Mandarin Grill Chef Sunday Tour @ Mandarin Grill + Bar, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hong Kong

I’m betting my bottom dollar that most of you dudes and dudettes are fans of the Masterchef series.

How awesome was Heston’s Blumenthal’s week long appearance on Masterchef?  I hope none of you missed out the fun-filled molecular themed episodes – with lots of liquid nitrogen, dry ice, spherications, smokes, etc. That particular episode on ‘Medieval Feast’ with the ‘vegetable patch’ reminded me that I have not blogged about my degustation dinner at Mandarin Grill + Bar in Hong Kong a couple of months ago.

Date of Visit: June 2 2013

Mandarin Grill + Bar is a 1-Michelin stared restaurant in Hong Kong synonymous for decadent dining – delicious food, sophisticated ambience, fantastic service, arty food presentation – all for HK$1,588+10% per person for the degustation.  A dress code is in force.  All men must wear a jacket and keep it on at all time.  No torn ripped jeans even the designer ones.  (Anyone remember Marc Jacobs’ kilts fiasco?  He was refused entry to a restaurant because he contravened the restaurant’s dress code by wearing a ‘skirt’?  It made news – and some noise!)

Anywaz…

The gastronomy at Mandarin Grill + Bar has enough neologisms and touches of creativity to convince the most discerning food critic and yet mom would still be happy with the landings in front of her. Since I was hosting  dinner for 6 on that night, I used my Samsung Note  to take these quick blurry snaps and relied on my memory of the highlights of the night – so apologies for the horrible photos and sketchy food notes.

Under the guidance of the sommelier, my guest chose a Kabinett Riesling and a Nuits Saint Georges for dinner. I liked the French Burgundy, but found the German Riesling slightly too sweet as I refer drier varietals.

With our wines ordered, menus collected and everyone at the table comfortably settled, the waiters brought out a potted olive bonsai plant. A bit puzzling at first until the waiter said  to imagine eating the spherifed olives under the olive tree. Visual aid is said to evoke our memory center in our brains which works by enhancing the flavour receptors in our taste buds hence making the corresponding food taste better. To be honest, I cannot remember how the spherified olives tasted like…  The key of making ‘olives out of olives’ is to find olives that have a great quality juice that tastes great, here is a link of a tutorial by Ferran Adrian.  

The melt-in-your-mouth gougères rolled in parmesan cheese (presented in a Mandarin tin box) and olive gougères on the other hand, were heavenly, I distinctively remember the sweet buttery aroma of cheeses in the crumbly gougères.

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A pot of olive bonsai plant, with spherified olive and extra olive Gougères

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Gougères rolled in parmesan cheese (presented in a Mandarin tin box)

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Gougères

The warm soft breads were fresh out of the oven. A trolley of 5 types of  olive oils were wheeled to our table.  The waitress explained in detail the flavours and nuances of each type of oil hailing from different countries.  I think I chose the French, although in hindsight, I should have chosen ‘Lambda’ from Greece, the world’s most expensive olive oil (read here)

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House-made soft rolls

The presentation of a Flower Pot for each of the diners marks the 1st course.   It was accompanied by the ceremonial watering of the plant with a tea infusion from a watering-can!   Inside the Flower pot was a small garden patch of herbs and sous-vided root vegetables stuck in a creamy concoction and edible soil. This was quite similar to the Masterchef contests’ vegetable garden whereby they used egg mayonnaise (for earth), topped with chopped-up dried olives and nuts for make-believe edible soil.  I am not sure whether the same ingredients were used for the pot, but the pot was exceptionally divine – a bit too heavy and filling though.

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Flower Pot

Salmon and Caviar
I am assuming that the caviar was of the sustainable farmed varietal.     Because I nipped off to the Ladies (there was an attendant stationed there to hand me  a hand towel after I had washed my hands), I didn’t realise that we had to share a tin between 2 people.  I only realised later when I had a good half of it.  I think there was lobster boursin under the bed of caviar.  It was very delicious.  My apologies to my guest, but since she had recently attended a lavish wedding reception, she told me, that she has had enough of her share from the humongous bowl of caviar that is so de rigueur in Hong Kong society weddings nowadays.

