deftly light Gewurtz had the standard lychee and rosepetal nose with light almond notes and turkish delight on the palate and fair acidity to finish. 

We were actually having the Gewurtz with an unexpected Amuse Bouche so much so that it had all but vanished by the time the Salmon Carpaccio had come out. We had not been advised by the staff either in advance nor at the table as to what the food was. Hmmm again. If we'd have known we could have planned for people to take their fizz to the table and quaff it with the AB. But it was a tasty enough amuse and no one seemed to be complaining. It's like being on stage when something goes wrong - only you know the script so act like it is intended and no-one knows different. Happily there seemed enough Gewurtz to go around. 

Given that I had a hand in picking the wines, I had to say something about them. I had the notes on my handphone but couldn't really read off them. Also, I'd hoped the wine supplier of the two Austrian wines we were having would speak about them. So the upshot was I wasn't really prepared and apparently it showed. Fumbling and bumbling. Memo to self - next time, take charge of the event and write the wine notes on little cards to read off.

Amuse Bouche - thought it was the first course!!
The salmon made its appearance and the marinated radish and yuzu promptly blew the mouth off. That fierce salty, lemon acidandsandpaper blitz was a total kaboom that pretty much removed the skin from the tongue and teeth. Like a really fierce lime sorbet. The ensemble was better, with the salmon taming the acidity somewhat. The Gewurtz was a bit too delicate to help with this - a larger bodied Riesling with some compensating sugar fruit might have been better. We had to make do with bread and balsamic to try to neutralise the acid fire. Didn't really help.
Salmon Carpaccio - I think...

Next out was the Muscateller which came across like a very light Riesling but with a steel backbone. Light and very dry, crisp with a bit of a grape acid nose. Steel in the mouth and mineral on the throat and a good gripping finish. It was well matched with the scallop which, along with the sweetcorn veloute, took a slight acidic edge off the wine. 

The duck roll was lovely - a soft, sweet and chewthroat sucking screamer, covering both the tonsils and back of the throat with a tingle and a kiss. Lovely textures, with a medium bite on the roll, strangely reminiscent of the texture of luncheon meat. The Foie Gras Creme came over like a coffee ice cream, and somewhere between a dessert and sorbet. Lot of complex tastes and textures going on here, lots of little explosions of salt, sour and crunch. The Foie Gras took off the tannic edge of the Muscateller, and the sweetness cut the FG oily texture, but the wine lacked sufficient body to do it justice - not really a match to remember. 
Grilled Hokkaido Scallop

Next out was the scallop which, for me, didn't quite feel totally fresh and somewhat lacking tastewise compared to scallop we'd recently eaten elsewhere. It was firm and fresh enough, I guess, but seemed to lack that sweet crunch you can get from totally fresh off the Hokkaido boat scallop which was what Zipangu scallop the previous week felt like. That one was darling. A lot of sweet came from the Sweetcorn Veloute (imagine Jolly Green Giant creamed corn but crunchier), though perhaps too much and bordering on the overpowering. I might have used a hint of pepper to tame the corn. 

Getting paired with the Blaufrankisch seemed somewhat contary at first, but it seemed to work. The Blaufrankisch is very smooth with lots of cherry and pepper. Crisp, rich and drakly fruity with firm character, a whack in the mouth and a silky finish. Cross a Pinot with a CdP and you get this. Great body and taste together in the same bottle. Belter. It neutralised the sweetcorn and the silky texture cut the scallop into meltable proportions. Those who had some of the white left would have found more traditional matches. The Gewurtz went better with the scallop for me than the Muscateller, more for texture than anything. The lack of sweetness on the scallop was helped by the sweet fruit in the wine but that was more luck than judgement.

A wine too far - we were saving the Marimar Pinot for the grand finale with the lamb, but there was clearly too much red on the table already. People were calling for the whites with the food, and there seemed enough white to supply our table. Downside came in the amount of red that would be left on the table at the end.

