The Haute Cuisine Experience: The Delightful French Cuisine Inspirations by Chef Michel Portos

Michel Portos - Preparation

The year of 2012 was a bountiful year of experience, especially because it’s the very year where I had great opportunities to encounter a handful of great one-star Michelin chefs and an exciting visit to celebrity chef restaurants back at Marina Bay Sands Singapore. For this particular chef, much to my surprise that I have not yet posted the story about it until now even though in fact it’s my very first dueling with great dishes from a two-stars Michelin chef.

His name’s, Michel Portos.

The dinner service was at full-house capacity that night and it brought me joy to see that as now people had become very keen to seek higher appreciation of quality fine-dining experience in Indonesia, especially with rare visits of Michelin-starred chefs like this one. It’s been quite a journey for myself also since the program inception at Mandarin Oriental Jakarta where I had been experiencing the wizardry of Nicolas Isnard, Fabien Lefebvre, Jerome Laurent, Laurent Bernard, Lionel Levy, Richard Toix, and now this famous guy from France!

Michel Portos himself is a powerhouse name back in France, even though many chefs attained achievements ahead of him. His prized restaurant of Côté Théâtre in Perpignan was awarded two stars by Michelin and additionally, Gault & Millau awarded him as the 2012 Chef of the Year. Previously, his appearance in Master Chef France was also a huge contribution for his career as all eyes set on him. Of course, it was very symbolic as French people are amongst those who appreciate food at an ‘extreme’ level in modern society nowadays.

Monsieur Portos visit a few months ago was a complete joy as I had the privilege to freely choose his dishes without the need to stick with three or four-course rule or even degustation stuffs. Therefore I designed my alternatives well and if curiosity still rules then I’m up for the another challenge!

Seared foie gras, Moroccan style
Seared foie gras, Moroccan style

The first one came from the exotic French delicacy of goose heart, seared, and seasoned Moroccan style. It’s another new version of  foie gras for me. Well personally, I like my foie gras lightly seared to maintain the fat and juiciness. Mr Portos’ version came in quite the exact and he added it with dates, chili powder, and curry powder for the Maghreb flavor. Furthermore, he added diced cucumber and onions for the neutralizer but also, it’s all lightly showered with balsamic vinegar for a refreshing sour kick. Not bad for a starter!

Butternut squash ravioli with black truffle
Butternut squash ravioli with black truffle

But what I really liked from the appetizers would be Mr Portos interpretation of ravioli.  Well, it’s not the usual pasta texture but it’s more like a wonton skin blanketing an awesome butternut squash puree with black truffles in it. How elegantly sweet the taste was! The piquant smell from the dish was a credit for Aragonese truffle oil and I was in love with it.

Three is a party and it truly was for the main course!

Yes, I had the privilege to taste all the proteins Mr Portos had delicately prepared.  There’s this pan-seared john dory, asparagus, and great raw sea urchin with its creamy seasoning. Well, not bad if I say so myself. Making it even more Japanese, thanks to the inspirations he got from his travels there, Mr Portos put some wasabi oil to give a unique ending for the brave dish.

Beef with a taste of a pizza
Beef with a taste of a pizza f

Mr Portos creative flair continued with a steak dish called ‘beef with a taste of pizza’. The beef may be only pan-seared but what he really wanted to achieve would be the Italian flavor that we all knew very well from the topping of the most ubiquitous dish on the planet Earth. He accomplished that through an amazing concoction of tomato concasse, rocket, arugula to give a slightly bitter taste, anchovies for the saltiness, olives, and shaved grana padano cheese. Ate it all altogether with the meat and I was an Italian signore in an instant. Astonishing!

However, the main cast of the show should be given for the lamb dish. Diced carrots and onions with a cleverly-proportioned sauce consisted of curry, caraway, coriander, coconut milk and mustard were all topped with perfectly pan-seared and then grilled lamb. It was simply the climax of the opera performance and I enjoyed it as long as I can even though the desserts appeared also well-crafted and complex from what I had heard.

For the desserts, I found that a specific role assigned for a Pastry Chef to prepare the desserts have become more familiar lately. I remembered my visit last time to db Bistro Moderne back in Singapore. The ‘Superb’ Chef Stephane Istel left this role for a highly talented pastry chef whom I regretfully forgot his name was. This time Mr Portos had the honor shared with Mr Sebastien Bertin. Although in overall I enjoyed the creations back at db Bistro Moderne better but Mr Bertin crafty work should also not be taken lightly.

Chocolate and raspberry with scum of fresh thyme
Chocolate and raspberry with scum of fresh thyme

Among the four desserts that I had, I found the baba bouchon to be the most delightful one. Soaked with caramel overnight and added with banana compote, chantilly cream and vanilla seeds with pistacchio, this dessert was already a star even before I set my eyes upon it.

Other desserts were also no less complex. There’s this Valrhona dark chocolate with raspberry sorbet; Saffron jelly with tuille, orange cubes, orange sauce, and black tea ice cream; and finally the eclectic Granny Smith apples with simple syrup all uniquely combined with sesame tuille, celery sorbet, and celery compote. It may be a bit weird especially for the celery-ish part but above all, I was really thankful with the whole experience from Mr Bertin at this part in particular.

It was a great presentation by Mr Portos although his style may sound simple but it was all delicately prepared. True to his words, there’s no actual need for emphasizing the beauty in presentation but everything can represented by unique flavors and inspired creativity. All I can say is that my experience in handling cool dishes of Michelin’s quality is improving day by day thanks to these beautiful people who keep on motivating my curiosity with their flairs!

Looking forward for the next event in 2013 at Lyon, Mandarin Oriental Jakarta, where they have already officially scheduled two amazing chefs from France again. First, it would be another two-starred chef Mr Olivier Bellin and then the famous Thierry Marx of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Paris! As for the rest? We’ll just keep it a secret first. 🙂

So, it’s gonna be an awesome year ahead and you gotta stick with me again sometime soon for the whole story!