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Caviar

The hedonistic salmons came out in style, smoking on a bed of herbs/hay.  This is smoked-cured-salmon-heaven and very good!

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Salmon

Sirloin
5 slices of tender juicy beef arranged in a circle around different types of mushrooms, (and a piece of dehydrated mushroom) on a heavy timber board- the waiter gave us a tall-tale of “cows roaming in the woods”.  Really?  We all thought that the story-line could be improved with “deers roaming in the forest”.  Whoever heard of cows in woods anyway?  This came accompanied with mash potatoes and spinach

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Sirloin

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Sirloin

By the time, the cheese trolley rolled over.  We were stuffed and had to wait for 20 minutes to digest before we can proceed any further.

We were served 17 types of Cheeses. Again, each piece of cheese was explained in detail by the cheese sommelier.  We had some crackers, honey and pastes to go with our cheeses.

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Cheese Board

I had a Light Bulb for dessert!  Really?!  Yup, the light bulb was made of spun sugar and filled with coconut foam and paired with a quenelle of mango ice cream and a chocolate filament for extra panache.

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Light Bulb

The grand finale was the petit fours.

This is melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles presented on  Mandarin Oriental’s signature edible chocolate ‘madolins’. I tried to scrap some chocolate bits off to try, but it was rock-solid hard.  Better not risk a trip to the dentist, right?  I should have asked for a doggie-bag too…

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Chocolate truffles presented on Mandarin Oriental’s signature Edible Chocolate ‘Madolins’

All-in-all a fantastic 4-hours dinner.  A bit Downton Abbey-ish, served in full silver service.

I might have missed the Art Basel 2013 and the special menu designed in conjunction with it, but nevertheless, there is always next year.  Here is a link to the astoundingly specially created menu here  *Food Porn*

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Van Gough’s Ear made from Foie Gras

Kosher in Hong Kong…Main St Deli @Langham Hotel, TST

Date of Visit: February 10, 2013

Nothing much happening on the 1st day of the Lunar New Year. So mom and I went for the early morning show at The One, TST. (Rumour has it that the building was dedicated to the developer-tycoon’s undying love for an HK actress – tacky…but romantic, don’t you think? I don’t mind having a building dedicated to me!) Goss aside the cinema tickets in Hong Kong are SO darn cheap compared to Sydney, only HK$45 – that’s roughly AUD5.60!! (If you are over 65 and have a senior’s card, you pay only HK$10 for the early morning show – like AUD1.25!)

The movie was ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ starring Bruce Willis. Gotta say, it takes a pro to work an action-movie, whereas the younger chap playing his son seems to be unsure of his moves. Although it’s an action movie, the crux of the story is the strong bond of family unity which strikes the chord with the spirit of Chinese New Year i.e family unity and respect for the elders. I thoroughly enjoyed the show with all the death-defying actions, a tall-tale with the actors suffering not a single broken bone!

After the show, mom and I thought of going to Tsui Wah, a Chinese fast-food chain some noodles. But man, the queues were so long – like snakes!! Too funny…off we went to Main St Deli at Langham Hotel, TST

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Apparently, Main St Deli is Hong Kong’s first authentic New York style deli. It is located in the basement of Langham Hotel, TST.

As soon as we were seated by the super-fast and efficient waiter, a bowl of fat gherkins and pickled coleslaw quickly appeared.

The pickles were the largest I’ve seen outside the States…very appetising, not salty at all…

Giant gherkins (complimentary)

Giant gherkins (complimentary)

There’s a certain ‘Chineseness’ to the pickled cabbage. Looks like what you get in Chinese restaurants, except there is no chilli and sesame seeds, only cabbage and carrots…

Pickled cabbage (complimentary)

Pickled cabbage (complimentary)

The menu offered a lot of choices for homesick New Yorkers – Reuben sandwiches, bagels, salads, burgers, pizza, and even chicken soup with matzoh balls!  I was suprised to see kosher salami on the menu.  Well, I know where to get Kosher food in HK now!  The desserts were serious stuffs too – shakes, cheesecakes, cookies, pie!

