Posts Tagged ‘Hotel Mulia’


Luce and Attems wines waiting to be poured

History has seen King Henry VIII making heads roll for whatever he deemed were their transgressions. But somehow the Luce Estate escaped his edict related Peter Ferguson. Apparently, there must have been something in their wines that he enjoyed, continued Ferguson, as laughter erupted from the cordoned off room. This was fact number one that had me intrigued me about the red and white wines my friends and were all set to taste that night. Continuing with his annotation about Luce Estate, fact number two was completely unexpected. Ferguson revealed that their wines are organic – meaning pesticides are not used to ward off the bugs and whatnot that ruin crops. They use earthworms which are then hunted by birds. The winemaking process is all natural, he emphasized.
Mr Ferguson is the Global Sales Director- Commercial Director of Luce Della Vite and Attems, wine brands of the Luce Estate. He presided over the Luce Wine Dinner at il Mare of Hotel Mulia on September 26. It was a night of unforgettable gastronomic culinary experience with special thanks to Chef Roberto who, in the words of the Ferguson, “did a magnificent job of pairing the dishes and wines.” 

I couldn’t agree more. Chef Roberto’s opening salvo for the five-course meal was cod fish tripe, green peas, Chilean sea bass confit that he paired with Attems Pinot Grigio 2015 with its crisp citrus alternating with ripe apricot bouquet. The vibrant fruitiness of the wine proved an excellent partner to the fresh, flavorful fish: it was a smooth tango of sipping and dining.

First dish: cod fish trip with Attems Pinot Grigio 2015

Second dish: Don’t call me lobster soup paired with Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato 2015

Following up the energetic opening that greatly stoked the diners’ palates, Roberto served up a whimsically named dish that belied a taste that one would seriously relish. He was on a roll as he partnered Don’t call me lobster soup with Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato 2015 and its aromatics of fragrant strawberry and wild cherry mingled with roasted espresso beans and ginseng. The lingering crisp finish ending on a tasty bitter note on the palate combined effortlessly with the succulent seafood trying hard not to look like lobster. Scooping from the bottom was a secret on how to enjoy it that Maurizio, head of il Mare, shared with us as he table-hopped making certain everything was fine.

We were then immediately introduced to the next two stars of the night, Lucente Tenuta della Vite 2013 and Luce Tenuta della Vite 2006. Lucente, sourced from the same vineyards as Luce, arrived first and was a perfect companion to the truffle scented duck tortelli, mushrooms, and foie gras. Its underlying crisp balsam taste blended with the succulence of the roasted duck, tickling the palate to no end. Close at the heels of Lucente 2013 was Luce 2006, the first wine created in Montalcino by blending Sangiovese and Merlot. Its rich aromatics of red berry fruit, dried plum, and blackberry plus pungent balsam and sweet vanilla provided the flavorful backdrop for the charcoal grilled lamb rack served with eggplant and sesame to further dazzle the diners.

Third dish: truffle scented duck tortelli paired with Lucente Tenuta della Vite 2013

Fourth dish: charcoal grilled lamb, eggplant, and sesame paired with Luce Tenuta della Vite 2006

As the hours moved towards the new day, the conversation at our table grew animated and so did the laughter. Yulianto, a non- wine drinker, was taking to the different wines poured into the glasses like fish to water. The creases on his brow had vanished and his thoughts on work were eclipsed by deciding on which bottle of wine he liked the most. Meanwhile, Theresia was comparing notes on the previous wine dinner she had attended and was discovering Luce was more to her glass of wine. 

Enjoying my first glass of Luce wine

Good friends, Luce wine, and good food – simple pleasures of life

Chef Roberto, like a maestro of the orchestra coming to the conclusion a moving music piece, closed dinner on a soft, elegant note with the creamy strawberry mille-feuille, leaving an audience fully satiated but sans the uncomfortable heavy feeling in the tummy. A wine pairing dinner can be an easy affair to conduct for professional chefs, but it takes a maestro of the kitchen and a top quality wine maker to create an unparalleled dining experience. My glasses are empty – I need more Luce, please. 



