The Haute Cuisine Experience: Chef Lionel Levy and His Mediterranean Dreams

Carpaccio de Loup

From the Beaujolais, the private dining room at Lyon – Mandarin Oriental Jakarta, again I witnessed and became the enthusiastic part of a five-star luncheon designed by a Michelin-starred chef. This time Mandarin Oriental Jakarta brought a Marseille-based chef known for his one-star Michelin restaurant, Une Table Au Sud. His name is Lionel Levy.

In the wake of globalization era, restaurants from any genre sprung up in Indonesia. Nowadays many of them aware with people’s rising expectations for good dining experience and many of them try their best to keep up the high standard. None so far though has reached the prestigious title of Michelin star aside from keeping up with the ranks of Miele Guide for example, or any other institutions.

I still remember though what Mr Budi Cahyadi, one of the F&B keypersons of Mandarin Oriental Jakarta, said last year, ‘We are bringing the chefs here to raise the bar of the dining standards in Jakarta, hoping that one day we can have our own Michelin-starred restaurants here’.

Truly that’s the vision maintained by this hotel faithfully and so far they have brought four French chefs since last year. As you may have read previously in my posts, the chefs are Chef Nicolas Isnard – who came twice, then Chef Fabien Lefebvre, Chef Jerome Laurent, and the latest is Chef Lionel Levy.

Asperges de Mallemort coquillages et citron

The multilayered dishes as his specialty

At the end of last June, me and a small number of journalists were invited for the introduction of the chef and his dishes. The last I had been to Beaujolais was my first time enjoying the Michelin-starred dishes and it was both thrilling yet full of anxiety. What I really fond from these experiences is that you get to encounter and taste different things every time you meet different chefs and it’s always in a good way. Each chef shows different set of skills, specialties, creations and presentations but the one thing they share in common is their passion.

The Crumble

The appetizer started with a dish called The Crumble. A cold appetizer dish filled with roughly-diced fresh sea bass with twists of lemon, parsley and ginger thus covered in crumbled of almonds baked with caramel. It’s as if you’re in-between the tempting cold play of the ice, the fresh sourness, and the sweetness of the almonds. The fish itself tasted chewy but juicy, small but bountiful. It was clearly appetizing and inspirational.

Secondly, Chef Lionel Levy created the unique Milkshake Bouille-abaisse, his genuine creation once underestimated by people back in Marseille but now said to be worshipped there and becomes his flagship dish for its fame. Bouillabaisse or bouille-abaisse is the town’s traditional soup dish for centuries, now has been heavily modernized, presented like a milkshake with layers, but that of course required techniques and finesse in addition to its fine ingredients.

Milkshake Bouille-abaisse

It was indeed an intricate dish. The first layer consists of potato puree, garlic, saffron and egg yolk. Inside the second layer, there lies the shaken scrambled egg, mascarpone cheese, and a huge chunk of sea bass. He noted this particular layer as his tiramisu jovially. Finally, the uppermost layer is the fish soup. It was a good work for its complexity but the result was also too convoluted for me.

I was a bit puzzled with its heavy note and I need something to dig in more aside from the soup. I figured out later that I need more of the sea bass for a different texture because. Probably on smaller portion, I could easily finish it all and get myself hyped up for more, but unfortunately that was not the case last month. It was a good attempt however, but perhaps a French tongue would settle down with it easier.

The coup de grace

Heading for the remaining rounds, we were presented with the main dish of Angus beef. Chef Lionel Levy used many parts, textures, and techniques for this particular dish. Not only that he roasted excellent tenderloin, he also accompanied it beautifully with many delectable partners. The cute Savoy cabbage filled with beef’s cheeks, demiglaced diced tomatoes and olives, the perfect tomato confit with red wine, beef shank chopped and braised in pot au feu as the neutralizer, and finally the Savora mustard for a sour note. It’s again complex but tremendously fulfilling. A little bit of this and that from everything will create a very exciting experience from such a masterful main dish.

Angus Beef / Roast Tenderloin

For the closure, Chef Lionel was again skillfully layering his dishes and this time a beautiful strawberry tart became the theme. It comprised of sour lemon curd, a nice and soft marshmallow, sweet crumble, fresh strawberries, and topped with delicious and herb-is basil sorbet. It was an excellent coup de grace formula!

