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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.

Martabak Hunting in Jakarta (Morning Calm – Korean Air, July 2011)

As featured in Morning Calm (Korean Air inflight magazine) on July 2011 edition (page 98) – unedited
http://morningcalm.koreanair.com/issues/201107/

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A feast for the eyes and a delectable treat for snack time, Martabak can simply be found anywhere within the vastness of Jakarta. Rian Farisa is there to explore the infinite possibilities.

The melting pot of cultures and culinary heritages, The Big Durian has become the home of endless creations for both local and international delicacies. You can find simply anything here, from the traditional native Betawis ketoprak – rice cakes with bean sprouts, vermicelli, tofu, and ground nut sauce –, to Padangnese nasi kapau – warm rice with Padangnese delights like beef rendang, ayam kalio, and dendeng balado –, or perhaps Sundanese, Javanese, Manadoan, then Balinese, Makassar, up Japanese, Chinese, Western and many more. 

For the famous and ubiquitous Martabak, I have taken these lengthy meditations, consultations and everything, just to pick the best from hundreds or even thousands of martabak vendors from all over the city.

There are two types. The sweet one, said to be made by Hokkien immigrants in the island of Bangka since decades ago and the savoury one, though with uncertain background, that was invented by a Indian immigrant in Java circa 1930s.

Well, there’s no relationship whatsoever between them but why do they use the same term? Nobody knows how it began but from easy guess, the vendors of each martabak probably agreed to help each other. Thus nowadays, most of the vendors can be found side by side.

The sweet martabak has undergone many creations and combinations especially for the toppings. Cooked over a customized circular pan using thin batter made from flour, sugar, milk, and eggs, the sweet martabak will remind you about pancakes but with different cooking method and toppings of course. Once done, the martabak is spread with butter and showered white with thick sweetened condensed milk.

Not stopping there, the next phase is the topping time where you can choose between grated cheddar cheese, fried ground nuts with chocolate sprinkles, banana, dates, raisins, gelatinous rice, almonds, beef/chicken floss or even durian!

Such indulgence also applies for its counterpart, the savoury martabak. Made simply from flour and salted water, the dough then swirled over and over again until it goes thin and wide and ready to be tossed into a flat frying pan.

Next a mixture of duck eggs, onions, scallions, meat and seasonings are poured over the fried martabak. As for the meat you can pick between cooked and spiced beef, chickens, muttons, shrimps, or tuna. Most vendors though only serve either beef and/or chicken. Afterwards the martabak are folded into a rectangular shape and then bathed with minyak samin or coconut oil until it becomes golden and crisp.

Finally, it is best served with pickles made from cucumbers, carrots, shallots, and bird’s-eye chillies. There are other versions that use beef rendang for the fillingand using curry as the dipping sauce.

A NEVER-ENDING QUEST

The journey takes me to several corners of Jakarta. First of all thanks to Novie, an expert in Northern Jakarta culinary map, who referred me to Pecenongan street where food vendors spawns at night with extensive choice from local to Chinese-influenced dishes.

‘You’ll find the most expensive martabak you have never seen in your entire life’, she boasts. Out of curiosity, I spring off instantly there. The street itself actually brings back some childhood memories when my father used to take me there for the exquisite shark fin soup and delicious Chinese food.

I scour the area and discover myself a vendor that offers many varieties of toppings, the newly opened Puspa, and successfully serves my purpose to find the most expensive martabak made by the Martabak 65 Bandung.

In general, the price of martabak is ranging from around IDR 15,000 up to around IDR 120,000. That also depends on the size and toppings/fillings of the martabak itself.

One curiosity leads to another. This time the vendor is located at Balai Pustaka street, famous for the fanfare of night hawkers in Eastern Jakarta. The owners Yudi and his wife Devina are hand in hand together to serve the unstoppable horde of martabak lovers.

‘This is the legacy from Yudi’s father who started the business since the 80s’’, Devina proudly says in-between her short breaks. ‘The freshness and the quality of the ingredients are of course important but the label ‘halal’ is what that matters’. Since Indonesia comprise mostly of Muslims, the ‘halal’ label is indeed vital.

Afterwards, there’s no stopping where I should go next because I hear great things from Fatmawati, Kelapa Gading, Pondok Gede and many other places in Jakarta.

