Hennessy XO Appreciation Grows Gastronomy with Chef Susur Lee
Remembering last year, and all the wonderful dinners I had, I realized I was months late in writing about what was undoubtedly,for me, the best meal of 2011.
We always look forward to Hennessy events, especially the Hennessy XO Appreciation ones, which spoil us rotten with outstanding cuisine cooked by Asian superstar chefs. Be they from Hong Kong, China, or of Malaysian descent, these carefully selected chefs showcase brilliant progressive Oriental cuisine with a European twist, and highlight the splendour and superior taste of Hennessy’s XO. This time, we had the pleasure of one of the “Ten Chef’s of the Millenium”, critically acclaimed and world renowned Top Chef Master Susur Lee.
You never know what to expect at these events in terms of food, for each chef brings with him his own style of cuisine, his own story, and his own interpretation of the subtle yet robust flavours in Hennessy’s XO. Rich, woody, fruity, and mind-blowingly intoxicating, the deep brownish golden liquid will caress your throat and warm your belly, be it neat or on the rocks.
As with all previous events, we were taken through a journey of the delicate process of producing and barrelling Cognac, to ensure the highest quality liquid would reach your lips. Ooooh… I get shivers down my spine just thinking about the heady scent, the ‘zing’ of warmth that hits your mouth at first sip… heavenly.
As always, we’re made to feel extra-special with elegant namecards placed at our seats, and black and gold menus tucked delicately into a jacket shaped folded napkin. The signature Hennessy ‘black tent’ was this time erected indoors in the KL Live Centre, on Jalan Sultan Ismail, as opposed to previous outdoor events at Bukit Kiara and Suffolk House in Penang. A roof within a roof, and no expense was spared on flowers and candles set amidst the backdrop of darkly hues drapes.
To add to the luxury, copious amounts of Hennessy XO is poured into your glass before the Cognac even had a chance to evaporate.
Dinner was truly outstanding. Like I said, probably the best meal of 2011. I went with no expectations of the food, knowing it would be good, but not expecting it to be so great. We learnd that Chef Susur Lee spent 2 weeks in Malaysia prior to the event, tasting all kinds of local fare, mercilessly sourcing local ingredients and adapting his dishes to the local flavour.
There in itself is probably what made this meal so memorable. The familiar tastes, coupled with exquisite ingredients, and intricate cooking methods was just… exceptional.
“Just like fine cognac, culinary innovation results only when age-old recipes are perfected through centuries of evolution.”
THE FLAVOURS OF PERFECTION, ALL IN ONE EVENT.
A delicate oceanic tantalizer of fresh sashimi with lightly frizzled wraps, topped with imported crest, paired with sea urchins and served in a richly flavoured edamame sauce.
Oh my… what a way to start the meal. As I took my first bite of tuna, I sat there and marvelled at how fresh it was. Did Chef Susur have a tank in the back? Did he kill, skin and slice the fish on the spot? It was insanely delicious, light, with clean flavours that stood out individually but married so well together.
The creaminess of the sea urchin, the popping squirts from the salmon roe, and the smooth and silky edamame sauce, all dissolved happily on my tongue, with the occasional savoury burst from an edamame bean and light crunch from the crest. Exquisite indeed.
Allure of the Orient
Luscious fusion excitement of Cantonese wok fried King Prawn, served with steamed pumpkin in savoury tomato jam and topped with crispy deep-fried Sang Mee.
This was my favourite dish of the evening. Essentially, a deconstructed ‘Sang Har Meen’. But so cleverly done, introducing unusual ingredient pairings for a classic Chinese dish. The prawn was fat and succulent, cooked perfectly so it still had just the right amount of bounce with every bite.
The pumpkin was unexpected, but added a lovely creaminess and sweetness to the dish, which was then offset by the savoury white sauce, and tomato jam. It was a perfect balancing act… a wonderful play on textures and a beautiful, almost poetic interpretation of my favourite dish.
Sumptuous Mexican goats cheese tart baked with jalapeno and red capsicum, flavoured in tomatillo sauce and lavishly garnished with minced waxed duck sausage.
I thought this was such a clever dish! It was strange really, to read the description in the menu. I kinda half expected a Mexican tortilla or Quesadilla to appear in front of me, and I was expecting truly ‘foreign’ flavours. Yet, once again, Chef Susur surprised us by somehow, magically infusing the dish with local flavours.
The goats cheese was deliciously rich and creamy, with a salty-sour kick. The up-the-nose spiciness from the jalapeno was just right, while the waxed duck sausage brought back memories of me eating my first ‘Lap Mei Fun’. And the pastry… of the pastry… so light, so fluffly so gorgeously buttery and flaky… Insanely good.
A lush palate of titillating flavours enraptures in this fusion of specially marinated sable fish and radish cake, served with unique miso mustard and Chinese mui choi.
I didn’t try this dish, but according to Lil’ Fat Monkey, it was amazing!
Savoury Australian tenderloin pan grilled to amorous perfection, served with exquisite eggplant polenta cake in rich Chu Hou sauce.
What the hell does ‘amorous’ even mean? Was my first thought. Well, I googled it like all dumbfounded bloggers would, and came to the conclusion that it was to do with being in love. Yes, this tenderloin did evoke feelings of being in love… I mean, it’s quite hard to make a piece of meat look sexy and appealing, but this baby… ooooh. More shivers down my spine.
The tenderloin was elegantly ‘draped’ over the polenta cake, almost like the two were cuddling in a lovers embrace. It was cooked beautifully, with bold flavours of black pepper and meaty juices, melt-in-your mouth tender. The eggplant polenta – brilliant!
Polenta is one of my least favourite foods, well, because it’s so starchy and ‘blah’, but here, it was rich, decadent and the perfect complement to the meat. Subtle hints of soya beans, garlic and ginger from the Chu Hou sauce carried through the Asian theme in the dishes, without overpowering the Western elements. Insanely good.
Panna Cotta Seranade
Sweet and creamy vanilla panna cotta comes together with a fruity symphony of raspberry, pineapple and wondrous passion fruit coulis in this delicate dessert delight.
The perfect end to the perfect meal…it was like a Monet, a beautiful painting that you want to admire from a distance.
Not too sweet, with the freshness and tang from the fruits melting together with the custard like texture of the panna cotta. Love the final touch of the ‘Fortune cookie’ on the top. Insanely good.
And then, there were fireworks!
And did I mention the insanely good Sand Artist? Live? Drawing pictures from his head, in the sand, to illustrate the story of how Hennessy came to be?
It was truly surreal, and utterly amazing. As I’ve said several times already, INSANELY GOOD. And everyone got a lovely keepsake in memory of the evening.
Thank you Hennessy, for giving me my best meal of 2011… And thank you Susur Lee, for cooking it.
*Special thanks to MILK PR for the gracious invitation.
Hennessy is the world’s leading premium cognac brand. Founded in 1765, the house of Hennessy has continuously strived to create the world’s finest cognac.
Hennessy is the master of the art of blending fine aged cognac eaux-de-vie and has been creating fine cognac for seven generations. This heritage and savoir-faire has earned Hennessy Cognac world-wide renown and the appreciation of todays greatest cognac connoisseurs, making it the brands world’s number one cognac and one of the world’s most sophisticated spirits.
For more information, kindly visit www.hennessy xo.com.my and www.mhdm.com.my