Smoked Rack of Lamb and Confit Lamb Shoulder
The lamb was two dishes - rack and shoulder, each of which offered different textures and dimensions to the meat. Texturally, the rack was succulent whilst the shoulder was a contrasting dry. Good to taste, though having the two styles felt a little bit overkill and leaning toward the undecided. We totally appreciate that chef clearly embraced the opportunity to showcase his skill for us IWFS foodies for which we are grateful - just a question as to whether it was maybe a bit too much to take in at one time. Unbelievable - telling a chef not to give us his food. 

Notwithstanding, the lamb rack was stupendous - sweet, salt, succulent and juicy and hitting all the bases. Total standard and total belter. It needed nothing more, being perfect on its own. Eat this and die.

The lamb shoulder in contrast came dry texture, so the wafer pastry and crispy mash potato softened the texture enough to taste. Kind of a hickory smoke feel to the shoulder with a hint of sweet game. 

The Marimar Pinot worked quite well with the lamb, taking a sweet edge off the meat. Very vegetal and funky on the nose and mouth, with many layers in the mouth. I saw a lot of red wine left in the glasses as I was leaving, so perhaps the funky nose and vegetal mouth put people off. Which was a shame because once you got past the nose it was a tasty, chewy wine with a finish like clean silky sandpaper on the palate. My notes say it is "a perfect blend of nothing that zips through. Om." Not sure what that means. Sounds like I was in touch with the universe and this was what it was saying to me. Always seems to make sense when you're drunk but screwed if it can be deciphered the morning after. What was clear the following morning and well into lunchtime was the taste of the wine still in the mouth. Fierce beast of a wine - not as delicate as Burgundy, full of character. This wine would spit in your face then offer to wash you down.
Ultimate Chocolate Brownie

As usual, very few notes on the dessert, other than the Brownie felt a bit firm for taste, though the ice cream matched it well.

Lenglui and friend Julie Lim
Staff were very attentive and service was generally excellent. Some complained of delays in some of the food coming out, though personally I did not notice. Totally absorbed by the company and explaining wine to our newbie friends. 

Overall, the food was good enough, I guess, but apart from the rack of lamb lacking any real "wow" factor. Though perhaps that is the European style - understate the preparation of the food and let it speak for itself. Lovely ambience and decor, lovely setting and a beautiful room. Would hope to come back at some time to try the T-Bone. Staff were very attentive and service was generally excellent. Some members complained of delays in some of the food coming out, though personally I did not notice. Totally absorbed by the company and explaining wine to our newbie friends. From my side, it just felt a bit underplanned. Guess we were all thinking that there was nothing to really plan, but there always is. 

I feel the event suffered from not having a designated person in charge to talk to the restaurant to fine check the details (ie store the wines, check the glasses, menu sequence). We also didn't have a food tasting for this one - it got put together as a response to the original venue for the October event getting ditched quite late in the day following what were felt to be excessive corkage fees. Needs better organisation next time, certainly on my part - no one really took charge of the dinner and for me it showed. Live and learn, eh?
IWFS members and friends

‘The MIGF Menu at The Restaurant @ The Club Saujana Resort’

Nederburg Sparkling Cuvee Brut NV

Salmon Carpaccio, Horseradish Panna Cotta, Marinated Radish & Yuzu Sorbet 

Gewurztraminer Hugel 2009

Foiegras Crème
Foiegras, Duck Roll & Granny Smith Apple

Weingut Tement STK Gelber Muskateller 2009

Grilled Kokkaido Scallop, Sweetcorn Veloute & Young Sweet Corn

Weingut Tement STK Gelber Muskateller 2009

Pan Fried Seabass, Bouillabaise Sauce, Garloc Moussline & Ratatouille Vegetables


Smoked Rack of Lamb & Confit Lamb Shoulder
Eggpalnt, Potato Fondant, Baked Potato Strudel

Weninger Blaufrankisch Hochacker 2009
Marimar Estate ‘Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia’  Pinot Noir 2006

Ultimate Chocolate Brownie, Iced Milk Mousse, Nougat Ice Cream & Berries

Mr Lim and Toru Kurokawa

Wine Notes

Nederburg Sparkling Cuvee Brut NV
A blend of Chenin Blanc, Cape Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc from the Paarl region in South Africa, this is brilliantly clear with a lasting sparkle. Delicate fruit on the nose, crisp and fresh on the palate with a lingering aftertaste.