Strawberry Tart

It was an interesting lineup performed well by Chef Lionel Levy, a Ducassian and former assistant chef at Spoon in 1998/1999. His Mediterranean style probably derived from his heart’s preference, which clearly belongs in Marseille added with a heritage descended from his Moroccan ancestors. His vision for the future would be to gather and energize the young Marseille chefs, therefore uniting the whole regional gastronomy of this particular area of Southern France. A visit there someday is definitely a must and it will be exciting to see what he unveils next.

Chef Lionel Lévy

Mandarin Oriental Jakarta has again set up a new bar and will most definitely bring again interesting future Michelin-starred chefs soon. According to plan, there will be another two for the remainder of 2012 and it’s going to be another exciting occasion for me. If it’s about passion and creativity, then I am up for the challenge and adventure.

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Staycation: Fave Hotel – Seminyak, Bali (Aston International)

Taken from : http://daytripswashbuckler.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/fave-hotel-seminyak/

Looking for an affordable stay at Seminyak vicinity can be quite tough. If you don’t want to look that thoroughly  then the choices are limited, unless you’re looking for a long place to stay. Within that limited amount of time and the proximity considerations, it was clear that only for that one night, the seemingly right choice was given for Fave Hotel.

Many things made me happy already with the decision. Not only that I have a good bargain price of around IDR 300,000/night but it’s also nearby numerous Seminyak attractions from shopping (though mostly expensive, but that’ll keep the wife happy just to let her browse) and as for my turf, the food.

For direction, Fave Hotel has been known well among taxi drivers and they can quickly recognize it even with a wrong pronunciation (Fa’-fe). If you’re lucky, the driver will take you through the relatively unknown small streets to avoid the jammed main routes to Seminyak. After around half an hour drive, we finally arrived at the hotel.

The facade of the hotel appeared modern, the typical minimalist type you see nowadays. While it appeared appealing so far, the booking problem arose. We booked it online directly from the hotel’s website on the previous night and when we arrived the next evening, the reception’s still not getting any sign of our booking. In this case you will have to show the booking confirmations from the email or the printed one. ID and credit card will also be needed as the guarantors. What annoyed me was that after all was finalized, the booking confirmation then appeared.

The good thing was that the rest of the services went good – from the bell boy, the masseur and when we checked out. The room itself was quite neat but with cheap appearance especially from the furnishings, honestly speaking. Well, that’s what you get from the price but bottom line is, both the room and the bath room were clean and the bed was very decent with additional point for clean, good linens. My wife had a nice in-room massage with an exemplary service from the masseur. So far, they have not yet constructed special space for spa & massage. As for the gym, I suppose it’s just optional because it’s better if we spend the whole day at the beach right? But it’s also not nearby from the hotel.

Our room viewed the vicinity around and there was no sign of beach, but it’s much better than getting the view of another hotel wing. For me personally, as long as the room is neat and clean, those would be a major big plus and Fave Hotel successfully delivered it. Not only that it’s affordable, equipped with Wi-Fi in every of its room, we also had our privacy – with the only noise came from outside of our room’s door managed to breach for just a while.

Probably the only problem was the breakfast. It was not inspiring, especially with the stale vegetables on the salad corner, and the service was a bit slow as well. For those of you who are too lazy to venture around, the hotel also provides adequate swimming pool, though I would opt for the beach instead. A sports bar is also there to comfort your legs and thirst from all the adventures.

Proximities to plenty dine out selections and shops are also friendly. It’s very easy to find cabs or help for any directions as well. So in all, it was a good budget decision but you might want to find better options for prolonged stay. For shorter stay, two days tops, then this establishment would be very suitable.

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FAVE HOTEL – SEMINYAK

Jl. Abimanyu 9A, Seminyak – Bali, Indonesia

+62.361.739.000

http://www.favehotels.com

Staycation: The 101 Legian – Kuta, Bali (PHM Hospitality)

Taken from: http://daytripswashbuckler.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/the-101-legian/ 

A good starting point for your first time in Bali? Legian area might be the best choice for you. Not only that Legian is one of the most developed area, vibrant, and strategic, it’s also very accommodating to any budget segments. The beach, restaurants, and your nightlife needs are within walking distance. Some of these were clearly considerations that I took when I decided to savor a night in Bali after two nights respectively in Seminyak and Tuban. After quite a thorough search, it seemed inevitable for me to choose The 101 Legian.

The 101 Legian works just right between many issues and needs. I was actually pleased when I saw the facade for the first time – fresh, modern, and definitely stylish. To my surprise, a Starbucks store is available on the mezzanine floor but the entrance however is located on the top of it. It will require a little bit of lifting through the stairway, then getting past a security check just before heading up with an escalator. This ascending process might prove difficult for some especially with disabled people, so at the very least make sure that somebody from the hotel assists you with the luggage and let them know if you need any assistant.

