Tag Archives: Dreams Magazine

Savoring The Rijsttafel (Dreams, Heritage Edition 2013)

Many may not realize that the influence of colorful presentation of Minangkabau dishes from West Sumatra origin inspired the creation of rijsttafel, a novel feast designed during the Dutch colonial era almost two centuries ago in Indonesia. 

Rijsttafel, literally means ‘rice table’, is a Dutch-colonial originated banquet encompassing famous dishes from the many islands of Indonesia. What makes rijsttafel different is the special feature of a dozen of waiters or waitresses involved for this feast and each of them serving different dish at same time. For rich Dutch plantation owners, rijsttafel involved everyone they can gather around their households from the maids, chauffeurs, and even gardeners to act as the servers.

On larger rijsttafel banquets, the Dutch even incorporated up to 30 or 40 dishes at one time. Not only that it became a personal pride for Dutch colonials, rijsttafel was also meant to impress foreign dignitaries during diplomacy or official visits with such an impressive vast array of dishes rarely seen before and came from the richest yet biggest archipelago in the world.

Oasis - Serving Rijstaffel 2

During its heyday, history recorded two famous hotels in Indonesia that served rijsttafel. The first one was Hotel Homann from Bandung which now still can be seen although the façade already underwent a unique art deco transformation back in the 1930s. Mrs. Homann was said to serve the best rijsttafel in town and renowned for it especially after Bandung achieved a stature as a city for colonial holiday retreats. The second hotel known to serve rijsttafel was the beautiful Hotel des Indes during the old days of Batavia (now Jakarta) known to many with its exemplary hospitality, though we can no longer found the hotel anymore as it was demolished a few decades ago to make way for a shopping complex.

It was believed that after the transition of Indonesian government, the rijsttafel became somehow extinct as the nationalism sentiment made Indonesians remove any colonial influences remaining within their daily lives. Today, probably rijsttafel is much more popular in restaurants around The Netherlands, USA, and as far as South Africa or probably other former Dutch colonies.

Back in 1979, an attempt to revive the rijsttafel experience was made by Oasis, a luxurious fine-dining establishment in Jakarta, proved to be hugely successful. With its well-maintained classic façade used to be owned by a Dutch millionaire from the early 20th century and its excellence in many gastronomy aspects, Oasis has been serving rijsttafel ever since and popularize it further by serving famous personages such as Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Mahathir Muhammad, Zinedine Zidane, and many more. Until today, no other restaurant in Jakarta except some in Bali that serve rijsttafel but perhaps not all of these establishments featured the one dozen servers for it.

Oasis - Dining Room

After all, the individual dishes that came from all over Indonesia are ultimately the most important part of rijsttafel. While there’s no real pattern of what should be served in a rijsttafel but clearly the famous satays from Indonesia have always been traditionally stars of the show. One usually can browse through various satay from chicken, lamb (sate mentul), beef, and fish (sate lilit).

Other than these fantastic delicacies, we can often found beef rendang, dendeng balado (thinly sliced dried beef with chili flakes), beef empal (shredded beef with spices), grilled fish, grilled chicken, grilled prawns, beef stew, fried duck and other main dishes of Indonesian origin.

For the sides we can also enjoy a wide range of dishes such as gado gado (vegetables with peanut sauce), steamed beancurds in banana leaves, fried beancurds with vegetable fillings, stir-fried long beans, serundeng (shredded and roasted coconut), spring rolls, fritters, and a lot more. Even for the rice, you can find several versions from white, white with corn, red, nasi tutug oncom (steamed with oncom and shallots) and many other creations unfamiliarly heard before.

Oasis - Lounge

It’s pretty much impossible to describe the contents of rijsttafel as the combination may vary every time and the options itself are basically limitless as Indonesian dishes are probably the most diverse cuisine in the whole world. Again, that’s the reason why larger banquets may serve up to 40 dishes at one time.

