A RESTAURANT that serves deep fried sea cucumbers with mung bean soup or tau suan for dessert, tells a lot about the owner and the dedication that has gone into the research and development of ingredients used in the menu.
At Elegant Inn in Menara Hap Seng, owner Jeannette Han made no secret that when she started her Hong Kong cuisine fine dining establishment 20 years ago, it was known for two things – being pricey and the slow service.
“We charged RM10 for a fried egg. It was a normal egg but we made sure it was perfectly fried with a runny yolk. As for being slow, that’s because we do not premake anything. All our dishes are cooked from scratch upon ordering, ” said Han.
This explains why the filling that spilled out of the freshly steamed black salted egg custard bun that came with the tau suan was still warm when we bit into it. There is no describing the magical effect of rich and slightly salty yellow sauce coating the tongue like a warm silk blanket.
In showcasing the restaurant’s Mid-Autumn set menu, we started with bird’s nest, bought with the feathers still embedded and cleaned by hand in-house. Double boiled with rock sugar, it was served on a bed of whisked egg whites, pure in flavour and smooth in texture akin to clear jelly atop a delicate mousse.
It was paired with a salad of rat’s ear with white fungi in a light sesame oil dressing.
We loved the gelatinous juices encased within the rat’s ear fungus.
A spear of pig’s tongue, tender and heavy with the flavours of five spice powder, became the centre of conversation. Only the centre part is used as the outer edges tend to be chewy. To maintain an element of surprise, diners were not told they were eating tongue until everyone had finished. Many confessed later to thinking they were eating cured ham.
Lending another unique touch to the double boiled soup is deer tendon. In this dish, dried conch added a marine flavour to the soup with hints of sweet almonds coming from black chicken and murrill mushrooms. The point of interest is the deer tendon, which tastes like a concentrate of red dates and wild honey. Soft like butter, it melted in our mouths.
A South African Abalone Treasure Bowl (poon choy) and Claypot Rice with Garoupa Fillet impressed as main courses.
We dug into the treasure bowl which lived up to its namesake. On the first layer were nine head abalones (this denotes size found in a can, not the number found in a dish), roasted thigh of duck and extra jumbo-sized sea prawns.
There is a rule to eating this size of abalone. They should not be cut into more than four pieces and to truly appreciate good quality abalone, look for the caramel, a dark reddish flavourful centre within the flesh.
Those who love cartilaginous bones will find a hearty pork trotter under the first layer, soaked in a rich gravy of premium stock with soft radish chunks and white cabbage.
To lap up the gravy, lather the claypot rice with garoupa slices. But the claypot rice, fragranced with preserved vegetables and dried prawns, was good enough to be eaten on its own.
The ultimate treat in this dish was the rice crust. Within the crisp rice bubbles lay the enhanced goodness of the dish’s ingredients made more appealing with a rich, smoky aftertaste.
As a special treat, Han offered a sneak preview of her Nine Emperor Gods Festival vegetarian set. We loved the sweet, crunchy groundnut sprouts which were wok-fried with sweet peas and premium cordycep flowers.
We were told that this is the latest trend in vegetarian dining after ice plants. The supplier is from Klang.
The piece de resistance is a starter of radish puff enriched with truffle oil and surrounded with deep-fried purple sweet potato chips, crisp on the outside but soft enough to offer a token resistance to the bite.
However, a tofu blossom in a double boiled soup of carrot and beetroot stole the show in this set. A testament to the kitchen team’s knife skills, a soft piece of tofu thinly sliced length- and width-wise created a fan of filaments to resemble a flower!
For mooncakes, the kitchen has a snowskin range with Musang King durian and red bean with black sesame paste filling.
Organic chia seeds lend an interesting texture to the latter. However, the pandan matcha with organic sunflower seeds was one flavour that won its way into our hearts with its herby and nutty combination.
The price for the Mid-Autumn set menu starts at RM888 for four pax. Promotion ends Sept 30.
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival vegetarian set is from Sept 29 to Oct 7. Prices start from RM138 per pax and there is a minimum requirement of two diners for this menu.Elegant Inn Hong Kong Cuisine, 2.01, Second floor, Podium Block, Menara Hap Seng, Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2070 9399. Business hours: Noon to 3pm, 6pm to 10.30pm. Opens 10.30am on Sundays and public holidays. Non-halal.
This is the writer’s observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.