One-Michelin-starred chef Mario Cittadini is back at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur for a very brief period as the first guest chef to grace the luxury hotel this year. From January 11 to 14, Cittadini will be tasked to propagate the distinctive Tuscan cuisine to lovers of all things Italian, at the Mandarin Grill.
Both lunch and dinner menus are available.
Last year, I was fortunate to meet the chef himself and was introduced to authentic Tuscan food as a result. Unlike cuisines originated from other Italian regions such as the south whose flavour profiles are noted for being herb-heavy and tomato-laden, Tuscan dishes are remarkably light owing to little seasoning.
The emphasis is on freshness and authenticity.
Without heavy and enhanced flavours imbued into the dish, one can really taste every natural sweetness of the fish and be an excellent judge of the quality of every ingredient used. This simplicity has really come to define Tuscany.
That pretty much summed up Cittadini’s offering last year. If that is seen as an elementary glimpse into his superb control and technique, this time around, be prepared to be blown away by his selection of ingredients bursting with intensity.
He was handed the responsibility to adapt and fine-tune the template to suit a wider audience such as myself who gear towards heavier tastes, he has achieved it with aplomb.
Although herbs, spices and seasonings are still kept to a minimum – barring the risotto beaming with citrusy and zesty notes that may evoke the memories from the Land of the Smiles, Cittadini has sourced robust and flavoursome ingredients and produce harvested or produced in Europe and beyond.
Continental examples include lightly cured mackerels, fermented plum vinegar, black truffles, caviar and langoustines, while beef cheeks are imported from Down Under, as well as fresh lobsters caught in the cold Atlantic waters of Boston, US.
The menu is reasonably expansive and you can have the fuss-free set menu or choose from the a la carte menu. But don’t depart the Mandarin Grill without trying these three:
Tortelli – Parmesan emulsion, black truffle caviar
The al dente tortelli is a like springy cushion with a troupe of little black truffle caviar dancing on top. It’s unbelievably smooth on the palate with a well-balanced texture and a perfumed aroma that leave you wanting for more.
Brasato – Slow-braised Australia beef cheek, mushrooms, black truffles
Savoury and supremely tender, the beef cheek comes in a generous portion with fine layers of meat, fat and gelatin, and overflows with umami goodness.
Unquestionably the most innovative and whimsical way to present the tiramisu. A portmanteau of caviar and tiramisu, the petite-looking pre-dessert is presented in a round, flat golden caviar metal tin can. The top layer of coffee-flavoured, roe-like tiny jelly beads conceals the creamy mid-layer and the crunchy bottom layer. Dig into all three layers in one swift motion for a spoonful of tiramisu, or if you prefer a thoroughly refreshing approach, scoop it layer by layer.