From the inception of the concept, rijsttafel was designed to achieve many aspects not only from the dishes variety. In an era where gastronomic features were not yet familiarly encountered, rijsttafel had achieved a high level of complexity not only from flavors but also the colors and the textures. Indonesian dishes we know now are affluent in fragrance and taste from sweet to spicy, from sour to savory, and all using spices indigenous of this country. Additionally, these created a harmony between the many textures of the dishes as well. Much to that era’s surprise, all of these came from a single corner of the earth far from the Old World and everything assimilated into a splendor of one single entity worth its weight in gold for the experience.

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Published in Dreams, Heritage Edition 2013

Photos courtesy of Oasis Restaurant, Jakarta

The Art of Royal Thai (Dreams, Heritage Edition 2013)

Centuries of colorful culinary heritage with bold characteristics and richness like nowhere else has made Thai cuisine one of the most sought after delicacies. The Royal Thai Cuisine proudly becomes a part of it and plays an important role as the envoy of refined cuisines the world over. 

Differentiated into four regional cuisines, Thai cuisine with all its originalities absorbs influences from neighbors such as Indochina countries as we know today, Malayan peninsula, Yunnan of China, and even European powers during colonial era. Even so, the pivotal role in the whole identity creation of Thai cuisine came mostly from the Central region where capitals located and royalties resided since the dawn of the Siamese kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya up until what is now the modern Thailand.

Within the immense influence of the Central region’s cuisine, one must not neglect that some part of it had been painted by the existence of Royal Thai Cuisine or dishes served in palaces and aristocratic households with specific standards in recipes, compositions, and aesthetics. Tracing back during Ayutthaya era that signified the emergence of Royal Thai Cuisine until this very moment, each sovereign had their own pick of what they preferred to eat, which may be similar with Thai dishes that we know, but the royals have a unique custom of dining solitarily unlike other kingdoms where usually the families dine together. In addition, there’s no standardized version on what particular dishes that had to be served for Royal Thai Cuisine.

Aside from being served in set from appetizer, soup, main dish, and dessert, Royal Thai Cuisine uses high quality ingredients and is presented beautifully by using the finest vessels available and fruit carvings. In terms of taste, there are no extremes such as too spicy or too sour as everything kept in balance and followed the original recipes.

Another rule of thumb is that everything on the plate must be edible. In the case of fish for example, it had to be deboned first and then reconstructed again as a whole fish, or if it was a fruit, then it should be deseeded first and served as bite size pieces appropriately. Everything is prepared painstakingly detailed and involves a large number of staff in the royal kitchen as all these refinements are exactly what set Royal Thai Cuisine apart from others.

Although basically each dish in Royal Thai Cuisine can be found commonly, but there is actually one that came off from an authentic idea during the reign of King Rama II two centuries ago and eaten particularly during the hot summer months.

Kao Chae (Courtesy of Eugene Goes to Thailand)
Kao Chae (Courtesy of Eugene Goes to Thailand)

Kao chae is a bowl of rice soaked in candle smoke-scented water and decorated with jasmine petals. The idea might sound simple but the preparation is actually meticulous such as to cleanse the rice from starch by adding cold water many times after the rice cooked and left to achieve room temperature first, then there’s the use of rain water for the soup, and how to manually infuse the water with scented candle’s smoke.

From there, the preparation of side dishes is no less complex though most of them are fried dishes. First, there are young green peppers stuffed with pork, herbs, and spices then laced with egg after fried. Next, deep-fried kapi (shrimp paste) balls which beforehand were seasoned with shallots, garlic, palm sugar, and Thai-native wild gingers. Then there is also a selection of beef, pork, or fish torn into threads then flavored with fish oil and palm sugar before being deep-fried. Aside from those, there are also less common side dishes for kao chae such as boiled salted egg or deep-fried Thai shallots stuffed with dried fish.