Katnook wines

I would like to think that Chef Mathew Macartney was preoccupied with the food prep during his one-night culinary event that he could only address one section of the diners at Il Mare at Hotel Mulia. It would have been nice to exchange pleasantries with him even just to say how I enjoyed his dinner. Nonetheless, Theresia and I did have the pleasure of meeting Alison from Katnook vineyards, the night’s supplier of red and white wines for the five-course wine-pairing dinner. I am not much of a wine lover, but Katnook took my palate by surprise. Unfortunately, Katnook is not yet available in Indonesia said Alison. However, she assured us before moving on to the next table that their wines will be on the shelves of stores, bars, and hotels in Jakarta soon.


A bowl of an assortment of freshly baked bread got the ball rolling for the 7 pm culinary journey. Chef Macartney’s opening salvo was Eggplant “Tofu” with pickled vegetables and burnt bread paired with Katnook Founders Block Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Creativity is a strong suit of Macartney. I was fooled by what I thought were mushrooms, which turned out to be cream cheese balls after I’d popped them into my mouth. His creative juices went into high gear in the next course. The plating of the Shiso Cured Salmon with kohlrabi, passion fruit, and roasted sesame resembled a miniature Japanese garden that had me forget my heart’s ache. Its taste had a light, minty flavour to it that complemented the Katnook Founders Block Chardonnay 2014 that was light on the palate as well.

Eggplant tofu

Eggplant “Tofu”

shiso cured salmon

Shiso Cured Salmon

Segueing into the third course, the strong – at least to my taste – Katnook Estate Merlot 2014 provided a good partnership to the succulent Canadian Lobster with avocado, chicken dashi, and kombu. There was this unfamiliar, but merry tap dance of flavours on my tongue that egged me on to take sip after sip of the merlot.

Canadian lobster

Canadian lobster

Chef Macartney veered away from seafood for the fourth course, opting to serve duck that brimmed with succulence just by looking at it. The Roasted Grimaud Duck Breast with banana purée, foie gras, and Pedro Ximenez glaze had this sweetish taste that jived well with Katnook’s stellar wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.

duck breast ver 3

Roasted Grimaud Duck Breast

As the night rushed through the hours, my table teemed with glasses of white and red wines that Akhsin, a staff of Il Mare, made sure was never empty. At one point, I forgot which wine paired with which dish, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore. Each sip of wine and each bite of the dish engaged in a thrilling dance of flavours that put a zing in Macartney’s culinary journey. My conversation with gal-pal Theresia circumvented the tedious trials at work – without effort – and focused on the positive such as the food, the ambience of Il Mare, plans for the future, and hopes as well.

Keep the wine coming


Akhsin made certain our wine glasses were always full.

Katnook ShirAZ

Akhsin presents the Katnook Estate Prodigy Shiraz 2010

Chef Macartney wasn’t done yet. His second main course was Char-grilled Black Angus Sirloin – the braised short rib with morel purée and onion jus was any meat-lover’s delight with its juiciness. This dish was partnered with Katnook’s Prodigy Shiraz 2010, which went well with my alternative dish of chicken. The kitchen was, unfortunately, way too busy to even tell me how the chicken was done. Was Chef Macartney miffed that I eschewed his Angus sirloin?

chicken-alternative to Angus sirloin

an alternative to the Char-grilled Black Angus Sirloin – chicken

The chef brought his culinary journey to an end close to 10pm with his sweet coup de grace of a quartet of desserts that would more than satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. Led by the caramelised white chocolate mousse, the foursome was completed by the chiboust, Mandarin, and chocolate sorbet. It was a merry-go-round of taste – chocolaty, fruity, and creamy – finished with any sip of wine of your picking.

quartet of dessert

the quartet of dessert

Bottoms up

Despite being unable to meet Chef Macartney, it was a flavourful, palate-tickling experience that changed my perception of wine as my last option for drinks. Katnook’s wines are now part of my to-go-to drinks alongside vodka and champagne.


Admittedly, I am a creature of habit and chillaxing at the Cascade Lounge is as second nature as breathing. The conviviality that wraps itself around Cascade Lounge is difficult to parry. It beckons you to leave your worries of the world at the entrance and lose yourself in the elegant ambience of Hotel Mulia’s commodious and comfortable lounge.