Gewurztraminer HUGEL 2009
The great speciality of the Alsace AOC where the aromatic expressiveness of the varietal attains such great heights. Originally from northern Italy, it is spicy and suave, dry but intensely aromatic.
2009 was a fabulous vintage in Alsace with record levels of ripeness, and cool nights giving its full varietal expression. Deep pale green, straw yellow colour, clear, bright and nicely unctuous in aspect. The bouquet is very aromatic, perfumed and fruity, but above all spicy, dominated by saffron, cardamom, nutmeg, fresh almond, with lots of dense, oriental rose, frangipane, jasmine and fresh China tea. It is seductive and flattering yet totally dry, with a subtle astringency.

Weingut Tement STK Gelber Muskateller 2009
From the Südsteiermark region of Stiermark, south of Vienna. Weingut Tement focuses on white varietals made in the STK (Steirische Klassik) or stryian style that allows their typical characters to shine through. Light gold in color, this fresh and fruity wine has a strong flowery bouquet, with peach and lemon hints. Flavors are crisp, acidity is firm, and together they evoke a feeling of sunlight and summer. A very well balanced wine, pairing well with salads, light cheese sauces and fried dishes.

Weniger Blaufränkisch Hochäcker 2009
From 42 year old vines grown by Austrian red wine pioneer, Franz Weninger in the Hochäcker site in the Horitschon/Mittelburgenland DAC. The Blaufränkisch grapes first undergo native yeast fermentation in steel tanks. They are pressed after 14 days of mash-state, followed by biological malolactic fermentation in a large oak barrels and aged 16 months in big oak barrel and bottled March 2011.
The Blaufränkisch (aka “Lemberger”) varietal is indigenous to Austria and is the predominant grape varietal in Central Burgenland. Aged in large, used oak casks, the single vineyard Blaufränkisch Hochäcker is full-bodied, elegant and complex, well-balanced with cherry and red current aromas, spice, lingering fruit and ripe tannins on a long finish. Ideal food wine, perfect with a wide range of meats, game, poultry and cheeses.

Marimar Estate "Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2006
“The color is a beautiful garnet, classic Russian River - as is the fruit, loaded with black cherry flavors. There's mocha in the nose and perfectly balanced hints of elegant oak, which contributes a rich texture. The mouthfeel is round and engaging, classic Pinot Noir, with a note of lively spice at the end. The finish is long and the wine shows great aging potential. Alcohol 14.1% bv. (From Winemaker’s notes)
"This vineyard, in the cool Green Valley part of Napa, continues to produce outstanding, ageworthy Pinot Noirs of distinction. The 2006 is a large, powerful wine, distinctly Californian, packed with cherry, cranberry, cola and spice flavors that are immature in their fresh jamminess. But with a dramatic tannin-acid structure, and a just-right touch of new French oak, it will improve in the cellar. Best after 2010." (Wine Enthusiast 93/100)

Lengjai, new friend and IWFS KL President Dr Rajan

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Haute cuisine in the Highlands - The Olive at Genting

The dinner came about as a result of friend Speedy Hotrod asking if we were free to join him at an MIGF dinner in Genting and could we send our CVs to the organiser. This duly happened over the next few days and on the day of the dinner we found ourselves rushing home to get dressed "elegantly" ahead of a 90 minute and RM80 rain filled taxi ride up the Highland Mountain to the Genting Grand Hotel. We ended up being so glad to have chosen the taxi option - by the time we got there the heavy mists had rolled in and we would have definitely got lost.