Nowadays, Royal Thai Cuisine is available also in restaurants but if commoners wish to see how it all prepared publicly, then Songkran (Thai New Year) festival would be the right time. During this festival, talented chefs from all over Thailand gather and cook the best of their abilities for the king. The event takes place on April 13 for three days only every year and the many variations in Royal Thai Cuisine during Songkran festival may be something that you do not want to miss.

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Published in Dreams, Heritage Edition 2013

Photos courtesy of Blue Elephant & Eugene Goes to Thailand

Cuisine Enchantment (Dreams, Vol III / Issue 4 – 2013)

Marina Bay Sands - Overview (Credit for Timothy Hursley)

As a global city, Singapore, as we all know is geared as a hub of commerce with its buzzing businesses, piercing skyscrapers and advanced tourism. Now, Singapore’s hegemony in the region is further strengthened by the presence of Marina Bay Sands.

True to form, Marina Bay Sands has become a mecca for the avid gastronome. Top international chefs such as Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy, Tetsuya Wakuda, Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck have opened their restaurants here and quickly attract visitors who wish to savor high class dining experience. The hotel itself has a number of very successful F&B outlets which cater to the myriad of guests in this almost 3,000 room property. Daily the hotel serves up thousands of meals all very well orchestrated by its expert team of chefs. We might ponder on how they could possibly run a vast operation involving the upkeep of every aspect of a structure this massive alongside thousands of guests and staffs to be this smooth.

Manning the F&B ship expertly is Mr Tamir Shanel, who is Vice President for Food and Beverage. Starting from pre-operations, Mr Shanel has overseen all aspects of the department with a deft hand. His critical involvement includes planning, day-to-day operations of all F&B programs from in-room dining all the way to the celebrity chef restaurants, casino restaurants, and banquets are indeed of great importance. ‘The celebrity chef restaurant concept is definitely the most interesting part of all and also the latest innovation of today’s hospitality business. I’m proud that we can introduce this to Singapore’, said Mr Shanel, who spearheaded the success of this venture by bringing six world class chefs to a single property.

The technicalities of this huge operation are ably run by Executive Chef Christopher Christie. His domain is the underground Heart-of-House, an immense labyrinth that serves as the soul of Marina Bay Sands. He and his team take great care of the eating and drinking needs of the hotel’s guests as well as the 7,000 plus employees who work there. One can only imagine the logistical complexities of this operation at this scale – from managing ingredients storerooms, preparation kitchens and staff meals, to fulfilling the needs from the guests, every single day! A job of this magnitude requires him to walk over 15 kilometers a day to oversee everything. It is indeed an admirable effort for this high-spirited chef to be able to manage everything smoothly.

MBS - Rise Restaurant and Lounge

Clearly, the hotel F&B outlets become the first choice for anyone staying at the trio towers. For all-day dining, Rise is definitely the busiest place as it caters most of the patrons with quality service and politeness. The food is not lacking of praise as Rise marries a vast array of fares successfully between Chinese, Indian, and Western. Putting more emphasis on Asian food, Rise offers the popular selection of sushi and sashimi, roast duck, tandoori, noodles, spring rolls, Singaporean laksa ,and many more.

Western fare is also very well represented with widespread option of cold cuts, smoked haddock and gravlax, a la minute pasta, raw seafood, lamb rack, prime ribs, and the sweet note ending of bread and butter pudding alongside other inviting desserts.

MBS - Rise Restaurant Buffet Spread

Fuse can be a good choice to relish your personal concoction of drinks wile SweetSpot offers a wide range of pastries and chocolates expertly crafted by Executive Pastry Chef, the talented Mr Ryan Witcher. Additionally, Jin Shan is there as a fine option for a high class Chinese cuisine.

