I find it awesome that you can drive an hour from downtown KL and be in a totally different climate zone.
One moment you are breathing in dust, the next you are walking into a thick fog, slightly taken aback by how grey, misty and cold it can be up in Genting Highlands.
We duck into the Genting Grand and are quickly swallowed up by the crowd and maze of attractions that is the Resorts World Genting. There is a trick or tease calling out your name from everywhere – ours are The Olive, L’titude and Imperial Rama.
Here on the MIGF (Malaysian International Gourmet Festival) trail, we head for the Chinese-Thai restaurant where hopefully, a hot bowl of soup is waiting.
We are in luck. On Imperial Rama’s festival menu is a double-boiled abalone with dried maca chicken soup. A whole, six-head South African abalone is nice and indulgent, but the maca is apparently the hero here.
The radish-like root grows in the high mountain plateaus of the Andes in Peru and has a suite of superpowers attributed to it, among them libido, fertility, stamina, memory, sleep and beauty enhancing, rejuvenating and invigorating.
“I heard about it from my customers,” says Chef Andy Seng, who is among the firsts to introduce it on a Malaysian menu – the Wall Street Journal had reported last year that Chinese buyers had swooped into the Junin region of central Peru to buy up as much of the root as possible, leading to a tenfold increase in the price.
Dubbed the Peruvian ginseng, the slices of dried maca – retailing at RM700 a kilo – look like dried slices of ginseng, and give the soup a tea-like colour and a pleasant, sweet almond-like flavour. When we are done, there isn’t a drop of soup left in the bowl.
For the festival, Imperial Rama is offering a five-course modern Chinese meal (RM338 nett; RM468 with wine pairing) with complimentary Pu Er tea. Portions are generous and luxurious, with ingredients such as sea cucumber and bird nest, and premium green vegetables garnishing most plates.
The Olive’s festival menu is probably my favourite. We sample two courses here and both are very good and beautifully plated. Good techniques, produce and creative thinking are played out on the plate for an interesting, multi-layered taste experience.
It starts with the pre-dinner nibble, an amuse bouche of truffle fingers. The pretzel-thin, rolled fingers of filo pastry are layered with truffle paste, truffle oil and truffle honey to give an intense hit of truffle and toasted flavours.
Looking like a vibrant artist’s palette, poached langoustines blush and swim in a yellow pool of oyster mousseline sauce. The pretty appetiser fetes the eye with its colourful hues of vermilion, radish pink, spinach green, and pollen yellow.
Fresh and dehydrated baby pink radish add to the layered texture. There’s surprise and playfulness in store in the small and big sago pearls and rings of dehydrated bawang rose.
Chef Radzuan could have used salmon roe, but he risked it with the bland sago pearls, and we loved the touch of local here. What also won’t go unappreciated are the spinach leaves painstakingly cut into tiny circles like playful polka dots.
As we can only manage a couple of dishes from each of the festival restaurants, we regrettably have to skip Olive’s starter of foie gras and chicken breast with lemon glaze, whisky cream and red wine sauce; the soup, a boullaibaise essence (a consommé made by freezing and dripping the stock) with brunoise vegetables, manila clam and lobster tortellini; entrée of Chilean seabass with rocket puree and citrus olive oil, and go straight to the main course.
The M9 tenderloin fillet is paraded alongside mini yellow and orange carrot, asparagus tops, broccolini and a cherry tomato roasted for sweetness.
There’s a block of gratin potato layers interleaved with Jerusalem artichoke puree then torched to give it a wonderful burnt taste.
It isn’t necessary, but there’s also clumps of barley risotto acidified with prune for you to poke at.
Ah, the beef. What can we say about the beef that cannot be expressed with a sigh of ecstasy? The marble nine wagyu is tender, juicy and incredibly flavoursome.
On the merit of the two courses, one knows there’s a competent chef here well versed in the classic cooking techniques and who also likes to have some fun with them. And he’s no slouch in the kitchen, going the extra mile if only to prettify his plates.
At RM298 nett (RM438 with wine pairing) for a six course modern European/Mediterranean meal, The Olive’s festival menu is a good deal. This is also a restaurant which just got a Wine Spectator award of excellence for its wine list, so I would definitely suggest that you go for the menu with wine pairing; the wines are bound to be good.
Ambience-wise, L’titude at the Genting Club is at another level. The design is smoke-toned, brassy and edgy, and it’s not afraid to show the inner life of its kitchens. Sit near the open kitchens and you’ll be in the thick of the action, watching your dinner being prepared.
There is a more conventional dining room, a cigar lounge with gentlemanly vibes, bar area and a steel and glass patio with sweeping views of the resort and hills – unfortunately marred by some construction work in progress.
Presiding over the kitchens are Japanese chef Ikuo Umeda and a plucky young Malaysian chef, Mandy Goh, who caught the industry’s eye when she won the Bocuse d’Or Asia 2010.
They share the L’titude festival menu, a pairing of uber mod Japanese and nouveau French.
It’s all very posh and clever food, in tiny, teaser portions – no worries, you can always load up on style here. Flavours are clean, lean, light, bright and crisp, leaning on the zen.
The warm poached white asparagus with sevruga caviar, Hokkaido scallop tartare and tarragon sabayon in egg shell challenges the idea of an amuse bouche as a trivial, Lilliputian-sized bite; it’s a bit more than that but a teaser all right.
It looks like egg in the shell but it’s not. Depending on whether you are an earth warrior, you will either feel indignant or pampered right royal if you know that the egg shell is imported; it is an admirable snowy white and the top is perfectly lopped off – not an easy feat.
The green pea soup is zapped with refreshing mint and garnished with cubes of confit cod, tomato and pea salsa. There’s a touch of molecular energy here with the soup being passed through a siphon to make it mousse-like and light as air.
From mint green we switch to radical pink mode. The main course of pan-seared Mulloway fish and marinated quinoa becomes more soupy than the soup when the beetroot essence is poured in. You react to the dazzling colour display, which affects your appreciation of the dish. Beetroot and fish is a nice contrast, presented not in the form you expected. It’s good fun.
The L’titude festival menu is RM288 nett (RM438 with wine pairing). It’s worth noting that this restaurant is exclusive to Genting Club members and the festival month is the only time of the year it opens to the public.
The Malaysian International Gourmet Festival is on from Oct 1 to 31. Genting Resorts has three participating restaurants and offers attractive packages for those taking the festival menus, including discounts on wines and room rates. For more details, visit www.rwgenting.com or call 03-2718 1118.
Imperial Rama is on Level 2, Maxims; The Olive is on Lobby Floor, Genting Grand; L’titude is at the Genting Club, Lobby Floor, Genting Grand.
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