Wednesday, October 06, 2010
MIGF Festival Menu 2010 @ Senses, Hilton Kuala Lumpur
organic flower pot
MIGF seems to be the buzz word this whole week (and probably the whole month). At Senses Hilton Kuala Lumpur, their festival menu is a bag of surprises that contains organic produce, whimsical visuals to bring out the child within us and bursts of umami. It is also a menu based on seasonal produce i.e. Autumn mushrooms and truffles hence the umami levels of a few dishes are heightened. The place was packed the night we dined there and I spotted a blogger I've read about before but never spoken to before aka Ahmok.com. That's the thing, I can recognise people from their blogs but I'm still a little shy to go up and say hi to them. I reckon I'm still very shy and don't want to be known as a blog stalker!
edible menu (and how to eat it), canapes: savoury macaron, black sesame sponge and scrambled egg espuma
When the festival menu said we'll start out with an edible menu, a welcome drink and canapes, I expected some bites put together for us. Hence when I was served a menu, a shooter glass of my pink fizzy drink and a row of canapes, my eyebrows shot up a little. Hold on, you mean my menu is edible?? This brings new meaning to literally eating the menu! As Michael explained, the menu is specially printed on a potato based starch with edible ink. You are meant to tear it and dip it in the pink cod roe. The flavours aren't very distinct with the paper (it tastes like an undersalted potato crisp but with an oily feel to the paper) hence you're meant to eat it with the cod roe. Once I digested my "menu", I also had my row of canapes - an unusual duck foie gras filled macaron, black sesame with miso sponge and a scrambled egg espuma. The light and frothy espuma is presented in an egg shell with a little smoked cod in it to add a touch of flavour, while the sponge leaves a light taste of black sesame on my tongue.
Next is the organic flower pot. Not a new concept in the world of fine dining, these organic gardens served in a flower pot is said to be inspired by Noma's genius chef Rene Redzepi's cuisine which has an intimate connection with the Earth. It's my second garden within a month - first one was the Alvin Leung's glass garden with vacuum dried enoki mushrooms, porcini soil and a pungent green spring onion mousse. While Alvin's one looked strangely like a dead garden with no green buds, this flower pot of mine was pretty and brimming with fresh vegetables and edible flowers. Hidden underneath are black stones to keep the vegetables upright and a soil made from nuts and a mild tasting dill mayonnaise. Within my asparagus and purple carrot spears, I find foie gras shavings and a chanterelle mushroom. Michael's rationale of the garden was to create something out of the ordinary with a touch of zen.
golden tea with beef consomme
Don't worry, this is one dish that you can forgo your manners. You're encouraged to slowly pick through your individual flower pot to nibble on each piece of vegetable dipped in the soil and the mayonnaise to give it flavour. Next up is the interesting named golden tea. Here you're presented with a gold leaf tea bag on top of an assortment of mushrooms, truffle, stewed lamb tongue and baby spinach leaves. A deft pour of hot beef consomme into the ensemble sees your gold leaf melting away into bits. Michael explains this soup was inspired by Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant, where he spent 1 month working there. The soup has a strong umami taste and like my fellow diner said it reminded her a bit of Marmite. The bits of mushroom and truffle also work their magic to pack the soup with lots of flavour but my favourite bit was the soft stewed lamb tongue within. On the gold leaves, there's not much taste to it but a bit of gritty texture to it.
crystals, smoked jade tiger abalone
We move on to the smoked jade tiger abalone. The salad leaves, slices of abalone and mushrooms is uniquely presented on a flattish stone. Under the stone is a cedarwood paper, slightly burnt to give us a hint of the smoky aroma it produces when it is placed in front of us. This is the same type of wood used to cold smoke the braised abalone that had spent some time in a konbu sake broth. There's a little Asian in this since it uses abalone, a revered ingredient in Chinese cuisine while the cold smoking technique is inspired by Michael's Swedish roots. It was a little hard to eat my leaves and my silvers of abalone together since it seemed to slide down the rock. Again, there was a strong umami taste to the whole dish with the konbu infused abalone and mushrooms.
cracking it to get fork tender beef and a visual of the dorper lamb rack
I'm already groaning from the food before my main course started as all those small bites are beginning to overwhelm me. The waiter rolls in a trolley with two plates that are each covered with a white clay. A crack of the clay with the back of his spoon reveals a hidden treasure - slow braised beef encased in a cedarwood paper cocoon. The beef is meltingly soft and Michael reveals that it has been slowly braised for 5 hours in a low temperature oven. It's inspired by another of Senses dishes that he makes with giant steaks big enough for 2-3 people. Also on the plate was a potato pave topped with truffle shavings and a bonus in the form of a large fresh porcini mushroom. My first time trying a fresh porcini and it has a lovely strong woody aroma. We didn't get to try the other selection of main course, the Dorper lamb rack but Michael explianed that the lamb is coated in a stock that adheres to it like glue which is then rolled in truffle bits. Hmmmm, one can imagine the burst of flavours from the whole combo.
frost that is made from Tasminian Leatherwood Honey
We're almost at the end but before we move on to the sweet from the savoury, a little palate cleanser is served to us called Frost. Michael explains that the frost is made from a mixture of Tasminian leatherwood honey (we get a taste of that divine honey later on!) and Bombay Sapphire Gin, which he paco jets to create a frosty appearance. This he says reminds him of Sweden where the snow melts. Nestled within the white frost are blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and broken bits of violet meringue. It's a little sharp but refreshing to clear up our tongue from the strong umami flavours.
visuals from the gala launch - the large garden they made, macarons and Michael Elfwing goofing for the MIGF promotions
We move on to the last item on the menu i.e. the dessert that is presented like a child's drawing of a simple flower arising from its chocolate soil. Named red poppy, we were wondering if we'll break any rules for indulging in this mind inducing flower but we were told portions of the poppy are too small for us to go "high". The pink flower petals are made from an unusual emulsion of Valrhona Ivoire white chocolate, water and red poppy extract. This is based on Michael's other famous dessert they serve at Senses, his Manjari emulsion. To mimick the flower, a sprinkle of poppy seeds is put in the middle. Savour each petal as it is smooth and a little sweet from the use of white chocolate and the specially French imported red poppy extract.
Eat it with a scoop of the chocolate soil and a little of the banana sorbet, a child like flavour. The whole display is meant to jolt you back to your childhood days with the familiar flavours and kindergarden drawing.
Overall, I felt the menu was very strong visually as it was too pretty for words starting from my organic flower pot to my red poppy dessert. The flavours were inspired by a lot of autumn ingredients hence it was very umami laden and a little too rich for my palate especially when I reached the main course. A last word on service, it was impeccable as always especially when the place was heaving with people since they had a large group of diners to attend to.
Hilton Kuala Lumpur
3 Jalan Stesen Sentral
Tel: 03-2264 2264
(Pork Free. The menu is priced at RM398++ with wine pairing and RM318++ without wine pairing. Available for the month of October only. For more information on the MIGF menu, see this link. Note that Hilton Kuala Lumpur's other restaurants Chynna and Iketeru are also participating in MIGF. Love the duck sushi from Iketeru and the steamed cod from Chynna. More pictures of Senses are also available in the Flickr set.)
*Notice: The reviewer declares that this review was by invitation from the restaurant.