Mia, a food enthusiast reminds me that this is not the end of the journey. She says, ‘Search all over the city, trail them by their reputations, go look if you must to streets unknown and within hidden boulevards but ultimately it’s just a never-ending quest. Knowing that it won’t end then being in the process should always be fun if you’re up to it’. For that I cannot agree more.

The Haute Cuisine Experience: Lovely Summer in Lyon (perempuan.com – 2011)

http://www.perempuan.com/lovely-summer-in-lyon/

Jakarta sebagai culinary capital Indonesia belakangan semakin marak dengan keberadaan posh eateries dan berbagai food festivals yang mendatangkan banyak chef dari mancanegara. Termasuk di antaranya adalah para chef yang memiliki restoran dengan predikat bintang dari Michelin.

Kesempatan ini pula yang ditawarkan Mandarin Oriental Jakarta dengan mendatangkan Chef Fabien Lefebvre untuk menunjukkan kebolehannya. Tentunya restoran Lyon dipilih sebagai tempat perhelatan yang hanya berlangsung singkat saja di bulan Juli ini.

Chef Fabien Lefebvre sendiri memiliki reputasi prestisius di Perancis. Selain memiliki restoran dengan predikat bintang satu Michelin sejak 2008, beliau juga dianugerahi The Best Craftsmen in France untuk kategori kuliner pada tahun 2004.

Gelar dalam bentuk bendera Perancis terlihat melingkari leher chef uniform-nya sehingga kian melengkapi pembawaannya yang kalem dan berwibawa.

Tema dari masakan Chef Fabien adalah modern French dengan sentuhan rasa Mediterania dan beliau sendiri menggunakan resep-resep legendaris Octopus, sebuah restoran miliknya yang terletak di Beziers, kota kecil di bagian selatan Perancis yang dekat dengan laut Tengah.

Dimulailah sebuah petualangan musim panas yang terasa langsung di lidah hingga ke hati untuk lunch course a la Chef Fabien. Untuk pembuka Chef Fabien mempersembahkan zucchini yang dijadikan bubur, disajikan dengan wewangian marjoram sebagai fondasi saus yang mengiringi potongan goat cheese yang gurih, irisan truffle yang lezat serta berbagai olahan dari zucchini serta tomat.

Dengan hidangan pembuka ini, Chef Fabien telah mengajarkan sebuah cita rasa baru yang lain dari semisal salad pada umumnya. Dengan rasa ringan, segar, dan begitu orisinil ini lebih dari cukup untuk menggelitik selera makan menuju hidangan pembuka selanjutnya yang tidak kalah berkilaunya.

Itulah marinated gravalax salmon yang dibentuk kotak dan tebal, lain dari biasanya yang tipis. Tidak hanya disajikan unik, rasanyapun segar, kenyal, dan gurih. Bahkan bila disandingkan dengan sashimi sekalipun, kekenyalannya lebih kentara.

Padanannya di hidangan tersebut yaitu semacam marshmallow yang tebal dan chewy namun terbuat dari ketimun dan bunga kol. Sungguh kreasi jempolan yang indah apalagi Chef Fabien menambahkan caviar, lettuce, dan sekilas olive oil untuk mempercantik penampilannya.

The Fresh Breeze From Mediterranean Sea

Selanjutnya Chef Fabien memperkenalkan dua hidangan utama. Pertama adalah hidangan dengan tema musim panas di Laut Tengah yaitu fillet ikan black cod panggang dengan saus buah yang dibuat dari jeruk, wortel, dan markisa.

Ikannya sendiri dipanggang sempurna, lembut, namun tidak hancur, bukti dari pemilihan bahan yang prima serta teknik yang sangat baik. Jauhkan perasaan akan adanya rasa amis untuk masakan ini, yang ada justru hanyalah kenikmatan ditambah rasa segar dari sausnya.

Hidangan terakhir adalah sautéed wagyu yang diimbuhi dengan tarragon serta didampingi kentang panggang khas berbentuk tabung, seakan mengingatkan pada putu. Kesukaan saya tentu berada di level medium-well dimana tingkat kematangan sudah terasa, lebih empuk dan jus dari dalam daging-nya sendiri masih banyak.

