I did not miss not having meat at all at a special vegetarian lunch in Elegant Inn last week. All things wild, organic or responsibly farmed, as in vegetables, mushrooms and fungus, made it a memorable meal. Most of the dishes scored in flavours and textures, and in wonderful aromas too. For instance, I was blown away by incredible aromas arising from the Wild Porcini with Assorted Mushrooms Claypot Rice as the lid was lifted.
I took a minute to breathe in the delightfully pungent wild porcini wafting up with the steam. The rice had been cooked in the water the porcini ad been soaked in. Other mushrooms in the rice included organic shimeji, enoki and oyster mushrooms. Every bite of the different mushrooms exuded fragrance and flavour. The porcini was crunchy; the enoki silky.
Elegant Inn introduced vegetarian dishes into their menu about a year ago, for the 1st and 15th day of the lunar month. “The feedback was good,” said its owner Jeannette Han. “We don’t use gluten to ape the different meats; it’s not just about vegetables but different mushrooms and fresh, unique ingredients.” There was a special vegetarian menu for Wesak Day and this was well received, so the restaurant will be doing more of these dishes to cater for anyone who wants a vegetarian meal, for vegans and those with religious observances.
Lunch got on to a perky start with three chilled appetisers: Lotus Root with Calamansi, Bittergourd with Dried Plums, and Black Ear Fungus with Cherry Tomatoes. The crunchy lotus root, pickled with calamansi and touched with cili padi had a mellow, citrusy sourness which was pleasing. The lovely black ear fungus was subtly sour and perfectly paired with sweet cherry tomatoes. You wouldn’t think that bittergourd with dried plums would go together but they did! The sweetness of the plums balanced the bittergourd.
Then it was on to three hot starters: Homemade Cashewnut Tofu, Panfried Premium Wild Porcini Radish Cake and Crunchy Vegetarian Beancurd Roll. I loved the rich cashewnut tofu with crunchy bits of water chestnut in it. The wild porcini radish cake was delicious and so aromatic – I didn’t miss the non-vegetarian one with dried prawns and Chinese sausage in it. The vegetarian beancurd roll crackles at the bite into flavourful yam and radish filling within.
You couldn’t tell if it was a real mushroom in the Mushroom Bun with Salad. The colour and the cracks on the brown surface of the bun perfectly mimicked it. It had a moist, tasty vegetable filling.
An infusion of another exotic mushroom was in the Double-boiled Maitaka with Organic Black Beans and Fresh Huaishan Soup. It’s a complex, dark sweet soup, with enough body and flavours in it through the mushrooms, black beans, carrot, longan and huai shan in it for you not to think of meat. The Maitaka mushrooms wonderfully perfumed it.
Even non-vegetarians would love the Stirfried Asparagus with Organic Oyster Mushrooms and Fresh Lily Bulbs. The fat, juicy asparagus spears matched well the sweetness of the lily bulbs and mushrooms. They would also like the Cauliflower Tempura with Capsicum Tomato Sauce that looked like prawns at first sight. These knobby florets were bathed in a sweet capsicum tomato sauce. What an attractive, delicious way to eat cauliflower.
Another dish that stood out was the Braised Termite Mushrooms with Organic Dry Beancurd. The tiny and dark mushrooms in a sauce embraced the smooth and firm beancurd with their flavour. I love the texture and taste of this organic beancurd.
Braised Amberwood Fungus, Premium Cordycep Flowers, Homemade Tofu & Vegetarian Assortment is no ordinary “chai choy”. All these rare and premium ingredients have been braised with Liu Ma Kee fermented beancurd from Hong Kong. It’s been around for more than a century and is famous for their taucheo and the traditional way of fermenting their beancurd.
This fermented beancurd splashed its flavours on every ingredient in the dish, including the cabbage, and was just so lovely with the combination of textures – the smooth, crunchy fungus and cordycep flowers, silky tofu and juicy cabbage.
I have a deep appreciation of how the finest, unique and best ingredients are sourced for the Elegant Inn kitchen. All these uplift and distinguish the flavours of the dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
Braised Rice Vermicelli with Yellow Fungus, Chanterelle and other mushrooms gave this old-fashioned noodle dish a pleasing mouthfeel, from the smooth to the crunchy, and endowing the noodles with their unique essence.
The dessert – Glutinous Stuffed Red Dates in Bentong Ginger Soup, served with Golden Organic Sweet Potato – was brilliant. A bite of the red dates sank deliciously into the sticky smooth glutinous rice paste immersed in the tingly hot and aromatic ginger soup.
All these are on the a la carte vegetarian menu. Some of the prices: The stuffed red dates in Bentong Ginger Soup is RM16.80 per pax, the Maitaka with black bean soup is RM26.80,Cashewnut Tofu RM6.80 each, Cauliflower Tempura RM36.80, Wild Porcini Radish Cake RM6.80.
For Wesak Day there was a Special Vegetarian Set for RM148 nett, comprising 3 starters, a soup, 3 main courses and 2 desserts. It could be put together again for a special occasion on advance order.
Elegant Inn is on 2nd floor, Menara Hap Seng, Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03 2070 9399.