Reach For The Sky!
Three cheers to you dear reader if you caught that title reference.
December, the final stroke of the year, is upon us. And what a year 2020 has been! Can't say anybody saw this pandemic coming. I certainly didn't. What's a remedy for the soul in trying times? Well, good food certainly helps make life a lot more enjoyable.
This holiday season, are you looking for a nice place to bid this crappy year goodbye and welcome the next with open arms? Yes? If so, is contemporary Italian to your liking? Then please, read on.
I recently visited Marini's on 57 to taste select dishes from their upcoming Christmas and New Year's Eve menus so I can let you know if it's worth spending a good portion of your hard-earned cash on having a spectacular dinner this festive season.
My recommendation? Yes, if your answer meets these two specific conditions: you acknowledge that the food will not be the be all end all factor that determines the success of your night and you accept that part of the cost of the dinner goes towards that amazing sweeping view only being at the beating centre of Kuala Lumpur city on the 57th floor of Menara 3 Petronas can provide.
Now, let's begin.
The Christmas Cookie
Since Christmas comes first, I'll cut straight to the chase. I only tasted two dishes from the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day eight-course dinner menu (RM480 per person), starting with a crowd favourite: Hokkaido scallop. This medium-sized little crustacean was served with parsnip purée, black truffles, caviar and gold shavings just to add a touch luxury into your scallop caught off the icy waters of Japan's northernmost prefecture.
The dish itself was perfectly adequate as a starter – featuring a pleasant earth and sea exchange going on between the key ingredient and its supporting cast. The scallop was a touch overdone for my liking; I like scallops with a crusty exterior and a slightly raw-ish centre. The velvety smooth purée added a welcoming textural change and the taste of caviar was another win. Which brings me to the truffles, my least favourite part of the dish because I am simply not a fan. Sue me.
Lamb, on the other hand, I enjoy. Done two ways – a roasted lamb rack served with jus and a tartlet with porcini – and served with truffle taleggio sauce and potato terrine, I rather enjoyed this. The meat of the lamb was succulent and done to my liking, as was that mini lamb pie and the overall portion of the dish, while although it may look small, was just right for an eight-course menu.
Vegetarians take note, there's also an all-green version of the Christmas menu (RM480 per person)
The New Year's Eve Do
The NYE menu (RM980 per person/RM1180 per person for a window seat) is a more significant investment should you like to pull out the stops for a grander way to welcome the new year.
What you see above is the antipasti comprised of three light bites – an enjoyable potato and porcini "cappuccino" soup, a Catalana-style tuna tarlet, and wagyu bresaola. I went for the tarlet first, a light, bright pastry with the pleasing presence of the tomato. The tart itself was subtle with a crumbly texture, think pai tee, rather than having the wafer-like consistency of biscuits.
With the bresaola, the use of wagyu probably wasn't needed here, but the air-dried bovine was still pleasing to a red meat lover. The fascinating part wasn't actually the beef per se, but rather the soft brioche-like bread sitting underneath it. It had a very festive taste, almost unmistakably bearing the flavours of nutmeg and/or cinnamon. I quite enjoyed that.
Lastly, I tucked into the "cappuccino", a warm, hearty tick soup that had an earthy, starchy feel of potato and the satisfying presence of mushrooms that hit at the end. There was a layer of frothy, milky foam at the top, justifying the borrowed name of a particular famous Italian coffee.
The next dish to arrive is my favourite dish of the meal – clean, straightforward, and finely tuned to elevate the lobster, the star of the show. The lobster itself was sweet and was slightly cooked instead of being served raw like it a carpaccio usually would. The addition of caviar amplified the taste of the lobster, working in sync with the tomato confit and basil béarnaise that brought acidity and herbal notes to the mix. Thin slivers of lemon supported the punchy tomatoes with a lighter zest. This truly was gratifying, as delightful to chew on as it was visually appealing.
Agnolotti, a type of ravioli that is made by folding over a single pasta sheet, comes stuffed with wagyu, porcini, and chives. Shaved truffles, jus and cream, completed the dish. What can I say? It was beefy, potatoey, meaty, and for once I admit that the truffles were a nice touch. The jus was quite intense, an enhancing agent to the actual beef filling. The mushrooms and chives, on the other hand, were relatively weak amongst the more flavour-forward elements.
My preferred way to have cod is to have it steamed with soy sauce and garnished with either ginger or spring onion. Needless to say, a bowl of white rice would be its perfect companion. But, I digress.
Marini's cod main course, served with macadamia nuts, roasted cauliflower purée, a few drops of herbal oil, was a suitable alternative to beef. The fish itself was immensely juicy and plump with a well-charred surface. The accompanying pomme purée cheekily hid globules of caviar, resulting in a clean yet punchy side.
For non-meat-eaters, there's a vegetarian alternative to the NYE menu (RM628 per person).
The first of two desserts, this was straightforward and lovely – strawberry sorbet, an Italian-styled sponge cake, and elderflower essence. I was afraid that the raspberry would be too tart, but it proved to be just right, probably thanks to the powdered sugar. The pastry itself was fluffy, an easy-to-like cake softened by the floral notes of elderflower that I can see most people enjoying.
The other dessert on the NYE menu, however, didn't make a fan out of me. You might, however. Why? You guessed it! Truffles! For the finale, I tasted a hazelnut crémeux and sponge cake with vanilla gelato, truffle essence, shaved truffles, and gold flakes. There are no two ways around it, this was a pretty dominant truffle dessert that's only slightly countered by the taste of vanilla and candied hazelnut. If you like truffles, you'll like this. If you don't, like me, you're kind of out of luck.