We were greeted by name by the staff at the hotel entrance (wow!) and escorted to the restaurant to meet up with Speedy to sit and chat with a pleasant glass of Ronin Pinot Grigio and a great selection of Italian and Spanish cheese and crispies. Light body, a whisper of alcohol and reasonable acidity, good balance though not really forward in anything. Little in the way of finish, but then it is meant as a welcome wine and not out to whack any home runs. We didn't get to try the canapes.
Interior of The Olive
The restaurant itself comprises two large-ish rooms, one of which was a bar and reception area with a piano and singer on hand to entertain. The ambience of the reception room was pleasanat and soothing. Lovely pastels of red and green with cool blues on the tables. With the pianist and singer crooning the oldies it made for a delightfully relaxing way to start the evening. 

People arrived and we met the hosts Datuk Steve Day and Datin Su of Vision Four Media. A little socialising with a fairly high powered dining group, including some old acquaintances from our entertaining days. I do envy people who are so clearly at ease in this kind of situation and who can flit and glide easily around the room - definitely blessed with great social skills.  Host Datuk Steve gave a brief speech of welcome and invited all to take seats through at the restaurant area. Walking in, we were greeted with two beautifully laid out tables of ten and about thirty staff on hand to guide to the seats. We had the whole place. The restaurant itself has an open kitchen concept where you can see the chef conducting the orchestra to create their culinary symphonies. Not that many of us seemed to be paying much attention. Too busy getting to know our table neighbours. Lenglui and I were separated on this occasion and I found myself next to Tunku Dara and opposite Datin Su. Hugely pleasant company. 

The breads quickly came out with the fizz. I stole a hunk of what the bread man said was Squid Ink Bread, which was a first for me and so demanded a tasting.  Felt a bit firm in the mouth, a shade mealy maybe, but was a knockout bite with the olive tepanade. I think I understand the concept, though perhaps the bread was in need of a shade more salt to bring the ink a bit better to bear. The soft roll would prove very good with the Duck Liver

The appetiser of Water Melon with chilli, shallot, shrimp, pistachio, mint and balsamic looked a strange combo on the plate but proved one which worked extremely well in the mouth. The water melon was genius - lending a soft watery texture and sugar to offset the powerful tastes of the other ingredients. The mint gelee in particular matched the melon texture brilliantly and the pistacchio crunch and balsamic salt gave a cute kick. The chili proved a pleasant rasp on the throat as it went down and as a result gave the dish a long finish. And finish on a dish is something you don't often think about. Finish on a wine, yes, but on a dish? This was new. 

Pairing this complex Appetiser with a sparkling wine made absolute sense, though for me the Poeti Prosecco from the Veneto lacked sufficient body to stand up to the dish. On its own, it came across as medium sweet strawberries and syrup, though thin in body and acidity and consequently not really cleansing enough. A firmer glass of bubbles would have made for a far more memorable experience, something a bit more robust like a Cava or a sparkler from Oz to cleanse the palate and give the dish its proper due.

Salmon starter
The starter Salmon was perfectly poached and pairing it with beetroot puree was wonderful - the sweet acid cut the fish wonderfully and I got a hint of Yuzu in the sauce which brought the sweetness down to just perfect. Lovely smooth chew with a zip of lemon. Again, given the melange of flavours, pairing the dish with something sparkiling made sense, though again a firmer fizz would have transformed the dish. 

The Truffle Cappuccino soup with Chicken Essence and Candied Almond made sense in context as a break from the previous complexity. The truffle aroma in the foam promised much, but for some reason became a bit anticlimactic in the mouth. The broth was rich and not overseasoned, but the chunk of truffle in the soup had lost its soul by the time it made it to the spoon. Pleasant enough dish, but not spectacular. Put me in mind of Brands Chicken Essence with a dash of truffle oil. Now there's a thought….

We were next served the Chapoutier Muscat de Beaumes 2010 from the Rhone. Odd but pleasing perfume nose of Rose Water and almond wafer. Crisp and medium sweet in the mouth with full dates and fig. Nicely balanced, the finish is full and rich. A very good pairing choice, giving good sweet crisp texture to complement and cut through the purine laden Duck Liver.