Be captivated with the Russian trio at the Cascade Lounge.

Be captivated with the Russian trio at the Cascade Lounge.

Against this luxurious backdrop is a group of musicians that had an unmistakable duende that attracts the lounge goers, soothing their ruffled feathers and nearly frayed selves. The trio of Russian pianist, cellist, and violinist serenade listeners with their classical renditions of pop songs, such as “Hotel California”. The euphonious melody sashays in the air, dipping and diving around the tea-sipping, scone-nibbling clients. Dressed in pink or blue or tangerine gowns that exude simple classiness, the trio, as I noted during my visits, perform in the afternoons during tea time hours of 3 to 6 in the afternoon. They are followed much later in the evening by a trio of singers – two women and a man – from the Philippines whose repertoire are jazzy renditions of pop songs.

Weekends are good to relax with friends.

Weekends are good to relax with friends.

Great musicians playing in the background, nibbling on tea time delights, chillaxing with friends - life can be good at times.

Great musicians playing in the background, nibbling on tea time delights, chillaxing with friends – life can be good at times.

During my last visit, a brief chat with one of the staff before heading to the Taittinger champagne Dinner at Orient 8 revealed that they lived in an apartment near the hotel just like the Filipino chanteuses and male counterpart. Also, earlier on, I learned that the cellist has an ardent fan. Her baby boy dressed smartly in his nappy, carried by female friend-compatriot, came to the lounge and upon seeing her performing greeted her with baby laughter and, if he could, he would have “run” to the stage.


Signed menu card

Welcome to Orient 8!

Welcome to Orient 8!

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.

It's chocolate indulgence with Le carré velours chocolat.

It’s chocolate indulgence with Le carré velours chocolat.

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.

Savour the ambience of elegance at Orient 8.

Savour the ambience of elegance at Orient 8.

The beef version of the St. Jacques et caviar appetiser has the French  Sea Scallops in a beef "Pot-Au-Feu".

The beef version of the St. Jacques et caviar appetiser has the French
Sea Scallops in a beef “Pot-Au-Feu”.

This  St. Jacques et caviar one no beef in it.

This version of St. Jacques et caviar has no beef in it.

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!

It's La langoustine - lightly roasted scampi - for the second course.

It’s La langoustine – lightly roasted scampi – for the second course.

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.

Le loup de mer - fillet of sea bass  -is part of the menu too.

Le loup de mer – fillet of sea bass -is part of the menu too.

“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.

It's chicken - Poularde de Bresse - for non-beef eaters.

It’s chicken – Poularde de Bresse – for non-beef eaters.

“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.

Beef lovers will enjoy the Le bouef "Souvenir d'enfrance".

Beef lovers will enjoy the Le bouef “Souvenir d’enfrance”.

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.

It's L'agrume for the pre-dessert.

It’s L’agrume for the pre-dessert.

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!”

Crack open the L'agrume to get to the candied Mandarin, citrus fruit mousse and gingerbread crème brûlée.

Crack open the L’agrume to get to the candied Mandarin, citrus fruit mousse and gingerbread crème brûlée.

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.

“Tea, please.”

“Certainly, Madame.”

And the date came to an end. Mille fois merci, Chef Buron.

Photo-op with Chef Buron

Photo-op with Chef Buron  [Photography by Kelvin Gotama]


Travelling in Jakarta is not for the faint-hearted and most especially the curmudgeon because snail-pace is the norm of driving on the sardine-packed roads, which wasn’t the case about five years ago. Living in Bekasi and heading to Jakarta for business or recreation was a matter of an hour’s plus journey, give and take spots of traffic snarls. But the last two years has made the journey even more trying than usual. Take, for instance, my trip to the Philippine Embassy on Jalan Imam Bonjol. It was a two-hour plus derriere-numbing trip that was all the more made insufferable with the loud sighs of the driver.

“We are in Indonesia, Pak,” I wanted to remind the driver, but decided against it unless he saw it fit to throw a tantrum.

A traveller in road in Jakarta entails being armed to the teeth. I always have a book in my bag; my friends have their iPods. But there are times when these two weapons fail to calm agitated nerves so a pit stop to a cafe would do the trick. There really is no use of being a martyr on the road plied with cars at bumper-to-bumper. The travel time to the Embassy was longer than my business in the embassy, which took less than 30 minutes so afternoon tea at Hotel Mulia, located at close proximity to the embassy, was in order.

