The Haute Cuisine Experience: The Magical French Dining Experience at Lyon (with Chef Jerome Laurent)

As part of the commitment to bring innovative dining experiences, Mandarin Oriental Jakarta brought another French chef again last November and Lyon again was chosen as the host for another turn of creative French dishes.

Chef Jerome Laurent hailed from Arles, France and had been awarded with the distinguished one Michelin star for his restaurant Le Cilantro in 2007. His cuisine represents Mediterranean style with many roots of his ancestry and of course, Mediterranean cuisine has always been a great choice especially for southern French kitchens since it delivers unique sea freshness and blends well with other influences.

The theme was pretty much similar with the prior visiting chef, Mr. Fabien Lefebvre, a few months earlier. Fresh, light, and without doubt, very inviting. Accompanied with Mandarin Oriental team of public relations, Ms. Endamia Karina and Ms. Malinda Yasmin, the three of us together explored the richness of French cuisine a la Mr. Jerome Laurent.

French frutti di mare a la Maghreb

The joyous journey started from the introduction of red mullet which was seared perfectly to achieve crisp exterior but still retains its moist body. Without doubt, the fish was supreme and alongside, the staple of Middle Eastern cuisine known as hummus conducted its role perfectly as a dipping sauce. More Middle Eastern-ish influence came also from the preserved lemon jus to add more refreshing flavor.

Seared red mullet fillet, hummus, grilled sesame seed and preserved lemonhead jus

Mr. Laurent apparently has roots from both Spanish and Northern Africa. That’s probably why he had taken the step to insert these influences into his dishes in which these dishes also represent the lineup of Le Cilantro menu. Usually the differences applied for ingredients eligible for substitutions such as for example vegetables, fish, and fruit or the chef may even experiment on other things.

The next phase before the real main dish was also involving the fish and this time it was caramelized. The prime red emperor snapper was chosen, giving me a personal insight to expand my dictionary of fishes. Previously I had always given a thought that if it’s a fish dish again then it must be another barracuda from Papua New Guinea waters but it turned out that it wasn’t, much to my contentment and curiosity.

Caramelized empror fillet, garden vegetables and sage emulsion

The result was also astonishing and again it gives a tender approach for the meat but this time it was much sweeter. For the sidekicks, garden vegetables braised with garlic and completed with sage emulsion gave this journey a further fresh start to prepare the main dish.

On for wagyu and a very mango-ish closure

Thus the medium-well grilled wagyu basked with aromates of capers, dry tomatoes, and potatoes diced and bathed with the reduction of Syrah red wine jus was the main theme of the afternoon with the accompaniment of potato puree. Mr. Laurent specifically picked not a very fatty wagyu for this dish and the reduction of red wine was indeed the soul of excitements found in the aromates and the sauce.

Wagyu beef topped with aromates, potato puree and syrah wine jus

In all, the dish not only provided a mouthful and juicy wagyu but also a savory yet sweet aromates that did well as the comrade of the beef. But still, Mr. Laurent managed to keep it balanced and light up until this point and I don’t seem to be bothered with the four-course lunch as I’m headed next for the dessert.

Lucky for everyone, it’s the mango season and you wouldn’t find it anywhere in this world for the best mango except in Indonesia. Mr. Laurent gleefully recreated a very special dessert that consists of mango tart with mango sorbet. He experimented using a chili to compensate the intense sweetness of the mango. It may be a bizarre combination but if you remember eating your usual rujak from hawkers then you’ll remember why they put a powdered chili.

That’s exactly what Mr. Laurent attempted to apply for his dessert and individually it tasted very overpowering. The mango sorbet felt too sweet and the powdered chili was of course, spicy. But when combined, they created this catalyst effect that will reduce the each character and turn it to ultimate balance of refreshing sweetness of mango. Excellent!

Mango tart, mascarpone cream with lime zest

As for the mango tart, Mr. Laurent mingled both almond cream for the tart and then topped it with fresh mascarpone cream with mango balls and golden leaves. To avoid the dull taste of mango in every corner of the dish, Mr. Laurent deliberately mixed the creation of mango balls with passion fruit. Truly, it was a wondrous ending of a magical treat from Mr. Laurent.

