Happy Birthday to Me!
Once in a blue moon, on in this case, ‘birthday-moon’, a restaurant jumps out of the woodwork and knocks you off your feet.
In no way has this restaurant been in hiding, and definitely not in the woodwork! In fact, quite the opposite, Mandarin Grill at Mandarin Oriental KL is a well known grandiose steakhouse that combines luxury & elegance with a friendly and comfortable ambiance. I just hadn’t been there before because I’m not a steak person. Or at least that’s what I thought…
I didn’t plan to write about it, hence my hazy memory of the names of dishes. Upon sitting down at our table by the floor to ceiling windows, the heavy tint offered protection from the midday heat but allowed for the gentle warmth of sunlight to brighten up the spacious dining room.
We were spoiled with a welcome glass of Champagne each, thanks to old friends who graciously remembered my birthday. Thank you ladies!
Amouse Bouche – Smoked Salmon & Red Pepper Coulis
Getting on in my youth, now progressing along my early thirties, I find that with age comes ever-changing taste buds. If I had gone there one, maybe two years ago, my stomach would have dictated I order every prawn or any shellfish dish on the menu, possibly some lamb.
This time, I found myself still yearning for one of my favourite dishes, good ol’ crabcakes, but feeling experimental, older and wiser, I boldly declared I was to have steak.
Lil’ Chef ordered from Mandarin Grill’s Set Lunch Menu, and had Duck Confit to start, with Cauliflower Puree and Cherry Jus.
I didn’t try it, but judging by the way there was not so much of a drop of the thick, dark sauce left on the plate, I can safely say it was delicious.
He chose another interesting starter, the Grilled Monkfish with Glazed Green Peas, Golden Raisin and Beef Chorizo Sauce.
What a wonderfully unusual combination of textures and flavours. I stole half of this dish, and loved the smoothness of the fish, the bite of the peas, the crunch of the fried strips of meat, and the unexpected richness and hint of smokiness from the Chorizo sauce. It was the perfect balance of sweet and savoury.
Lil’ Chef ordered a main course completely out of character for him, was rich the name escapes me but I know it was crumbed and fried Turkey Breast, served with a rich Parmesan Risotto.
I assumed it was something from the homeland of the Chef de Cuisine – Switzerland. The Swiss food I’ve tried before there always exuded a warming, cozy feeling, much like when you take that first sip of hot chocolate rubbing your hands together by a crackling fire, after a long day of skiing. Yes, with just one bite I was transported back to New Years 2005, in the snow covered slopes surrounding Riffelalp Resort in Zermatt, minus the skiing. It was like a big, cuddly bathrobe had just wrapped itself around me. Even Lil’ Chef had a big smile on his face.
Simple, hearty food with finesse. So filling that Lil’ Chef cancelled dessert, which I can say has never happened before!
The Alaskan King Crab Cake arrived with accompaniments of Sea Trout Tartar, Mango Chilli Salsa and Cucumber & Avocado.
Don’t be fooled by the size of each patty. Each one houses inside moist, sweet flesh from the Alaskan King Crab. I was hit with freshness with each bite, whether I paired it with the Trout Tartare, fruity Salsa, contrasted by the extremely crisp coating on the outside. Not to be shared!
Other reviews have highly recommended the White Roma Tomato Emulsion. I chose the Seafood Chowder with Scallop, Prawn & Melted Leek Tian.
The chowder was not chunky as I had imagined, and was a little lacklustre both in appearance and flavour. It was a soup blended smooth with a few bits of seafood and cooked leaks at the base. I commented that the kitchen must be really far away for a few of our sauces and even this soup had already developed that ‘skin’ from cooling down. A pleasant soup, albeit a little one dimensional in flavour.
Saved by the bread, which is just divine. Warm rolls in three different flavours that crack when you tear it apart, delicious even on its own.
Mandarin Grill offers some of the most exquisite & premium cuts of beef. I asked our waiter to recommend the smallest steak, and he suggested the Grass Fed Australian Black Angus Beef, Tenderloin, 160g, aged 60 days.
I like variety so I filled up the empty plate with what turned out to be three beautifully executed side dishes – Truffled Potato Puree, Sauteed Spinach in Garlic & Olive Oil (at my request, I thought the Creamy Spinach would be too heavy) and the Sauteed Woody Mushrooms.
Choosing a steak knife that would complement my outfit rather than blend into it, I sliced into the proud lady-sized hunk of meat and didn’t speak for the rest of the meal.
My funky coloured Laguiole steak knife…
The steak was cooked so beautifully, and was so tender, the meat so tasty, I felt like I was really chewing on heaven. I toyed around with a bit of Bernaise Sauce but ultimately it was the Balinese Peppercorn Sauce that won my heart.
Teamed with the fluffy Truffled Mash with had just the right drop of truffle oil in it, not like some places that go overboard and end up with a pungent mess. The spinach was just wilted, seasoned perfectly with undertones of garlic that didn’t overpower. And the mushrooms! Cooked to retain some bite, exuding all the earthiness of wherever they came from. If I had more than two thumbs, they would have all been up.
The service was impeccable, the atmosphere first class, and the overall experience a rare find in KL, I’ll dare say good enough to rival that of Dinner by Heston in Mandarin Oriental London, that we went to around my birthday last year. I am pleased to announce that after this meal, I can safely say I am indeed a steak person. Thank you for changing my mind, Chef Reto Weber.
A truly unexpected exquisite meal, and a tasty start to my 32nd year.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Kuala Lumpur City Centre
T: +60 (3) 2380 8888