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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.