STARRY, STARRY NIGHT

The date with another Michelin chef began with a Trio of Canapes.

The date with another Michelin chef began with a Trio of Canapes.

Taking command of Hotel Mulia’s kitchen in October was Chef Michael White whose culinary expertise brooks no argument. The Wisconsin-born chef treated gourmands and ilk to an Italian meal at its sister hotel, Hotel Mulia Senayan one Friday evening, which saw the elegant Orient 8 buzzing with activities, as plates whizzed in and out of the kitchen.

The two- star Michelin chef opened the evening with a Trio of Canapés laid out on a rectangular glass plate. Philippe Sauniere, Orient 8’s maitre d’hôtel, suggested I start from the right and move my way up, which meant tucking into the fillet of amberjack with sturgeon caviar and mussel crema first then following it up with the white truffle egg toasts with fonduta al parmigiano, and ending with the meatless version of the beef tartare al coltello with pickled chiodini mushrooms.

Empty tables were filling up with couples, trios and groups of people ready for an unforgettable gastronomic experience, as the sound of wine glasses clinking and the ting of the Lazlo Yamazaki tableware blended into a sweet syncopated rhythm. The crew, clad in white shirts and black vests paired with black trousers, moved around with bowls of warm bread – focaccia and mini baguette – ready for the picking.

A plate of chilled lobster, or Astice, for the second course.

A plate of chilled lobster, or Astice, for the second course.

Within 10 or so minutes the second course arrived and a huge oval plate was carefully placed before me. It was time for the Astice, chilled blue lobster on a bed of burrata di adria and laden with pacchini, eggplant al funghetto, basil and rocket salad. My palate was delightfully tickled by the merry blend of fresh lobster, soft and creamy burrata and crunchy rocket salad.

The first-timer to Indonesia first landed in Bali and had just helmed the kitchen of Hotel Mulia’s sister property, The Mulia, Mulia Resort and Villas, for a night of culinary bliss. And it seemed he also enjoyed the sun and surf prior to packing up his knives for Jakarta with the tell-tale sun-kissed complexion peeking through his chef’s uniform. Trawling the Internet for news on this talented chef – the poster on him announced that he is one of the 40 influential people in New York – he is said, as reported in armonk.dailyvoice.com, to open “Campagna, an elegant new restaurant in the former Farmhouse at Bedford Post Inn,” in November.

The third course was Calamari – very tender and flavourful squid stuffed with shrimp and lobster atop zucchini ripieno, basil, and tomato conserva. There is always this fear that the squid would be too chewy for comfort but with two Michelin stars tucked under his toque, the squid and my palate were in good hands.

It's tender and juicy calamari for the third course.

It’s tender and juicy calamari for the third course.

An Italian dinner is not an Italian dinner if pasta is not present on the menu. At least, that is how I see it. Pasta is the piece de résistance of the meal, and the New York-based chef didn’t disappoint, making sure that two pasta dishes would make their way to everyone’s table. Fusilli reposing in the middle of the bowl made was his opening salvo for the pasta dishes. The handmade pasta cords were smothered with tomato, crab and sea urchin ragu, which was served warm and best eaten quickly.

It's fusilli for the first pasta dish.

It’s fusilli for the first pasta dish.

Agnolotti, classic piedmontese meat ravioli, is the second pasta dish.

Agnolotti, classic piedmontese meat ravioli, is the second pasta dish.

Second pasta to sashay from the kitchen and gently placed before me by Dinar – or was it Adry? – was the meatless fettuccine with parmiagiano fonduta sprinkled with shaved white truffle. Meanwhile the rest of the room were presented with Agnolotti, or classic piedmontese meat ravioli with shaved white truffle and parmigiano fonduta. Both pasta dishes were al dente and brimming with flavour- rich, tangy tomato for the former and “garlicky” for the latter. Truffles, or mushrooms, truthfully don’t really have a particular taste because it is its aroma that sends gourmands on a natural high.

Chef White let more than several minutes past before the sixth course was revealed. The lull gave everyone a chance to take in the lavish ambience of Orient 8: its pristine white tables, soft and ambient lighting, the play of lights on the “garden scenery” through the windows, and the gargantuan vase teeming with flowers under the magnificent chandelier hanging from the ceiling painted with the tongue-in-cheek image of Napoleon Bonaparte-in-sunnies. The din of table chatter rose and fell as the night progressed, as people enjoyed their Italian repast, depending on which course they were at.

The touch of elegance is enhanced with the "garden scene" through the windows.

The touch of elegance is enhanced with the “garden scene” through the windows.

The Orient 8 dining room bespeaks of elegance and grace.

The Orient 8 dining room bespeaks of elegance and grace.

A touch of art and ambient lighting are the marks of Orient 8's graceful interiors.

A touch of art and ambient lighting are the marks of Orient 8’s graceful interiors.

And the eighth course was ready – Tagliata, sliced beef loin, bone marrow and escarole crostino, and sugo al vino rosso. Chef White recommended medium rare for the beef, which my friends took note of, while I was presented with an alternative of baked chicken on a bed of olives and tomato sauce. The beef, I gathered from my friends, was succulent and smooth on the palate, as they took bites of their wagyu.

Tuck into Tagliata, tender wagyu beef loin, for the sixth course.

Tuck into Tagliata, tender wagyu beef loin, for the sixth course.

The alternative to Tagliata - baked chicken.

The alternative to Tagliata – baked chicken.

The night was drawing to an end soon and Chef White wasn’t just going to let it go away quietly. For the ninth and 10th courses, torta and bomboloni with petit fours provided the sweet coup de grace to the starry, starry night. Torta was a square plate of 70% guanaja valrhona chocolate bar complemented by squares of hazelnut meringue, dollops of carmello and a scoop of hazelnut gelato. Combining chocolate, hazelnut and carmello only spelled “heaven”.

Completely sealing the night was a bowl of bomboloni, Italian donut holes, with hazelnut and honey dipping sauces. There is always room for the sweet stuff, and it helps to have a cup of peppermint tea to go with it.

A pastry lover's delight - Torta with hazelnut gelato.

A pastry lover’s delight – Torta with hazelnut gelato.

There's always room for dessert - bomboloni, Italian donut holes.

There’s always room for dessert – bomboloni, Italian donut holes.

Understanding the meaning of the Michelin stars that are awarded to – and taken away from like what happened to Gordon Ramsey – is only fully achieved when one actually savours dishes prepared by these “starred” chefs. For all intents and purposes, one star means very good, two stars mean excellent, and three stars mean exceptional. I had delighted in two-star Michelin chef Buron’s meticulously crafted French dishes last May when he was in command of Hotel Mulia’s kitchen for his culinary event. Six months later, the superb culinary journey continued with Chef White’s dishes, which, like Chef Buron, showed master skills at work. Now, I am counting the months until March because as Dian, part of Orient 8’s reception, mentioned, it is the time another Michelin star chef will commandeer Hotel Mulia’s kitchen with style and panache.

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