(That Thing I Do)

Exclusive Extravagant Elegance (CNY Set Menu @ Elegant Inn, Menara Hap Seng, KL)

I’ve never been one to invest heavily in tradition. My birthdays slip by almost before I can acknowledge it, and religious festivities are my excuse to catch up with myself. But when it comes to Chinese New Year traditions, I find myself helpless (read: reluctant) in my attempt to resist. After all, I find very little displeasure in receiving money in red envelopes and feasting like an emperor. Bountiful Harvest Salmon Losang

At the forefront of Chinese New Year tradition, yee sang never fails to exhibit its undying ubiquity at every tradition-honoring Chinese table during Chinese New Year season. Whileyee sang presents itself in a multitude of renditions varying from restaurant to restaurant, it is constant in its symbolism of abundance and prosperity. Dubbed the “Bountiful Harvest Salmon Losang “, the yee sang offering at Elegant Inn focuses on light and fresh flavors, as opposed to heavily pickled flavors that made appearances in many restaurants in recent years. I like the way the fresh ingredients leave plenty of room for the salmon to shine its flavors. A perfect palate-opener for the remainder of the 8-course extravagant dinner that I was about to indulge in.

Double boiled village chicken soup with cordycep flowers

The second course of double boiled village chicken soup subtly inspires a culture of patience and leisureliness at the dinner table. This culture is implicit to Elegant Inn – patrons are encouraged to take their time and savor the dining experience with neither rush nor haste. Unfortunately, modern lifestyle has diluted the appreciation of the leisurely dinner. The warm, tongue-tickling taste of the chicken and cordyceps attempts to re-nurture the fading values of patience. Village chicken and various herbs, abundant in quantity Golden fried estuary garoupa with Chinese leeks

After savouring soup sip by sip, my excitement begins to rise at the third course. I daresay, the deep fried garoupa at Elegant Inn is perhaps my favorite fish dish I’ve had anywhere, ever. I suspect a special type of secret soy sauce was used in this dish, and in tandem with the Chinese leeks, enhanced every nuance and dimension of flavor that I never knew existed in fish. Chunky, succulent white flesh and golden crisp juicy skin left me wanting for more, despite having eaten more than my fair share of this dish. Oh, yes, I’m a greedy one! Signature salted egg yolk style crystal prawn

By the fourth course of salted egg yolk prawns, it was time for me to take a break. It was not out of politeness or because I’d eaten my fill, but the simple truth that I just couldn’t be bothered to peel prawns. I simply don’t enjoy prawns enough to endure the chore. Instead I spent the duration of the course allowing my stomach to settle, as I sat back and enjoyed the aroma of the salted egg yolk emanating from the freshly fried hot prawns. Golden boneless stuffed chicken with chicken tomato salad

While the fifth course was purposed to furnish a staple, Elegant Inn wouldn’t settle for the ordinary, even with their chicken dish. The chicken stuffed with shrimp, while not over-the-top impressive, was a delight with the crispy yet juicy skin, making my dining experience that much delightfully messier. Braised sea cucumber with dried oyster, fatt choy and mushroom

The sixth course failed to excite me as much as it did the rest of my table. Ah, yes, I confess, seafood has never really been my thing. Oh, but it was so heavy in flavor, a bold contrast to Elegant Inn’s philosophy of mild, balanced flavors without introducing too many external flavors to complement the flavors that are “”already there”. While everyone else was busy praising the sea cucumbers with words and funny sounds, I was busy picking off mushrooms and broccoli. They didn’t suspect a thing! Braised seafood rice with Australian scallops, fresh crabmeat and abalone sauce in lotus leaf

While Elegant Inn do not pride themselves in serving a fancied up variation of the typical lotus leaf rice for their seventh course of the evening, I found this dish to be especially delightful, despite not being a huge fan of seafood. Well-balanced and mild flavors delivered deep gratification to my carbo-loving self, though I should know better than to help polish up portions that the rest of the table left behind in their stuffedness. I couldn’t help myself; I was defenseless against the freshness of the scallops. Pan-fried traditional rice cake and hazelnut cookies

Dessert is a course so nice, they had to serve it twice. Once, with pan-fried rice cakes and hazelnut cookies, and a second time with a pumpkin sago dessert with green beans.

While the rice cakes and cookies did not bowl me over, they were pleasant nonetheless. I was glad to not have been insulted with a dessert that came out of a store-bought can, for sure. I can’t stand being served a “grand” meal that’s tainted by the I-couldn’t-be-bothered attitude that comes alongside a bowl of lychees in syrup.

The pumpkin sago dessert was gorgeously smooth, complemented by the heavy flavor and texture of soft green beans. A perfect ending to a long, delicious, and filling 8-course dinner.

I caution you: do not attempt this extravagance without the right mentality. Come with full intent to savour your meal over two, perhaps three hours. Come with the expectations of balanced and fresh flavors that are not overly dressed with condiments and sauces. But most importantly, come with a party of eight and a Standard-Chartered credit card, as this menu is available exclusively to card members as a package for a table of 8 persons at RM888++.

(Also look out for the 7 other restaurants offering their own renditions oif the Standard Chartered Extravagant 8 Menu, available from 20th January to 17th February 2011. Hint: Google ”Standard Chartered Extravagant 8″)

I’m not much for tradition, and I’ve never bought into the symbolism behind Chinese New Year dishes and the number eight; but I must admit – it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying what offerings they place on my dinner table.

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