Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, the famed downtown luxury hotel adjacent to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, is no stranger to welcoming Michelin-starred talent onto its premises. For years now, the hotel has played host to numerous talented chefs, before taking a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I can attest, for one of my most memorable guest chef experiences took place at Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur‘s efforts to bring international gastronomy to local diners. Swedish chef Sayan Isaksson, of one Michelin star restaurant Esperanto, comes to mind, with his imaginative use of broths to elevate and bind ingredients.
Local gourmands seeking a taste of international fare can rejoice, however, for the hotel has begun to welcome back global talent to tantalise our taste buds with it’s Take Over Series, beginning with Denis Lucchi of Buona Terra in Singapore last September. After going through the experience, I'm glad the hotel is taking steps to bring back this awesome culinary program back. So glad, in fact, that I have three reasons why I'm optimistic about this return to form.
1) A Chance To Taste International Fare On Home Grounds
This is a big one. I'm always down for more experiences (dining, masterclasses, and etc.) that give Malaysians the opportunity to taste what gourmet fare tastes like from around the globe. It broadens the mind to previously unknown flavour possibilities, culinary techniques and masteries, and sometimes ingredients.
Going back to my callback to chef Sayan, never would have I had the chance to savour and indulge in the unique flavours that the talented Thai-Swede created if Mandarin Oriental
didn't organise the whole shebang. As I mentioned, any opportunity to broaden the palate is a win in my books.
And it’s the same with chef Denis’ splendid pasta course that infused the flavours of bamboo clams, watercress and bottarga into a delightfully light yet flavourful linguine dish. There was an incredible subtlety and natural quality to the whole flavour profile presented, with salty-savoury bursts coming from the use of octopus and bottarga to add zing and pow.
Similarly, the second pasta dish from Denis further showcased this balance of lightness and heaviness working in unison. The richness of oxtail ravioli was toned down with the use of Jerusalem artichoke cream and lightly seared pickled onions, paired with red berry-heavy wine that really perks up the palate at the end.
So you see. Who doesn’t want to try a meal cooked by a chef from a Michelin-starred restaurant without sometimes having to hop on a plane?
2) Seeing How We Measure Up On An International Scale
Any gourmand worth his or her salt would have undoubtedly dined at one of our esteemed restaurants helmed by our talented local chefs. There’s a smorgasbord to choose from, ranging from contemporary takes on Malaysian flavours the likes of Dewakan, Akâr, Beta, and Gēn, to name a few. Then there are restaurants that blur the line between Malaysian and international cuisines such as Au Jardin, Shin’Labo, DC Restaurant, and Hide.
Guest shifts and takeovers, whether they happen at hotels such as Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur or in collaboration with other restaurants, can serve as a yardstick measure as to where we stand on a culinary level on an international leve.
3) An Easy Excuse To Dress Up For A Wine And Dine Night Out
Picture this. You and your significant other dress up to the nines for a romantic night out and your reward comes in the form culinary delights such as a this wonderfully light and refreshing turbot and scampi dish, completed with zucchini, capers and lemon.
You cut a piece, enjoy a sudden wash of natural sea flavours thanks to the combination of fish and shellfish, take a sip of Italian white Villa Sparina Gavi Del Comune Di Gavi D.O.C.G chosen to pair with this dish, and then take a brief pause to let it all sink in before you trade a smile with your partner.
Need I say more?
Watch out for more upcoming guest chef takeovers at the Mandarin Grill in the coming weeks.