Monday, March 22, 2010

Dining Out @ Mandarin Grill, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

velvet-like pumpkin soup drizzled with pumpkin oil

Are you a fan of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel?? I reckon I am since I've had quite a long history with them starting even before they opened doors for business (had to negotiate once with their contractors to wrangle some monies for work done by a company we once ran long long ago - really ancient history). Once it flung open their doors, it became a favourite hangout for us, as it was the preferred choice for the far flung blood relatives (they loved the serene park, the easy access to the mall and the LRT) whenever they trooped into KL for family occasions. Lai Poh Heen was also the place one of my former clients always demanded for - simply because he had to have their awesome durian pancakes for lunch. One wonders if he canceled his appointments after lunch or did he dazzle them with his durian breath!

horn-like salt and pepper shakers, roast beetroot salad, breads and five spice butter, the gorgeous jumbo lump crab cakes

The old Pacifica Grill was originally conceptualised as a fusion outpost. One remembers dining here with clients long long ago where we couldn't quite understand the food - was it Asian or Western we just ate? Then came Dirk Haltenhof, the affable chef who used to hold court in a kitchen where he once treated us to lunch cum cooking demonstration. In recent years, it was Jeff Ramsey from Tokyo who dazzled with his molecular gastronomy at the same platform. Then they moved downstairs, where the whole place was transformed into an underwater paradise, which we revisited last year for Jeff Ramsey.

Mandarin Grill appetizer sampler (RM125), from top to bottom: slow cooked lobster with artichoke, crab cakes with apple mikado, sundried tomatoes and basil coulis, smoked salmon loin with fennel slaw, coriander sour cream

Hence when I heard wind of the Mandarin Grill to reopen at the original Pacifica's location, I was mighty curious on how it will turn up. Rumblings from the culinary world said they will be focusing on premium quality beef - always a plus point to us since Splashie Boy loves anything bovine. Also heard in the same breath was a French chef who once worked in Dubai will be helming the kitchen there. More whispers were heard during Chinese New Year that the young chap that used to head the kitchens at Chinoz on the Park had joined them and I wondered, would the soups be as superb as they were before in his former outpost.

avocado mousse with crab meat and tomato jelly, foie gras au torchon served with pear and ginger chutney, beetroot puree and spiced bread (RM82), black angus steak tartare served with homemade tomato ketchup (RM62)

One could feel the resistance crumbling especially when Sean from Eat Drink KL peppered the blogosphere with multiple posts on Mandarin Grill. I reckon with a few more visits, he would have covered the entire menu including their 7 signature dishes. Coincidentally, I got an invitation from their PR, Nicole to dine here and I must admit I bent my rules a little as I was mighty curious to sample their offerings.

choose your own Laguiole steak knife

The place is entirely transformed from the entrance onwards. I always used to think the old Pacifica's entrance wasn't too inviting as you walked into the bar area. The new refurbishment has an inbuilt gas fireplace in the front part and a circular wooden structure. Within the restaurant, there seems to be bovine and animal references everywhere - antelope heads wire frames, papier mache shaped to resemble horns, paintings and even wooden figurines on bulls. What is interesting is amid all these modern interpretations of masculine symbols, it is balanced with a touch of whimsical with the silver fairylike lights made with sparkly crystals. There are even Bottega Venetta-like or what I term as "ketupat" leather weave chairs. A glass wine cellar fronts the MO Bar entrance where you find an impressive collection of single malt whiskies, cosy chairs to sink into after a long day and a piano man tinkling out the blues.

that's the one I want, 1824 Australian grain fed steak

Once you settle comfortably in the chair, it's time to tackle their hefty menu. Here you'll find appetizers (prices range from RM48 to RM110) like Black Angus beef tartare, foie gras au torchon and etc. Luckily there's an appetizer sampler for RM125 that allows you a little of everything (perfect for those who can't decide) in tinier portions - jumbo lump crab cakes, smoked salmon loin and slow cooked lobster. There's also a raw bar selection (price range from RM52 to RM110): yellow fin tuna sashimi, oysters and if you're feeling very generous, there's 30g sevruga caviar for a whopping RM520!! I noticed that a dozen of oysters is RM110, a little less than what High Tide is serving for RM135 but it could not be a fair comparison since the varieties may be different. There are also soups (RM32 to RM48) and salads (RM32 to RM42) including the caesar salad that is mixed on the spot in front of you. This is when I start drawing parallels with Prime, Le Meridien Hotel since they also mix their caesar salad a la minute.