Entree Duck Liver
The entree Duck Liver felt a bit gamey and powerful on its own, but again the ensemble was out of this world. The plum jam and pomegranete pickles cut the purines in the Duck Liver beautifully and help set off the gamey liver that threatened to overpower everything. The popcorn wasabi was a cute textural zippy crunch, though the brioche came across as a bit sweet and cakey. The Plum Jam had already done the sugar duty so the cherries and sweet brioche felt a bit overkill. The crumbly brioche texture also didn't do it for me. I would have preferred something toasted to lend better texture foundation. Having some of the soft unsweetened bread still on the table was good as a chunk of solid carbo to load the dish combo onto and feel it slide slowly across the tongue. Heaven. 

The 2006 Meshach Old Vine Shiraz we were next served came out full of blackcurrant, smoke and coffe on the nose. Macho and potent, it exuded testosterone. Rich full body of dark berry fruit with the tannins not quite evened out after eight years. Long, rich supple but slightly fierce alcohol finish. Serious big wine with a lot more time left in the bottle.

Veal Shin
The Veal Shin main came to the table looking a bit like a cinderblock - all dark and moody. The veal had apparently been braised for six hours. The result was a somewhat dryish hunk of meat that really didn't go anywhere for me. Firm texture over taste and tending toward dry. The Meshach gave it a bit of life but not really enough to elevate it beyond the ordinary. Sorry guys, the veal didn't work for me. But the potatoes did. These little roast babies were stunning - firm, slightly sweet with crunchy salt skin and so full of a flavour I haven't had for years - could have easily eaten these all night with a bottle of light Bordeaux. Perfecto Potato, double stellar and the best of the night for me. The Pea Risotto was excellent, soaking up the jus a treat yet retaining a sweet freshness and crisp bite. 

The match with the Meshach was okay, I guess. The food evened out the tannins but the sweaty saddle body came right through and pretty much overpowered the food. Perhaps this was a result of the sadly mediocre and under bodied meat, but the wine felt too forceful and bold. Perhaps a Bordeaux or a firm Barolo would have paired better. The Shiraz needed something beefier and more robust to tame it. 

The Dessert was very, very good. A contrasting Fruit Granite with Chocolate nibs and ice cream was delightful - chocolate crunch and creamy goo with a parmesan chocolate crisp to salt the mouth - excellent. Though I couldn't quite fathom why Sommelier would want to pair this with a Port, and a twenty year old one at that. On its own, the Port was somewhat fierce at first, though the high alcohol and sweet tawny mouth were full on. Texturally light to medium bodied, it got better as the mouth adjusted to the high alcohol, though the balance never quite seemed to come into equilibrium. It did nothing for the dessert other than give an alcoholic kick and the ice cream pretty much just swept away the sweet full mouth.  I understand the snob value that serving Port holds over diners, but Olive could have have done away with the port and maybe used the money saved to upgrade the Sparkling wine to something more flattering for the excellent Appetiser and Starter dishes. Chocolate doesn't really benefit from fruit alcohol, though it can be good with Japanese whiskey. Chocolate really prefers coffee, and the espresso that came slightly late was a far better match. My Port went pretty much undrunk, though the funnel type glass in which it was served was charming and a novel way to sip.

I decided to forego the Grappa and Limoncello that were offered which would have indeed put a perfect cap on a most excellent evening of food. 

The restaurant had given us a report card on which to record our views and responses. I kept mine to write this report with a promise I would give it to them. My excuse was they would not be able to read my writing. Quite often, I cannot read it - boozy scribbles get lost the day after. Must say that the Olive Report Card was a very useful template with lots of categories and scorings. They are appended below.

The Olive is clearly a destination restaurant and so naturally needs to offer something over and above what is available in the city to get people to travel up and back down the mountain. For the MIGF they were offering a special rate on overnight stay at the hotel, though whether this will happen in normal season is not clear.

