If there’s one phrase to best describe Malaysians and their love for food, it would be “will travel for food.” Going Place recently did just that, travelling out of the city centre for the rolling hills of Genting Highlands, to sample an exquisite wine-pairing meal at The Olive Restaurant Bar & Lounge of Resorts World Genting. The award-winning restaurant is renowned for its western-continental dishes, but recently added under its belt a new accolade of Best of Award of Excellence in Wine Spectator’s 2015 Restaurant Wine List Awards. To dine well, an extensive wine selection is a plus – The Olive boasts an excellent ambiance and 800 wine labels to pair with any dish on the menu.
We knew we were in for a treat but our expectations were surpassed, from plating to smell, and of course, the flavours created by world-trained chef Steven Chou, accompanied by wine pairing by sommelier, Kevin Yee Hee Yoong.
To begin our meal, we were served the Ricotta Cavatelli, a creamy pasta dish of cashew pesto, carrot bolognese and Thai Basil. The pasta was nicely al-dante, fresh and chewy, coated in a thick, flavourful cream that was nutty, tangy and lightly cheesy. Although heavy, it sat well in our tummies, and the Fuedo Principi di Butera Chardonnay IGT 2013 wine pairing was light and pleasantly fruity.
This wine also accompanied the next dish. We were served grouper coated in a mustard crust and seared till golden, perched atop finely shredded savoy cabbage, with a green macadamia nut and herb gravy. The entire dish was a harmonious medley of texture and taste, but the star of the dish was the grouper itself – exceptionally fresh, sweet and flaky soft, which was sensational on its own. The white wine proved an elegant palate cleanser, once more.
Next came the Spiced Lamb Belly, a vision as stunning as its taste: The lamb belly was slow cooked till tender in a honey mixture, resulting in a fork tender texture with an irresistable caramelly after taste. The lamb was served with brown butter yogurt and finely chopped almonds, each bite presenting a marriage of sweet and buttery, meaty goodness. For this, the Tedeschi Capitel San Rocco Valpolicella Ripasso DOC 213 red wine heightened the taste with its robust but smooth body.
For a sweet finish, we dug into the Strawberry Farm, a pretty dessert dish of fresh strawberries, almond crumble and lemon verbena. The colourful presentation made our mouth water all over again, and we couldn’t stop enjoying the medley of crunch, sweetness, creaminess and freshness from the dish’s combination, topped with the tangy freshness of the cream and strawberry quenelle, and strawberry puree. A rather sweet and hearty M. Chapoutier Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2011 paired with this refreshing dessert, balancing the sweet with its fizzy tartness.
Throughout the dining experience, both chef Steve and sommelier Kevin presented each dish and wine for us to better understand the flavours and combination. We got a little more personal with both of them, where they shared their preferences, and wine and dine pairing tips at home:
Chef Steven Chou :
What is your favorite ingredient to cook?
Personal favorite is white fish such as cod, flounders and sable fish. Highly versatile, lean, flaky fish that would simply be steamed, finished with an aromatic broth to uplift its own sweetness.
What challenges you the most: making a spectacular menu out of limited basic ingredients or creating a spectacular menu with unexpected/rare ingredients?
In true self belief, from personal perspective the most basic ingredient is the biggest challenge. A chef must be proficient to these ingredients, possess a good knowledge of utilising each ingredient to the maximum. From past experience working at the top rated restaurant in New York City, I was responsible for making five-course meals every Sunday based on whatever was found in the fridge with only four hours of prepping time!
What do you hope to achieve with this menu?
A desire to acknowledge characters of the ingredients, and being able to pair them to achieve the maximum flavour.
Sommelier Kevin Yee :
What was the process of selecting the right wine for these dishes?
First, I think about my wine selections. Then I taste the food and wine separately, follow by experimenting. Finally, I taste whether the pairing works.
Which is your favourite wine pairing in this meny and why?
Spiced Lamb Belly with Tedeschi Capitel San Rocco Valpolicella Ripasso DOC. This red wine from Valpolicella, Verona is round and rich, with natural sweetness of honey to amplify the wine’s fruit.
What are your tips to taste great wine?
Time and temperature (serving and environment), equipment (glassware), sensitivity (appearance, bouquet and flavour).
All dishes on the menu are changed seasonally, to offer diners a fresh and diverse selection of dishes to excite the palate.
Wine pairing menu priced from USD $74.28 nett; wine pairing at an additional USD $27.24 nett