I remember the day I got my driver’s licence — I was a few months short of turning 18, and was given the key to my dad’s car. In less than a year, I accumulated 9 summonses, each stating I was driving at 150km/h or more. I get terribly annoyed when there is a traffic jam, or when the cars in front of me are slow. There was a massive crawl on Tuesday when I was on my way home from work, and I was going at a painful 10km/h. That caused me to be late for dinner with rif at Essence in Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur. Not wanting to lose our table (it always happens at Hard Rock Cafe), we rushed to the hotel and got there 15 minutes past reservation time. Located on the 1st floor of the hotel, Essence is a hip restaurant with sleek red walls, dim lightings and comfy couches. As soon as we were seated, I noticed many diners in a merry mood, chatting away as they sipped their wines. See, there was a choice between the buffet dinner (RM88++ per person) and buffet dinner with free flow of wine (RM118++ per person). We had the former, because rif cannot take much alcohol while I was saving my alcohol bingeing for the New Year’s celebration.The spread, although not as extravagant as Lemon Garden or Latest Recipe, was sufficient. Most of the dishes were well prepared and nicely presented. The Japanese selection was limited, but I made do with a few slices of sashimi, some sushi and two handrolls. I only managed to eat two oysters — I still can’t seem to enjoy these aphrodisiacs. Instead, I indulged in smoked salmon and some brie from the salad bar. The firm texture of the fish was pleasing both aesthetically and in taste. The Portobello mushroom was plump, earthy and juicy, but I didn’t care much for the aubergine slices. I really enjoyed the lamb shank with vegetables. The ultra tender shanks were braised in a pleasingly thick and flavourful gravy. I mopped the gravy with a bread roll; it was too good to waste. Many places serve roast beef that is so tough, it almost dislocates my jaw when I attempt to chew it. At Essence, the roast beef was succulent and paired well with some mustard and mushroom gravy. I didn’t eat the tandoori chicken and satay, but rif said they were good. He gave me a piece of his lamb kofta to try — it was meaty and full of spices. Pastas are prepared on the spot, and you can choose between carbonara, Bolognese or aglio olio. I got myself a spaghetti carbonara with ham and mushrooms. Not bad, but I prefer my carbonara creamier. If you asked me, I’d say skip the noodle station and dim sum. The kuay teow with sweet Thai soup was terribly sweet — any sweeter and it would qualify a place at the dessert counter. rif warned me NOT to try the xiu long bao (Shanghai Double Boiled Soup Dumpling), but being the stubborn cow I am, I took it anyway. I popped it in my mouth and spat it out almost immediately. This was probably the worst tasting XLB I’ve ever eaten. It didn’t taste anything like XLB. All I tasted was its awfully thick and powdery skin. Ptttooi!Desserts were a delight. They only had four ice cream flavours (sweet corn, strawberry, green tea and gingerbread), and all tasted very good. I loved the gingerbread ice cream paired with the waffles. The fruit cake was buttery and moist, dressed in luscious cream and fresh fruits. It was not overly rich or sweet, as the slightly tart fruits helped cut through the sweetness of the cake. I also helped myself to an oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies, and rif tried the crème brulee. The cookies were nice, crunchy and addictive, but the crème brulee was much too sweet for my liking. They make pretty good coffee — probably the best I’ve tasted in a long time. The latte and cappuccino came with some basic coffee art, which I thought was a very nice touch. Most hotels give you black coffee, or at best, cappuccino minus the presentation. The cappuccino was rich, with a perfect balance of froth, body, creaminess and sweetness. I liked this a lot, and had two rather large cups with dessert. rif’s order of latte came steaming hot, with a good amount of steamed milk and a layer of foam.
Service was very attentive, and I was most pleased with my waiter, Peter, who always had a smile on his face. I didn’t have to signal for any service, he constantly came by to check on the guests and to clear the plates. While waiting for the bill, I spoke to him for a bit, and found out he was studying at Taylor’s College, School of Hospitality & Tourism. He was doing his internship at the hotel, and if I may say so myself, he was doing very well.
Verdict: Decent food, nice ambiance and excellent service. Nuff said.
Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur
03 2717 9933