At the beginning of the dinner, the maitre’d declared that it’s not fine dining. Instead it is theatre, multimedia and good food coming together to excite your senses. It is definitely a feast for the 5 senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.
Everyone in the dinner service starts and stop the meal together. We were booked for the 6.30pm slot but we were asked to arrive at least 15 min before. For the early birds, we were chaperoned into the Martini Bar on the Mezza9 floor.
Here we were presented with several choices of cocktails specially concocted for the dinner. I went for the voyage (vodka, pineapple juice, passion syrup, mint syrup, fresh mint leaves served in a whisky tumbler) while Princess had the only non-alcoholic drink on the list, east india (peach puree, mango juice, lemon juice served in the tall glass). We both find the cocktails too sweet 😉
The Dining Hall
I have thought they would use one of the private room as the dining hall, but to my surprise they used the Mezza9 wine cellar to host the dinner. That’s already a plus as the atmosphere of the wine cellar already added to the mystery of the dinner to come.
The cellar was decorated with two long dining tables, each sitting 10 persons. Multimedia projectors were mounted above the tables and shone brightly on each seat.
And the journey begins
So the story goes, the little chef (le petite chef in French) is thumb sized cook from Marseille who thought very highly of himself. He started a food stand in the port city but did not have any business. Then he decided to improve his cooking by getting inspirations from Marco Polo’s travels. And so he set off in his little boat to retrace Marco’s route.
The first course was amuse bouche with inspirations from the “hometown” of the little chef. Aptly named Treasures of the Ocean, we picked the dainty appetisers off the plate with our fingers. No cutlery was needed, as the intention was to mimic the dining experience on board a ship, as the entire dining table transformed into an ocean with choppy waves
bouillabaisse terrine, rouille crouton, burnt lime
Bouillabaisse hails from the Provence region of France, and in particular the port city of Marseille. It has always been a melting pot of a town and this classic, which combines local fish with white wine and saffron, is the perfect example of its varied cuisine. Rouille is a sauce that consists of olive oil with breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper. It has been said (by a chef from Marseille) that “if you serve bouillabaisse without croutons topped with rouille, then an angel in Marseille dies, that is if you can find one.”
Here, the bouillabaisse has been processed into a terrine and garnished with a drop of rouille served on a wafer. The terrine was a bit fishy, so you need a dash of lime but that is contradicting to the original bouillabaisse.
crab salad, kaluga caviar, radish
Kaluga caviar comes from China. Before you clinch, read this article from Bloomberg, The grey eggs have a soft and satisfying taste with excellent pop. The crab meat was shredded, mixed with spices and aioli and served in a wonton cup.
First stop… Middle East
After a rough travel over the sea, the little chef landed in a sandy beach that stretched to no end. He has arrived in the Middle East! Aided by a new friend, a little sparrow, Le Petit Chef landed in a bag of spices in the middle of an exotic Arabian market. These spices, in a riot of colours, are inspiration for his next meal. The cuisine is characterised by a wealth of land and sea production, and the region offers a variety of dishes depending on the season, which gives a very varied kitchen plate.
The appetiser course consisted of four servings of Middle Eastern flavoured small bites that included a tabbouleh, a falafel, eggplant and kebab.
beetroot falafel, avocado, mint
Falafel is a deep-fried ball, or a flat or doughnut-shaped patty, made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. Herbs, spices, and onion relatives are commonly added to the dough. Here, the falafel was made with the traditional chickpea with a twist- beetroot has been included to give it more dimension in terms of flavour and texture. Avocado mousse is used as a sauce with fresh mint to clean the palate. Unfortunately the falafel was cold.
“kebab” beef tartare, eggplant caviar
The “kebab” beef tartare comes with a peppery slab of eggplant caviar that melts delightfully in the mouth. The beef patty was aburi (torched) for a smoky finish, gathering the beef tartare like a rare beef burger patty.
The spicy tiger prawn salad was pleasantly refreshing. The prawns were crunchy and sweet, laced with a subtle hint of spice and lots of tang from the lime.
Tabbouleh is a Levantine vegetarian salad made mostly of finely chopped parsley, with tomatoes, mint, onion, bulgur, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Here, they have used cous cous instead of bulgur
Next stop— India
Le Petit Chef soared across the searing desert (on the back of his new-found friend) and ended up in the land of dichotomies and magic, India. He took the time to go around Dhoby Ghaut, Gateway of India and Taj Maha, before taking the classic Princess Di pose in front of the icy marble tomb.