We were thinking of soup and salad/ sandwich combo, but thought against it since we didn’t like the soup choices. I thought of getting the ‘One foot dog’, but having had it before, it’s name was misleading – the bun was long, but the sausage was puny. We ordered salads instead.

American menu

Check out the Combo Deals: Soup with either a half-sandwich or half-salad. HK$288. Auspicious digits-88, all the prices end with a digit-8!

I really like the ‘New York art-deco meeting Hong Kong Cha Chaan Teng (tea food hall) interior’.  Langham Hotels is tasteful in design and pay close attention to detailing unlike other 5/6-star hotels whereby predominantly timber veneer and expensive marbles/ granites in beige, browns, whites and blacks are used!  Langham Hotels also have art installations that changes regularly in their hotel lobbies.

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Especially like the crystal lights. Really jazz up the place. And note the detail on the ceiling using tiles!

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Interior of deli, food available for take-away as well

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Another angle…

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The vinyl booth-seat, padded walls, tiled mosaic floor. The vinyl seats uses 2 different swatches

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Art deco-ish lights

Checking out the place can be exhausting.  Lucky food arrived promptly…

Nova Scotia Salmon ‘Lox’ Platter HK$158 (for half HK$92)
The salmon were very good and fresh.  It was a big serving and came with shaved red onion and cream cheese.  Only complaint was the dry cream cheese.

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Salmon platter

Deli Chef Salad HK$158 (for half HK$92)
This salad rocks.  It has roast prime beef, chicken, tongue, cheddar cheese, boiled egg and avo.  The tongue was especially good.  Serving was big too.

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Chef’s salad

I’m bailing out of Dan Ryan’s, Main St Deli is my new ‘canteen’ from now on.  Did I mention that I get extra 15% for the Langham Supper card?

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Shop front

By the way, Jews take food prep very seriously…meat and diary never mix

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Coffe machine unavailabe for use:
11:30am – 1pm Daily
4:30pm – 6pm Fridays

Mandarin Grill @ Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit: February 6 2013

Mandarin Oriental Hotel is a 5-star hotel right next to Petronas Twin Towers. It achieves a high occupancy rate due to the patronage from the oil &gas companies and also government bodies. The in-house restaurants are very dependable and rates high in the finer dining establishments in KL. There’s a Chinese restaurant (famous for quality moon cakes during the Chinese mid-autumn festival), a casual Cafe for all-day dining and buffet meals, a Lounge overlooking the KLCC park for high tea and drinks and a fine dining restaurant – the Mandarin Grill.

Today’s lunch is at Mandarin Grill. It has been recently renovated and I am loving the decor – with the wire and paper stag heads?

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Kitschy to say the least, but if you can’t find the real deal; interpretive replicas works fine too.

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What the interior decor looks like… The lights are made from silvery paper and glass beads.

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Booth seatings

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Table-setting
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The open kitchen concept is very popular, but I don’t like it particularly if the ventilation is not done well. Who wants to smell of food the whole day long? Here, I think the design solution is perfect, red feature wall with windows for a glimpse of what’s going on the kitchen – and also a fake fireplace to jazz the ambience (the warm glows would work well the evening)

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Glass-enclosed wine cellar. Bar in on the other side

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Decided in the business set lunch

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Bread arrives for our table

Straight out of the oven, warm and baked in-house. Yums!

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What’s fantastic about dining out with companions is that I can take snapshots of the samples of food ordered for my blog!

APPETISER

Beef Carpaccio
Looks good and the comments were ‘very good…excellent!’
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Leek Velouté (my order)
This is basically a leek soup with smoked salmon and a generous dash of manchego cheese. The black pepper was my doings as I like black pepper (lots) with my soups. I ordered the soup because of my fond memories of the cheese from my month-long hike on the Camino de Santiago last year. Manchego cheese is basically an aged whole sheep’s milk cheese. I enjoyed my smooth creamy soup very much.

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MAIN COURSE

Duck Leg Confit
The small duck confit looks dry and a bit overcooked, but my source said that it was good.

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Atlantic Cod Brandade (my order)
Much like eating baby food. I dunk my roll in it since I like to chew. I only realised now while writing up this post that the ‘mash’ were ‘sweet corn purée’. Well, broccoli is not a real winter veg, or is it?