The true colors of Chef Jerome Laurent

Afterwards, Mr. Laurent came from table to table to see how the patrons were doing and then came the casual talk about his vision as a chef. From his broad experience for almost two decades and his achievements, one may wonder why Mr. Laurent strikes as a very down-to-earth personality and may not seem that ambitious.

He later explained that what matters to him is actually the joy of cooking, taking care of his restaurant and his loyal patrons. That means also to listen to what they have to say and the patrons in Arles usually those who visit his restaurant for at least a couple of times per week.

Chef Jerome Laurent

When asked about aiming for the second or even the third Michelin star, he said that it’s just a value-added bonus and he doesn’t want to ruin all the fun he’s having now. What matters is the first star and that distinguished Le Cilantro from others.

So again, I’m not only enlightened with the exciting event inside a beautiful venue of Lyon and all those perfect dishes I just had, but also with a vision of uniqueness and simplicity but thoroughly beautiful, stating that it should be all about fun in doing what you love and also creatively.

What’s next would be another surprise from Mandarin Oriental in 2012 and most likely, another great experience with another Michelin-starred chef.  It’s truly an innovation where perhaps in the near future, Jakarta will not just only invite these chefs but also own its first Michelin-star restaurant. I will cross my fingers for it to happen.

Restaurant Review: Bagel Bagel (Hang Out Jakarta, October 2011)

Dahulu kita pernah mengalami demam warga Jakarta akan kehadiran pancake dan waffle. Tidak lama muncul juga varian crepes ala restoran, galette, dan churros. Pada dessert section tentu kita tidak lupa akan kehadiran penting froyo serta mixed ice cream over frozen stone. 

So what’s next? Kali ini, empat wanita muda berbekal pengalaman hidup di luar negeri membawakan jenis roti yang populer di AmerikaYa, itulah bagel dan realisasi mimpi mereka tertuang dengan membuka sebuah kedai di Kemang dengan nama yang serupa dan mudah diingat, Bagel Bagel.

Kata bagel mungkin suatu perbendaharaan makanan yang terbilang lazim tak lazim di telinga kita. Sebagai pionir, kepopuleran sukses diraih oleh Bagel Bagel dalam waktu singkat. Tak ayal hal ini mengundang rasa ingin tahu apakah yang mereka sebenarnya suguhkan dengan bagel ini.

Dengan segala keterbatasan yang ada, Bagel Bagel ternyata berani mengadopsi cara berjualan yang disesuaikan dengan gaya para New Yorkers yang biasanya menyambar bagel and coffee for quick breakfast. Selain itu mereka juga berimprovisasi untuk lebih mengutamakan deliveryBagaimana tidak? Dengan kapasitas kecil dan desain yang lebih menyerupai kantin, memang tampaknya lebih nyaman membawa pulang pesanan bagel kita or just simply let them deliver it.

Selain menjual fresh bagels dengan berbagai topping dimulai dari plain, poppy seed, sesame seed, whole wheat, dan lain-lain, mereka juga menciptakan menu bagel dengan macam-macam isian yang menggugah selera. Tapi yang perlu diketahui dulu adalah bahwa bagel berasal dari jaman dahulu kala pada abad pertengahan. Bersiaplah dengan sebuah jenis roti dengan eksterior yang crispy namun ternyata agak menipu karena bagian dalamnya yang liat dan agak keras.

Jadi buang jauh-jauh dulu impian tentang lunaknya burger atau hot dog cause Bagel Bagel’s gonna teach your jaw a chewing lesson. But it’s not as bad as it sounds, isiannya ternyata cantik dan menarik. Mungkin yang paling khas adalah jenis Lox yang berisi salmon asap dengan Philadelphia cream cheese. Tapi opsi yang paling aman untuk semua orang adalah Egg, Bacon, and Cheese. Rasanya cukup kaya dan gurih mengingat jasa cheddar cheese yang selalu cocok di segala suasana.