Butter chicken, almond, naan bread, cucumber yoghurt raita
The kiss of heat lingered pleasantly upon the tongue when savouring the spices of the fragrant butter chicken with almonds (a classy version of the British Indian inspired butter chicken). Be warned: The sauce was so delicious that I mopped the dish clean with the naan. A cucumber yogurt raita was provided to temper the heat of the dish, which was unnecessary as it was not as spicy as one would expect. The naan bread was soft and pillowy, with just a dash of butter for added flavour.
Butter chicken originates from northern India, but chicken tikka masala is actually a British invention. We have Kundan Lal Gujral to thank for creating what we know today as murgh makhani, or butter chicken, in 1948. The spices used for the butter chicken was displayed as part of the presentation. The lighting of neon purple and pink was a bit disturbing, but luckily it was a really nice butter chicken.
The blistering heat proved too much for Le Petit Chef to bear, and he decided to head to the rocky terrain of the frosty Himalayan mountains. The chef ploughed through the snow and offered guests a cooling respite from the burning spices of India.
Frozen lemon ginger, chilli oil
First, the theatrics. A very strong Darjeeling tea was poured onto the dry ice, causing the place to be filled with a sweet smelling tea scent. The palate cleanser before the main, frozen lemon ginger sorbet with chilli oil melted on the tongue, and within seconds, the chilli oil hit – not in a bad way, but on the contrary, the contrasting flavours of spicy, sweet and sour were strangely addictive. Himalayan pink salt was used to bring out the flavour of the lemon ginger. Entire blocks of the salt were placed on the plating, but no, you don’t eat that.
Main attraction… China
The pocket-sized hero left the freezing Himalayan mountains and found himself in the heart of China, where he stumbled upon a terrifying fire-breathing dragon. After a mad scramble to escape the perilous clutches of the dragon, the chef accidentally set off the fireworks that led to the next course – an exquisite Chinese meal in claypot.
The steamed lobster was cooked with ginseng herbs and soy sauce in a claypot together with an abalone dumpling. The claypot was kept warm with a candle.
On the side was a sticky mould of yam brown rice wrapped in a lotus leaf, redolent with the fragrance of truffles. The truffle was sliced back in the kitchen and by the time it was served, all the fragrance was gone.
Before you think of Cantonese wrapped lotus leaf rice, it was not. The rice was cooked before and wrapped with the lotus leaf, but the parcel was not steamed to release the lotus leaf taste.
I decided to toss the truffle together with shang mee (fried e-fu noodles) into the lobster stock. The truffle still did nothing to the noodles. I began to think this was second grade truffles from China.
The dumpling was chopped abalone and minced pork enveloped in a translucent wonton skin. In addition, a whole Dalian abalone was served with the claypot. It was hidden from view until you worked through the lobster.
Overall, it was a good main course, very flavourful. If only the truffle was better quality and sliced by the table.
Finally… back to France
The finale was a dessert featuring three of the most expensive spices in the world: saffron, cardamom and vanilla. Le Petit Chef digitally prepared the dessert before your eyes as he pottered about, mixing the ingredients. Within moments, the caramelised saffron and cardamom rice pudding magically manifested itself.
caramelised saffron and cardamom rice pudding
The grainy texture of the rice was a lovely contrast to the smoothness of the pudding. Sweet, thin layer of caramelised sugar that crowns the pudding added a tasty crunch.
The petit fours were a bit stingy. There was no time to linger around as the 9 pm seating was already waiting outside. We have to promptly end at 8.30 pm for them to reset the place.
To finish off, a camomile tea for me to ease me to sleep tonight after a good meal.
Overall, the senses of sight and sound were truly gratified by the multimedia presentation. Smell was challenged by different spices and I really loved the dry ice and tea trick. Touch was tickled by the raw ingredients. After all this was a dinner, so how was taste satisfied? No much, it was a good dinner, but it would not invoke a second visit. Princess was not impressed and she is the gourmet of the family.
(Reservation required via website, all seats were prepaid, current run until Dec 2019)
Le Petit Chef
Grand Hyatt Singapore, Mezza9 La Cave Wine Cellar
Tel : +65 9719-0314.
Date Visited : Sep 2019