The amuse bouche wowed us at the start and from then on Chef Francisco Araya led us to new heights in his showcase of seafood in modern European cuisine. There were seven stellar courses in the degustation menu by this award-winning Chilean guest chef at The Library, Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur.
Chef Francisco has spent a season with elBulli in Spain under the legendary Ferran Adria. He and his two elBulli alumni started 81 in Tokyo, an eight-seater restaurant which was awarded 1 Michelin star a year after it opened. He and his fellow elBulli alumni integrated Japanese seasonal ingredients into Latin American cuisine. He is now Executive Chef Executive of the renowned NAPA wine bar and kitchen in Shanghai.
That’s where the chef is coming from, and that accounted for the superbly fine thread running through our lunch at The Library. Chef Francisco will be presiding over dinner here from now till March 10, and it’s not to be missed.
The Amuse Bouche: Crispy Scallop and Herbs, Smoked Celeriac Hen Egg, Shrimp with Tomato and Watermelon and Beetroot Tartlette. The crispy scallop is in a thin, shiny cracker, bursting with flavour at the bite. I savoured slowly each spoonful of marvellous creamy, foamy celeriac and loved it to bits. There’s sweet, springy shrimp in tomato water with small cubes of watermelon; and then this crispy paper-thin beetroot tartlette just dissolved on my palate.
The Oyster with Caviar and Cauliflower was slurp-worthy, awakening the senses with the silky shellfish gelling with caviar, a little lime and lovely cauliflower cream, and Japanese spices as in a sprinkle of Shichimi Togarashi.
The wines deserve mention at this point. The well-chilled San Feletto Prosecco Brut made me want a second glass. The Vionta Albarino Bianca was superb with the oyster.
The Scallop Ceviche had slices of raw scallop dressed in lime dressing with a little chilli, and topped with apple strips and dill. Sweet bursts from the smooth scallop were effortlessly balanced with a little tartness.
Arroz Verde of Carabinero Shrimp, Arborio Rice and Spinach is risotto cooked without cream but with clam chowder, with its flavours infused in every grain, and spinach colouring it. Crispy shrimp legs atop it added to this textural delight. I was touched by the complexity of this dish and how perfectly Chef Francisco had executed it.
Shrimp with Yuba, Caramelised Onion and Dill amazed us with its many different elements which came together with aplomb. Yuba as in soy milk skin got us guessing what was underneath it (lovely, sweet celeriac!). The prawn had an incredible texture, and the crunchy caramelised onion was so delicious. A veal sauce glazed the prawn and the yuba, with white and pickled radish finishing it. I was truly in gourmet heaven. The wine – Vina Muriel Reserva Bianco Viura – was a sublime pairing.
Japanese Orange Sea Bream, Calamari, Zucchini Blossom, the main course, sprung tasty surprises as well. Both the squid ink sauce and prawn bisque sauces were so good with the perfectly fried fish. We couldn’t resist mopping up the rest of it with our fingers when we were done with the fish. And the Zucchini Blossom! We didn’t expect it to be stuffed with this gorgeous prawn mousse. It was divine.
Dessert was Financier with Pandan ice cream. The financier had lovely sticky bite, rich with ground almond. They sat on a thin wine jelly made with the Roustabout Late Harvest Voignier which was also served with the dessert. Crispy raspberry bits also stood out in this dessert. The only flaw was that the ice cream was lacking in pandan flavour.
This degustation menu of seven courses with seven wines by Chef Francisco Araya will be at The Library till March 10. It’s RM350 nett without wines and RM500 nett with wines. Call Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur to book – 03 2142 8000, also visit http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/malaysia/kuala-lumpur/dining