Dessert is always the best part of the meal, as a true-blue sweet tooth would tell you. But it can go either way – good or bad. It can be extremely bad if the chef’s coup de grace proved cloying. But Chef Stéphane Buron was pure master – god even – in his kingdom of pots, pans, cutlery and fresh produce. From May 8 to 10, he satisfied the palate of diners for lunch and dinner at Orient 8, the French and Pan-Asian restaurant of Hotel Mulia Senayan-Jakarta.
Chef Buron’s sweet coup de grace belied all thoughts of how it would send one on a wall-crawling sugar high because of its sugar-packed entourage. Called Le carré velours chocolat, it featured hazelnut dacquiose, mascarpone sabayon, Valrhona chocolate ganache and a scoop of coffee- caramel ice cream, which, au contraire, deconstructed the usual perception of French pastries as worryingly saccharine. It was simply sweet like the sweetness of first love.
The diners were unable to converse with the Chef de cuisine of Le Chabichou in Courchevel, France – unless one was fluent in French – but his dishes let his expertise shine through. His credentials, to wit, include two Michelin stars tucked under his toque, the distinction of being awarded the 2004 Meilleur Ouvier de France (Best Craftsman in France) and a Trophy of Gastronomy as Best Chef of the Year 2013, separating him, a true- blue chef from a hack chef. Backed by his Hotel Mulia team – Philip Saunier, Ladia, and Budi – my date with the Michelin chef was underway. The table d’hôte came in two choices: six courses or eight courses with the latter featuring the additional Le Foie gras and Le pigeon fermier.
My six-course no red meat-meal began with the creamy St Jacques et caviar, a bowl of French sea scallops, jelly mirror of cauliflower and Ossetra caviar, with its buttery flavour gliding smoothly on my tongue and whetting my appetite for the next dish. Within 20 minutes, the La langoustine arrived. It was, as Philip explained, a serving of roasted Scottish scampi perfumed with aniseed, roasted beetroot enhanced in lime zest and balsamic vinegar served with chicken jus and green leeks coulis. Succulent and flavourful!
Orient 8 was packed to the rafters: the table in front of us was a big group of eight diners; behind us was a family of four while across the room were a horde of single and twosome diners sipping wine and tucking into their plates. Service was smooth. As if trained like Secret Service agents adept in reading body language, no turn-of-the head, half-empty glass or empty bread plate went unnoticed. Dining was truly an enjoyable experience.
It was time for the third course and Ladia placed before me a dish called Le loup de mer, which is a confit of French sea bass fillet in a wheat bouillon, smoked cream emulsion and crushed ratte potatoes with diced duck.
“The fillet of sea bass is slow cooked and topped with crispy bass skin,” detailed Philip of the scrumptious dish.
That Chef Buron is an expert in the kitchen was now so clear to the diners. He has, after all, been at the helm of Chabichou Hotel’s two-Michelin restaurant, Le Bistro Chabotte, for the past 30 years. Dare to doubt the wisdom of the Chef?
And the fourth dish left the kitchen and was elegantly placed on my table. This time, said Philip, since I do not eat beef, Chef Buron replaced my dish with Poularde de Bresse, chicken balottine with straw potatoes, vegetables and “Albufera” sauce.
“The lean chicken meat is complemented by the onion-flavoured ice cream,” he pointed to the wine glass.
Meanwhile, my dining companion was very much satisfied with his Le boeuf “Souvenir d’enfrance” – a thick square of wagyu beef rib eye, “Childhood Souvenir” beef tartar rounded off by scallion sherbet and straw potatoes. His verdict: the wagyu was juicy and done to perfection.
My date with the Chef Buron – my first with a Michelin chef – was nearing its end, but he prolonged the moment before presenting the sweet finale with a pleasant L’agrume.
“Now for the pre-dessert,” said Philip, drawing our attention to the Christmas ball-ish object on the centre of my plate.
Continued Philip: “Chef has prepared a wonderful candied mandarin with light citrus fruit flavoured mousse and gingerbread crème brûlée. With your spoon, tap the centre to crack it open. Bon appétit!”
I was never fond of citrusy desserts with hints of gingerbread but Chef Buron completely changed my mind. The fruity- gingerish taste was refreshing on the palate. I was more than ready for sweet finale.
Finally – dessert! I sliced through Le carré velours chocolat, broke a piece from the chocolate square to nibble, and scooped the coffee-caramel ice cream.
“Would you like coffee or tea to go with your dessert, Madame?” asked Ladia.
And the date came to an end. Mille fois merci, Chef Buron.