Hidangannya terlihat sederhana namun justru itulah yang kami butuhkan di tahapan dimana rasa kenyang mulai terasa. Namun demikian wagyu yang dimasak baik serta terlihat menantang itulah yang menggugah kembali selera makan saya.

Penutupnyapun tidak kalah menggoda, yaitu sorbet mangga di atas kue es krim dengan paduan manis dari almond, kurma, kopi, serta jeruk yang dinamai Orient Express.

Kreasi serupa dapat dinikmati untuk waktu makan siang dan malam selama kurun 7-9 Juli 2011. Untuk hidangan 2-courses seharga IDR 580,000++/orang, 3-courses IDR 720,000++/orang, serta 6-courses Degustation menu seharga IDR 1,300,000++/orang. Bagi anda yang sibuk, tersedia pula Business Lunch 3-courses seharga IDR 350,000++/orang.

Meski Jakarta belakangan terasa sejuk, namun musim panas Eropa dengan langit cerah dan padang rumput yang berkibar-kibar karena angin laut seolah menjadi nyata oleh kreasi yang dibawa khusus dari negeri nun jauh di sana oleh seorang Chef yang berpengalaman.

Passion for perfection. Itulah yang saya terang dapat dari pengalaman singkat saya menjajal kualitas seorang Fabien Lefebvre. Hasilnya jelas, senyum tersungging tetap bertahan lama hingga saya meninggalkan Lyon.

Sekilas rasanya Indonesia dan Jakarta adalah bukan sebuah tempat yang terlampau jauh lagi di Timur, namun saya tahu bahwa kelak di sinilah akan culinary capital Asia Tenggara bisa ditahbiskan.

Suatu hal yang sangat mungkin terjadi mengingat Budi Cahyadi, sang F&B Operations Manager Mandarin Oriental berkata, ‘Event seperti ini akan selalu kami adakan mengingat Jakarta sekarang telah tumbuh pesat dengan segala keanekaragaman kulinernya.

Bukan tidak mungkin setelah Hong Kong dan Singapura, justru Jakarta yang akan memiliki restoran dengan Michelin stars’. Dan saya sepenuhnya percaya kelak itulah yang akan terjadi.

By:
Rian Farisa
Vox Populi Syndicate

http://www.perempuan.com/lovely-summer-in-lyon/

In-Flight Magazine (Smile – Cebu Pacific Air): Hearsay – Jakarta Food Fest

Finally, a contribution for a foreign in-flight magazine about Jakarta! Quoted at the Hear Say section of the magazine alongside other fellow writers and contributors. Thanks for the opportunity, Cebu Pacific!
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Jakarta Food Fest

By Rian Farisa, Jakarta-based food writer

“Since Indonesia has a lot of cuisines, it’s better to introduce yourself to them at restaurants that serve the diversity under one roof. I recommend Rempah Rempah (restorempahrempah.com) where you can choose delectable dishes fromPadang, Betawi, Sunda, Java, Bali and as far as Manado.”

Follow Rian at https://gastronomyaficionado.wordpress.com.

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Link: http://www.cebusmile.com/2011/05/01/hear-say-4/

What’s Cooking? : A Kitchen Session with USDA Chefs

What’s Cooking? is the title of a wonderful event held recently at @america last April. What’s @america by the way? Oh, it’s actually a high-tech American cultural center that promotes USA education and youth interests yet serves as a venue for many social gatherings or hearings.

Fast forwarding to the event, the USDA (US Dept. of Agriculture) established a some sort of committee named as USDA Council of Chefs of Indonesia. Why? Thanks to the lucrative exports of American produce to Indonesia, the USDA decided to honor Indonesia by appointing Indonesian chefs to be trained in USA and to also promote the awareness of American agricultural products. The chefs will be carefully selected, well-trained, and familiar with US food products and with local/regional cuisine.

From left: Mr. Haryanto Makmoer, Mr. Muchtar Alamsyah, Mr. Don Q. Washington (USDA Public Affairs Officer), Ms. Ucu Sawitri, and Mr. Edwin Lau

The group consists of four chefs, clustered into four specialties and will undergo the training in USA after promoting the cause. The selection process has been completed and the four chefs are mostly the TV personality we often see daily.