Yang saya pilih justru bagel sandwich yang tidak ada di menu yaitu yang berisi roasted turkey with cranberry sauce. Sedikit banyak mengingatkan saya pada Swedish meatball di IKEA namun sayangnya rasa cranberry sauce-nya kurang mampu menyaingi ketajaman rasa turkey-nya. Apalagi turkey memang meninggalkan semacam rasa amis yang biasanya kita temui lazimnya pada bebek atau ikan meskipun agak berbeda. Namun demikian, ini adalah eksperimen yang seru bersama rekan orientalnya yaitu Thai Spicy Chicken dibandingkan rasa konservatif pada Smoked Beef & Cheese, Tuna Salad, atau Veggie. 

Jadi meski dari segi makanan cukup menjanjikan namun suasana perut lapar rasanya masih kurang hanya dengan satu bagel saja. Dari segi harga sendiri sebetulnya tidak bisa terbilang affordable dan kita bisa dengan mudah mencari substitusinya dengan makanan lain yang bisa jadi lebih fancy pada level harga yang sama. Tapi tolonglah Bagel Bagel, setidaknya carikan solusi untuk tempat makan yang lebih nyaman dan tempat parkir yang lebih memadai! We can hang out all right or you can always make bigger bagels for a substitute right?

Bagel Bagel

Halal-friendly

Address: Jl. Benda no. 10, Kemang, Jakarta 12560

RSVP: 021 – 782 7218

Atmosphere: Passersby taking away bagels and coffee.

Ambiance: Easy peacy Japanesy.

Service: Formidable, thanks to the small environment.

Pricing: Bagel sandwiches IDR 40 – 55; fresh bagels (plain or with toppings) IDR 10 each, IDR 55 (half dozen), IDR 105 (dozen); Mini bagels (25 for IDR 475 and 60 for IDR 1,100)

Opening Hours: Everyday 6 am to 8 pm (weekday) & 6 am to 9 pm (weekend)

Twitter: @Bagel2Bagel

Facebook: Bagel-Bagel

Email: bagelbagelindo@gmail.com

-Featured in HANG OUT JAKARTA October 2011 edition (unedited)-

Restaurant Review: Sunny Side Up

Egg Benedict

Bringing out the same old story with better quality is what we usually do, but taking it to the next level and inventing new things are what we all are yearning for. Sunny Side Up is apparently inventing a new trend of eating this particular ingredient without worries! After all the fuss about froyo, pancake, and other things, now the tide has turned in favor of this very basic ingredient. Eggs.

I thought it’s all about brekkie dishes a la Anglais like those we see in TV or your typical American diner with all the bacon, baked beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and you know what else. Probably it’s the design of the place that’s different since I rarely or even have not seen diners like those in America here with the 60s cushions, bar stools, and waitresses bringing out black coffee straight for you.

Sunny Side Up apart from the fact that it’s located far, far away in a different universe of Gading Serpong, is actually a pleasant place. Currently located just across the biggest mall there on an resident-office (ruko) complex and soon expanding itself right into the heart of the mall after only 5 months being in the business. When asked, the proprietor Ms. Vanessa answered that ‘We need to diversify as the market here in the ruko usually serves for office workers looking for lunch and mothers waiting for their kids in nearby school but in mall, everybody’s simply coming especially during weekend’.

I was actually already in awe with the egg concept but the owner even rises the stakes with bountiful menu of various techniques of Western dishes, Japanese dishes, and a halal certification. To make it safe and healthy, Sunny Side Up uses eggs from the special breed of Ayam Arab or to be exact, the descendants from Belgian Brakel chickens brought via a hajj pilgrim to be bred here. In the end, this breed produces egg in small size, notably because it’s a kampung type or known more as organic-bred chicken, and the egg itself is different from others.

Apart from the small size, the egg possess redder yolk owing from the high level of beta-carotene and also high in Omega 3. The owner even assured me not to worry about getting caught with abscess. So it’s pretty much the healthier kind of egg but the color of the yolk when applied to dishes is surely very inviting.

