December 15, 2008

A dose of creativity

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I returned to the Mandarin Grill for lunch after a three-month absence. The last time I had lunch here, I received a job offer while my future employer lowered my defenses by offering me some nice Pomerol. Following the similar trend, the friend who bought me lunch today was trying to get on my good side in return for some favors...

We asked the chef for some recommendations of new dishes that they are trying out. As a result, I started with their version of the Waldorf salad with salmon. The salmon slices were slowly poached in warm water, which resulted in a texture very similar to that of gravlax - tender and moist. This was on top of a pile of sliced apple, julienned celery, grape slices, walnut chunks all mixed with a light mayo-like sauce. What is really interesting is that the whole thing sits on top of some hazelnut sauce - which honestly was probably just Nutella... On the side there are more walnut chunks, as well as the mayo sauce in powder form - the molecular touch. Overall I liked the salad, as it's got the right combination between soft and crunchy textures.

Next came the smoked Girolles mushroom soup. Why does every chef in town nowadays think it's cool to do the "smoked" presentation? It is probably cool for the first couple of times, but gets really tiring after a while - like chocolate cakes with liquid centers...yawn! Anyway, the mushrooms are presented in a bowl, and the waiter lifts up the small glass dome as the smoky nose ascends up one's nostrils. Mushroom soup is then poured into the bowl, completing the process. It was good mushroom soup, but not that exciting for me.

For main course I ordered the crab raviolo, lemongrass, edamame (枝豆). Here is an interesting creation combining Italian, Thai and Japanese/Chinese elements. The single large raviolo dominates the bowl, and the crab filling is sweet and has a springy texture...kinda like the Chinese wonton. The lemongrass-infused olive oil is at once fragrant and light to the taste, while the beans add a slight crunchy texture. Very enjoyable.

I am pretty full by this point, and pass on dessert. We did have some wonderful, warm madeleines with my espresso. It was not the lemon-flavored variety but full of brown sugar and caramel. A very nice note to finish on.

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