USDA US prime 80% Angus steak gets sliced at the table, the tender melt in the mouth US beef with corn puree and corn in the cob

It's not hard to draw the comparison with Prime, as Mandarin Grill is pretty serious about their meat items. There's a page dedicated to their grill items with five varieties of beef. You have a choice of master kobe grade 10, wagyu grade 9, 1824 (a new type of variety), black angus and prime 80% angus. Most are from Australia with the exception of the prime 80% angus that comes from the USA. Some are grain and grass fed, while different cuts and weight are offered. The smallest is 140gram tenderloin while hefty eaters can settle for the whopping 1kg T-bone. Each have their own special taste and texture - the kobe and wagyu will melt in your mouth with the marbling while the other types have a more robust taste. For those don't like beefy cuts, at the end of the page, you have a choice of Tasmanian lamb and free range chicken. The grill items come with a variety of vegetables, potatoes, butters and sauces. Seafood is also catered for - fresh sole, scottish salmon, boston lobster and a catch of the day. There are also pasta, risotto and gnocchi if you miss Italian food.

gas flame fireplace, roast lamb rack with red pepper coulis and eggplant caviar, pan fried grouper with eggplant chip, braised fennel; both from the lunch set

Don't despair if you feel lost like Alice in Wonderland! There's always the saver (and nope it ain't the white rabbit) - a one page of 7 signature dishes like wagyu beef burger rossini (triple the luxe with wagyu beef, foie gras and truffle mayonnaise!) for RM186, roasted veal loin, duo of new zealand lamb (two types of parts), black angus chateaubriand (350grams all for yourself and not shared like the other restaurants), grilled duck breast, seared sea bream and pan fried scallops. Prices range from RM90 to RM210.

decadent hot fudge sauce for the Coupe Denmark, from the set lunch

On to the selections: the jumbo lump crab cakes were superb purely because I'm so used to seeing it mixed with mash potatoes that the sweet taste is overwhelmed. Here sweet fresh lump crabmeat is encased in a thin potato croquette lightly fried - definitely a nice light starter. Smoked salmon loin was good too yielding a tender texture. The black angus tartare (RM62) is also good, tender and served with a selection of sourdough bread and brioche. For something decadent, go for the foie gras du torchon (RM82) - rich melt in the mouth foie gras paired with a tangy pear and ginger chutney to undercut the richness and a thin slice of spiced bread. I found myself eating most of this since I never can resist creamy foie gras. I admit I wasn't much a fan of the slow cooked lobster - the texture was a little too soft for my liking probably because I expected something different. I loved the roast beetroot salad (RM38) since I like anything with beetroot, goat cheese, grilled portobello mushrooms and walnuts.

hazelnut brulee with yoghurt sorbet and blueberry compote (RM32), so chocolately that Charlie from the Chocolate factory will approve - Valrhona Manjari chocolate ganache wih coffee anglaise, chocolate sorbet (RM32), coupe denmark and chocolate milk gateaux from the lunch set

Steaks were selected - the US prime 80% Angus was carved at the table and was juicy and tender. My 1824 Australian grain fed steak was robust and a little more chewier than expected. It went well with the creamy morel sauce, the tender garlic jumbo asparagus spears and the creamy garlic mash. To make your dining experience a little more special, you even get to select your own steak knives from a selection of Laguiole knives. These hand crafted knives from France come with different handles. A selection of flavoured rock salts are also given to you, if you prefer to add a different kind of flavour - vanilla or even paprika.

refresh with a little H2O, papier mache "horns", part of the interior, sparkly crystals

Last but not least there's desserts (a selection for RM32). I first tasted the Manjari Chocolate Ganache and was bowled over by its decadent chocolately taste. Double it up with the chocolate sorbet and a touch of rich coffee anglaise. Then it was the hazelnut creme brulee that knocked me over - kinda like a Kinder Bueno but on a grown up level with a silky texture and served with a tangy yoghurt sorbet and a blueberry compote to make it less rich. Gorgeous!