A very ‘eggy’ lineup of dishes

It was a very hot day at Gading Serpong and I thought a cold drink will do the trick. There’s the star of the beverages which is the eggnog but it’s best served hot. Thought I save it for another day and then came an idea to just try instead the white yolk juice, said to be the best choice there for protein supplement. Intriguing! And it’s the cappuccino flavor that I chose.

White Yolk Juice

It came with a huge glass and a handle describing a circling arm full of muscle! A bit curious about the use of egg whites there and it tasted good after all. I feel like I’m not being tricked by cheap coffee shops that sell cappuccino but tastes actually more like water infused with cappuccino flavoring.

Not this one here of course! I was a bit surprised when they say that they had used six egg whites for the drink and no wonder it was huge! There’s no sign of egg smell at all and it just tasted sweet and refreshing. A good choice!

Rambutan Quail Eggs

The menu itself is like a gold mine. Plenty to be chosen from appetizers such as the signature rambutan quail eggs, main dishes like eggs in forms of omelette, scrambled, baked, fried, boiled, salted, in soup, combined with rice, and finally the chef’s signature skills in Japanese dishes. Not just that, the fiesta continues with toast, sandwich, and sweets like pancakes, waffles, thus ended with special drinks that use eggs.

I could spend everyday to try new things here as the combinations seem unlimited and tempting. Not to forget that the price for every dishes appear very friendly.

Egg itself is actually one of my most favorite ingredients and I always remember why Simca, the co-writer of the famous French cookbook by Julia Child, used to say that one chapter should be dedicated only for eggs and eggs only!

A very ‘eggy’ lunch!

After a strange appetizer treat of rambutan quail eggs, wrapped with beef and haired with wonton skins shaped like sticks then fried, and also another one which was actually on the contrary wondrous. It was simply a thin bacon surrounded a runny egg with herbs. A great treat for appetizer and for that I continued to the main dish with full spirit!

Broccoli and Crab Sauce

And that would be the good but a different version of Egg Benedict. It’s pretty much the same in shape and order which is the egg, a patty, and a muffin. But the differences were the style of the egg and the sauce. While the original version uses Hollandaise sauce and poached egg but not here in Sunny Side Up. At least it’s still a bit runny and using a barbecue sauce which was too thick and still less sharper like the magical one made in The Butcher. The patty was however good  enough and they even added some salad and fries as the sides.

The other dish was the enigmatic broccoli with egg and crab sauce. It’s pretty promising judging from the looks but quite unfortunate that the sauce and the eggs didn’t mix well. As individuals, the sauce was superb but when mixed, it felt as if they negate each other and put the flavor to neutral position to the point of dissatisfaction. Perhaps it’s imperative to even overpower the crab sauce a bit just to make sure that it blends well with the eggs and the broccoli.

Quite admirable judging that they had daringly started a venture creating a new trend in consuming eggs and also put themselves in halal position which is actually quite rare especially related with a diner’s dishes. A remarkable feat and I’m pretty much hoping that they can open up more outlets soon closer to Jakarta.

Rise and shine, Sunny Side Up! The world’s bigger than just Serpong. Are you ready?

—–

SUNNY SIDE UP
Halal-certified

Address: Ruko Alexandrite Blok ALX3 no. 7, Serpong, Tangerang

RSVP: 021 – 542 206 13

Atmosphere: Cheerful and full of light though the AC may not be able to subdue the heat completely.

Ambiance: Conversational.

Service: Just fine.

Opening Hours: 10 am – 10 pm (daily)

Pricing: TBA

Twitter: @sunnysideup_gs

Restaurant Review: Dragon Court

As one of the premium brands of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Sheraton has been known in Indonesia for years. One of them is Sheraton Media Hotels and Towers that resides in Mangga Dua vicinity, Northern Jakarta. My last dining experience here was proven to be a wonderful dinner at Sukhothai, so now what about its Chinese comrade Dragon Court?

