Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Olive, Genting Hotel

Fine flavours

There’s nothing quite like French cuisine; the variation of the food is almost a reflection of the country. One Frenchman explains.


Lobby Floor, Genting Hotel
Genting Highlands
Tel: 6105 9668

Chef Arnaud Lallement is considered one of the rising stars in the French culinary world. Not only did he assume leadership of L’Assiette Champenoise (a charming turn-of-the-century restaurant in Château de la Muire, just outside Reims) when he was just 24, he also earned the restaurant a Michelin star two years later. It was a personal triumph of sorts for Lallement as the coveted recognition was previously held by his father, Jean-Pierre, for 18 years.

Chef Arnaud Lallement

Lallement was intent on following in his beloved papa’s footsteps. After completing his hospitality studies in Strasbourg, he worked under several fine chefs such as Roger Vergé, Michel Guérard and Alain Chapel before he returned to join his father at La’Assiette Champenoise in 1996.

After launching his cookbook titled ‘Carnet des saveurs en champagne’ (Notebook of Champagne Flavours) in 2003, Lallement was invited by Alain Ducasse to participate in the legendary master chef’s Fou de France project in which talented provincial chefs are invited to showcase their culinary skills in Paris. At 29, Lallement was one of the youngest chefs to be selected.

Ducasse was not the only one impressed by Lallement. In March 2005, Chef Lallement earned a second Michelin star for L’Assiette Champenoise. So it came as no surprise that under Genting’s Michelin Star Dining series, two champagne powerhouses – G.H. Mumm and Perrier-Jouët – stepped up to showcase their elegant champagnes with Chef Lallement’s culinary creations.

At the media luncheon hosted by Pernod-Ricard (M) Sdn Bhd, the self-assured Lallement managed to share some of his food philosophies via a translator.

Tasty delights: Roasted Brittany Langoustines with Lettuce, Onion and Lemon Nage.

“I never compromise on the quality of raw ingredients,” he said. “One must know the actual process behind the products – how they are grown etc. Then we need to treat these products with respect. As such, seasoning must be used judiciously to enhance, not mask their natural flavours.”

Citing master chefs Michael Bras and Alain Ducasse as inspirations, Chef Lallement said that he prefers a minimalist approach to cooking, emphasising one or two ingredients.

A fine example was his Tomato Water, which tasted like a refreshing gazpacho but looked nothing like it. Presented in a wine glass, the clear yet intensely tomato-flavoured broth was studded with tiny, colourful pearls. They turned out to be gelatinous droplets of liquefied courgette, yellow and green peppers. Complementing this was G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge NV which lent a sparkling freshness to the unusual concoction.

Something different: French Seabass with Carrot Confit, Vegetables and Star Anise.

The Roasted Brittany Langoustines with Lettuce, Onion and Lemon Nage was presented in three separate dishes to showcase Chef Lallement’s penchant for this shellfish.

“In France, – chefs will present various preparations using a main ingredient to entice diners,” he said.

We knew the langoustines’ freshness was up to mark, courtesy of a fellow writer who told us the fresher they are, the faster her shellfish allergy would be triggered. True enough, she had to forgo the remainder after she sampled it. The rest of us, though, relished the exquisite langoustines – the first was complemented by a light creamy lettuce sauce whilst the second came with sliced radish, finely chopped onion and tartar sauce. The third was accompanied by a lemon nage (a thick, well- seasoned reduction of cream, white wine and lemon juice topped with a sliver of preserved lemon).

The subsequent French Seabass with Carrot Confit, Vegetables and Star Anise tasted almost humdrum by comparison, had it not been for the balsamic vinegar and star anise reduction dotting the plate. The fish’s delicate sweetness made a nice match with the fresh, slightly herbaceous Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV.

Lemon Strawberry Tart, Almond Mirabelle.

Chef Lallement’s creation of Lamb with Minted Green Peas and Coco Milk didn’t go down too well as we found the competing coconut milk and lamb flavours too strong. We then discovered lamb was used as the substitute in place of the chef’s original choice of pigeon due to the latter’s limited supply.

Lunch rounded off with Declinaison of Lemon Strawberry Tart, Almond Mirabelle and Red Fruits Vacherin. The sweet Lemon Strawberry Tart was a delightful treat after our last course but the overly sour Red Fruits Vacherin (mixed berries topped with a slice of meringue) was a jolt on the palate. The best was the Almond Mirabelle, a dainty tart with an almond crumble base and sweet yellow cherry plums which went like a dream with G.H. Mumm Grand Cru NV.

As we departed, most of us felt we had only caught brief glimpses of Chef Lallement’s real talents. His best, we believe, is yet to come.

Genting’s Michelin Star Dining 2007 will conclude with Chef Christian Moine from December 1-7.

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