WORLD GOURMET SUMMIT
Chui Lee Luk
at Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Chui Lee Luk, the fourth-generation chef/owner, so to speak, of the Sydney dining institution Claude's, gave diners a glimpse of her culinary prowess at a World Gourmet Summit dinner at the Mandarin Oriental hotel earlier this week. The Singapore-born, Aussie-bred lawyer turned chef is well respected Down Under for carrying on the tradition started in 1976 by original owner Claude Corne and continued by subsequent owners Damien Pignolet and Tim Pak Poy, all of whom put their own Australian spin on classic French cuisine.
Given her undoubted culinary pedigree, the six-course dinner, paired with wines from South Australian winery Knappstein, turned out to be somewhat disappointing, as Luk's pre-dinner promise to 'take a lot of liberties with being subversive' did not fully manifest itself in the food. Apart from the opener of bitter & sweet salad of ocean trout, which did jolt the palate with its contrasting flavours and textures, the dishes were fairly conventional.
Two entrees - semi-cured duck breast and gourd vegetable wrapped in Angus beef - failed to stimulate, although a fried crayfish with mulligatawny sauce dish was a tasty approximation of local-style seafood. It just goes to show that banquet-style dining is probably not the best way to showcase the talents of a chef who thrives in a more intimate environment.
April 15 to 20
The Bali-based chef Chris Salans seldom leaves his culinary domain in the hills of Ubud, where he produces inventive, high-quality, fine-dining tasting menus that combine local ingredients with French cooking techniques. Since opening Mozaic in 2001, Salans has pushed culinary boundaries while also putting Bali on the gourmet map. At Prive, his four, six and eight-course dinner tasting menus (at $120, $150 and $180) are available until this weekend.
The surprise will come from the Indonesian spices that Salans uses with Western-style ingredients to create a dish like wagyu beef carpaccio marinated in Sumatran rendang oil. The result - beef rendang with a difference - is both delicate and well balanced. Another dish that worked well in the contrasting flavours department included duck foie gras in sweet and sour broth and on a more subtle level, rosemary-braised barramundi. A venison tenderloin was accompanied by a conventional sweet cranberry sauce as well as toasted local spices in palm sugar bits that gave the dish some bite. Salans puts plenty of thought into his creations - cultural mosaics, as it were - and the cuisine that results is a worthy expression of a chef in tune with his environment.
Bart de Pooter
April 14 to 18
Two-Michelin star chef Bart de Pooter's studied, serious approach to modern European cuisine involves the use of the freshest ingredients available together with highly technical cooking methods to produce a concept he describes as 'Total Taste'. His 15-year-old restaurant Pastorale in Belgium started off on a classical culinary note but has since evolved to become a sort of laboratory for experiments in fine dining, where tradition meets the future to form a carefully crafted and highly imaginative whole.
De Pooter, 39, is strongly influenced by art and architecture, and also by a culinary movement towards food that is low in fat and sugar. His cuisine is visually arresting yet strangely cool, almost as if the physical beauty of a dish takes precedence over everything else.
At Jaan, de Pooter offers two tasting menus each for lunch and dinner, with prices ranging from $80 to $120 for lunch, and $200 to $230 for dinner. In general, the primary ingredient - whether it's farmhouse chicken or baked scallops - is served recognisably intact, while vegetables and accompaniments are presented in pureed, dehydrated or another non-traditional form. It makes for interesting theatre, while the focus is all on purity of taste, quality of ingredient and cooking technique.
April 14 to 18
at One-Ninety, Four Seasons Hotel
After 18 years in Hanoi, French chef Didier Corlou has created his own version of Indochinese cuisine - with extensive but subtle use of indigenous Vietnamese herbs and spices with classic French cooking. The result is harmonious and delicious, though not so much fusion, as the fare is quintessentially French, but with more spice-based, surprising flavours.
Chef Corlou's foie gras is served in between slices of mango, for instance, with a dusky lotus tea brown sauce on the side. And then there's the theatrical escabeche 'Tokyo-Hanoi' - which sees carpaccio of seabass in a seafood-based broth spiked with light wasabi and enriched with fish sauce salt crystals.
His dishes have a flowery, 'feminine' feel to them - perhaps it's the constant use of broths and soups. The amuse bouche was an elaborate spread of cold pepper puree mixed with a hot gush of foamy turnip broth (poured in at the table), served with a spoonful of fresh goat cheese.
There's extensive use of fruit like passion fruit (zested up with lemon, paired with seared tuna glazed with honey, speared with a stalk of lemongrass) and spicy orange sauce served with a trio of duck - roasted breast, pan-seared liver and leg confit.
April 14 to 18
Pontini, Grand Copthorne Hotel
One Michelin-starred Andrea Canton helms a small 30-seater restaurant in north-east Italy, Ristorante La Primula, which also has eight rooms for guests.
It's a charming little 'restaurant with rooms', describes Pontini's chef Pavanello, but chef Canton's food isn't rustic, by any means. Take his raviolini of morel mushrooms (little gelatinous brown squares of mushrooms) sitting in a light mushroom gravy, a barely boiled egg in the middle, and julienned bacon sprinkled all around. It's a warm, comforting revisitation of the carbonara (minus the cheese and pasta), and totally yummy.
The fare might have homey origins but it's finely made - a crispy sandwich of Sicilian prawns, for example, or a handmade potato gnocchi filled with braised venison, shredded ubriacone cheese on the side and cocoa bean sprinkles on top. The veal gets minimal dressing, being poached and just lightly pan-roasted so the meat stays milky tender. The menu is available during lunch and dinner.
French Michelin Stars
April 14 to 19
at Global Kitchen, Pan Pacific Singapore
Two Michelin star chef Stephane Carrade and one-star Eric Dequin have taken over the reins at Global Kitchen with a value for money $68 set lunch and an indulgent $138 set dinner.
They certainly show some strong cooking chops with the likes of smoked scallops served with unique crispy chicken skin shaped like tortilla chips, and an interesting foie gras poached in beetroot juice marred somewhat by a balsamic marinated strawberries that didn't gel with the liver. But an excellent green pea soup beautifully enhanced with mint, and a succulent rack of lamb roasted and served with creamy polenta flavoured with goat's cheese that's more robust than ripe. A simple but elegant white chocolate mousse served with citrus ice cream rounded off the meal on a pleasant note.
For dinner, the menu is a little more adventurous with white asparagus in almond paste with lobster roll and caparccio of king prawns with chicken ravioli in cocoa bean sauce.
Definitely worth checking out.