A visit to Sky on 57 is probably one of the most stunning experiences one can have while at Marina Bay Sands. Located literally on the top most level of the hotel, the restaurant boasts 360 degree views of the city and the sea. The 12,000 square feet restaurant boasts a bar and lounge that greets guests upon arrival, a main dining area with four private rooms, and lastly, the outdoor terraces with their million dollar views. Chef Justin Quek, may appear quite eccentric with the Elvis-style sleeves of his chef’s jacket and his trademark quirky smile but with his extensive experience and skillful creativity, make Sky on 57 a genuine delight to visit. Chef Justin’s creations resound loudly with a modern Asia flair fused with his mastery of French cuisine. His interesting interpretations of Nordic crab vermicelli, Maine lobster Hokkien mee, and Wagyu beef rendang are among that should not be missed. Quite recently, he also invented Lobster ‘Marco Polo’ using the XO sauce and his signature foie gras xiao long bao. For the dessert, French’s macarons are incorporated with pandan and gula jawa or the palm sugar brought special from Java, Indonesia.

MBS - Sky on 57 Interior

Aside from Sky on 57, other celebrity chef restaurants are also forces to be reckoned with. The traditional Italian spirit Osteria/Pizzeria Mozza, supreme steaks at CUT, Japanese-French unique fusion at Waku Ghin, and skillful French at Guy Savoy and db Bistro Moderne would be an experience that may happen only at Marina Bay Sands.

Marina Bay Sands stands tall and proud as a symbol of luxury and grandeur. It indeed services varied needs to many, its completeness is unparalleled and it is managed adepty by people of immense experience and knowledge. Yet still, Marina Bay Sands continues to expand and evolve, to make sure that its guests and patrons are very well served. Surely they will continue to unveil surprises in the culinary scene and further extend the reach of its domination around the region.

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Marina Bay Sands

10 Bayfront Avenue – Singapore 018956

+62.6688.8888

http://marinabaysands.com

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Pictures courtesy of Marina Bay Sands

Featured in Dreams magazine – Cravings Edition, Vol III / Issue 4 – 2013

Il Signor Visionario, Mario Batali (Dreams, Vol III / Issue 4 – 2013)

Mario Batali
Mario Batali

An accomplished chef, a proud New Yorker and a passionate foodie, celebrity chef Mario Batali shared with us his epicurean dreams like a true Italian signore.

He started his culinary career from scratch, Mario Batali paved his way brilliantly to the top.  He began as a dishwasher then moving up to become a kitchen assistant back in England under Marco Pierre White’s leadership. He then moved to France to further hone his craft, until he was confident enough to move back to the US, and become sous chef for Four Seasons hotels. His love for cooking was inspired by his beloved grandmother, who instilled in him since his youth, a love for Italian cuisine. In search for the truest form of the cuisine, he then decided to cast away his career in the US just to become an apprentice again in a very small town in Italy. There, he committed himself to learn the cuisine in its simplest form – honest and traditional.

His move proved to be strategic. After some time learning the true Italian way of cooking, he returned to finally open his flagship restaurant ‘Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca’ in New York. Babbo received many accolades and he rose to prominence in an instant with his Italian wizardry. Since then, together with his faithful business partner Joe Bastianich, popularly known as the harsh US MasterChef judge, they solidified their style of Italian cuisine with many notable openings in New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

It’s a fast ride down the highway for Mario from then on. Not only did he become known as chef or restaurateur, he also became a media personality, starring in many TV shows, documentaries, and even featured in a movie and a computer game.

Despite some controversies throughout his career, one can sense right away from his immense confidence and knowledge, his natural abilities of public speaking, and his quick wits that attract everyone to him. Not to mention of course, his eccentric style of wearing shorts and kitchen clogs anywhere he goes! He’s simply the star of the show anywhere.

I was lucky enough to be able to converse with him a bit with during his visit for Jakarta Culinary Festival 2012.  He spoke a mile a minute and we covered so many topics in a short period of time.  Asking him about what he and his fellow New Yorkers are eating now: ‘The food of Southeast Asia is exactly that!’, he exclaimed after explaining that lately Asian cuisine drives New Yorkers into frenzy for its sharp flavors and authenticity. ‘People no longer want to spend four hours in their uncomfortable business clothes eating good food but paying too much’, said Mario specifically noting the waning age of super fancy fine-dining restaurants and on the other side admired how Asians in West nowadays successfully reinterpreting their cuisines and gaining immense popularity.