The reception area is very spacious. While queuing for your turn or waiting for any appointments, do a little bit of exploration here. On one side you will find standing internet corner or choose any sofa that you like and lounge a bit there. While on another side, the bar is there to comfort your hot with some refreshments.

The hotel itself is not a high rise building and at the third floor you will find an excellent swimming pool, plenty of cabanas for your leisure spot while viewing the sunset, and then topped with the multifunction hall for dining and party. One thing in mind that you need to be aware of is that The 101 Legian often becomes a regular venue for DJ and parties, even for high school parties! That one time after we checked in, I found a letter of apology from the management notifying that there would be a party held until midnight. This is actually something that the reception should tell at the very first place so that we can opt for a suitable room with minimal disruptions. But they did not and I would suggest you to be proactive in this instead of accepting your fate with burdens. At the very least, we can prepare first should there’s no more room left to choose.

Plenty of offers that you can see with online bookings and make sure that you choose the most appropriate package and price with your needs. I chose a basic package for around IDR 700,000 with breakfast for two. The room was very comfortable, clean, and casually stylish. Dominated by calm wooden colors and already cooled with AC, I felt instantly content with everything. The bathroom may be small but nicely decorated and sufficient. Aside the high level of comfort, internet is available for free but you need to ask first for the password and it will be usable for three days. The view from my room was basically the outer surroundings of the hotel and the sea was still out of range. Some rooms, however, cursed with only inside views of the hotel. Again, you might want to make sure about it first before receiving your room key.

Perhaps the only issue was the noise they made from the party on the rooftop. In the morning, the breakfast was quite decent and sufficient amount of choices were available. Bottom line, your breakfast is guaranteed. Other things that you need to consider trying are the spa & massage facility, the beautiful cabanas and the swimming pool, and lastly have a walk around the vicinity. It’s pretty much nearby to anything. The beach is just 15 minutes of walking and around the hotel itself is pretty packed with shops, restaurants, and bars.

The 101 Legian was a pleasant experience indeed especially from the room factor and the overall service, aside from the party noise and not notifying me about it but hey, it’s Legian! Even if you don’t party, it’s pretty much covered with loud live music from bars nearby and it’s not a laid back place indeed. So, plan everything right and placing your choice here is highly recommended.

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THE 101 LEGIAN

Jl. Raya Legian no. 117, Kuta – Bali, Indonesia

+62.361.3001.101

http://www.the101bali.com/

Mountain of Food Explorace II (Resorts World Genting, Malaysia) – The Finale

MOUNTAIN OF FOOD EXPLORACE II – The Finale (July 19-20, 2012)

Taking a real shower after a hard day’s work, or in our case after a crazy jungle trekking and an extreme outdoor sport, sure was really nice. Our duplex condominium at the 28th and 29th floors of Awana Resort was kinda oldie but it was neat, well-maintained, and this time we had superb views of the greeneries around the golf course and way uphill to the Genting Highlands. Our stay at the hotel was a really nice experience and we spent a night there comfortably.

No time for viewing pleasure now since we’re required to gather again on the front entrance at around 6 pm for dinner, closing ceremony, but this time with our +1s! We relived again the course we took this morning to the campsites on the edge of the jungle and therein resides the Pondok Ikan Bakar. It was raining that night but they’re all ready with the big umbrellas and took care of us good. The pondok itself was very decent though you might want to bring your jackets because it’s getting cold and windy.

The closing ceremony and some critical notes

Pondok Ikan Bakar was a decent place for the ceremony. It was closed for the event, intimate and served appetizing seafood grills for our dinner. Well despite the hunger, we had to bear first with some speeches but finally, they announced the winners for the second explorace! I didn’t win by the way but it pleased me to heard that my other two Indonesian bloggers managed to reach both the second place and as the winner! While also owing their Malaysian counterparts for their knowledge of Genting and mostly their perseverance, but it’s good to know that we’re the first Indonesians for the event and yet we managed to get the trophies!

But I had to complain a bit for the good of this event.

If you read my previous posts, you’ll understand the amount of blood and sweat that we sacrificed without previously knowing about the details, whether we were asked first of our readiness; whether we were insured or not; whether we realized the risks or not; and the fact that they didn’t tell any hint about what we’re going to win! Let’s just talk about the ultimate prize and it was, sorry to say, only a Fuji Instax camera that I can buy easily in 7 Eleven stores back in Jakarta for a not so hefty price.

