Dark skies and an almost-empty gas tank weren’t enough to stop us. Even the snail-pace traffic to Jakarta from Bekasi wasn’t a deterrent. With a little bit of prayer and switching off the car’s AC, we made it to Fairmont Jakarta with time to spare to freshen up. On the 22nd floor of the hotel was the Taittinger Champagne Dinner. The last time I had flutes of the delectable champagne was two years ago when Taittinger was introduced in Indonesia at Orient 8 at Hotel Mulia.
It was a thrilling reunion that April night at The View, one of Fairmont’s restaurants, with its magnificent view of Jakarta’s skyline. A prelude to the eight-course dinner was a tipple at the bar where I introduced Taittinger to my gal-pal Theresia as a way to let the stresses of the mid-week hang. Dropping by the bar to say hola was Alvaro Acebal, Fairmont’s Food & Beverage manager, whom Theresia and I met at Sapori Deli last March at another one-night dinner event of guest Chef Antonio Facchinetti.
Dinner commenced with an amuse bouche of Tuna Tartare with ponzu, yuzu, and avocado that strongly whetted the appetite. You just have to get pass the eyebrow-raising hand cast it is served on. Juxtaposed to the tuna’s savory flavor is the next course of Apple Pie (View’s interpretation) which was ingenious both in taste and presentation. There was this sweet tugging sensation on the palate between the savory and sweet flavors, and that the apple pie was shaped as a mini ball reposing on a bed of pebbles in a wooden box was simply artistic.
The champagne kept coming and Satria, our gracious attendant for the night, made sure nothing was lacking from our table including enjoyable tête-à- tête. He regaled us with stories about his one-month training stint in Makati and the incidents of being mistaken as a Filipino while Theresia and I coaxed him to put Ambon – especially Ora Island – on his travel list.
Then it was time for the Foie Gras Torchon with cherry gel and macerated mix berries which was paired splendidly with the Taittinger Nocturne, Sec NV. There was this sweet and fruity chase at the end of each bite of the foie gras after nips of the champagne; Satria, following the chef’s suggestion, advised us to quickly follow up a bite of the foie gras with champagne. This dish was immediately followed by Scallop Tartare enveloped in white chocolate foam and lime jelly that did an electrifying cha-cha on the palate together with sips of the Taittinger Reims Reserve Brut NV.
Too much champagne is a misnomer. In fact, the abundance in champagne led to a pleasant discovery that Lobster “cappuccino” – fortified lobster bisque and foam – squirted into our cups by The View’s Chef Hans actually blended well with both the Nocturne and Reims. Discovery 2: the lobster cappuccino was a teaser to the first main dish of Canadian Lobster with Sturia caviar, shimeji, and champignon nage that grooved smoothly on the palate as the flavors mingled with the Taittinger Prestige Rose Brut, NV. Lobster and champagne – what can go wrong?
Gazing out the floor-to-ceiling window of The View, the landscape had turned a shade darker as the night danced on. The ant-like lights on the streets below had lessened, but the brightness hadn’t diminished, and there I was happily ensconced in my chair sipping from flute to flute. Life is rosier with champagne in my hand.
Then it was time for the main course of Norwegian salmon with glazed king oyster mushroom, champagne, and seaweed broth. Without skipping a beat, affable Satria was at our table ready to impress us with, paraphrasing his words, the champagne set to dislodge Dom Pérignon from its pedestal. He poured the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc, 2004 generously into our flutes and bade us a hearty meal. The salmon was flavorful and generous in serving (read: it was more than a matchbox size) while the strip of mushroom melted in the mouth. And the night drew to a close when the Stone Rose was laid on our table. Breaking the pinkish Christmas “ball” revealed a smooth cheesecake-like texture of lychee, raspberry, and chocolate that rolled effortlessly on the tongue. Which champagne went with it? Take your pick.
A champagne dinner is exciting. However, a well-orchestrated Taittinger champagne dinner is more than simple excitement. It’s a bubbly and electrifying dining experience that leaves wearied souls keyed up and ready to tackle the world again.