May 9, 2011

A night of discovery

And when I received the invitation to Le Meridien, from Damien, it seemed pretty mysterious. From the e-mail, first thing that came to my mind was … blindfold dining? Well, it wasn’t of course.
Braving the horrible Friday traffic, and end up taking LRT to Le Meridien, we (qwazy monkey) are the earliest to arrive (and possibly the last two to blog about this). Gathered with Cumi & Ciki and Fat Boy Bakes, then greeted by Damien who organized the event.
Still with no details on where we’ll be dining, we start off with flute clanking session at the Conservatory. Flows of Mumm’s Champagne makes ice breaking easy, and soon KY Speaks joined us at the bar. The servers brought this lovely looking amuse bouche; of 5 different types. Pacing myself, I tried the tomato and strawberry gazpacho served in test tubes, pan seared tuna sashimi and sesame wakame salad, and martini of tomato salsa with mozzarella mousse and pesto.
The gazpacho is a good start and it has the right blend of tangy and saltiness. But the camel inside me wished it could be a bigger portion. Alternatively, sip in more tubes. And the pan seared tuna was a good compliment. I guess it’s the current hot spell that I chose the fresh and cold alternatives; martini of tomato salsa with mozzarella mousse and pesto. Although not served in a martini glass, the layers of flavours are great; with the creamy mozzarella the jellied tomato and the sharp pesto trace.
As dinner begins, we were directed to Favola, the Italian restaurant of Le Meridien, where executive Chef Antoine Rodriguez awaits us like a happy Santa. In his thick Italian and Malaysian accent, Chef Antoine certainly has larger than life personality and even greater reputation in the industry. Passionately he introduced us the next course of antipasti duo (a formal before-the-meal servings). But before that (that makes it a before the antipasti i.e. before-before meals, LOL), a quick introduction and sampling of tomatoes, mozzarella cheeses and some wholesome bread.
Antipasti duo is served, starting with freddo; (the cold dish) of smoked salmon with cold cucumber and macadamia puree. The combination of cucumber which is usually waterish is being given a bodied texture by the macadamia nuts and it became this lovely green paste. The smoked salmon sits on it with glory and take it all in one bite is just splendid. The cucumber paste lingers on your palate and your breath is filled with the smoky salmon scent. Excellent!
And that just made a great line up for caldo; (the soup dish) of wild mushroom risotto with clear beef broth and pan seared duck liver. This unassuming dish is my favourite for the evening. The rich beef consommé with the silky rice works like genius. If it is not as comforting already, the risotto dish is paired with pan seared duck liver. Spoon in the rice, a dab of broth and a cut of liver, it is all the basic flavours and simply umami-ish. This dish is so good, I kept talking about it for weeks.
And just when we thought the dinner will continue on, we were asked to leave. In a good way! It would be at Prime for the mains. By now, we figured out the system, the discovery journey is dinner around Le Meridien’s restaurant selections. Starters at Conservatory Bar, appetizers at Favola, mains at Prime and desserts … somewhere.
Prime, is the famous steak house which has won numerous awards throughout its term. We are quickly reunited with Chef Antoine again (some shortcut he took from the kitchen) and once we entered the room, lo and behold - blocks of beefs presented to us. And yet again it’s the enlightening session where chef explains on the different beef grades, the origins, the feed and the all that is relevant.
Quickly and gracelessly we moved to our seats, anxiously waiting for the mains to arrive. Throughout the evening, in between waiting we were also given pairings of drinks from champagne, prosecco, red wine & ... to go with. And so, the beef dish is served!
It is again a duo dish, of charcoal grilled blackmore wagyu chuck flap tail marble 9 with roma tomato confit, brocolini and braised intercoastal on mascarpone polenta. That is mouthful, just to say it out and to eat it. The wagyu, cooked medium rare, locks in all the necessary flavours; of the freshness and the beautiful fat marbling. The braised intercoastal portion is yet another dimension by itself. With the signature BBQ sauce pairs up so well, it is an embrace to the sexy Argentine-Tango dance. (What?!)
Being tipsy and full, the restaurant hopping continues. The last stop would be at Latest Recipe, for desserts. Flouncing our way there, while trying our best to hold in the tummy and look sober, we were presented with the dessert platter. It is comprise of honeydew sago shot, carrot cake, lychee tart, choc mousse with citrus jelly, vanilla crème’ brule, and agar agar.
There is always room for dessert. And the night is end with White Russian (cocktail), coffee, laughter and good company. Thanks to the team that efficiently manage the evening. The discovery journey has showed the essence of each restaurant and the thinking process behind it. Note that the restaurant hopping is not available to the public, but we all agree that that the same concept can be a great dining journey itself to those who are interested.
I will come back for the risotto.
p/s: Must not forget my flash gun next time