While I thoroughly enjoyed the luxe experience, I reckon quite a few people will feel it daunting to fork out that much monies for daily dinner unless it is a special occasion like a birthday, a wedding anniversary or even just a romantic rendevous. Even though the food is "my cup of the tea", it may not be others (for instance, some friends have expressed dissapointment in Sage and Cilantro) as everyone has their own tastes and preferences. The best way to test out the waters - just drop by for lunch. They run a set lunch (available throughout the week including the weekends!) - RM88++ for 2 courses and RM108++ for 3 courses including a selection of tea or coffee. The menu changes weekly (every Tuesday) - you get a selection of four items for each course (meat, poultry, seafood, vegetarian). There's also a small selection of a la carte items like the Caesar salad, the 1824 steak and some selected appetizers. If you wish, you can also order from their dinner menu but be prepared to wait though since mise en place will take some time to prep.

We dropped by one day to experience the lunch and it was good - a little quieter during the day as only the "ladies that lunch" and businessmen were dining there. What made it enjoyable was the pleasant park view we had (always a plus point of this restaurant's location). Food was good, I liked the light flavours of my avocado mousse paired with crabmeat and tomato jelly but wasn't too enthusiastic about my pan fried grouper (a tad too dry for my liking even though the fish flakes beautifully). I loved Splashie Boy's pumpkin soup (I think it's the same one in their a la carte menu) - velvety smooth to the tongue yet light with a touch of air. Definitely a must order for me the next time from the a la carte menu! Even his roast rack of lamb was superbly done, down to the fatty bits. Desserts were excellent - I loved my milk chocolate gateaux that hid raspberry treasures while Splashie Boy's simple coupe denmark was very good with the homemade ice cream.

I reckon lunch will be excellent for those seeking for a quick client lunch (they promise 1 hour for your 3 course meal and 45 minutes for the 2 course meal) or even a quiet respite from the bustling work day. It's also a good way to persuade a loved one to spend more for dinner especially if they're impressed with the food. Who knows unless you give it a try, right? Dinner here will be good with a loved one or even to celebrate a special occasion like a promotion with friends, since you can enjoy a more leisurely meal.

Mandarin Grill
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Kuala Lumpur City Centre
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-2179 8960

(Halal and smoke free. Open for lunch and dinner. Next to the Mandarin Grill is the MO Bar that is reputed to have the largest selection of single malt whiskies in Kuala Lumpur. A larger selection of pictures and more explainations are available in the Flickr set.)

* Notice, only one part of the review was by invitation from the hotel while the other part was paid by the blogger.

Other reviews:


Sean said...

that pumpkin soup is gonna haunt my dreams! i keep skipping it in favour of trying other items, but i'm gonna have to order it next time...
i really liked the old pacifica grill too. the comfy cushions, the vibrant crimson colours, the quirky food...
loved your photos and descriptions in this post, btw! u really did justice to the place! respect! =)

eiling lim said...

wah if you bent your rules for this, it must be really good! I'm salivating already!

Kenny Mah said...

Pumpkin. Soup. My. Favourite. I heart you for posting this!

And the rest of it? Such decadence... Devil and I must, must, must go soon! It's barely two minutes walk from our offices! :P

qwazymonkey said...

Exquisite! Like Kenny, I'm all for that handsome pumpkin soup! Hope Kenny brings me along.

CK Lam said...

Delightful meal and dining experience!

Julian Si said...

Opulent :-) Great post!!

Cheers from Abu Dhabi...

thule a.k.a leo said...

can I go there just for the pumpkin soup?? Lol.. hope they won't give me those weird look on their faces

Anonymous said...


KY said...

I went for a review at mandarin grill and it was oh-so-good! had the USDA tenderloin ahhh i shall stop thinking about it now!

Christina Kim said...

Ooooh, Mandarin Oriental is just somewhere I would love to be anytime =)

sc said...

gosh, everything looks so decadent :) seems like lots of items to choose from..but you're right, prices are on the hefty side..lunch seems like a good way start.

foodbin said...

seriously i can't appreciate some of the dishes except the gorgeous pumpkin soup and those tender beef.
the pricing are just beyond the ordinary people.

email2me said...

look at that bowl of pumpkin soup .... makes you want to lick it clean!

Ciki said...

i wanted to leave a comment earlier but streamyx swallowed it up!

love piece to read boo. if sean says yes and boo says yes.. then.. honestly, it's time for ciki to go:)

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