It's already midway through the month of December! Aside from the fact that I very much enjoy the jolly spirit of goodwill and cheer permeating the atmosphere, during this time of the year, the holiday season also signifies plenty of mouth-watering treats which makes me one very, very happy girl indeed, even if it means all resolutions to get back into shape pretty much go out the window.
Imagine the silly expression of glee on my face when Mike invited me to a Christmas food-tasting at the Raintree Restaurant at the Borneo Convention Centre (BCCK)! Even a malfunctioning gate that seemed adamant on trapping me in the house on the day of the event didn't deter me from showing up, albeit a tad late.
Before I proceed on to the actual review of the Christmas menu, I need to rave about this:
A humble little bread-roll you say, while rolling your eyes? Well this is no ordinary bread-roll. This bread roll is all the things I love in wheat-based edibles - it's crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside, and tasty enough to be eaten on its own. I won't say it's the best I've had in Kuching, but it's pretty darn good, and baked fresh daily in the restaurant itself.
It always cheers me to find restaurants here in Kuching who actually produce their own bread. =)
And then on to the first course, which everyone present were already halfway through photographing/dissecting:
According to the menu, this dish is a blinis tower of lobster medallion, smoked salmon, and crème fraiche, paired with warm ravioli of duck confit and pumpkin puree, the blinis being a cute little pile of miniature buckwheat flour pancakes. This is a terrible photo that really does the beautifully plated dish no justice. I need a new camera. I know I'm digressing.
The portion of lobster in this was surprisingly generous - a whole piece of tail, if my starvation-addled eyes weren't playing tricks on me. The smoked salmon was good, and there was a generous amount of caviar topping the whole arrangement, but it didn't quite wow me as much as I expected it to.
The duck confit ravioli, however, was a dramatic explosion of savoury flavour in the mouth, its gamey richness tempered by the delicate sweetness of the pumpkin puree. The fact that the chef unexpectedly incorporated bayam (edible amaranth, a local vegetable) into the ravioli half of the dish brought a smile with that little homage to our local produce.
And then the second course, a cream of cauliflower garnished with peppers and croutons:
I wasn't expecting to be very much impressed by this, honestly - I mean, c'mon, it's soup ferchrissakes; and I can do soup! - but it did. Rich and comforting, it was however not overtly heavy to the point of being cloying. I quite enjoyed the little bit of sweet peppers the chef had chosen to top the soup with as garnish, because it added a rather pleasant crunch and a little extra sweetness to the dish as a whole.
As far as I can determine though, those red blotches of oil just seem to be some sort of sweet pepper oil (correct me if I'm wrong) more for garnish than for flavour. They weren't spicy at all!
Next up was a palate refresher, also called a palate cleanser, to prepare our taste-buds for the main course(s) that was to come:
We were treated to a exotic ginger-lime sorbet that came in little cups. There seems to be a bit of a mixed reception to this one, but I liked it well enough, although it could be a little less sweet. Probably because it reminds me of the sour candied ginger snacks my grandma used to buy for me to uh, bribe me into donning that halo and keeping the devil horns well-hidden.
Tangy and spicy at the same time, it's a pretty refreshing treat, but I can see how it could be a little overwhelming for some. As they say, one man's meat...
And finally, the dish we'd all been eagerly awaiting! The slow-baked turkey roulade with wild mushrooms and truffle oil, served with sauteed brussels sprouts, caramelised chestnuts and cranberry sauce arrived amidst much excited chattering:
It's got all the elements of a good traditional Christmas meal down: turkey, check; chestnuts, check; cranberry sauce, check, check, check!
Turkey is notoriously hard to prepare without drying out, and unfortunately this offering was a tad on the unjuicy side, especially around the outer edges. Not quite enough truffle oil too, but then again I know that's probably in the realm of "asking for too much". The chef would have been better off doing a stuffed turkey (stuffing helps retain moisture), but for the purpose of practicality, a roulade does make a heap more sense.
The chestnuts, however, were spectacular. Sweet, with a hint of smokiness, it was so good I think most of us practically scraped our plates clean of the stuff. The cranberry sauce was, well, cranberry sauce, but I did think the sauteed brussels sprouts on the roasted sweet potatoes did add a lot of really lovely colour (and fibre!) to the dish.
As an alternative to the turkey, there's always the option of the slow-grilled marinated sirloin on spicy potato, wilted spinach with blue cheese, buttered carrot, brussels sprouts and beef jus as the main course:
Before I proceed, let me say this first: LOOK AT THAT BEEF BEAUTIFULLY GRILLED TO JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF PINKNESS!!! OK, granted I'd prefer it a tad more rare than this perfect medium doneness, but as I generally like my meat barely introduced to heat, I think my preferences can be counted as more of an exception
The general verdict for this culinary creation can just be summed up with the resounding amount of orgasmic ahhhs that followed each bite of it. Of course, I can tell you it's tender and juicy and flavoursome and marinated in the unlikely combination of dates, dijon mustard, garlic, and a bit of chilli for heat, but just take my word for it - it's good. Go order this.
I loved the spinach with blue cheese, even if it might be a tad too pungent for some, and I particularly liked how the cheese flavour infused the little medallion of a deep-fried potato acting as a buffer between the meat and the spinach. So much so I had seconds and thirds of those potato slices off the display platter later on. :D
Finally, we were served dessert, which came in the most impressive arrangement of all:
Does this Christmas pudding with raspberry white chocolate parfait look rather, uh, avian to you? That swan-like thingy's actually crafted out of crunchy caramel, which some of the girls at dinner loved. Me, I found it a tad too jaw-breakingly hard, so I pretty much left it well alone.
The pudding itself was surprisingly rich, and densely filled with fruits and nuts. As nice as it is, I think that it might be a tad overwhelming for those trying to watch their waist-lines (as if the whole concept of "Christmas meal" wasn't already a formidable threat of sorts to a svelte figure LOL). The light-as-air parfait was pure dairy heaven, gently melting onto the tongue to a not-too-sweet, not-too-cloying creaminess, and yielded this little frozen surprise:
Yeap, a frozen raspberry, literally bursting with juice. Yum. The acidity works well to counter the richness of the heavy meal. The perfect note to end a pretty satisfying dinner on. =)
And here's the lady behind this the creation of this hearty seasonal meal we enjoyed, the rather demure Virginia Kedit (right).
For the ladies, there's also a cute chef dude (left) working the open plan kitchen - perfect for ogling at whilst dining... =P
Anyway, this five-course set dinner will be available on Christmas Eve at RM125++, and live entertainment from the RBS Quartet will be provided on that day from 7.30pm till 10pm.
A full list of Raintree's on-going holiday promotion :-
16-24 December: Pre-Christmas three-course set lunch/dinner, RM78 per head
24 December: Christmas Eve five-course set dinner, RM125
25 December: Christmas Day buffet lunch/dinner, RM78 per head
26 December: Boxing Day buffet lunch/dinner, RM78 per head
31 December: New Year's Eve seafood buffet dinner, RM155 per head
All prices quoted are presumably not inclusive of any additional beverages outside of your basic complimentary H2O.
Spotted while on the way out of BCCK, suspended mid-air from the ceiling:
Mutated reindeer! Looks like a four-legged turkey crossed with an antlered, red-nosed Scrat. A little bit weird but definitely worth a few laughs hahaha.
I'll be heading out of town for a few days, for a friend's wedding... and just in case I don't find the time to update till then, I'm going to wish you all happy holidays and seasons greetings and all that.
Hope y'all have an awesome end to the year 2011!