In addition to that, we were also given some cash vouchers to shop at Crocs, Wrangler, and Travel For All only in Malaysia valid until September 2012, but we also had to return back home with the already arranged plane tickets for tomorrow. So how do we suppose to shop? We’re supposed to return back again just to shop there? Well, that’s just absurd.

But to note, I don’t mean to be ungrateful, especially with the huge opportunity to work together with Resorts World Genting, or by not appreciating the hard work that the organizers did, but it was a bit unfair because the event lacks transparency. We can actually Googled a bit about the previous Explorace but it’s actually more about the duty of the organizers to be transparent. Safety and readiness should be the highlights of the event and by that, we all know the risks and by knowing and realizing that, the indemnity agreements will be signed with full knowledge and responsibilities from us.

I believe I had to say this so that the organizers will take a note about this and therefore will be able to improve the quality of similar events for years to come. Truly, I applaud such rare initiatives and realized also the amount of investments they had made for us. To appreciate that, it is my duty as a responsible blogger to deliver also an honest message about everything. Well, I might also not totally right about all these stuffs and contradict other bloggers for example, yet that’s why it’s good to also discuss about everything and work for improvements in the future.

Hey, enough with the grim faces and let’s enjoy the dinner now!

Pondok Ikan Bakar served decent grills from lambs, stingrays, crabs, chickens, dories, and squids. In addition to that, Malaysian proud nasi lemak and its condiments were also available. For the sides, rojak, fresh assorted fruits, dessert corner, and the dynamic duo of kopi tarik and teh tarik were also there. We had our sayonara time in a lively manner. It’s all about good eats, food exchange, talking about food, casual talks, talking about what we had gone through and telling tales about our countries.

After we took our last pictures together, we bid our farewell and returned back to the hotel.

It’s time to say goodbye

After a long night gossiping at the living room of our condo and enjoying our last night at Genting, we then fell asleep like babies. The next morning, we packed our luggage quite early so that we can enjoy breakfast and leave soon for the peak. We were attempting to cash in the vouchers for any available shops we can visit up there.

We were supposed to take the 9.15 bus heading for Genting Skyway, which we originally thought to be the one just nearby the Travel For All shop up there. The bus came late and we hopped in without really checking the destination. Then we realized that we’re heading downhill! The bus driver said that the Genting Skyway that we meant was actually the one downhill. We arrived down there at 9.45 and realized that there’s not much time left even just to make our way to the peak because we’re supposed to check-out at 12.30 and head straight to the airport.

We decided to just head back to Awana again with the same bus and spend our remaining time taking pictures and snacking. It’s actually a shame that the organizers didn’t let us to detour a bit to KL before heading to the airport because we don’t know when we’ll return to Malaysia again.

Then came 12.30 and we bid farewell again to everyone that we found at the front entrance. We extended our thanks to the organizers for taking care of us and I also hope that our cooperations will continue in the future. So finally, it’s time to return back to our motherland!

We arrived around 2.30 pm at LCCT and had a little trouble at the Air Asia baggage drop because Julia lost her boarding pass. The land staff responsible for checking our bags in was rude and didn’t print Julia’s boarding pass which we originally thought was okay. But when we tried to get pass the initial check-in before immigration then it became a problem. So then Inez and Julia had to return all the way back to baggage drop section just to get her boarding pass reprinted.

I’d be sure to slap that staff if we’re late because of that! Not only that she lacks courtesy by not being polite to me and by rudely telling Sara to remove the previous baggage drop registry by herself, but she said that it’s okay not to print the boarding pass and we’re misled about that! It’s just outrageous! Previously we also witnessed that she told a passenger before me to find smaller bank notes because she didn’t have the change, so the passenger had to ask everyone around just for that. It’s actually her responsibility to find the change and it’s her obligation to respect the passenger!

So from all the tales of my latest Malaysian adventure, you might sense a bit of love and hate relationship between me and everything that happened there. Rest assured that I was actually content about my adventure there. Some injustices occurred but that’s life right? It was a great experience for us and it signifies that food bloggers can become something bigger in the future! I’m grateful and thankful for Resorts World Genting for the opportunity but certainly, improvements are required. So, I bid them good luck with Mountain of Food Explorace events to come and to all of you my fellow contestants, I pray that we’ll meet each other again someday soon. Godspeed!

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Pictures will be added soon!

