New Chef: Mandarin Grill @ Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur

October 27, 2017

Born in Argentina's wine-producing province of Mendoza, chef Sebastian Barcudes hails from a heritage that embraces the pleasures of the palate. His memories prove inextricably bound to the culinary realm, from the vineyard grapes that his father cultivated in their homeland to his own tenures at top restaurants in Dubai and Doha. Those rich, rewarding experiences now form the foundation for Barcudes' work at Mandarin Grill, conveying inspirations from across the globe with a cosmopolitan flair that befits the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur.

Barcudes' new menu at the hotel's flagship restaurant teems with tantalising touches that represent intimate stories from his life - his recommendation of burrata for our opening salvo is a nod to his time in Italy's southern commune of Andria, where this creamy cheese reputedly originated.

There's a twist - instead of the typical pairing of the fabulous formaggio with, say, tomatoes and basil, Barcudes assembles it with a triumvirate of orange compote, orange sauce and caramelised orange chips, furnishing a strong, sweet citrus counterpoint to the cheese, balanced further with the bracing sharpness of  rocket and the rounded vigour of a balsamic reduction (RM78).

Mandarin Grill excels in wine pairings - nearly each course we sampled was beautifully coupled with a very thoughtfully chosen vintage, its nuances painstakingly clarified by establishment supervisor Rodzy. The Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling 2015 (Columbia Valley, USA) supplied a refreshing start, elegantly fruity with notes of honey and apple that perfectly complemented the cheese and oranges.

A sampling of seafood, twinned with the harvest of the land: Seared Hokkaido scallops are always a treat, but Barcudes makes them more memorable with the fruit-adoring flourishes of a pear-and-ginger chutney and grape gastrique, the latter evoking his childhood memories of wine-country grapes (RM98).

Parihuela is dear to Barcudes too, a Peruvian seafood bisque that underscores his South American roots, cooked by his grandmother throughout his childhood. The rendition here is a warming recipe, its crustacean flavours accented by a subtle spiciness, made textured with morsels of corn (RM56).

It's appropriate then that Barcudes' personal terroir of Mendoza is highlighted by the pairing choice of the Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Chardonnay 2015, with a lingering finish that's simultaneously deep and delicate.

For a show-stopper, Barcudes brings out a nearly five-hour braised Black Angus beef short rib that's a sacrament of sheer succulence; there's even a Malaysian influence in this, with a flossy topping inspired by local serunding, dressed with scallions, chilli oil and ginger-infused beef jus (RM188). Pure indulgence for beef enthusiasts - but we'd certainly expect nothing less from Mandarin Grill, where meat has been a consistent standout since the opening of this KL outpost in February 2010.

The Chateau Ferrande Rouge (2013; Graves, France) is buoyantly Bordeaux, dark and sensuously silky, holding its own with a firm-bodied ripeness to match with the beef.

We couldn't have asked for a more decadent conclusion than the Textures Of Valrhona, constructed with grand cru chocolate (RM42), sublime with a Sauternes (in this case, the Carmes De Rieussec 2012, nectarine and nectarous). 

Many thanks to Mandarin Grill for having us.

Mandarin Grill 
Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur. Daily for lunch & dinner, 12pm-230pm, 7pm-1030pm.

This feature first appeared on Eat Drink KL eatdrinkkl.com