NOT a food blog
When it comes to fine dining at Mandarin Oriental, our instinctive reaction is to exclaim that the food is overpriced, even before trying it. This leads to the next question, that is, whether or not the quality and experience justifies the high prices. The proliferation of loyalty/membership cards at hotels have enabled us to enjoy food at hotels at more modest prices, but this then begs the question, would we pay full price for the meal if we did not have the card? It is precisely this issue which will be a struggle for Pacifica and Mandarin Grill (and for that matter, any other restaurant based in a hotel of a similar standard) which hopes to be a dining destination not only for the upper crust but also for the pervasive middle class in Kuala Lumpur.
With such preconceived notions of prices, Mandarin Grill‘s boast and drawing power will have to be the quality and exclusivity of the food. Granted that, due to certain restrictions on halal meat in Malaysia, the best may still not be able to rival that of our neighbours, Mandarin Grill still has an impressive selection of beef, from Master Kobe Grade 10 to USDA Prime 80% Angus and 1824 Australia in various cuts. Much has been said on the blogs about the 1824 beef, a prime aged beef with robust flavour, and indeed, it was very good and tender in a moderately fatty piece of ribeye, which I had medium rare. The 1824 1kg T-bone, which our host Christophe Mousset ordered, came to the table whole, and was subsequently carved in elaborate fashion and served. Incidentally, and here’s where I inject some useful trivia, the blood that you see in your rare or medium rare steak isn’t really blood but myoglobin, a type of protein. This eventually oxidises when it is cooked, resulting in a grey shade. Wiki it for more information.
Two additional notable things that set Mandarin Grill apart from its competitors are, interestingly enough, the cutlery and oven. The oven is a Spanish oven that allows the meat to be cooked evenly and retains the moisture, and the knives are exclusive Le Thiers knives from France, presented to the dinner guest in a wooden box, wherein the guest selects the knife of his choice and proceeds to use it. Far from a novelty, the knife cuts through meat like butter and is a pleasure to use.
If you are a fan of pumpkin soup, you will be bowled over by the pumpkin veloute which has a texture akin to a dense foam rather than a traditional soup, a recipe which Chef de Cuisine, Cedric Darthial, is very proud of. The lobster bisque with armagnac is robust in flavour, making each mouthful extremely gratifying. The foie gras au torchon, which is probably the best way to eat foie gras as it allows the least amount of fat loss in the cooking/poaching process, was excellent and had a lovely buttery texture. The black angus steak tartare is only for those who can stomach raw meat with egg. To me, it was not only a work of art, but also very flavourful and paired wonderfully with the accompanying sourdough bread. Aside from grill items, there is also a selection of seafood on the menu including whole dover sole meuniere. If you have room for desserts, try the hazelnut creme brulee with blueberry compote which has a perfectly crisp surface and lovely custardy centre, and which is probably one of the best I’ve had in KL.
For after dinner drinks, the MO Bar is situated alongside the Mandarin Grill and offers an impressive array of single malt whiskies, from the Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown & Scottish Isles. These include Quinta Ruban, Glenmorangie and Highland Park from the Highlands, Auchentoshan from the Lowlands, Laphroaig, Ardberg and Quarter Cask from Islay, Aberfeldy, Glenfiddich and Macallan from Speyside and Springbank from Campbeltown. All these are served by the glass, and thus enables one to sample a wider variety at any one time. The atmosphere at the MO Bar is cozy and relaxed, with an interior of oak and dark wood.
Mandarin Grill, on the other hand, has a contemporary feel about it and has a relatively more casual approach to it as opposed to Pacifica, which is more formal. The decor is charming, with LED lights suspended from the ceiling to resemble modern-day chandeliers and paper animal sculptures scattered all over. I expected more of the service, where orders got mixed up along the way, and hopefully things have improved since my visit several weeks back. For a three course meal (without wine), prices approximate RM300 per person (before tax, on average).
Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 – 2179 8960
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.