Mountain of Food Explorace II (Resorts World Genting, Malaysia) – Last Day of Challenges

MOUNTAIN OF FOOD EXPLORACE II – Second Day (July 19, 2012)

Still drained by the first day challenges, legs strained, but with new found spirit, finally the last day of challenges arrived. I woke up a bit late only and we had to quickly pack our bags to ready ourselves for a trip downhill. It was pretty exciting judging that we get to try different hotel, which equals different experience, and Awana Resort said to have beautiful surroundings.

So what about the challenges? No one knew anything aside that we had to wear light weight clothes and sports shoes. We were given the challenge to reach Awana with our luggage and arrived with the first bus from First World Hotel.

We all gathered around at the bus stop just in front of the lobby. The Indonesian envoys: me, my wife, Sara, and Julia all there together with the rest of our partners but not Inez. Her Malaysian partner left her stranded here while she had made an effort to arrive at Awana earlier. Perhaps she wanted to have the advantage or perceived this challenge as an extra point for those who arrive earlier, but it was actually needless and we were all laughing about it.

The jungle trekking

At Awana, we gathered around for a quick brief about the route we’re going to explore. It was a 1.8 kilometers jungle trekking and we were equipped with Watson medikit and plenty of mosquito patches. It was a bit surprising that our guides told us that this jungle trekking would involve small leeches as the obstacles. I was actually still quite confident judging that I had worn the right equipments and what I thought as a jungle would probably already paved and made safe.

But I was wrong..

At first we had to climb another flight of stairs. Well, I conquered the pagoda yesterday so this was an easy task. Afterwards we walked a bit, passing outdoor activity grounds and campsites. A Sarawak long house was discovered in the process and we took our pictures with it. I was very delighted to found that there were plenty of trash bins for outdoor grounds like these and most of all, they manage to keep it neat and tidy.

It was not long until we headed for the ‘real’ jungle trekking. It got dark, wet, slippery, harsh, and wild. The leeches or pacet were found everywhere and the girls were screaming when they found out that some of them swiftly ventured on their shoes. We also encountered millipedes, probably some snakes, ivies, planks, fragile bridge, and most of the time aside from the pacet, the precipice on the left side. I was quite furious that no one was told about the risks. We weren’t told to have a warm up session before or even asked of the readiness. Many of us surely weren’t up for this challenge but they had to go through and swallow their fears. I stayed behind to help my friends getting through the obstacles and led them to safety with all my might and thank God that my Indonesian friends were safe and sound. The Malaysian and Chinese teammates were also quite quick to subdue the jungle.

After God knew how long, we finally surfaced on the edge of the beautiful golf course of Awana Resort and took the much-needed break. Without knowing, I found my foot already bleeding because of one pacet strike and cured it right away. My mate, Evelyn, found five strikes on her feet and we helped cleaned her shoes from remaining pacets. She’s a brave young lady indeed! I saw no signs of fear, but only mere worries, which is very understandable. Though initially we all a bit scared about the leeches but at one point due to exhaustion, I couldn’t care less anymore as I just swept away all the attacking leeches by my bare hands.

We returned back for lunch at Rajawali Restaurant at Awana Resort. It was quite a long walk getting through the golf course but certainly much better than the jungle trekking. The spectacle was also beautiful. We can see the peak of Genting Highlands slowly getting swallowed by the mist from this far. I was hoping that I could ride one of those golf buggies but we were too busy with the challenges for today. Perhaps next time, I imagined.

The final challenges

The lunch was a decent one but my feet were killing me. One of the highlights was the Yong Tau Fu dish as the broth was thick and excellent, while the rest were just okay. After we had our lunch and rest, the stationmasters tested us with food guessing challenge and it went well for our team. Once done, we again headed outdoor again for the final challenge. At this point, we were just walking leisurely, a bit unmotivated because they not yet reveal the grand prizes are, and again because we’re all already exhausted.

The final challenge would be the 45 degree plank scaling. I forgot the real name was but we were to equip ourselves with safety tools and go uphill first for a trial. The challenge would be to downscale the planks as fast as we could for the best time among us. At first some of the challengers were a bit awkward but we conquered our fears fast and the competition became a thrilling and fun!

It’s all a wrap! We were just required to do some blogging for a while again with the 4G Yes! modems before readying ourselves again for the prize giving ceremony and dinner at Pondok Ikan Bakar nearby the Sarawak long house later tonight.

So, the challenges have come to an end and on the next post, I will write a bit about the closing ceremony and how we part ways with Malaysia. Had to admit that my last visit there was particularly memorable and my wife liked it there. So stay tune!

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Pictures will be added soon!