Sheraton Media never ceases to amaze me with its food promotions. After a wonderful Thai food treat at Sukhothai, now Sheraton Media goes even further with seafood grills at Breeze Cafe and the all-you-can-eat Chinese at Dragon Court. Soon there will be Christmas continued with New Year’s Eve treats as well! Although my trip to reach Sheraton Media was actually quite far but since my previous experience at Sukhothai had been fruitful, there’s no harm at all in it. After all, it’s the passion that counts!

A late lunch! That’s exactly what happened when we reached the hotel around 1.30 pm. Lucky Mr. Mohammad Iqbal, the prolific marketing communication manager of Sheraton Media was kind enough to wait and therefore led us straight to the dragon’s den. Well, you won’t get burn literally here though and it’s even gonna be a good treat/

Once inside, I instantly thought that the best thing about proper Chinese restaurant is to have the rotating tray or known as the so-called Lazy Susan. A dining ‘technology’ dated since the 18th century but she’s still the prima donna indeed and Dragon Court is not short of her presence.

Dragon Court itself looks a bit outdated but still maintains its charms. It can be seen clearly from a not too intimate atmosphere, bright, the use of marble floors, and other typical 90s interior designs. Unfortunately though, it was more like private lunch that time considering the late timing.

At any rate, it’s the food, the company, and the old Lazy Susan that matter. Quickly we browsed through the all-you-can-eat promotional menu where we found A-Z menu from appetizer down to the dessert. Well, it’s not exactly a Chinese dishes encyclopedia on the menu but still fulfilling nevertheless.

For starter, I picked the lo mai kai or visually seen as sticky rice filled with chicken wrapped in lotus leaf. Reminds me a bit about the huge and warm version of lemper or the glutinous version of ba chang. The size was a bit deceiving since consuming too many may result in early fullness no matter how good it is and the stickiness adds the weight.

For the warm liquids, the classic asparagus and crab soup was also a decent choice as an appetizer. Substitutes? Sure thing. Chicken feet dim sum in black pepper sauce, spring rolls, or winter melon soup with mushroom are formidable choices as well.

Moving on to the main dishes. A bit in haste, aren’t we?

Well, as an avid fan of fried rice, the chicken and salted fish fried rice was an excellent pick by Mr. Iqbal. Taking a bit of advantage from my wife’s indifference towards salted fish then it’s up to me to settle the noble task!

The portion was abundant and the taste was also rich. For savory taste lover like me, it was heaven and the fried rice clearly blended itself well with other dishes such as the all-time favorite Kung Pao chicken with dry chilis, stir fried beef with black pepper sauce, and the deep-fried fish fillets with black bean sauce. As for the veggie sidekick, we opted for stir fried comeo with garlic instead the usual broccoli.

To seal the deal, the dark, bleak, and unique guillingao were in for the dessert but it was truly a double-edged sword. While some people are fond of anything bitter like the gourds or even medicines, this guillingao no matter how freshly served cold and poured with honey like crazy, still cannot hide the fact that it’s a bitter taste dessert. It was fun but seriously, you gotta be careful if you’re not up for it. Guillingao itself is some sort of pudding-like dessert said to be made out of a tortoise-shell with herbals. If it’s true, it was a very exotic trip to healthy life then!

Quite a colorful experience I must say but Dragon Court is not without its ups and downs. In all, Sheraton Media can prove itself to be a worthy contender as Northern Jakarta’s prominent hotel but it felt a bit outdated. Sukhothai had been flawlessly delivered such a beautiful moment for me but this comrade here’s a bit shabby in its execution but not without its merits. Tummy fulfilling merits!

Looking forward for more surprises from you then, Sheraton Media!

Dragon Court

Halal-friendly

Address: Jl. Gunung Sahari 3, Jakarta 10720

RSVP: +62 21 626 3001 ext. 4885

Atmosphere: Classical outdated Chinese decor.

Ambiance: Ask to lower the Chinese music volume if you and the Lazy Susan’s intimacy are distracted.

Service: Knowledgeable but forgot to tell the halalness of the dishes there.

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM; Saturday and Sunday 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM, 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM

Pricing: TBA

Facebook: Sheraton Media

Twitter: @SheratonMedia