Saturday, November 7, 2009

Experience at BLU

Beyond a birthday treat, i received an experience.

A close friend took me to Shangri-La for Kevin Cherkas' progressive cuisine, acclaimed to be maddeningly curious and highly enthralling. Cherkas is no doubt a prominent rising figure, boasting stints at the legendary 3-star Michelin El Bulli, 3-star Arzak Restaurant, 2-star La Broche & Daniel Boulud's renowned Restaurant Daniel. No short of glamor or enthuse.

I was expecting Boomz.

Experience is BLU's fancy name for a 6-course degustation menu. For $139++, you grant the kitchen free rein on your 6 plates (1 teaser, 3 starters, 1 main & 1 dessert) after specifying personal preferences.

Five adjoined rolls strutted in with whipped aioli butter to start our evening rolling. These are average apart from their interesting Potato-Onion & Tomato-Parmesan flavors... the former reminded me of Lay's Sour cream & Onion!

Forest Mushroom "bubble" was niceee. Pop it burst, in released a blobful of virtuous mushroom broth, crunchy crouton circles and a tiny mushroom surfacing towards the end.... how gripping! Who wouldn't like a bubble of delight?

The Lobster "Thermidor" consisting of canadian lobster (roast, foam, reduction), mushroom, tarragon & parmesan crisps was a letdown. While i liked the tender flesh, its reduction was way too salty & intense to do any justice.. it engulfed the sparse lobster juices and crashed my hopes of an anticipated crustacean performance. Ouch.

On second starter my partner hit Foie a roasted liver escorted by szechuan peppered fruit, chopped pistachio and careful dribblings of balsamic glaze. Plate wiped clean.

I opted out of arteries-clogging fats for the Iron Chef Melon Soup, a pleasant rockmelon puree complete with melon fruit, cucumber bits and a snowy white quenelle of white balsamic sorbet planted at its heart. Gawddddd this sorbet totally perked me up. Icy cold & smooth, it instantly evaporated on the tongue to ignite mellow blasts of balsamic.... totally invigorating! ooooooooooo i could slurp on a whole pint of this! <3

But the moment i prodded those fishy scottish cured salmon & caviar, it all blew. Clashed. Incriminated. The taste was just awfully wrong.

Kudos to Eggs Came 1st for transcending beyond a quirky name. Cherkas converts our good ol' Eggie from honest-to-goodness by employing a clever duo-prep technique: poaching + pan-frying.

An egg with character.

The result? You get tenderness of a poached egg synchronous with the pan fragrance of its stiffened base. We were instructed to jab the core and savor all 3 components (white.yolk.broth) within each spoonful. Piquant onion broth, runny egg & crispy crumbs.... the combination can't fault. Just where were my truffles?

Main courses usually unfold the essence of the show but when i ferreted my Monkfish Bouillabaisse for something stunning, i was unrewarded. Not the monkfish medallion. Not the insipid freshwater crayfish. Not the artificially tasting saffron tomato broth. Hmmmm maybe the ratatouille. But definitely not that overworked citrus foam... its a thousand miles behind Au Jardin's elegant whip.

If you take beef, go for the restaurant's prided Beef Mole. Morsels of wagyu beef cheeks undergo a 'forever' 48-hour long braising process, transformed potent black then finished off with a whimsical dress-up of Corn x3 (corn kernels, corn sauce, popped corn), red pepper powder, crispy potatoes & spiced chocolate sauce. Sounds like an adventure already.

Dessert scored. Breakfast like no other.

I first conquered the attention-screaming splash of mango 'eggyolk', followed by creamy musky coconut mousse 'eggwhite'. Digged in further to find little evoking bits and a sharp-tasting fluid, nibbled on the gradually-disintegrating edible 'eggshell', then scraped up all that tantalizing passionfruit cream base mmmm... I was secretly wishing the designs on the plate were real so i could carry on exploring haha.

Just when i thought bewilderment was officially over, the waiter brought forth our acrylic tree Les Mignardises, branches hanging pretty pink fluffies. I swore heads turned.

This was quite a novelty to behold. You get to shovel some chocolate 'soil' pebbles onto a chocolate leaf, savor the bitter cocoa rush, then pluck finger-friendly clouds of strawberry cotton candy for a mild powdery meltdown. Kids would ga over this.

Was i enthralled?

I'm afraid not. Experience is undeniably titillating but the use of harsh sauces spawned a major markdown. Maybe i'm etched towards light delicate sauces like what Au Jardin renders (sauces should enhance natural flavors, not subdue them). Double that with previous progressive dining encounters with Edward Voon and Paco Roncero, a veil just stood between me & Cherkas' victorious magic.

P.S. Sorry for the poor-quality photos but BLU's hostile lighting was really excruciating for photography. Had to use my compact cam (with ISO upped) so this is the best i can deliver.

22 Orange Grove Road
Shangri-la Hotel 24F
6213 4598

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