I would never turn down an invite to “a simple meal” at Elegant Inn by its owner Jeannette Han. Her “simple” always means a fine meal with super-fine and sometimes rare ingredients such as abalones hand carried from Hong Kong.
The seven of us sat down to dinner last week and we were wowed from start to finish. It was also the occasion for Jeannette to showcase some dishes from her Chinese New Year menus.
Bountiful Harvest Salmon Losang was the rousing start to dinner, with auspicious phrases in lilting Cantonese spouted by our Myanmar server.
Braised Golden Bird’s Nest with Japanese Sakura Shrimps, Dried Scallops and Fresh Crabmeat was the soup that made the night. A glass tumbler of bird’s nest was inverted over the golden brown superior soup with dried scallops that was topped generously with tiny fried Sakura shrimps whose delicious aroma wafted up as it was served. Fresh, sweet crabmeat finished this luxurious soup that stood out for the delicacy of the bird’s nest on it. This is a dish from the nine-course Prestige Menu at RM4888 nett per table of 10.
The Osmanthus Fried Golden Coin Shark’s fin with Dried Scallops and Crabmeat, paired with US Kurobuta Pork Spring Roll was fine and pleasing. It’s traditional egg fried shark’s fin with sweet crabmeat and dried scallops. The Kurobuta pork spring roll was a crispy bite, with the sublime pork filling insider. This is from the Noble Menu, at RM3388 nett per table of 10.
But Jeannette also announced that it was going to be an abalone night, and indeed we were treated to some prized abalones from Japan, Mexico, South Africa and Middle East.
I liked it that each type of abalone was explained with panache by Jeannette and served. She opened our eyes and palate to the colour, texture and flavour to each abalone we tasted.
Our first taste of abalone was in the Sauteed Live Boston Lobster and Mexican Abalone with French Goose Liver. Who would have thought that two deluxe ingredients would come together in total harmony, with a flavourful bonus of creamy foie gras, Japanese pumpkin and shimeji mushrooms. There were large pieces of abalone amidst the chunks of lobster. We were having one-quarter of a huge canned Mexican abalone that weighed 255g. You could enjoy this dish in the Prestige Menu.
One abalone from South Africa was the size of a man’s palm, and braised to tender perfection (as were all the other abalones). I learned about the “tong sum” or literally candy heart of the abalone which is a dark deep red. It’s creamy and sticky to the bite, releasing a highly desirable, rich marine flavour.
There was the Middle Eastern abalone or Choong Toong Pau which would probably be rated as the most “ordinary” among the abalones we were eating that night but still held its own in terms of flavour and texture.
The Japanese abalone is the Rolls Royce of all abalones, highly prized and priced. It’s shaped like gold ingot and it’s referred to as Kut Pun Pau. You would realise of course the auspicious significance of eating this and other abalones during Chinese New Year.
Cooking this and other dried abalones is a laborious process, which involves two days of soaking and five to 10 days of braising. “We ‘feed’ the abalone with the sauce steeped from superior stock of chicken, pork ribs, pig’s skin and pig’s fat, among other choice ingredients, producing that smooth gelatinous sauce with layers of flavours.
We were awed by each slice of abalone dancing on our palate, succulent at each turn, moist and sticky in the centre, with a melodious roundness.
When we had had the last bit of this abalone, we drank up every drop of its delicious sauce. We also took a home a small tub of the remaining sauce, to have a lingering taste of abalone with rice!
Dessert was just as precious – Double-boiled Superior Fish Maw with US Figs and Lily Flower. Fish maw in a dessert? But it works! The subtle scent and light sweetness of the soup clung to the thick, silky fish maw. You could also have this fish maw in almond cream and I loved it.
The almond cream fish maw is in the Prosperous Menu at RM2688 nett per table of 10, while the other fish maw dessert is in the Prestige Menu.
Here’s the link to Elegant Inn’s Chinese New Year menus: www.1tap.mobi/elegantinn
2nd floor, Podium Floor, Menara Hap Seng
Jalan P. Ramlee
Tel: 03 2070 9399