Guest writer Polly Szantor and guest photographer Cheryl Hoffmann tell of their recent experience at Cascade restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental.
Set within a lush, tropical garden, the Mandarin Oriental’s al fresco restaurant, Cascade, will be offering diners the very finest of Middle Eastern dishes every evening from June 15 to July 18 2012. Lebanese Chef Raymond, who is in charge of The Mandarin’s Mosaic Restaurant, has created a menu to appeal to all palates, with dishes starting at RM18++.
I was fortunate to sample almost all the dishes on the menu, and it was indeed a highly enjoyable experience. We began with a medley of appetizers. I was very taken with the Cheese Sambussek, tiny, crisp, pastry packets filled with salty, feta cheese, a superb combination that kept me reaching for just one more. I was hard-pressed to choose a favourite amongst the dips. The Arabic Mezzeh had a combination of Hummus, creamy Labeneh, (yogurt cheese) and an inspired Baba Ganoush with Pomegranate, smoky eggplant with little bursts of pomegranate seeds. The Greek Dips were equally outstanding – tangy Tzatziki, Melitzosalata (eggplant with tomato, lemon, oil and herbs) and Htipiti, a combination of feta and roasted red peppers. Served with Pita Bread and Greek Country Bread, each creation was unique and delicious. Other starters included Tabouleh, Spanikopita and Turkish Shepherd’s Salad, which was quite similar to a Greek Salad.
Then the main courses started to arrive. The Mixed Grill brought an assortment of skewered, lightly spiced meats, tender lamb, chicken and minced lamb kofta, served with a tomato-based sauce, Arabic rice, onion French fries and salad. Roast potatoes, carrot sticks and a rather intriguing sauce accompanied the fresh-tasting Chicken Tagine, which was served on the bone with crispy skin. Chef Raymond was kind enough to explain that the sauce was unusual because of the addition of saffron, dried ginger and dried turmeric. The chicken was bathed in the sauce and simmered in the tagine, then sautéed to develop the golden skin. In addition to these goodies, there was a choice of Lamb or Chicken Shawarma served inside Ekmek, a Turkish sourdough flatbread, and melt in the mouth Milk Lamb Shank Tagine presented on a bed of with Ratatouille Couscous with sautéed vegetables.
My dining companion especially liked the Lamb Wrap; pita bread moistened with a herby tomato sauce, enveloping pieces of tasty lamb, lettuce and finely shredded cabbage in a yogurt dressing. But for me, the best dish by far was the Chicken Shish Taouk. I love lean meat, so these large chunks of chicken breast were perfect for my taste. Marinating the meat in yogurt, lemon, garlic and spices and careful grilling result in a firm, moist texture that is not in the slightest bit tough.
Much as I enjoyed the chicken however, my number one vote has to go to the Tiramisu. Chef Raymond admitted that although this is not a Middle Eastern specialty, it is an extremely popular dessert. His version is one of the best I’ve tried. Clouds of mascarpone and light sponge topped with an exceptionally strong coffee sauce and sprinkled with crumbled shortbread. Heigh-ho, I have to confess that I had two helpings! The second dessert-in-a-glass was created by Chef Raymond and named Zabadi Berries. The base is a tangy yogurt mousse, which is topped with assorted berries, caramelized nuts and fruit sauce. This has more zing and is a little lighter than the Tiramisu. Finally we sampled several types of Baklava and Halva, treats for those with a sweet tooth (which of course means me!)
To round out the meal it is possible to smoke Shisha, but as a reformed cigarette smoker I had to pass. There are at least ten fruity tobacco varieties to choose from, and I’m sure it must be a real pleasure to sit by the pool, puffing away on a water pipe and enjoying the night sky.
Flavours of Middle Eastern Cuisine will be available at Cascade Restaurant until July 18, 2012. Dinner is served from 6pm until 11pm. For dining reservations, please call 03-2179-8887 or email [email protected].
Kuala Lumpur City Centre
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