Fine dining was never a forte of mine and it still isn’t – I’m constantly learning from new dining experiences and chefs I meet, both locally and abroad. I learnt a great deal about the fine dining scene when I travelled to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, where I explored the culinary offerings through the recommendations of my friends who are based in these cities.
It isn’t just about the food. It involves a lot of emphasis on presentation, service and flow of courses. My recent experience at Mandarin Grill gave me a similar preview, courtesy of the hotel’s new Chef de Cuisine Benjamin Halat. Each course was cleverly thought through, beautifully presented and paired with an assortment of wines.
Chef Benjamin is all about pushing the boundaries and thinking beyond the box. I’ve met many Chef de Cuisine who are French, Italian, Swiss and Norwegian, but a German Chef de Cuisine is rare. Which made me all the more curious about this newly appointed chef of Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur. ;)
Dinner was a delicious symphony of textures, flavours and senses. From the amuse bouche right down to dessert and I’m pleased with how Benjamin revamped the previous menu of Mandarin Grill. It was more current and with much more flair. Each dish had a feature ingredient, like a centerpiece with elements of subtlety surrounding it. Best of all, his food was easy to understand. It was refined yet not at all complicated.
I enjoyed a sumptuous 7 course dinner comprising some of Chef Benjamin’s signature dishes, like the 90 degrees poached egg with oscietra caviar and white champagne sauce and lobster medallion. There was a teaser before the amuse bouche (yes, a teaser before the teaser), of snow peas and lobster tartar, olive oil jelly with almond powder and BBQ crackers.
Then the amuse bouche arrived; shrimp dill mayo, eggs royale with beetroot and smoked eel with pickled onion and yellow beetroot. The Lobster Medallion was quite a sight, like art on a plate, paired with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc by Mandarin Grill’s newly appointed sommelier, Peter Teng. Slow cooked lobster claw, served with yuzu jelly, cous cous and lobster tartar started the meal on a high note — the lobster claw was sweet and succulent, with a contrasting texture from the cous cous.
The mushroom soup was aromatic and earthy from the use of chanterelles, complemented with enerous drizzles of truffle oil. I found the skin of the duck ravioli slightly on the thick side, which required a little more chew.
I waited in anticipation for the 90 degrees poached egg with oscietra caviar and salmon roe in champagne sauce, supposedly another signature of the chef. This did not disappoint; excellently executed with simple flavours that married well together. The foie gras ravioli with madeira foam comprised a dainty pocket of pasta with a creamy yet light foie gras centre, topped with a generous sliver of truffle. Absolutely gorgeous with the Tokaji.
After a palate cleanser of lemon sorbet, the steak arrived — a wagyu ribeye marble score 8 with beans cassoulet. I liked this better than the wagyu from the old menu as Benjamin kept things simple to allow the flavour of the beef to stand out. And it was really tasty beef.
A richer, more robust dish would be the cheese comte risotto pralines with avocado, rocket pear salad and cheese sabayon — a bit heavy for some, but I loved it. Crusty cheese with a savoury sweet centre for a twist.
I was a wee bit sad to see that chocolate sphere is no longer on the menu but this was made up by Chef Benjamin’s duet of Valrhona chocolate, topped with a 70% dark chocolate ganache with hints of whisky for a strong finish.
From pre amuse bouche to dessert, I enjoyed them all. Each were expertly prepared and the pairing was well crafted by the sommelier. I look forward to many more creative dishes from Benjamin. If you’re a small eater, I suggest sticking to a 5-course meal (RM398++ per person, additional RM85++ for wine pairing) rather than the 7-course (RM498++ per person, additional RM125++ for wine pairing). For reservations, please call 03-2380 8888 or email [email protected]
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Food: 7.5/10 (pork free)
Verdict: I love Benjamin’s flair for creativity, evident in his dishes. Definitely try the lobster medallion and poached egg when you’re there.