Hotel Mulia would be a vade mecum of mine if it were a book. It is relaxing being in the hotel at the end of the work day, which is why a gal-pal of mine, when she was still based in Jakarta, made it her watering-hole. The Cascade Lounge, its vast floor area replete with chesterfields suffused with pillows, was very inviting; the soft lights and carefully situated davenports created a special nook for every wearied traveller. A trio of women musicians, resplendent in their shimmering bedazzled turquoise gowns, serenaded the frazzled guests lolling on the sofas or gazing at the manicured jungle landscape fitted with a mini waterfall beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows. It was the perfect place to past the time sipping tea and slicing through a piece of strawberry shortcake after nibbling on prawn spring rolls and chicken wings.

I can’t think of any better way to wait for the infamous Jakarta traffic to untangle itself. Can you?

Afternoon tea and cake is one delightful way to wait for traffic to let up.

Afternoon tea and cake is one delightful way to wait for traffic to let up.


The heat is crippling and the traffic snarls are more than enough to break your hold on sanity. If only reality was as easy as boarding a flight to paradise but mere mortals have only their daydreams to run to when reality fillips you interminably on the nose. Fortunately, I managed to dodge that last fillip and land myself in a little cosy hideaway in the heart of scorching, slow-moving traffic Jakarta.

Time to lounge and smell the roses at The Cascade Lounge.

Time to lounge and smell the roses at The Cascade Lounge.

Hotel Mulia’s The Cascade Lounge affords one room to breathe. Its capacious space lets your wired-up self unwind and take in the scenery as it unfolds before you, letting your frenetic thoughts zipping through the mind slacken in pace. I stare at the entire room, watching people saunter in and out, wondering what their stories are. Are they lovers? Soon-to-be lovers? Or quondam lovers on the verge of reconciliation? Perhaps a business deal about to be inked? Settled on a comfy corner of the lounge at the back, to the right of the little platform, near a section of the floor-to-ceiling windows, I take a break from the world.

I catch the attention of one of the service crew and in minutes I am sipping a nice cup of cappuccino and digging into the cream tiramisu. I indulge in what I have so little to do nowadays as school nears the end of its year. Reading is one of them – the macabre comes alive again in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murder of Rue Morgues, which also happens to be the precursor of the detective genre; Antony Barrett’s Caligula is an enlightening and informative look on the infamous ruler; John Steinbeck’s The Pearl is heart-tugging; and the tales from the Brothers Grimm is a light walk back to childhood. Planning comes into play too – where shall I travel to next? What I should I blog about? Which restaurant is the best place to go to next?  Which movie shall I watch?

Indulge in your favourite things and let life grab hold of you again.

Indulge in your favourite things and let life grab hold of you again.

Simply put, my life sashayed in again after being cooped up in the rat wheel for days on end. Suddenly, the cappuccino is robust and energy-boosting. The tiramisu is sweet but not cloyingly so and the din at the lounge is almost non-existent. Everything is rosy and green.

“Hello, me. How have you been?”


Welcome to Stephane Istel's world of dining!

An epicurean’s delight – Stephane Istel’s French cuisine

You could say it was a blind date.  What else would you call it? We didn’t know, obviously, each other, and we both were putting our trust in the universe that we’d actually like one another. The date was set at the posh Hotel Mulia at 12noon at Orient8.  It is one of the restaurants of the independently run hotel that specialized in French and Pan-Asian cuisine and evokes an ersatz Napoleonic-French ambience with its drapes, black-white floor tiles and majestic chandeliers. Adding a tongue-in-cheek touch to the formal air of the restaurant was Bonaparte, with shades, printed on the back of the vests of the courteous service staff. I came on time, as is my usual conduct, and was graciously escorted to a table with a garden view.

Picking up the menu, I was surprised to read that he is based in Singapore, which was home for me then for more than a decade. Perhaps it was serendipity. The universe was finally colluding, not on a bad joke, to give me a wonderful surprise. The lunch began with the perfunctory introduction that was far more pleasant than I had expected. Coming from the kitchen, dressed in his chef’s uniform, his name Stephane Istel emblazoned in yellow gold French script on his left chest, his ebullient greeting was that of someone welcoming a long-lost friend.

