He looked every inch the king of the kitchen (aka executive chef in hotel parlance) in his white top, his name and position embroidered on the left hand side, and black trousers. He, it seems, left the toque. I found him gracious, coming over to our table – the type you stand around while munching peanuts and drinking your selected poison – inquiring why we didn’t have drinks and saying, in the same breath, that they were readily available.
I was intrigued by the microphone he later clipped around his head.
Wine pairing seemed commonplace for The Ritz-Carlton, Jakarta. Why not pair the six-course dinner with Chivas 12, 18 and 25? That was the thought running through my mind when I read the e-mail advert for Taste of Luxury – Glamorous Pairing Dinner Experience, which piqued my interest. The incredibly fascinating menu sealed my decision to enjoy a ritzy dinner created by Executive Chef Rudolf Blatter at its Italian restaurant, Lobo. It was also a sort of celebration, I gathered from the Chivas connoisseur who, together with the host, presided over the dinner, of the return of Chivas 25. The big boss of Chivas disappeared from liquor cabinets during the Prohibition and only made a comeback five years ago.
I thought Blatter could have his town TV show as he registered well on the video wall placed inside Lobo. That explained the microphone! Stationed at the kitchen, he put in plain words the intricate and meticulous process involved in making each dish before they were taken out for the guests to savour. He also explained where the ingredients came from while plating the dish. The plus point – he didn’t swear nor throw tantrums.
Blatter whetted the appetite of the guests with the sharpness of a sashimi sword. The first to parade out of the kitchen was the amuse bouche Mojito Scallop with Caviar. There was a tangy flavour that burst with each bit of the fresh scallop followed by a quick swig of the shooter glass. The Chivas connoisseur suggested, in between bites, to take sips of Chivas 12, the perfect partner for the amuse bouche and the next two courses.
Next was the Smoked Salmon and Sundried Tomato Timbale with Mango Relish and the clip of Blatter putting together the dish with ease and speed. The smoky flavour of the salmon, sweetish taste of the sundried tomato timbale and the juicy mango relish was a delightful merry-go-round ride of flavours in the mouth. Add in a sip of Chivas 12 and it was a titillating eruption of zest and tang in the mouth.
The way Blatter gently placed the dollop of white froth in the middle of the Shitake Mushroom Bisque with White Truffle Oil, the third course marched out of the kitchen, was another showcase of dexterity. Flavour and design was a perfect match. Some mushroom bisque can either be a tad thick or watery or with too much truffle oil, but Blatter’s was just right on the palate. Design-wise, the froth seemed to obey Blatter and his team. Each curve mirrored perfect meticulousness.
Served in a wine glass, the Watermelon and Lime Sorbet Infused with Campari, the fourth course, came after a group of ladies finished dancing and the lead singer, in a very tight gown, working her pipes.The sorbet was a little too bitter for my taste although the bed of gelatine cubes the watermelon sorbet sat on was yummy. Nonetheless it worked in cleansing my palate in preparation for the main course.
Taking command of the dining room again, Blatter went on to explain his pièce de résistance, Duet of Capon and Sea Bass with Leek.
“The baby leek, potato, asparagus, and baby fennel are drizzled with butter sauce,” explained Blatter as he assembled the collage of vegetables with the sea bass and the capon. “The capon is the breast part and is from France. Enjoy.”
Chivas 18, which was made in 1997, partnered the duet.
“Its complex and luxurious taste makes for a memorable finish. Bon appétit!” added the Chivas connoisseur before making his way to his table.
The stars of the dinner had to make an appearance and they did it in style. Half-way through the sea bass and capon, models in flowing gowns cat-walked on stage while cradling bottles of Chivas Regal in their arms.
Tall, mild-mannered Blatter took to the video wall one last time. This time he explained about my much-awaited part of the dinner. He served my all-time favourite, Tiramisu, for dessert in which his version was a huge serving that packed a wallop. Set in a deep cappuccino cup, he mixed it, apart from the requisite caffeine, with Chivas 25 instead of Bailey’s for that “smooth and rich” taste. I felt zings of energy and tiny bolts of electricity meandering through my system late in the evening.
Luxury never tasted so good and pulling off such a caper is no easy feat. It could have gone two ways – completely kitschy or extremely well such as the case with Blatter’s endeavour. The bitter watermelon sorbet is nothing but a matter of personal taste – I think of sorbet as a poor imitation of ice cream. The experience was truly lavish from start to finish thanks to the sublime cooking of Chef Blatter.
*Taste of Luxury – Glamorous Pairing Dinner Experience was held on September 11 at Lobo, The Ritz-Carlton, Jakarta.