That is precisely what he had prophesied since the very beginning. His vision to introduce the traditional Italian food has now become so in line with the current trends. At this age, everybody wants it simple and affordable but still delicious, everybody wants the camaraderie but they’re also not hesitant to share the fun even to strangers. With this, the West sets its eyes on Asia and that’s also why Mario decided to expand his business overseas, and have set their targets on Singapore and Hong Kong.

“The Amalfi coast. The food, the people, the accessibility, and the water are just perfect. I just like being on a boat, I like eating linguine with clams, and I like eating scampi.’’ – Mario Batali

My trip recent trip to Marina Bay Sands alongside fellow journalists to visit his first restaurant in Asia was a pleasant one. The Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza presented us with dishes equal to what Mario had been conceptualizing so far – hearty, sumptuous, and rustic. The fried potatoes with ceci and herbs was a fine introduction – simple, crisp, and rich, meanwhile another creative opener comprised of Little Gem lettuce, Gorgonzola cheese, red onions and dates was just irresistible. The main dishes were of course, pizza! The Pizzeria Mozza’s head chef Ms Karla Mendoza devised us with probably the best ever margherita pizza ever and a delicious mushroom pizza. To end the lovely lunch, the classic cannoli di ricotta was really fulfilling.

During that lunch, we were bounded in a friendly, warm atmosphere as if we’re all old friends but in truth we might not be able to see each other again everyday even when we’re back in Jakarta. The beautiful dishes simply glued us all!

Mario Batalia - Pizzeria Mozza

Business-wise, the reason behind Mario’s existence in Asia was because a guy named Zack Allen, his visionary culinary director, whom his wisdom and greatness are followed by Mario without question. While Hong Kong and Singapore are among the most conducive cities in Asia to start a business especially for Americans, Mario admitted that his recent visit to Jakarta was also an enlightening experience to one day seek the possibility of introducing himself deeper here.

During the session, we were also talking about his dream culinary destination. ‘I like places that not too many Americans have been where the food is traditional, thoughtful, and speak of the soil that it grows from’, he said. But much to his surprise, his first time in Jakarta was colored by an important experience of savoring Indonesian cuisine in a way that’s complicated, complex, and poetic, which was very much different than the one he had tasted back home.

He further described his dream culinary destination, ‘For me I’m not as necessarily interested in visiting three-star Michelin restaurants. I’m more interested in spending three weeks in Bhutan and tasting the local food and seeing the way people appreciate and approach their sensibility and spirituality in everything that they do. That for me is more interesting’.

The way he described his favorite culinary destination was also no less poetic. He simply answered, ‘The Amalfi coast. The food, the people, the accessibility, and the water are just perfect. I just like being on a boat, I like eating linguine with clams, and I like eating scampi. But anyway, I’d be very happy to go back to Hong Kong any day and now, Jakarta’.

Me & MB

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Pictures courtesy of Dreams Media and Mario Batali

Featured in Dreams magazine – Cravings Edition, January – February 2013

All the Goodness From the Sea – The Nordic Way (Dreams, Vol III / Issue 3 – 2012)

A distinct landmark around the prestigious Hotel Indonesia roundabout in central Jakarta is the Grand Hyatt Jakarta. Equally well known is their signature restaurant, C’s.

With a reputable history spanning for the past 10 years, C’s maintains the traditional way of letting the qualities of the seafood speak for themselves – served fresh on ice, grilled, or steamed to perfection.