“Thank you for coming,” he said jovially in that melodious French accent, a smile crinkling the sides of his ocean-blue eyes. “I hope you like the meal. I will be back later on to chat with you.”

La Tarte Flambee - it is the French version of the Italian pizza

La Tarte Flambee  is the French version of the Italian pizza.

Le Carpaccio De Saumon - it's a merry mix of fruity, sweet and sour tastes.

Le Carpaccio De Saumon  is a merry mix of fruity, sweet and sour tastes.

That cooking is his métier is obvious. Chef Stephane Istel has inched his way from the back of the kitchen to the front since he picked up a knife or spatula at 15. The Alsace-born chef officially cemented his foothold in the culinary world when he travelled to St. Tropez, recreational home of the wealthy, famous, jetsetters and fashion models, at 22 and trained under his first mentor, Michel Royer. The “Maitre Cuisinier de France” unselfishly shared with him the secrets of the trade and tips on how to manoeuvre in the culinary world with ease.  He has, since then, left his mark in the culinary landscapes of Savoie, Côte d’Azur, the Caribbean, New York, and Vancouver and, recently, in Jakarta where he hosted a two-day culinary event last March 22 and 23. The lunch and dinner events showcased his signature Bistrot-style French cuisine.

La Soupe De Topinambour has made me see artichoke in a different light. Superb!

La Soupe De Topinambour has made me see artichoke in a different light. Superb!

His opening salvo was La Tarte Flambée or Alsatian tart flambée with Munster Gerome and Caraway seeds. It’s Stephane’s version of the Italian pizza albeit with a thinner crust and a smaller slice. Divided into four little squares, the tart – served on a cheese board – an exciting mix of crispiness and smoothness on the palate. I never thought miniaturised pizza, which, in my experience, was insipid, could be bursting with flavours, I said to myself, slightly thunderstruck at the new taste that danced in my mouth.

Our date was going well, if I may say so. The food was exciting and the conversation was interestingly enlightening. Fortunately, there were no faux pas or awkward moments yet. He followed up his impressive first course with Le Carpaccio de Saumon, a well-plated salmon carpaccio with lime and pink peppercorn marinade, sourdough cracker and water cress Chantilly.

“It’s a bit acidic, and fruity and sweet,” explained the May birthday celebrant (he turns 35) of his next master piece. “It’s great to whet the appetite.”

He continued, his arms miming branches of a tree: “I like taking an ingredient, twisting the recipe a bit and creating branches of tastes. Bon appétit!” Then he scurried off to the kitchen to prepare for the third course.

I was wondering where the salmon was and was gobsmacked when, with my knife and fork, sliced through the orange-ish bed underneath the cubed and sliced daikon, caviar and sour dough cracker. Eureka! I found the salmon!  The paper-thin salmon was carefully interlaced with each other in a circle and, eaten with the tangy sauce and garnishings, was a heady way to make one want to get on to the next course. Bring it on, I mumbled to myself. It was absolutely a good decision to clear my Saturday for lunch with Stephane.

There was no stopping the chef who, by the way, is ready to welcome diners to his restaurant, Baroque, in June this year in Singapore. After 17 years, his childhood dream of owning a restaurant where he hopes to let people experience the feel of partaking of home-cooked meals will become a reality.

My choice was the four-course menu, but Stephane had other plans. He sent to my table – with his compliments – a bowl of La Soupe De Topinambour that had me rethinking about artichoke. The artichoke soup had Black Truffle Royal and parmesan twist, and everything was just right: Not too watery, not too creamy, not too rich – just right.

Le Foie Gras Grille - it's crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.

Le Foie Gras Grille – it’s crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.