Well done Chef!!
Genting has a reputation as a rich man's playground, possibly as a result of the hangover from the days when it was seen as casino first and resort second. Certainly, the Olive prices are beyond what most Malaysians would be comfortable paying. But then most Malaysians would not want to visit the Olive - only the foodies. And the foodies should be well impressed with the offerings of what is indeed a very good restaurant. The food is excellent to amazing. Chef has talent with a superb sense of pairing fruits with flesh textures. His water melon with shrimp, beetroot with Salmon, pomegranete with Duck Liver - all were brilliant combos of contrasting tastes and textures yet all of which worked magnificently. The wine list is pretty good, though perhaps on this outing some of the wine suggestions fell a bit short. If you know your wines then maybe take your own and brave the corkage. Or order from the list and argue for a discount. The service was efficient and discreet and of very good standard, though given the calibre of the dining group I suspect the staff had been lectured to be on top form. They certainly were. Foodwise, I certainly got wowed by most of the dishes, and the Olive was definitely a dining experience to remember. In sum, yes - it is worth braving the mountain mists to check out the Olive offerings for the MIGF Festival.  Drive safely!

Scores (out of 20)
Ambience - 16
Festival Decor/theme - 12
Canapes - we had the cheeses with Pinot Grigio - 15
Appetiser - 16
Pairing (Prosecco) - 13
Starter - 17
Pairing (Prosecco) - 13
Soup - 12
Entree - 17 (had to minus one for the pastry like Brioche)
Pairing (muscat) - 17
Main - Veal Shin - 14
Wine - Meschach - 18
Pairing - 11
Dessert - 
Wine - Port - 15
Pairing - 9
Service - 18
Value for Money - Food 19, Wine 11
Creative Dining Experience - 18
Overall Dining Experience / Wow factor 17

Compress Water Melon
Chilli, Shallot, Shrimp Powder, Pistachio, Micro Cress, Mint Gelee, Aged Balsamic Yolk
Bottega Vino dei Poeti Prosecco Pink Gold NV, Veneto, Italy

Mi-Cuit Tasmanian Salmon
Marble Confit Potato, Baby Leek, Beetroot Puree with Vin Jaune Cream Sauce
Bottega Vino dei Poeti Prosecco Pink Gold NV, Veneto, Italy

Truffle Cappuccino
Chicken Essence and Candied Almond

Duck Liver
Popcorn wasabi, plum jam, coco brichoe, glace cherries, pomegranate pickles
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2010, M. Chapoutier, Rhone, France

Veal Shin
Smoked, Braised, Pea Risotto, Pickles Girolles, Roasted Root Vegetables, Brocollini
Grant Burge Meshach Old Vine Shiraz 2006, Barossa, Australia

Chocolate Fleur De Sel
Berries, Popcorn Ice-Cream, Parmesan Chocolate, Green Apple Snow
Grant Burge 20 Years Old Tawny, Barossa Valley, Australia
Full Festival Menu
RM398 nett per person with wine
RM288 nett per person without wine

Festival Restaurant - The Olive
Cuisine - Western Continental (Pork-Free)
Capacity - 75 pax Inclusive 2 private rooms
Lobby Floor, Genting Grand, Genting Highlands Resort, 69000 Genting Highlands, Pahang

GPS Coordinates
N 3 25.437
E 101 47.558
+603-6105 9668 / +603-6101 1118 ext 7706
+603-6105 2690

Getting a Mission Statement for the Blog

Had an interesting chat with Datin Su of Vision 4 Media at the MIGF Dinner at The Olive in Genting. If I got it right, Su saw the Vision Four mission as to promote the food and restaurants of Malaysia rather than offer any critique since critique is different from promoting and critique would deter rather than attract punters. This seemed to stem from a writer (actually an old acquaintance) who apparently had written some scathing review of somewhere and it had not gone down well. Well, and maybe fair enough and not wrong from one perspective. The promotion aspect is clearly a very important one to get us punters through the doors of restaurants and, in the broader context, to want to come to Malaysia. 

