Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur
2, Jalan Stesen Sentral,
Kuala Lumpur Sentral, 50470
Tel. +603 2263 7888
Food type: Italian
By the time we had settled into our room and sorted some of our luggage out in Kuala Lumpur, it was already 1800. Our flight the following day was 0900 and thus we would need to be out of the hotel room at 0630 at the latest. We were faced with a small dilemma as to what we would do for dinner. On one hand, we could grab a cab into KL city centre where there are a myriad of dining options. However that would take us at least 30 minutes given traffic conditions and Malaysian cabbies are notorious for ripping off tourist. Alternatively we could go to the nearest shopping mall and grab some fast food (ahem KFC). Or we could just stay in the hotel and either order room service or try one of the various restaurants. The Hilton is attached to Le Meridien by a walk-way (both hotels are side by side) giving us plenty of options to choose for.
After plenty of deliberation and looking at the various menus online, my fiancee decided we would go to Favola. Their menu looked fairly appealing with a lots of Italian classics – fritto di mare, porcini risotto and osso bucco but to name a few. The chef, Dominenico Piras, hails from Sardinia and was at some point the private chef of Gaddafi’s (yes that one) son.
The meal got of to a capable start with a tuna tartare paired with cantaloupe and watermelon. Given the hot humid weather, this was the perfect refreshing starter for the meal. The tuna could have done with a touch more seasoning but this is a matter of preference. My better half would start with a portion of fritto di mare – fried prawns, squid and black cod, served with aoili and tartare sauce. The seafood was well timed with crisp batter and well seasoned.
For those of you who watch any sort of cooking competition named Masterchef in its various guises (you do realise that there are other versions which does not include egghead Gregg, for example they just replace him with with another egghead called George in the Australian version) you must have heard the judges spout off the same old spiel:-
“Simplicity is hardest to achieve…”
“There is no where to hide with simplicity… “
“When it is that simple, everything has to be perfect on the plate”
On the specials for the night were dishes highlighting the cuisine from Sardinia. One dish which I could not resist was the spaghetti with bottarga – a favourite of mine which is beautiful to eat when done right (e.g. at Angela Hartnett’s Murano). This is an extremely simple dish with 3 main ingredients – pasta, garlic and bottarga. Unfortunately, the dish was completely ruined by the copious amount of black pepper in the dish resulting in the beautiful flavour of the bottarga, the main event here, being lost. The great Thomas Keller in his French Laundry cookbook once wrote that the distinction between a good chef is that he understands the difference between salt (a necessary ingredient used to season each dish) and pepper (a spice which is optional and thus requires careful thought about its application). Whoever it is that was responsible for the final dish that arrived at the table needs better understanding of the the application of both ingredients. Essentially, this was a plate of black pepper spaghetti. I left half the plate uneaten. No one really cared.
The better half went for saffron and asparagus risotto which came as a sloppy mush of rice. Perhaps it is the preference of diners from this part of the world to eat congee-style risotto but it really was not to our taste. Half the plate left uneaten. Again no one enquired why.
For mains, we tried veal a la Milanese – the Italian version of a schnitzel. Now my fiancee grew up in Austria and has eaten enough battered meat in her 30+ years of existence to know the subtle differences between a good and bad version of deep-fried baby cow. I think her main issue here is that the cutlet had not been pounded out flat enough and yet the meat was cooked through (i.e. so well done you could pass it off as an old boot) so she spent ages chewing. And chewing…. and chewing. At some point, she gave up and asked for some ketchup to make things palatable. Our waiter looked at us barbarians in shock and ran away. I think the chef got wind of this because when he made his way around the dining room, ours was the table he actually gave a cursory hello. Wouldn’t want to know what we actually thought of the meal I guess…
At least it was not all doom and gloom because we finished on a relative high with their signature Tiramisu made with Illy coffee and served in a coffee cup. The tiramisu had plenty of strong coffee flavour although given that this is Malaysia, it was lacking a boozy kick.
When we finished and were heading back to our hotel room, my dear better half said to me “I wish we had just ordered room service”. I think that just about sums up our meal.