The fourth item on the menu was brought in – Le Foie Gras Grillé, a sumptuous grilled foie gras brioche “French Toast” with apricot duo, mache salad and duck jus. My last memory of eating foie gras was that it was a bit dry and the sauce overpowered the foie gras that it completely put me off eating it. I dared to try again and my decision was right. It would have been a travesty if I hadn’t. First, the foie gras (it came all the way from the south of France) was moist on the inside and crisp on the outside. Second, it partnered well with French toast. Third, daubing the bite-size foie gras and French toast with apricot sauce, and adding in a few apricot bits spelled a silky, moist and fruity flavour tap dancing on your tongue.

His pièce de résistance was about to make a grand entrance. Shortly after the empty plates were cleared, Le Boeuf Aux Carottes followed suit. The black Angus beef tenderloin was topped with bone marrow crust and served with crispy braised oxtail spring roll with heirloom carrots variation, shallot confit and bordelaise sauce. Juicy and flavourful are adjectives that come to mind when asked to comment on the dish. The Angus beef , braised in red wine, was well-done to perfection – it was evenly cooked and retained its succulence – while the crispy braised oxtail, shredded and wrapped in spring roll wrap, was crisp and not oily (as I’ve experienced with most spring rolls).

Angus beef never tasted this good. Tuck into Le Bouef Aux Carottes by Stephane Istel.

Angus beef never tasted this good. Tuck into Le Bouef Aux Carottes by Stephane Istel.

Stephane was truly full of surprises that day. With his compliments again, the waiter rolled in a trolley cart for Le Pre-Dessert. He lit up the mini stove, heated up a portion of Grand Marnier, and poured it gently over the chocolate and pear ice cream. The Baked Alaska was subtle in clearing the palate of the meaty entrée and prepping it up for the sweet coup de grace, which, incidentally, is one of my favourite parts of any meal.

“How is the meal so far?” Stephane asked, his ocean-blue eyes brimming with enthusiasm, as he caught a breather and sat at my table.

Heating up the Grand Marnier for the Le Pre-Dessert

Heating up the Grand Marnier for the Le Pre-Dessert

I was truly enjoying a wonderful dining experience because it was one pleasant surprise after another. I felt like a birthday girl fêted to the hilt! And he was in top chat form. “I hand carried four kg of carrots,” he shared ebulliently. “They said no at first but I told them I needed those carrots. I left my knives at home. My friend over here has a good set of knives.”

Ta-dah! Presenting your Le Pre-Dessert of Baked Alaska flambeed with Grand Marnier.

Ta-dah! Presenting your Le Pre-Dessert of Baked Alaska flambeed with Grand Marnier.

Stephane is on a natural high. He loves being in Jakarta (“It’s an up and coming city”), his culinary event in Indonesia is a success (his best friend, head chef of Hotel Mulia, hooked him up with the management and the culinary event was launched), and his dream restaurant is taking form (it’ll be located in Tanjong Pagar and will feature a huge rotisserie). After a few minutes, he dashed back to the kitchen for the finale of his culinary event, which he accomplished with the help of his mum. Revealing the secret for his dessert, however, would be a problem. His mum wouldn’t like it, I suppose, so I settled for digging into the La Tarte Aux Pommes. The Alsatian apple tart was rich in taste or simply put, Stephane didn’t resort to the cost-cutting technique of scrimping on the apples and overdoing the flour. He let the apples’ and the flavours rise through the crust, which intensified with the cinnamon streusel topping. The taste went up a few notches in lusciousness when paired with vanilla ice cream. Obviously, dieting is pushed to the backseat.

Stephane couldn't go wrong with his mum's recipe of La Tarte Aux Pommes for dessert.

Stephane couldn’t go wrong with his mum’s recipe of La Tarte Aux Pommes for dessert.

Oh, how I've missed you my mignardises!

Oh, how I’ve missed you my mignardises!

Stephane still wasn’t done. Close in the heels of his apple tart was the mignardises paired with a nice cup of hot Japanese green tea. And he was back at my table again without a hint of fatigue on his face.

“How was everything? I hope it went well. Shall we have our photo taken?” he asked.

My lunch date and the man of the hour, Chef Stephane Istel.

My lunch date and the man of the hour, Chef Stephane Istel.

Before I left, “I shall see you in Singapore in November at Baroque. I promise to take care of you,” he said and disappeared into the kitchen again. His culinary dinner event was in less than three hours.

Stephane, it’s a date.

Additional photography by Rico Falcunitin