But from another perspective, this felt a bit short sighted. If anyone wants to find out about a restaurant today, there are innumerable blogs out there offering a range of reports and views on Malaysian restaurants and their offerings. And by reading a few you can get a fair idea of what the restaurants are about and whether one is preferable to visit over another. 

In this, most of the blogs offer very good photos and descriptions of the food. But they do seem to lack much in the way of the How and Why the foood or service was good and worth experiencing. Or whether there were aspects that could be improved upon (toilets!!) And I think there is a need for this. There's a danger of creeping complacency in media and business getting nice and cosy together that can, in the case of restaurants, lead to a downslide in quality which can go unnoticed by managers. There is a need to keep some kind of distance in terms of being friendly with the food industry. Getting too cosy can mean that perspective and objectivity can get lost, which does the industry little good in the long term. True, the real test is repeat customers and making a profit at the end of the year. Positive news in the press clearly helps this, and gushings of praise from the cognoscenti certainly boost the Restaurant profile and status both nationally and globally. And the successful restaurants seem to be those where the kitchen just keeps churning out the same formula with consistent taste and quality. But chefs are human and need love and appreciation and the space to create like all of us. And without constructive and dare I say intelligent feedback, there is neither growth or improvement nor any incentive to grow and improve other than the chef seeking to self improve in his or her own time and so move up the industry greasepole. 

So I figured I needed a mission statement for the blog. Still a work in progress but something like

"To write my experiences of the privilege of drinking and dining at restaurants as responses to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one of an officious diner 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. On this journey, I will seek to be fair, reasoned and direct. Any critique will seek to be constructive rather than being just for its own sake (Dear Lord, please help me keep my ego in check). I do not seek to destroy. No one loves a critic. We are all on individual journeys of growth and when we all grow together it is a beautiful thing."  

Whilst I lay no claim to being an expert when compared to the pro-eaters and gastronomes, I feel I have a valid standpoint as a punter who knows a good meal and glass when he gets one.We all have a view and a perspective on food, and whilst the chefs do their darnedest to please us foodies, the channels for direct considered responses to their offerings remain few and far between. In truth, chefs should only listen to chefs since only a chef truly knows food and what ingredients can enhance and transport one's dish from excellent to sublime. But then chefs are expert eaters, and much as most of us aspire to be gourmet eaters few of us have yet to reach this pinnacle. For me, I have dined at Michelin stars around the world serving hearty Provencal fare through to deconstructed New Age gastronomy. I'm getting to understand where all this comes from, whereby the experience of the degustation becomes intertwined with the context of the ambience and theatre of preparation, presentation and service. And for this, the world will pay to dine because, when done properly and with imagination, it can be transcending.

What I want in my food is Michelin Star quality in Malaysia. I want the number of restaurants in KL with per capita Michelin stars to equal that of San Sebastan. Daring, inventive chefs creating miracles of gastronomy with simple techniques and ingredients. Where is the NOMA or The Fat Duck? Whither Paul Bocuse Chin or Joel Robuchon Mohammad? At present, many of them go to Singapore because the money and opportunities are better.  There is occasionally a "poor Malaysia" response to criticism whereby the chip on the shoulder from being "backward" in access to quality ingredients and therefore unable to match cuisine standards in Singapore and Hong Kong. Maybe, but perhaps this is more an argument for regulations with regard to food imports to be relaxed and allow fresh food imports to be processed and delivered as quickly as possible. Notwithstanding, it is incredibly good value to fine dine in Malaysia when compared to the rest of the world. And whilst some argue that the fine dining in Hong Kong and Singapore is "finer" that should not detract from the basic point that darned good is still darned good. It's an old point that says to know the excellent one must start somewhere, and Malaysia is a very good place to start a gastronomic odyssey of a lifetime. And so I will write. I now have a dream.