The first one is Mr. Edwin Lau representing the Healthy Cuisine. Chef Edwin Lau is probably the one we see very often these days. Apart from a famous instant noodle commercial, he’s also hosting several shows such as the most famous one of his in Metro TV or any other of his shows about healthy food. Started his career from the prestigious Ritz Carlton Bali and continued it to Grand Hyatt Jakarta. Not just a celebrity chef, he’s also a restaurant consultant, nutrition & fitness coach, model, the already mentioned TV host, and also an author.

The second chef is Mr. Haryanto Makmoer as the USDA Council of Chefs for Baking. A seasoned cavalier in baking from his thorough participation local and internationally starting from Jakarta, Bangkok, Paris, Taipei, several cities in China, Manila, and Singapore. Aside from his showing in both electronic and print medias, he’s also an accomplished lecturer in several culinary schools and a baking consultant.

The third one is somebody who can be easily recognized from his physical stature and his frequent appearances in media as well. He’s Mr. Muchtar Alamsyah or known as Chef Tatang and represents the USDA Council of Chefs for Hot Kitchen. Experience spans for more than 22 years and recognized as an expert in kitchen operations starting from menu planning, staffing, purchasing, and administration. He’s a frequent guest in culinary shows and currently enjoys his status as celebrity chef. Needless to say, his expertise has been put into use local and global.

The fourth is the USDA Council of Chefs for Pastry and this one is represented by a female chef. Yes, it’s Ms. Ucu Sawitri. She’s probably the first who’s ever tasted the education at CIA. No, not that CIA but it’s the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Her background came from being a lecturer and currently also hosting and co-hosting several TV shows. She also opens cooking classes at her home from making pastry, bread, chocolate, and traditional snacks.

Enough introduction don’t you think? Yes, their future endeavor will be representing the USDA agenda in Indonesia and also undergoing the education in CIA New York. What about the food they served in What’s Cooking? Well, it was one show that brings everybody together and it was fun too. Seeing people with curious eyes looking at what they’re cooking, hearing about what they’re doing in front of us, conversing with everyone, baking, frying, and so on forth.

Drunken Potato

Their cooking mainly used American produces. Apple, pears, raisins, and potatoes all made into special recipes. Starting with Chef Edwin Lau who created this Drunken Potato. Basically he’s making marinated potato wedges with beef ragout made from cooked beef and bacon with sautéed Portobello, jalapeños, and raisins poured ultimately with cheddar cheese sauce and served with tortilla chips as well. Why name it Drunken Potato? It’s because Chef Edwin uses beer in the ragout ‘concoctions’. Now that’s the kind of savory food I’d really prefer for my leisure time over cool drinks and good movies!

Pear Pizza

Chef Haryanto Makmoer from the Baking division created this Pear Pizza using pears of course, apricots, and pistachios resulting in a very good taste of sweet pizza, almost feel like a pie actually but it did hit me with the strength and mildness at the same time! Now that’s the sweet version over cool drinks and good movies!

Chicken Roll

While Chef Tatang devised Chicken Roll. That sounds too simple but Chef Tatang prepared it with careful precisions since some of the process required skills. So to make it sound simpler, it’s actually roasted chicken filled with turkey bacon and covered with mixture of apple, raisins, and pistachios all rolled over like you see in Japanese restaurants when they’re making maki. The chicken roll then cut evenly and then to be served with mashed potato alongside diced dragon fruits and apricots. Well well, that’s indeed something new and worth to see.

Apple & Raisins Upside Down Slices

The last but not the least was the creation of Chef Ucu. It’s called Apple & Raisin Upside Down Slices. It’s the delicious mixture of the basics such as milk and cinnamon, eggs, Sunmaid raisins, red cherries, and Granny Smith’s apples and to be baked later. The result was an indulging treat for family. Feels almost like Thanksgiving. I just don’t know why I said that but that certainly expresses what I had felt about the dish!

So from this moment, I salute the chefs and wish them well in their endeavors for promoting both American products but also to combine them all with the local, proud taste of Indonesia. Let’s wait to hear more about their experiences abroad and in near future, the next generation of Council of Chefs! That might be you all right!