My first encounter in 2010 was a pleasant one. C’s presented itself as a multi-sensory dining experience. The interiors are warm and friendly, with neatly arranged tables. The unique entrance showcases legions of wine bottles. The open kitchen invites diners to smell dishes cooking nearby. Additional decor of spices and ingredients in baskets and bushels lend the feel of wholesomeness and freshness. Clearly, C’s is the no non-sense view of cooking. I was in for a collage of gastronomic delights.

One attractive dish in particular that survives in my memory for the past two years was the raw oysters, strikingly fresh in appearance over a bed of crushed ice and accompanied with lemons. You know the drill there, just squeeze the juice out of the lemon over the oyster a bit then enjoy the pleasure that goes slurping the succulent oyster into your mouth.

With those reminiscing thoughts residing after so long, turns out that C’s is still under the capable hands of Mr Christer Foldnes, a purist seafood expert came all the way from Scandinavia. Born and bred in Bergen, a coastal town west of Norway, it’s only natural that Mr Foldnes developed his love for seafood since early.

At a young age after a few years of becoming chefs in several prominent restaurants and hotel back in Bergen and Copenhagen, Mr Foldnes achieved a prestigious recognition as the Norwegian Seafood Chef of the Year in 2009. With that he became the envoy for Norwegian seafood promotion until finally he set himself a new home here as Grand Hyatt Jakarta’s Executive Sous Chef.

Chef Christer Foldnes

When asked why he chose to be here, he simply replied, ‘It’s my first time working in Asia. It’s very different and challenging in a good way’. Though he strikes me more as a humble chef with gentle personality, Mr Foldnes deliberately admitted that it will be a never ending quest on sharpening his skills as a chef, therefore indicated his true ambition of becoming greater as time unravels.

During my second encounter with C’s, it’s a walk down the memory lane as the chef prepared a half dozen of American oysters which were tantalizingly fresh and breezy. What came next was the Chinese style of perfectly steamed coral trout over a savory soy sauce. A mix-and-match appetizers that were clearly successful in tempting us for the next round.

Canadian Lobsters

From there, we witnessed the simple way of serving seafood a la Nordic cuisine. Presented upon a humongous platter, Christer created a combo of grilled frutti di mare in a very enticing way. It’s a seafood assortment of Canadian lobster, Norwegian salmon, scallops as his most favorite ingredient of all and prawns with a bit of salad to make the whole dish appear more fabulous. In addition, he cleverly equipped our carb intake with a plate of delicious lobster risotto. Again, it’s an irresistible treat that didn’t take long to be savored completely, much to our hearts’ content.

Thus it became another remarkable experience that satiates my expectation. It’s been two years but it just feels amazing to realize that Chef Christer has done a lot of tremendous effort to deliver a consistent result. Even though he presents his dishes straightforwardly, but I can feel my curiosity growing as I unravel more about the beauty of seafood.

Seafood Platter

Now that last year’s event of pairing him and the Norwegian Seafood Chef of the Year of 2011 said to be successfully concluded, will the future also witness him combining his culinary might with the 2012’s champion? Clearly it’s a quest that I must fulfill personally.

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C’s STEAK AND SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

Halal-friendly

Some menu suitable for vegetarians

Wi-fi available

Address: Grand Hyatt Jakarta, Jl. MH Thamrin Kav. 28-30, Jakarta – Indonesia

Opening Hours: Daily, lunch 12.00 pm – 3 pm, dinner 6 pm – 11 pm

RSVP: +62.21.2992.1234 ext. 3400

BB Pin: N/A

Email: N/A

Website: http://jakarta.grand.hyatt.com

Facebook: N/A

Twitter: N/A

Atmosphere: Warm, intimate, and very suitable for formal dineouts.

Ambiance: Conversational, jazzy tunes, and soothing.

Service: Five star service.

Pricing: Around IDR 750,000 to IDR 1,000,000 for two

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Pictures courtesy of Grand Hyatt Jakarta & C’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant

Featured in Dreams magazine – Volume III / Issue 3 Voyages Edition, 2012