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DESSERT

Bourbon Vanilla Fruit Salad (my order)
Not sure whether any alcohol in it, but it looks more an amuse bouche than a proper dessert course. Not sure about the old-fashioned ‘shrimp cocktail’ glass either. Check out the shovel-spoon!
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Earl Grey Milk Dome
As usual, my dessert screams POSH! My chocolate dome cake came dusted with gold flecks and gold leaves!

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The 3-layer chocolate cake. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it!

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Petit Fours
Lastly, the petit fours arrived signalling the end of lunch…
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Mandarin Grill also cooks some mean steaks, thus the namesake ‘Mandarin Grill’. I had tried it and it was very nicely cooked except the cut was not as thick as steaks in Sydney.

Sample of steak section of the menu
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PS: The photos in this post were taken by my new Samsung Galaxy Note. I’m still learning how to operate this new device – the photo editing functions running in the ads were awesome, but I can’t do them just yet. It’s also annoying that I kept getting missed calls because I am not familiar with my ring tone just yet!

Thirty8 @Grand Hyatt Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit: February 4, 2013

Grand Hyatt Hotel Kuala Lumpur only opened late last year. The original site was supposed to be in another part of the city, but the developer went out of money during the construction phase, so Grand Hyatt has to relocate to a new site, atop a new office building. Thus the Lobby on Level 39! Hear, hear…

To get to the hotel cafe, you can either walk down the perspex glass stairs or catch another special purpose lift from the Lobby.

We were seated in front of the open kitchen. Ventilation was good, no food smell – but perhaps because we were seated in the pastry section of the kitchen and the kitchen is not running at full-capacity?

Views of Kuala Lumpur with the KLCC park

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The menu was a mish-mash of Western and Japanese food, none appealing. I was thinking of ordering a light dinner, perhaps a salad but remembering how disappointing salads can be in Asia, it took me quite a while to settle on my dinner choice. I noted that there was only 1 pasta dish (linguine with chicken); lots of steak choices with different assortment of dressings; choices of fish (snapper, salmon or trout) cooked either steamed, grilled or fried, but no fish and chips, however, I am sure I can always request if I really wanted to. Chicken kiev and steamed scallops with black beans seemed to be popular among the other diners.

First to arrive, pita bread fresh from the oven and chicken liver pâté.

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The liver was really fresh but a bit too salty. Still… Yums!

In the end I opted for Assorted Sashimi with Shellfish (RM$180). It came in the huge ceramic bowl – almost like a flower pot. Some weight lifting for the waitress!

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Fresh sashimi. Freshly grated wasabi horseradish scored top marks from me!

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Sirloin Steak from Oz (RM$100)

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Ordered a side of chips too. Did not take a picture, but it was good (ie double-fried)

The open-kitchen concept does not go well with everybody especially for a fine-dining establishment that has a dress-code. The high expectation turned to shock with the casual cafe style layout (comment from an acquaintance)!

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Dessert was a HIT.

Banana, pineapple, coconut crumble (RM$18)

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It came with a soft-serve ice-cream and midget bananas. This dessert went down well.

Mille feille (RM$25)

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This is a new dessert specially recommended by the very chirpy personable waitress. No disappointment here!

Grand Hyatt’s Signature Dessert – Thirty8 Signature Cake
The cake arrived on a covered glass cake stand with much pomp. Inside was fumed with smoke (from dry ice) and I only got to see the cake when the glass cover was removed. The waiter then proceeded to pour hot caramel onto the cake.

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The cake seemingly melted leaving a ‘hole’ (hang on, I’ve seen this theatrics with the 8 layer chocolate cake at the Quay in Sydney recently!)

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How was it? Excellent! A rich chocolate dessert verging on the lighter style. Chocolate mousse, cake and praline with banana ice-cream and nuts crumbles works well.

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On my way out, on the other side, I saw amazing night time views of the Petronas Twin Towers. There was also a band playing, possibly because it was a Monday night, there wasn’t much patrons around. I am sure the Lounge Bar will be fantastic spot for romantic rendezvous with candle lights and booth seatings (if privacy is required *wink*)